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Old 01-09-2015, 17:07   #1
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Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

Some of you may recall that I have been agonizing over my dinghy/davits situation -- a problem that has no good answer for any cruising boat under about 65 feet, in my opinion.

I love my Avon 340 remote steered RIB, with 25 horsepower Mariner two-stroke. Both dinghy and motor have been incredibly reliable. This dinghy is a "proper little motorboat" which I have used to cross the Solent several times (a couple of them in bad weather), and to do some short passages over open sea. It will plane with four people on board and I believe it would pull a waterskier. It is rated to carry something like 570 kg (more than half a ton) of load. I never even added air to it, other than to regulate the pressure twice a year, until a few months ago.

But . . . but, there's always a but. Or two. The first but is that this rig weighs about 140kg (more than 300 pounds) not counting the anchor, fuel tank, starting battery, and gear kept on board. This great mass adds to the challenge of keeping the davits working, and using them. It's a lot of mass to be bouncing around off the stern in heavy weather on a long open sea passage.

The fatal "but" is that however excellent the quality of all this gear is, it's all nearing the end of its useful life, after about 14 years of use. I've had some problem keeping air in one of the tubes for the first time, and the Hypalon has worn down to the fabric in a few places. The incredibly reliable outboard is starting to rust apart in spots.

And the remote steering is a mixed blessing -- it tends to seize and strip the tender plastic gears and require replacement, and it makes it impossible to easily pop off the motor to reduce the weight in the davits.

So now I think about what to do next. I have considered options which would allow me to get rid of my hated davits altogether, like the Portabote, but have not been able to come up with anything satisfactory. I COULD just keep going on with a similar RIB to this one, if not the very same, maybe re-tubed one.

I could buy something lighter and cheaper and new -- like the Caribe 350.

But then I ran across an Avon Compact Lite RIB 310 -- used, from the pre-Zodiac days, so built like a brick outhouse out of Hypalon, just like mine. And with prodigious load rating -- 500 kg or 1100 pounds or more than half a ton. Not used as a yacht tender, but kept in a garage for very occasional lake use.

Together with the 8 hp Selva four-stroke motor, it weighs less than half of my existing rig. Yet the load carrying capacity is almost the same, when you factor in the lighter motor. This RIB has only two chambers, compared to three of my present one. But it seems like it would serve my purposes. The transom folds down for that it can be deflated, folded down, and stored on deck for long ocean passages.

What more could I ask for? So the big question is -- has anyone used one of these? Are there any pluses or minuses I need to be aware of? Does the much lighter weight mean they are much flimsier than the regular Avon RIBs of the pre-Zodiac days?


I have been using my Avon 340 as a regular tender, but also as a harbor tender -- my boat lives on a mid-river mooring with no walk-ashore access, so the tender is the lifeline to the world when I'm on my mooring. I have a small rowboat which I leave on land when I leave the boat on my mooring, in order to avoid leaving the RIB in the water for long periods. This doesn't work very well since it's a fair amount of trouble to lift the RIB, and I often get in a hurry when leaving for a business trip and end up leaving the RIB in the water for a week or two, and it gets fouled.

I think this is the wrong approach, and I think I'll sell the little tippy rowboat as well, and buy a proper harbor tender with an outboard -- a nice little skiff of 12' or 14' or so with a two stroke outboard of some kind. I'll antifoul it and leave in the water year round, and pressure wash it once or twice a year. That way I can leave the dinghy in the davits and not lift it every time, and it won't get fouled. Maybe I'll have chaps made for it to keep it from getting davit burns like my old one.

Does this sound like a plan? I would be grateful for any tips or critique.
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Old 01-09-2015, 17:38   #2
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

I'm not sure what you mean by pre-zodiac, do you mean built before 1998?

I'm sure you know this but Zodiac and Avon are the benchmark in RIB design. The CCG uses two RIBs for SAR purposes Zodiac Hurricanes and Avon Ribs. That's it. For enforcement purposes they use Titans, but we all know COPs don't go out in dirty weather so let's consider that irrelevant.

If you do mean pre 1998 Avon, dude, that's a 17+ year old rubber ducky, even sitting in a garage, the glue has been drying out, its an old boat.

I don't know the specific product, but if I was looking for a rubber ducky, I'd be looking for very close to new.

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Old 01-09-2015, 18:27   #3
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

Have you been in a 12-14 foot Portebote before?

As you may recall, I have obtained a 12 foot this past year. I don't regret it for a minute, but it takes some getting used to and is has its own idiosyncrasies. I like the fact that I can take it apart and stored on deck and it only takes up four inches, however, it also takes about 20 minutes to put it back together again. The option I have of course is towing at, but one needs to tow it quite close to the transom otherwise it gets swamped.

The other thing that you have to get used to is the flexible floor and what appears to be instability when going through bigger waves. It handles rough water quite well once you do get used to it, and for my 12 foot I find but even though I only have a three and a half horsepower 4-stroke, it still works. If I were to do over again I would probably get a 5 to 6 horsepower.

What I happen to like about the Porta Bote is that I strapped it on top my van, drove it from Florida to Alberta, and have used it on rivers and lakes up here. It does well in very shallow water, is virtually indestructible, and virtually immune to UV rays.

Would it work for you, there's no question that it would. But I think you need to think about experiencing being in one for some time yourself first, before getting one. It is a solution, perhaps even a good solution, but as in all things boating, it's a compromise.

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Old 01-09-2015, 18:47   #4
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

Dockhead, I have that exact dingy with a 9.8 Tohatsu. Very happy with it. Because of the folding transom, the hull is flat at the stern. It planes very easy, and with just me in it, 23mph on a GPS (average both directions). It folds very flat with the tubes deflated.
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Old 01-09-2015, 19:33   #5
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

I've got the little baby version of that boat, the 240 folding transom avon rib lite. The hull shape is more similar to a inflatable keel boat than a full rib, but for our purposes this has been fine.
I bought it specifically because it fits on our coach roof between the mast and dodger. The construction is first rate but the coffin bag is a little small and not of the best materials. I do have some fears about the repeated creasing of the tubes necessary to fold the transom and bag the boat, but these are unfounded as of yet.
We've got about a year of full time use on it, our 5hp 2stroke is fast with just me, but we can't plane with two adults....the boat is rated for 8, I wouldn't hesitate to run it with full rated power, when fully inflated the transom is rock solid.
Its a compromise dinghy, but a very good one.


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Old 01-09-2015, 19:52   #6
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
But then I ran across an Avon Compact Lite RIB 310 -- used, from the pre-Zodiac days, so built like a brick outhouse out of Hypalon, just like mine. And with prodigious load rating -- 500 kg or 1100 pounds or more than half a ton. Not used as a yacht tender, but kept in a garage for very occasional lake use.

Together with the 8 hp Selva four-stroke motor, it weighs less than half of my existing rig. Yet the load carrying capacity is almost the same, when you factor in the lighter motor. This RIB has only two chambers, compared to three of my present one. But it seems like it would serve my purposes. The transom folds down for that it can be deflated, folded down, and stored on deck for long ocean passages.

What more could I ask for? So the big question is -- has anyone used one of these? Are there any pluses or minuses I need to be aware of? Does the much lighter weight mean they are much flimsier than the regular Avon RIBs of the pre-Zodiac days?
I've been using a 2.80 Lite for several years now, for me it has been far and away the best solution for a tender I've ever found... It's a total mystery to me, why every other manufacturer doesn't offer a folding transom RIB - if you're stowing on deck, it's the only way to go...

I only use a 2HP Honda, so I can't speak to it's planing performance, but I see no reason why it wouldn't be fine. I actually row mine quite often, as inflatables go, it rows superbly... As long as you use REAL oars, that is... :-)

It has held up very well, no issues whatsoever with the tubes or fabric, though one does have to watch out for wear at the bottom and corners of the transom. I've added some additional patches in those areas, solely for some added protection.

Of course, there are some downsides, but none of them should be viewed as a deal-breaker, IMHO...

The plywood used for the transom is less than stellar, does not appear to be marine grade, I'm guessing that's one spot they may have saved a bit of weight... I sealed the top edge with epoxy, and it's been fine. I've through-bolted some folding padeyes for a lifting bridle, and you would definitely want to fill oversized holes with epoxy first, before mounting any hardware...

Perhaps the larger models are different, but the towing and interior lifting eye set through the forward vee of the rigid bottom is pretty lame. Just a single Wichard eye inside and out, and it will eventually start working... I got rid of mine, replaced it with a much larger Wichard U-bolt with a large backing plate, now it's pretty bulletproof...

The storage bag/cover that came with mine is crap, the lightweight zipper failed almost immediately... I don't know what the material they used is, but I've seen others in Florida that have suffered serious UV degradation, clearly it's not up to the demands of long term stowage under the sun... I made a cover from Stamoid, it's a much better and far less bulky alternative, anyway...

The grab lines forward on the top of the tubes are only seized with plastic zip ties, they came undone with the first heavy lift... Easy fix, mine are now lock-stitched...

Again, these are all minor issues, I think the overall quality of the boat is superb... I'm extremely happy with mine, and will be dreading the day when it might have to be replaced, right now Achilles seems to be the only manufacturer offering a suitable replacement...









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Old 01-09-2015, 19:58   #7
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

I have the 310 model as well. Lightly used, but enough to comment. We have a two-stroke, 8 hp Yamaha which makes it a very light package to hang from davits. With 350 lbs, it gets up on plane easily and tops out at 23 mph. With 400 lbs - two males - the front guy needs to lean forward to keep the bow down until it gets on plane, and then same top end speed.

I've had Avon do some regluing around the stern to tube area attachment, but that was done under warranty. To alleviate a very minor water leak.

ONLY issue to be aware of is the size of the tubes. Some other boats have larger tubes and are therefore drier in rough seas. That is a tradeoff with either weight or cost though. Otherwise, I would buy the same combo all over again.
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Old 02-09-2015, 01:43   #8
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

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I'm not sure what you mean by pre-zodiac, do you mean built before 1998?

I'm sure you know this but Zodiac and Avon are the benchmark in RIB design. The CCG uses two RIBs for SAR purposes Zodiac Hurricanes and Avon Ribs. That's it. For enforcement purposes they use Titans, but we all know COPs don't go out in dirty weather so let's consider that irrelevant.

If you do mean pre 1998 Avon, dude, that's a 17+ year old rubber ducky, even sitting in a garage, the glue has been drying out, its an old boat.

I don't know the specific product, but if I was looking for a rubber ducky, I'd be looking for very close to new.

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No, it's 2009. I meant pre Zodiac shutting down the UK plant, after which Avons became much flimsier.

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Old 02-09-2015, 04:05   #9
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

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No, it's 2009. I meant pre Zodiac shutting down the UK plant, after which Avons became much flimsier.

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. Kk, then I have nothing of value to add, I thought pre zodiac might have meant before Zodiac bought out Avon.

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Old 02-09-2015, 04:25   #10
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to give reviews based on real experience. This is extremely helpful, and not only to me. Thank you!!
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Old 02-09-2015, 05:08   #11
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

I have also got similar dinghy problems and am planning my dinghy replacement. I have an Avon, a couple of sizes up from yours and with a jockey seat. 13 years old with a few patched leaks, torn and worn through fabric and a rusty aging Honda 50.

I used to have a foldable transom Zodiac. It reduced the folded size, by quite a bit, but was not particularly solid. I didn't like it much. I hope the Avon one is not the same design and is better built, but I have no idea about that.

If I were to plan to be in horrible conditions (with a high risk of breaking waves of over the davit's height) or to use my dinghy infrequently such as if I were doing mainly marina to marina hops then I would definitely go for the on-deck solution and I think the one you are looking at sounds good. It's not the right choice for me. Your use may be more compatible with making the on-deck storage workable. Especially if you have a second dinghy for your main base.

The jockey seat is a great feature on a dinghy and I would want one in my next dinghy. I have been able to motor in conditions where the bouncing would have thrown me off the rib tubes into the water and where I can stand using my legs as shock absorbers where it would be impossible or dangerous to either sit on the tubes or to stand without suitable standing hand holds. Like you I have been in open water and in conditions way beyond what a tiller dinghy would be happy with. It is safe and comfortable. I may swap it for a seat, but I would require the ability to stand to steer and to hold onto a console grip. You are going to give up these advantages on occasion and will have to do 5kt when you could otherwise do 20kt.

I also wouldn't want to remove the engine and tank, deflate and tie down for every passage. It will take ten times longer than hooking onto the davits and pressing the winch button.

I'm going to deal with the weight on the davit issue with a smaller motor of 25 or 30 hp and a smaller and lighter dinghy such as an alu rib from AB or similar, but it will have remote steering and ideally a jockey seat with standing grab rails for passengers.
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Old 02-09-2015, 06:36   #12
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

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I'm sure you know this but Zodiac and Avon are the benchmark in RIB design.
In the consumer, small dinghy space, Zodiac is among the worse of the bunch, if not the worse. Avon abandoned this market altogether a while ago, and no longer make small RIBS.

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Old 02-09-2015, 06:52   #13
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

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In the consumer, small dinghy space, Zodiac is among the worse of the bunch, if not the worse. Avon abandoned this market altogether a while ago, and no longer make small RIBS.

Mark
Really? Interesting. I practically lived in a Hurricane 733 for years, they are amazing boats aside from being a bit slow and having a tendency to chine walk over 40 knots. Really, the only intelligent thing I had to offer was not to buy a boat over 17 years old, which it turns out wasn't DH's plan any way. Mine is a Zeppelin. I'm quite happy with it. Its heavy but durable.

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Old 02-09-2015, 07:19   #14
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

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In the consumer, small dinghy space, Zodiac is among the worse of the bunch, if not the worse. Avon abandoned this market altogether a while ago, and no longer make small RIBS.

Mark

That is the prevailing wisdom, but so far I've had excellent service out of my Cadet 310, it is heavy though and water gets in between the hulls from somewhere, I suspect it's coming in through the fwd locker. But from a handling, and build quality perspective, it's been great.
I suspect the Hypalon is what determines the life of most Dinghy's, and unless mistaken I believe there are only a few sources of that?

My next dinghy I will try to find a lighter one, but wife wants a flat floor, and I think we could live without that locker
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Old 02-09-2015, 07:40   #15
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Re: Experience With Avon Compact Lite Rib?

Ya, that's too bad Zodiacs have a bad rep amongst cruisers, I've had a soft spot for them ever since a trip down the Coast of Nova Scotia in a 7 meter zodiac in March 2006. We departed well after dark, maybe 10 pm, winds were forecast gale strength and seas 5 meters.

It was sleeting and the waves were breaking in an alarming fashion, and being dark, we couldn't see them coming. There was myself, a police officer and an engineer. The engineer laid in the bottom of the boat up against the transom and cried, but the boat absolutely refused to capsize or swamp, while I wouldn't say I felt safe, I felt safe enough to keep going and we covered the 15 or so miles we set out to cover.

I wonder why the civilian units are so sucky?

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