Does the F-RIB really offer the rugged performance of a RIB while folding down as small as an inflatable? Bruce Jacobs of Rubicon 3 Adventures put it through a season's testing and the verdict is in...
Ocean sailors have long battled the dilemma of the tender: out at sea, it has no use and takes up valuable space, yet once you arrive at your next destination, you need it to head ashore or explore the coast.
A small inflatable rubber tender is all well and good – it takes up very little space when properly deflated and stowed away – but its limitations will become obvious once you have any significant distance to cover, or if you set off in anything more than a flat calm. In ideal conditions, an inflatable will get a couple of you to shore and back – just – but that’s about it.
We’d all love a RIB for the extra seaworthiness, speed and stability, but stowage on deck takes a lot of space and it’s just plain dangerous to have a RIB hanging from davits out at sea.
Which is where the foldable F-RIB fits in. Designed by the Russian special forces, this piece of kit genuinely does it all. It’s a RIB that folds up.
The design is simple – and brilliant. The solid fibreglass floor is divided into three sections, all bonded to the inflatable tubes. Unfold them, making sure the tongue fits into the groove on each piece, and inflate the tubes. The air pressure alone holds the floor in place, but a couple of bolts give added security.
Ours is folded and lashed to the deck just in front of the mast. It takes about five minutes to unpack and inflate, using a 240V pump run off the inverter, and then we are off and running.
Heading off on expeditions to wild and remote areas such as Greenland and Iceland, we need a tender that can handle a sea state and the F-RIB performs superbly. A lot of kit we buy promises the world and delivers a lot less. The F-RIB is an exception. If anything, it under-promises, and for ocean cruisers, this should be on your ‘find a way to get this’ list. Our only concern is that the Russian special forces are designing equipment this good!
The F-RIB comes in various sizes from 2.75m to 4.6m. Rubicon 3 uses the 3.6m with a 20hp Suzuki four-stroke outboard, a combination that has done very well.
One of the best bits of kit we’ve bought. www.foldablerib.com