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Old 03-02-2014, 13:01   #1
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North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

We are doing research on inflatable RIBs in preparation for a purchase this year. We intend to use this inflatable to cruise the east coast, Bahamas and the Caribbean over the next 5 years (leaving Boston in October of 2015). We will be on a 31 foot sailboat so we need to stay reasonable with dinghy size, looking between 8.5 to 9.5 feet. We have owned a 10 foot and an 11 foot dinghy in the past and know what to expect in the 8.5 to 9.5 size range. We will be cruising with our dog and going to shore a lot. For both of those reasons we prefer a RIB. Our 10 footer was a RIB and our 11 footer was an inflatable keel. We know that anything less than 9.5 feet will fit nicely between our mast and anchor locker for on deck storage. We have a nice 9.8 hp, 2-stroke Tahatsu that we like very much (57 lbs) that we will use. Based on our needs/wants here is a series of things we are weighing in our decision:
  • We want a RIB that weighs less than 130 lbs.
  • We want an anchor locker to allow for some space to keep an anchor, lock and cable, nav lights, etc. that can be secured when we are off on shore.
  • We are learning towards aluminum hulls due to the light weight but want a double hull version so that it's easier on our dog.
  • We have not settled on PVC vs. Hypalon yet.
  • Our budget for this purchase is less than $5,000 (this comes out of our cruising kitty so we want the cheapest reasonable cost because it could mean a couple more months cruising).
So based on that, we have created the following short list of inflatables:Of these, the AB 9.5 AL would be the first choice but it's more money then we wanted to spend.

So here are my questions that I am hoping some CFers can help with:
  1. I really like the price point of the North Atlantic Inflatables. I have looked at them in person and they appear to be built well. Anyone have any real world experience with them?
  2. The North Atlantic Inflatable is PVC while the rest are hypalon. How important is this choice?
  3. If we make a good set of chaps for the PVC dinghy will it last 5 years in the Caribbean?
  4. Since it seems like we can get the North Atlantic for about half of the AB, does it make sense to go with that purchase and just buy another North Atlantic or used RIB down the line if we need to?
Thanks to any who read this and especially to those who reply.

Jesse
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Old 03-02-2014, 13:09   #2
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

PVC just has no place in the tropics
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Old 03-02-2014, 13:25   #3
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

I was in the same place as you a year ago.. I've always wanted a Caribe or AB as I feel they are the best RIB on the market. I wanted a double floor aluminum RIB and it was difficult to justify the double the price. I asked for a couple recommendations from North Atlantic (NA) and reached out to some owners and received some fairly positive responses. I bought the 10' (ALA 300) double floor aluminum for $ 2,399 and have been very happy with the quality of the dinghy so far... It's only been a season so far but I sailed last summer up from Annapolis thru coastal New England.

I run it with a 15 hp 2 stroke outboard and the sucker really goes with me, my wife and 13 yr old son aboard. I wish they'd offer this RIB in Hypalon but they don't.

My last West Marine PVC RIB (fiberglass) lasted about 6 years with one year of it spent living fulltime aboard for a year down in the Bahamas. I figured with a 5 yr fabric warranty on the NA I've got nothing to lose. I'll be happy if I get 5 yrs out of it.

I like the chaps idea... I wouldn't go to the Carribean without Chaps on my next dinghy. Good luck. Feel free to email or PM if you have any more questions.

Kevin
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Old 03-02-2014, 14:14   #4
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

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Originally Posted by SailK2 View Post
I was in the same place as you a year ago.. I've always wanted a Caribe or AB as I feel they are the best RIB on the market. I wanted a double floor aluminum RIB and it was difficult to justify the double the price. I asked for a couple recommendations from North Atlantic (NA) and reached out to some owners and received some fairly positive responses. I bought the 10' (ALA 300) double floor aluminum for $ 2,399 and have been very happy with the quality of the dinghy so far... It's only been a season so far but I sailed last summer up from Annapolis thru coastal New England.

I run it with a 15 hp 2 stroke outboard and the sucker really goes with me, my wife and 13 yr old son aboard. I wish they'd offer this RIB in Hypalon but they don't.

My last West Marine PVC RIB (fiberglass) lasted about 6 years with one year of it spent living fulltime aboard for a year down in the Bahamas. I figured with a 5 yr fabric warranty on the NA I've got nothing to lose. I'll be happy if I get 5 yrs out of it.

I like the chaps idea... I wouldn't go to the Carribean without Chaps on my next dinghy. Good luck. Feel free to email or PM if you have any more questions.

Kevin
I saw your previous post where you were thinking about buying one. Did you get the anchor locker in yours?

Thanks, Jesse
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Old 03-02-2014, 15:44   #5
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

No, I did not get the anchor locker. I did get a "Boat Show" discount ( about $ 300 off) and they also threw in a zippered storage case that mounts under the seat. I know the Boston boat show is in two weeks.
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Old 03-02-2014, 16:42   #6
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

Agreed that PVC is not as desirable in the tropics. I would extend that to welded seams - old fashioned glue works best.

I'm also looking at dinghies, and would like to get one that is closer to 80-90lbs. I like the aluminum ribs. I am a little concerned about the powder coating as everything I have had that is aluminum has had the powder coat fail rather badly. I have seen aluminum dinghies with the powder coat coming off - not a pretty sight.

I currently have an AB260 FG RIB, 1995, and have been very happy with it. I used to keep chaps on it and agree that it is a good investment. The only problem with AB these days is the price...

Greg
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Old 03-02-2014, 16:54   #7
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

A quick search of this board will show many people unhappy with PVC dinghies and hardly any unhappy with Hypalon (Orca)

There's a reason.
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Old 03-02-2014, 16:57   #8
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

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I. I bought the 10' (ALA 300) double floor aluminum for $ 2,399 and have been very happy with the quality of the dinghy so far... It's only been a season so far but I sailed last summer up from Annapolis thru coastal New England.
This is not a test for any dink. You need four or five seasons in the tropical sun. I am biased towards AB's. I have one that I got in 2004. No patches, no leaks. Used every winter in the Bahamas and stored without any covering in the Florida sun in the summer. It hangs from the davits. I let some of the air out. That's it. The only problem was that the seat broke when someone was sitting on it and we bounced a bit. Not an unusual problem with ABs of that vintage. I threw the seat away.
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Old 03-02-2014, 17:03   #9
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

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No, I did not get the anchor locker. I did get a "Boat Show" discount ( about $ 300 off) and they also threw in a zippered storage case that mounts under the seat. I know the Boston boat show is in two weeks.

That's why I did this now in case we decide to buy at the show.
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Old 03-02-2014, 17:15   #10
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

If you are only concerned about the next 5 years, then PVC with chaps will make it that long no problem.

I have yet to see a painted aluminum hull that wasn't bubbling and peeling within the first year. It is only cosmetic. AB will make them without paint if you want, and I know many who order them this way. I haven't looked at AB prices in a while, but a couple of years ago they were very reasonable in Colombia and Panama. Better prices than all the others.

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Old 03-02-2014, 18:23   #11
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

i've got three (THREE!) old dinghys lying around, still usable. two avons and one boat u.s. they're all from the 80's and 90's. they're all hypalon. i haven't seen any pvc dinghy's around that old.

BUT, if you just need a dinghy for a few years the pvc might be good enough. and if saving $1000 will get you out there cruising sooner then i say buy it...
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Old 03-02-2014, 20:02   #12
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

I'll second colemj- if you can wait until Columbia or the duty-free in Colon you should save a bundle. I bought my AB in Venezuela back when AB was still there and got a great price (although to be fair I benefited from the messed-up currency regime in Venezuela).

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Old 04-02-2014, 06:20   #13
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

Thanks for the replies.

Waiting for cheaper prices in south America is a good suggestion but that would put us halfway through our cruise before we get the new dink. Not really a good option because our current one is just too big for us to manage easily.

I have done the research here on PVC vs. Hypalon and still can't get a clear answer on the real life of PVC. There are people who say that PVC with welded seams will last longer than my 5-year expected cruise. I have also had people say that they only last 2 years. The manufacture does have a 5 year warranty on the hull and fabric. So that means they expect it to last at least that long. But on the other hand, if I am in the Bahamas when something goes wrong, a warranty in Portland, ME isn't going to be very helpful. So I definitely need to talk to them about that aspect.

I hadn't thought about the powder coating on the hull. Thanks for those who brought up that point. The AB I like is an uncoated hull but the others are powder coated.

A friend brought up the concern of the aluminum hull damaging the fiberglass deck of the boat if they come in contact. I hadn't thought about that but I think the less weight of the aluminum would be easier to manage and therefore less likely that would happen. Any thoughts?

Thanks again.
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:15   #14
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

First of all, forget about any warranties on any products when you go out cruising. They either won't be honored outside the distribution area you bought them in, or they will be so expensive and cumbersome to return them to that area as to make the warranties essentially useless.

It is just a fact of life for cruisers. Having said that, there are a few companies who have worldwide warranties along with worldwide service centers. Just don't count on it.

If you are only looking for a 5-year life, a PVC dinghy will be just fine - especially if you cover it with chaps. I recommend this not only for lifespan, but also for comfort - PVC can get sticky in the tropics.

I don't see how an aluminum hull will damage a deck any more than a fiberglass hull. Both are hard and have edges. You can always put some of that rubber strake stuff along the bottom chine edge.

Mark
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Old 04-02-2014, 07:33   #15
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Re: North Atlantic Inflatables and other Aluminum RIBs

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First of all, forget about any warranties on any products when you go out cruising. They either won't be honored outside the distribution area you bought them in, or they will be so expensive and cumbersome to return them to that area as to make the warranties essentially useless.

Very true. Not to mention the delays if you do manage to ship the stuff back. And the problem of where to specify as the address for the return shipment.
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