When the Avon Rubber Company produced its first SeaRider rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) about 1970 an entire market for these lightweight craft was born. Although they were a novelty at the time, it soon became apparent that they represented an interesting and crucial intersection between inflatable water craft and standard motorboat technology.
The SeaRider made of a composite of materials that included fiberglass, steel and rubber, had a hard bottom and a small V hull. The craft was built to plane at fairly low speed and could be used in many roles. Its first primary role was in the marine life-saving service. Not only did the life-saving service in Britain adopt the RHIB, but it soon moved to the west coast of Canada where the Canadian Coast Guard began using RHIBs in their marine rescue program.
Until the arrival of the RHIB, the key life-saving craft was the life-saving motor launch that looked like a barrel with prows on either end. There were two cockpits and passenger/crew spaces between the cockpits and in either end. The interesting fact of this type of life-saving craft was that though it looked like it could be driven from either end, she did have an engine in her stern. It was just tough to determine which end was the stern as both ends looked the same.
Until the arrival of the nearly swamp-proof RHIB in the 1970s in any great numbers, the life-saving services of Canada and the United States used the same type of rounded life-saving launch. These launches worked in conjunction with larger cutters and smaller standard runabouts. The real workhorses until the RHIB was the life-saver launch.
The SeaRider series of RHIB changed that picture drastically first in Canada and later in the U.S. as the Coast Guard services werent constrained to working within the reach of life-saving stations from which the life-saving launches could be launched. Instead, life-saving units could actually take a knocked-down RHIB to a spot, inflate it, make sure it had fuel and turn over the powerplant.
Because the RHIB was built around three to four separate inflatable tanks and used full-length tubes made of a patented flexible metal called Hypalon that gave structure to either a Kevlar -impregnated, rubberized hull or a fiberglass-reinforced hull, these craft could not only be taken to where they were needed, sometimes on larger craft or sometimes on aircraft of one type or another, inflated and then used.
It drastically cut the amount of time needed to get rescuers to the places where they were needed.
That was why the SeaRider series was such an important bellwether for the rescue service. Rescuers could get to where they were needed for a speedier response.Today, the same function is service by the SeaSport Jet series, as well as older SeaRiders still in service.