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Old 17 February 2014, 14:01   #1
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Welded Aluminum versus Fiberglass RHIB

Dear all, I am gearing up to purchase a second RHIB. Given that I’m in the states, RHIBs are not popular, to say the least. Of the serious vessels out there, our options typically revolve around ex-military Willard’s or the like, powered by twin caterpillar diesels via Hamilton Jets. Like I said, serious hardware. But they are often beat to shit, and require selling your first born in order to finance the refurbishment.

So lets set aside the serious hardware for a moment. I am posting the following question not simply for mental masturbation, but I intend to make my decision upon the feedback I receive.

I will be getting a smaller boat (17 feet two inches) powered by a 90hp outboard. My intended purpose will be to navigate rough water with diving, hunting and camping gear. I plan to navigate from Seattle up to Alaska in this boat with nothing but an exposure suit and stopping multiple times along the Inland Passage way off the coast British Columbia.

My options are:

Fiberglass with Hypalon tubes

Zodiac PRO SERIES (Pro Classic 550 NEO 2014 + Yamaha F90 Four Stroke

or

Welded aluminum with military spec Hypalon tubes

Naiad custom built RHIB + Mercury 90hp Four Stroke



Question: Glass or metal? Which one can take a pounding in heavy seas better? I know the metal is much lighter than glass/resin, hence better fuel autonomy, but I plan to carry good weight in equipment, so it should ride just as well, I assume.

Your input and opinions as to which would be a better boat for the mentioned application, would be greatly appreciated.

Y’all take care,
BRUTUS
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Old 17 February 2014, 14:13   #2
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inside passage....

you might want to talk with Kevin Goulding at Hotribs - he made that trip a few years ago in a RIB and should be an ideal resource for any questions you may have....
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Old 17 February 2014, 14:24   #3
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Dear Sunrider,
Thanks for the info; I'll definitely contact him.
Inside is the correct name for the route, I misspelled.

Thanks again,
BRUTUS
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Old 18 February 2014, 11:33   #4
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I went through the same quandary when I bought my boat.

You can probably find all the info on here somewhere, as it's been discussed at reasonable length before, but...

Glass: Generally heavier (weight-wise; though it depends on construction); more prone to chipping/cracking; less prone to electrolysis; more prone to damage from impact; more prone to water ingress; less cost up front. Easier to fill and re-drill holes should you change stuff.

Aluminum: More expensive initially, have to take care to protect from electrolysis damage, generally lighter for a given size (plus and minus - helps on the trailer, but can mean it pounds more in rough water), Takes a beating without significant damage.

Note that construction of the boat has everything to do with everything: I'd take a well-built glass boat over a thin plate, poorly welded (or worse yet, riveted) aluminum boat with no hesitation. And the same goes the other way. Sounds like you're looking at pretty high end boats though, so not too many worries there.

jky
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Old 18 February 2014, 13:26   #5
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what kind of range are you going to need between fuel stops up there? That will be a big consideration won't it?
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Old 18 February 2014, 14:12   #6
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Would have thought for an epic venture like this you'd want to think of easy of on the water / near the water repairs. You'll have no trailer handy. If you damage the GRP & you can get the boat out the water onto something dry you don't need a lot of tools to do the repair (hand tools if necessary). If you damage the aluminium (may be harder to do) you need welding kit which will be far harder to find I guess and I would imagine being able to take the boat to the welder but with no trailer that'd be harder...

Does military spec Hypalon really mean anything?
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Old 18 February 2014, 14:32   #7
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on my ex-military zodiac they repaired the hole in the bow of the hull with caulk.... Not sure how many years it was like that but it looks like at least two paint jobs.
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Old 18 February 2014, 15:03   #8
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You'll be beaching the boat to camp etc. so based on that alone I would say aluminum. There are almost no sand beaches from WA northwards and your glass hull will be trashed beaching it on gravel over and over.

Have you made this journey before in any kind of boat? You will have a huge fuel load and the twin engines will be very thirsty. You will need twins IMHO. Some sort of cabin would be advisable as well as radar. I know you don't think you need a cabin but you need someplace to get out of the weather and rest.
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Old 18 February 2014, 16:41   #9
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Dear all,
First off, I would like to thank you guys for contributing to this thread. As I said, I am looking for some guidance, and I’ll be the first to admit there is much to learn on my behalf; if I can learn from other peoples experience, all the better.

Back to the topic on hand.

I pretty much agree with everything jyasaki said. As for the consideration Bigtalljv brought up; of course. This is crucial. One of my plans , should I need to be flexible on fuel capacity given the limitations of the design/vessel, would be to incorporate multiple Kevlar lined fuel bladders in addition to the main tank (for example, I am looking into the larger bladders akin to those manufactured by Wing Collapsible Fuel Bags | WING® Inflatables). Plus, the lightness of Aluminum should improve fuel efficiency.

What ShinyShoe mentions is something I dread, but I obviously what to position myself such, that if an unfortunate event were to occur, I could handle repairs with whatever equipment I carry. You guys may laugh at what I am about to say next, but I have fixed a cracked engine with JBWeld (JB Weld | World's Strongest Bond) and continued to use it for a month until I returned to civilization. I figured that Aluminum mesh + JBWeld could potentially get me out of a bind, temporarily, at least. This stuff is the mechanical equivalent of duck tape, and I always carry a healthy amount of it with me. Then again, I may be full of shit. I have never tried to repair an Aluminum hull with it. Just stating where my mind gravitates towards when thinking of remote location jerry-rigged solutions.

As to whether Military spec Hypalon means anything, to be honest I do not know. I was quoting an e-mail exchange I had with the president of NAIAD RIBs (NAIAD RHIB Military, Commercial & Recreational Inflatable Boats). I merely assumed that he meant extra material or perhaps additional rubber covering the tubes, so as to protect them from chafing when docking against old timber docks, splinters, nails, etc… I should inquire further… it may be something else altogether or nothing at all.

Finally, to answer captnjack: No I have not navigated in this part of the world at all. Frankly, I am scared shitless! How cool is that?! What does it take no days to make us pucker up and still have the balls to do it. On a more serious note, I am very careful and never execute anything in a reckless manner. Twins… I was afraid somebody would say that. I have read a lot about the currents up there, and fighting them is no trivial matter from what I can tell. As far as cabin goes, I am pretty much determined to making this happen without one, despite I fully recognize its usefulness. Your comment on the superiority of Aluminum when beaching rocky areas is VERY useful. Thanks for sharing.

I regret the extreamly long post, I didn’t want to bore everyone to death. Keep the info coming,

Best regards,
BRUTUS
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Old 18 February 2014, 17:26   #10
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Whatever design you decide on I think it needs to be able to plane on one engine. Its really impossible to make it "home" in that part of the world on a little kicker. That said, you could always stop and wait for the tides to change before continuing on (with one engine). You will need to be very weather and current savy to make this journey.

My concern about being cabin-less is that you are going to be exhausted from driving out in the open hour after hour, most likely with the rain pelting your face. It is a rain forest afterall. I see you are from LA, do not underestimate the RAIN on this journey.

If you insist on being hard cabin-less, at least consider a large console with hard windshield (plus wiper) and some sort of vinyl bimini you could put up in the worst weather. In the worst worst weather (think 50+ mph winds and sleeting) you won't be moving at all so I would look very hard at your ground tackle. It gets very deep very fast so you will be short scoped a lot. So 50ft of chain and 300 ft of line is a good idea. Can you lift that or do you need a windlass?

Given the tidal ranges up here, you will need some sort of tiny dinghy to get to shore and back if you want to actually see the land. If you beach your boat you might not get it back in the water for days (depending on tide height whn you beached it). Or it could get trashed by winds smashing it into the shore.

8ft with an inflatable floor and 2hp engine would be good. Oars are bulky, take up space and won't get you back to your up-current mother ship.

You might order this book, even through its not a RIB I think you'll find the ideas useful. Worth the money.
http://www.amazon.com/Small-Boat-Cru.../dp/1883697042

Cheers
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Old 18 February 2014, 17:34   #11
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Military Grade Hypalon. Refers to the heavier grades (thicker) of hypalon, IMO. You take your pick. The thicker grade costs 20% more, weighs more and is a little thicker. If you hit a rock/tree/container, will Military save your ass?

Cladding is similar - you add neoprene sheets to vulnerable points in the hope that the rogue object won't penetrate them....

Personally, I'd regard both as protection against heavy use/abrasion more than anything else.
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Old 18 February 2014, 17:40   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willk View Post
Military Grade Hypalon.

Personally, I'd regard both as protection against heavy use/abrasion more than anything else.
Agree, if you hit a log with branches sticking out you are SOL. From getting thrown from the boat, tube punctures, or from shearing off your lower unit(s).
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Old 18 February 2014, 18:54   #13
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Here's a link to Kevin's Alaska voyage.....
Alaska'98 Journal Summary
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Old 19 February 2014, 15:19   #14
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Dear Sunrider,

Thanks for the link. Kevin’s voyage is beyond cool.
For that matter, I just looked you up, what can I say?
Your exploits are humbling.

That Willard you refurbished is pretty sick.

Best,
BRUTUS
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Old 19 February 2014, 15:23   #15
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Dear captnjack,

Thanks for that.

Very useful information. The plot thickens.
BRUTUS
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Old 19 February 2014, 18:51   #16
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When I was in Alaska (we launched out of Whittier and went to Port Wells, Fairmont and Eaglek Bays) it snowed - in August. 2 other days it rained. One day was sleet & rain. Precipitation 4 days out of 8. We were stormed a couple days by 45-50 knt winds.

I didn't see a single RIB, they aren't popular up there for a reason... If you look at the boats they are using up there recreationally you'll see a lot of 24-28ft aluminum hull, outboard or I/O powered sport fishers. 1/3rd cuddy cabin, 1/3rd stand up cabin, 1/3rd open aft deck.

We used an open 19ft Boston Whaler for part of our AK travels. It was ok but completely inadequate size and weather protection wise for a journey of any length. Or staying aboard.

Getting from Seattle to Port Hardy in a 17ft RIB won't be that bad, although you'll be windburnt and tired. It won't be against the law to try, but I really doubt you will be comfortable or have much fun crossing Queen Charlotte Sound or Dixon Entrance. Both are shallow and rough as hell. Fishermen die here all the time.

Camping out of a 17ft RIB is going to be annoying. There are no flat, non-tree-ed places to stay. The (sloping gravel) beach floods 2x a day. Above the high tide line inland is a twisted mass of head high salal, salmonberry, and downed logs. There's no place to set up a tent, so I think you need to plan on sleeping aboard somehow. Sleeping aboard also avoid bears. A cabin would help with dry sleeping, but some sort of bimini might be ok if you are hardy.

If you hadn't thought of it yet, you need a bear gun and will need to pay for an import permit for Canada. It absolutely cannot be a handgun (against Canadian law for you to import), must be a rifle or shotgun with slugs.
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Old 24 February 2014, 16:24   #17
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Dear captnjack, all very useful information. I appreciate the input. What you are saying corroborates numerous reports, for instance I enjoyed reading this:

MacGregorSailors.com

(although not a RHIB story).

Kevin was kind enough to respond to my inquiry with a wealth of specific information. Truly a gentleman.

Back to the vessel of choice. Convenience now has me leaning towards a Zodiac pro classic 650 with hypalon tubes powered by a 115hp outboard.

Does anybody have anything negative to say about this specific RHIB?

I have to admit, I would like a self-draining deck given the amount of rain I expect to encounter. I hate the idea of flooding the bilge, regardless if the pumps keep it relatively empty.

Brutus.
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Old 25 July 2014, 21:46   #18
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reconnaissance by sea & air

here are a few photographs some of you may like (I'm doing my homework for this voyage, and thought it would be wise to get a few locals to show me what I'll be dealing with, bays, storms, bears, etc...)

Internet sucks up here, when I can I'll post some RHIB footage.
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Old 25 July 2014, 21:47   #19
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another
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Old 25 July 2014, 21:48   #20
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Floatplane
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