Why go RIB cruising?
Whilst many RIBs are used for diving, club safety, or racing, they are increasingly being bought by people who would, in the past, have bought ski boats or other runabouts. The reason RIBs are becoming so popular is their versatility. What other boat makes a good dive boat, can easily tow a water-skier, is light enough to be trailed behind a saloon car, will safely get you across the English Channel in a force 5 and won't sink even if it's full to the gunwales of water?
Once the novelty of blasting up and down a relatively small stretch of water wears off RIBsters can turn their attentions further afield, and if the novelty doesn't wear off they can become racers!
In recent years RIB cruising has pushed the boundaries further and further. Pioneered by Chris Kaye and the crew of Sabredrive who led the way in long distance cruising, the distances have steadily increased. In the summer of 1997 Alan Priddy crossed the Atlantic from America to England via the Arctic Circle in an open RIB, and went on to go round the world in 2002.
RIBs are ideal cruising boats because of their versatility: the high speeds of RIBs mean that large distances can be covered rapidly; their shallow draft means they will let you explore almost anyway there's water, including secret caves and inlets which other boats cannot reach; their robust but light weight build enables RIBs to be beached easily providing access to secluded coves.
A week's cruising in the UK could see you circumnavigating Britain, or exploring just a few miles of beautiful coast in the West Country. Cruises don't have to be extreme to be fun -- a day or a weekend cruise can be just as, if not much more, enjoyable if you don't have the time or inclination to do a longer trip. Whatever sort of cruising you enjoy, RIBs have the flexibility to meet your needs, and to keep on meeting them even as they change.
One common objection to using a RIB for cruising is the lack of sleeping accommodation - although you can now buy RIBs with cabins that put most sports cruisers to shame. Whilst it's true that some people "rough it" by either camping nearby or sleeping on the deck of the boat (and actually most marinas have excellent facilities including showers these days) the simplest answer is Bed and Breakfast. It's not as expensive an option as it sounds when you compare the prices of a RIB and a comparable 2 berth sportsboat. The difference will pay for quite a number of nights in a B&B -- and you even get breakfast cooked for you.
How to start?
OK, you've got your RIB, you've used it a few times in sheltered waters and you feel ready to take on something more adventurous. What now?
The most important thing to do is to plan your trip before you go, although it's tempting don't just rush off and launch your boat. Think about where you want to go, who you want to go with and what you'll need. There are a few suggestions below but if you are new to the sport, consider taking a training course first. The RYA Level II powerboat course is a popular choice, and can be completed in a weekend. You can learn by experience, or from a book, but a course will save you from making too many basic mistakes. You can find a training centre near you on the RYA web site
or the RIBnet directory
Where to go?
This will depend where you live, what sort of boating you want to do and how much time you've got but again it's important to plan ahead. Think about where you'll launch and recover the boat, what the tides and weather are doing, how far you want to go and your route.
Who to go with?
One of the great features of the RIBnet forums is the ability to join up with other people. Either join in with a cruise that someone has started to organise, or post a message yourself in the RIB cruises section
(suggest a date and a start point and see who else is interested). Another option is to join a club such as the Pathfinder Powerboat Club
or the RIB club BIBOA
and take advantage of their calendar of cruising events. Of course, you may prefer just to join up with some friends and do your own thing. Either way, unless you are very sure of your capabilities it's best to go with at least one other boat.
What to take?
You should make sure that you and your boat are properly equipped. Mid Channel is not the best time to discover that your waterproofs aren't really waterproof and your compass doesn't seem to be working too well.
Equipping your RIB will require quite an investment, but if you plan to get the most from the boat you will need to make sure that you have the tools for the job. You may find it useful to prepare a check list like this one to use each time you use the boat.
VHF (A mobile phone is better than nothing, but a poor second best)
First aid kit
Anchor with chain and rope
Life jackets (enough for everyone)
Dry suits (not essential but highly recommended)
Waterproofs (they won't actually keep you dry, but it's a start!)
Spare clothes (don't underestimate how cold it can be on a boat)
Chocolate & some soft drinks
(depends where you're going but these are important if you're going abroad)
VHF operator's certificate
Proof of insurance
These are a few suggestions to get you started -- let us know if you've got any others. Happy boating!