The Admin Team got the opportunity for a wee preview of Dag Pike’s new book: The Complete RIB Manual: The definitive guide to design, handling and maintenance [AMAZON LINK]
which is due to be launched on Thursday (20th June 2013). I shouted “dibs” quickest and so get to give you my views before anyone else.
When I opened the Jiffy Bag that arrived in the post my initial thoughts were this was the sort of special interest book you find lurking at the back of “Bargain Books” and which is either so specialist it will be inaccessible to most people or so basic it will be pretty much irrelevant to anyone who already owns a RIB. As I started reading I was therefore impressed with style and level of detail in the history chapter (which logically is at the beginning!) as it was written by someone who was clearly passionate about the subject and, perhaps more importantly, was able to put together a compelling story. I’m not really a big fan of other people’s historical recitals because they often centre around characters who I am assumed to know and don’t, or events that it is presumed I know all about but have little knowledge of. Dag’s version of RIB history was therefore refreshing, and was a promising start for the book beyond my initial cursory impression.
The book then goes on to explore in reasonable detail some of the key design concepts which make a RIB work well and delves into some depth about how subtle issues such as the method of attaching the tubes may impact on the handling / ride. Whilst some of this content will be familiar to visitors to RIBnet or readers of publications such as RIB international over the years, some of the detail was new to me, and although I am far from an expert I have an active interest and I suspect most of our members would find something new or interesting in this section – even if it was just presenting existing ideas in a new way. Dag goes a long way towards answering that perennial question “What makes a RIB better than a similar design of hardboat?”. There may also be some conclusions which Dag arrives at which others would disagree with – but generally he recognises throughout that any RIB is a compromise and needs to be designed with its intended purpose in mind. The design section is generally accessible to those with an interest in boats rather than a degree in Naval Architecture, but it may be a little daunting to those with no prior knowledge – there is for example no real explanation of why a deep V-hull was the logical starting point for RIB design.
Whilst on the one hand it is nice to see that Dag hasn’t defaulted to the de facto
standard answers on some topics, and is both keen to see innovation and challenge what may be perceived wisdom, there were some places such as the comparison of tube materials – which simply regurgitate manufacturer specifications/comparisons where you might hope that the world expert have given clearer opinion to steer the rest of us.
RIB handling takes up a reasonable amount of the book, and whilst those skills are probably best learned in a practical sense there was a clearly explained logic behind skills I have seen experienced helms put into practice in rough water. It is notable that most of the basic boat handling skills taught in powerboat level 2 courses like coming along side jetties are not covered in the book at all, which probably makes sense since those general skills are covered in many other publications and resources. Rather “The Complete RIB Manual” focuses on features specific to RIBs or at least to the sort of situations where, correctly driven, a RIB may bring significant advantages: especially difficult sea conditions. You will find some of those topics discussed in other books or websites but they are at least as well delivered and clearly illustrated here as I have seen elsewhere.
Surprisingly, given the challenges of navigating at speed, of using charts in open boats and the fast evolving electronic tools available to help the RIB operator there is almost no attention paid to navigation. Those topics are obviously covered in other books but I would have expected a “complete” RIB manual to have had a whole chapter on the topic of passage planning and navigation.
The book spends quite a bit of time looking at launch and recovery systems and techniques used on “motherships” whether superyacht, military or commercial vessels. Whilst I am sure that section will be of general interest to many RIBnet members, most will never have any practical opportunity to use that knowledge. It was disappointing that whilst trailers do get a mention it is relatively brief, and the issue which probably gives the inexperienced RIB user the most heartache – getting their new boat in and out of the water, or indeed just up and down the slipway gets virtually no attention.
As you might expect the book does spend some time looking at “Shock Mitigation” and discusses the importance of the hull and the helmsman rather than relying simply on expensive seating. It also delves into the ‘ergonomics’ of the console, another area which merits the attention of those planning to push the capabilities of the boat / driver beyond where the aesthetics are the governing priority.
Dag’s undoubted experience with a wide variety of RIBs over the last 45 years certainly comes across. However I was left with a feeling that perhaps his exposure was at some of the more extreme ends of the market – whether luxury superyacht, offshore rescue boats, endurance cruises or high performance racing. The reality of mainstream RIB ownership as a simple effective family fun boat gets comparatively little attention. Whilst that may make for a more interesting book, it may be something that people are less likely to go back to as a “reference resource” as it doesn’t really deal with the type of boating I suspect most
RIB owners do on a week to week basis.
The book closes with a section on maintenance, which does seem to cover at an overview level most of the topics I would expect. This chapter seems short – but the only glaring omission I could see was no practical guidance on trailer maintenance – given the issues people report on here with bearing and brakes. It may also have been useful to include a quick troubleshooting flow chart for engines so new operators can quickly identify some of the most common faults. And whilst the book is generally well illustrated throughout with plenty of pictures – and this section does contain useful images it would probably have been helpful for the novice tube repairer to have photographic step by step guides rather than the “cut and paste” from the repair kit supplier.
Overall this book is likely to appeal to a lot of the RIBnet membership, and certainly its chapters on design and handling should be on the reading list of anyone planning a major trip or trying to select a serious RIB for the future. It is certainly better put together than many ‘yachting’ manuals I have looked at in the past, and more relevant than most motor cruising ones. It is unlikely to bring masses of new information to very experienced RIB users, but it will nevertheless have some interest, and where Dag’s views may differ from others they are largely well argued so should prove thought provoking. Anyone designing, specifying or building a new RIB would find it useful as a starting point for discussions, whilst those who have already bought a “factory issue” RIB should still find plenty to help them understand their craft. If your RIB is just a simple tool for use in the bay on pleasant days then The Complete RIB Manual may not have a huge amount extra to offer you – as you are probably content with your RIB knowledge to date, and indeed the basic RYA type powerboat books may cover what you need.
I would have thought that every Powerboat School, RIB builder and dealer in the country should have copy on their bookshelf, however the price which is where you would expect for a specialist hardback book, may just be high enough to put off the casual buyer. Although it could make a good gift for RIB obsessed people. If you do see a copy in Bargain Books then its certainly worth grabbing! A kindle version will also apparently be available – although as it is only marginally cheaper and the book uses lots of full colour graphics it is unlikely to be as good.