Indeed, the forebears of today's RHIB actually can be seen in some visionary designs that appeared just after the Civil War and Cousteau's development of the Zodiac inflatable workboat/runabout/tender was the impetus that brought about the RHIB.
Today, we have RHIBs that are rather remarkable small craft. Indeed, as development work has continued over the last 30 years since they were introduced, RHIB manufacturers have found that that the optimal length is between 10 and about 35 feet, although there are some RHIBs that are as small as 7.5 feet while others have been developed that are as long as 50 feet.
RHIBs have been used primarily in rescue and military work as the Canadian and US Coast Guards have used them as search-and-rescue vessels, while the US Coast Guard has also used them in as drug interdiction craft. Since they draw so little water, they can easily follow and catch drug-runners. Indeed, with the right drive, it has been reported that they have been used at speeds up to 70 mph, while not as fast as a go-fast boat, it is still fast enough to catch the deeper draft drug runners when they hit shallow waters and run out of draft depth.
RHIBs can be equipped in any manner the owner wants and they actually make sense for the occasional fisherman or sailor who doesn't need a full-sized cuddy cruiser in the 40-foot range and its slip or mooring fees, but who wants a craft that offers pilot house-style protection and a small deck and small entertainment or sleeping area. Yes, RHIBs can have this and can be easily deflated and loaded onto a trailer for towing home.
Avon Marine offers three RHIBs that illustrate exactly what you can do with a rigid-hulled inflatable. The models include the SeaSport 330 Jet, SeaSport 380 Jet and SeaSport 430 Jet.
All three use the same range of powerplants. In this instance, Avon has chosen their four-stroke, supercharged 102-horsepower jet drive to power the models. Each model has been designed with around a medium-Vee hull for better handling in shallow water, although they can still easily handle moderately foul weather.
Each was designed, as well, with comfort in mind as the 330 has seating for four on comfortable benches, the 380 has a rear bench seat, a skipper's seat and console with full electronics package and the 430 is designed with three comfortable benches and can carry six.
Each model, by the way, also features a modified swim deck and rear entry.
Avon has designed its RHIBs with full front to rear Hypalon tubing for sturdiness and the hull is made of a composite material that includes Neoprene and may include Kevlar material woven into the hull. The hull itself is framed by the tubing and may also include:
Real teak or synthetic deck materialA telescoping bathing ladderFlush-mount stainless fittingsAn adjustable steering wheel and complete electronics package with digital instrumentation
Each model also includes standard bow and stern navigation lights, a bilge blower, battery stowage and a battery switch, as well as a bilge pump. The deck, if the buyer opts for the synthetic decking material, is also made up of fiberglass anti-skid material and the deck also includes flush drains.
The JetSport line runs from 11 to 14 feet and has beams that range from about six feet to nine feet, so it is a stable platform that planes easily and can cruise all day at 30 knots.