Tender Help

Aug 24, 2020
41
Beneteau Oceanis 321 321 Little River, SC
I’m looking for an inflatable tender for my 32’ sailboat. Has anyone ever heard of the brand Bris? They make Zodiac type boats but appear to be significantly cheaper. I found a new 2017 Zodiac Wave 9’ for $1200 (never used). But I also found a new 10’ Bris for $799. I know you get what you pay for which is why I’m asking. I read that they can fall apart quickly if left in the sun. But if you cover it then that’s not a problem. Anyone have any experience with Bris or any of these other knock-off Zodiac brands?
 

DArcy

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Feb 11, 2017
1,249
Islander Freeport 36 Ottawa
In general you do get what you pay for. Some things to look for in inflatable dinghies are:
  • Material - Hypalon stands up to weather longer than PVC but costs more
  • Welded seems tend to be more durable than glued seams
  • Tube diameter - bigger gives a dryer ride
  • Floor type - roll up, high pressure slat floor with wood or aluminum, or RIB (rigid hull either fiberglass or aluminum)
  • Bridle rings, lift points, spray deck, seats...
If you are looking for cheap deals, have a look at Costco. They sometimes have inflatable dinghies, maybe not the best boats but good prices.
 
Sep 22, 2018
1,869
Hunter 216 Kingston
I’m looking for an inflatable tender for my 32’ sailboat. Has anyone ever heard of the brand Bris? They make Zodiac type boats but appear to be significantly cheaper. I found a new 2017 Zodiac Wave 9’ for $1200 (never used). But I also found a new 10’ Bris for $799. I know you get what you pay for which is why I’m asking. I read that they can fall apart quickly if left in the sun. But if you cover it then that’s not a problem. Anyone have any experience with Bris or any of these other knock-off Zodiac brands?
All the stuff @DArcy says plus my 2 cents.

Depends on how you are going to use the dinghy.

Emergency life raft only all the way to use it every time you sail, how big a motor (if any) do you want, how many people/gear do you want aboard, tow it behind, davits, on deck, rolled up in its bag in a locker.

You might want to check these out.

 
Jun 14, 2010
1,725
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
Tube diameter - bigger gives a dryer ride
Also, in a RIB, a deeper hull shape will float the tubes higher, giving a drier ride. I learned this the hard way. My newer 10’ Achilles has the same tube diameter of the AB Aria it replaced, but that AB was deeper hulled, and rode drier.
 

colemj

.
Jul 13, 2004
88
Dolphin Catamaran Dolphin 460 Mystic, CT
Also, in a RIB, a deeper hull shape will float the tubes higher, giving a drier ride. I learned this the hard way. My newer 10’ Achilles has the same tube diameter of the AB Aria it replaced, but that AB was deeper hulled, and rode drier.
When buying a new RIB, we got talked out of an AB and into an 11.5' Achilles from the dealer who sold both. What a mistake. That Achilles was by far the worse riding and performing RIB I've ever been on. We sold it at a large loss within a year. Not wanting to repeat that expensive mistake, I became quite an expert on RIB design and performance while researching our next one. Like you mention, people talk a lot about tube diameter, but the hull shape is more important. The hull isn't just a hard space separating the tubes - it is the boat itself, particularly when on plane.

We have friends who have bought two Bris RIBs and love them. I've used them and saw no deficiencies.

Mark
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,725
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
When buying a new RIB, we got talked out of an AB and into an 11.5' Achilles from the dealer who sold both. What a mistake. That Achilles was by far the worse riding and performing RIB I've ever been on. We sold it at a large loss within a year. Not wanting to repeat that expensive mistake, I became quite an expert on RIB design and performance while researching our next one. Like you mention, people talk a lot about tube diameter, but the hull shape is more important. The hull isn't just a hard space separating the tubes - it is the boat itself, particularly when on plane.

We have friends who have bought two Bris RIBs and love them. I've used them and saw no deficiencies.

Mark
Mark - I'm curious about what you learned and any key insights that went into your final choice. (Also, what did you choose? What were the others on the "short list"?)
In a RIB, my choice was limited to single-hulled (outer hull only, without flat floor) designs because light weight was a key criteria. But for one that stays in the water full-time; I look for a double floor model with a sump well at the drain point. That sump well feature is important so I can install a small automatic bilge pump with a hose to transom thru-hull.
 
Jul 5, 2017
36
Hunter 44DS Cape Coral
If using davits, watch out for the length of the dinghy vs the beam of the boat. If its too long, docking can be a problem. Engine and dinghy storage on long passages and if your boat is on the hard in a hurricane prone area. Weight of dinghy and motor also a consideration.
 
Dec 28, 2012
2
Catalina C30 Marina del Rey
I bought the Bris aluminum floor two seater off Amazon. It is paired up with a Mercury 4HP, and it works great (not enough power to get it up on plane, but it is perfect as a tender and marina runabout). The last one I had was a HydroForce aluminum floor, but when the sun killed it, I replaced it with the Bris. So far, so good. I'm sure the sun will get to this one too, eventually. Such is the nature of PVC. But I can buy three of these for the price of a similar size and feature Hypalon.
 
Aug 24, 2020
41
Beneteau Oceanis 321 321 Little River, SC
Great advice everyone, thank you. I think I will give the Bris a try if I can find one (they’re in high demand). There is also a company called Aleko that has some nice boats but they are a bit more expensive (not much). I’ve heard at least Aleko is a US company with customer service in Washington. I found a used Tohatsu 6hp (only 10 hours use) for $800 so I’m going to grab that & then buy the tender. Will keep all advised.
 
Aug 22, 2017
1,608
Hunter 26.5 West Palm Beach
Flat bottomed inflatables don't steer well at all. Deeper V hard bottoms handle the best, but shallow V gets on plane with less HP. Hard bottoms hold up to shell covered beaches better than inflatable bottoms.

There are now 3 types of tube material. 1) CSM, which is commonly called "Hypalon" but now is usually Pannel Orca brand, since DuPont stopped making genuine Hypalon brand many years ago, 2) PVC (Also known as Vinyl), & 3) a new one that is being used on some Italian boats. I don't remember the name of the new material. It is not yet particularly common.

I am able to reliably repair Hypalon with Clifton adhesive. I am not able to reliably repair Vinyl with any adhesive that I have tried so far, including that 2-part stuff from West that is recomended for Vinyl & costs $60 for a few oz. I do not know what is recommended for repairing the new material.

Glued Hypalon seams can last for up to 20 years. Glued Vinyl seams are lucky if they make it to the end of the second season with average use & often don't make it to the end of the first. Welded Vinyl seams hold up much better than glued Vinyl seams. I do not know of a welding process for Hypalon.

Vinyl is much more easily damaged by over-inflation. Sitting in the hot Florida sun can sometimes cause issues in a short time if the tube was at full recommended pressure before being put in the sun. If you find a Vinyl boat that has tubes that are smaller in diameter at the welded seams compared to the rest of the tube, that was most likely over-pressure damage (stretching). Vinyl boats with glued seams don't usually stretch. They pop. Hypalon tubes can take A LOT more pressure & not seem to care. Hypalon has better abrasion resistance.

If you treat a Vinyl boat carefully & don't leave it in the sun too much, it can last several seasons. I think that 4 is my record.
 
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colemj

.
Jul 13, 2004
88
Dolphin Catamaran Dolphin 460 Mystic, CT
Mark - I'm curious about what you learned and any key insights that went into your final choice. (Also, what did you choose? What were the others on the "short list"?)
In a RIB, my choice was limited to single-hulled (outer hull only, without flat floor) designs because light weight was a key criteria. But for one that stays in the water full-time; I look for a double floor model with a sump well at the drain point. That sump well feature is important so I can install a small automatic bilge pump with a hose to transom thru-hull.
Funny, a sump large and deep enough to take a bilge pump is also one of our top criteria. Our catamaran with davits make it easy to lift and carry any type of dinghy that can fit in the 12.5' space between the hulls. We consider the added weight of a double floor a good tradeoff for the dryness and level surface for the type of use we have. As for what I found:

Hull: A deep V hull forward, gradually morphing to a flatter bottom with a bit of a bustle in the aft, and having considerable chines that are designed for more than just strengthening a cheap layup on the hull. The chine design is important because the boat is going to be riding and steering on them. The bottom should sit lower than the tubes the entire run. All of this was missing in that Achilles - in particular the tubes sat below the bottom for most of the hull run and resulted in a moon-bounce ride that was actually dangerous in waves larger than 6". It was the only RIB that ever frightened me.

Surprisingly, if you look at the hull form of the West Marine 360 RIB, you will see one of the better hull form designs out there. Others that are acceptable to us were Caribe, Flexboat, Novurania, and AB (Novurania has since stop making their smaller tiller boats). Attached are bow and stern profiles of a Flexboat showing some of these design elements. There are equally valid variations on this theme. For example, Novurania's design is a deeper V at the stern with a single larger chine, while West Marine's has a pronounced flat bustle almost like a whale tail in the stern with a chine ending further forward. The overall goal is to get the boat on plane and controllable, while not reacting vertically to waves, and guiding water away from the boat instead of inside it.

Tubes: (only discussing hypalon, as PVC is inappropriate for our needs/usage) There are six grades of hypalon, but only four of them seem to be used in RIB's. Getting information out of manufacturers on what grade is used is like pulling teeth. Some that use higher grades do seem to shout it from the rooftops, but most go to lengths to keep one from finding out. All that we looked at are using Orca Hypalon. The lowest quality is Orca 215, and this is found in the West Marine boats, and only a couple other lower end manufacturers. Too bad, because their hulls are great, but one cannot expect much robustness from the tubes. This grade punctures and abrades easily, and will permeate air earlier.

Most everyone else uses two grades up Orca 820 (I don't know why the intermediate Orca 219 is skipped in RIB manufacturing). Orca 820 can take some abrasion, and is more resistant to puncturing, as well as holding air longer. This is the minimum grade for better robustness, but is still not very good. Again, pretty much everyone uses it though - AB, Achillies, Highfield, etc.

The next grade up is Orca 828, and this grade has very high robustness. It is difficult to drive a nail through it, and takes a lot of abrasion with only cosmetic damage. Novurania uses this in their smaller RIBs. Up until a few years ago when the Venezuala situation forced economic issues with Caribe, they also used Orca 828. Now they are using 820.

Above that is military and police grade Orca 866. It is almost impossible to drive a nail through this stuff, and it is made to take all beatings. Flexboat uses this exclusively, as does Novurania in their larger boats. I think AB uses it in their professional line, but I could not get this information from any means. They could just be using 828 and lots of marketing speak about "professional quality", etc.

The highest grade of Orca fabric is (confusingly) Orca 859. This does not appear to be used in any RIB manufacturing. It's properties wrt tenacity, puncture resistance, etc is double that of 866, so it must be like steel.

With a good hull design, the tubes are just to keep the boat stable when not on plane, and deflect a small amount of wave splash (spray should be handled by the chine design, and the major component of a wave handled by the bow V design). So surprisingly, tube diameter is less important than usually touted if the hull is designed correctly. Otherwise, one is asking the tubes to do things they are not fit for. Of course, there are minimum diameters for any given hull length, and 16-17" is probably minimum for a 12' RIB.

Glued on parts like rubrails, seat patches, handholds, etc: PVC is bad here, while EPDM is good. Surprisingly, even some expensive RIBs cheap out here. West Marine, of course, uses PVC parts, and these are notorious for falling off early and being unable to secure again. This is one area of quality consumers don't seem to recognize or understand the differences, so manufacturers take advantage.

Interior design: This is more personal, but we look for things like a large deep sump that can hold a small electric pump, a fiberglass pan bottom that rises a couple of inches around the tubes so that stuff doesn't become lodged between the tubes and hull, a bow locker than can take the fuel tank, with an interior chase leading aft for the fuel hose, seat(s) that are solidly held in a fiberglass pan structure instead of sitting on top of a bouncing tube, and a few other quirks we have learned to appreciate.

Armed with all of the above new knowledge, freed from our appalling Achilles and vowing to never trust a salesman again no matter how much experience they have, we set out to find a suitable RIB for us and came up with three that met our criteria almost fully - Flexboat, Caribe, Novurania, and one that would do OK - AB. I should mention that we specifically did not want an aluminum boat, so those were not considered.

Flexboat is without a doubt the best of the lot. The only downside is weight, but this is also the downside of having a good hull design and heavier tube fabric in general. All the good boats are heavier than all the cheap boats. Flexboat is made in Brazil, and there is only a single US distributor. At the time we were trying to buy one, Brazil and US were having some type of import row with shipments held up. We could not get one in the timeframe we needed it.

At the time, we were living just down the road from the Novurania factory, and I approached them about restarting their smaller RIB line again, or at least pulling out an old mold and making me a one-off. They were actually interested and designed and built a new hull form even better than their old ones. Unfortunately, they had very strong opinions on scantlings, and this hull came out grossly heavy. No amount of discussions with their engineers could convince them that this size of boat and its intended usage didn't need some of the scantling dimensions they were using, as well as some of the design features that added unusual weight. In the end, we had to continue our search elsewhere. They eventually brought the boat to market, but it failed to generate any sales because of the weight. They ended up turning it into a even much heavier console boat. I don't know how that is selling, and they don't publish weight specs for it. A tell, though, is they recommend a minimum 30hp engine for a 11.5' boat.

Next we turned to Caribe. Working directly with their factory in Venezuela, I discovered that they had just switched to cheaper Orca 820 fabric and had a new hull design in the works. The new hull design was even nicer than the older one, but the fabric downgrade was disappointing. I tried to get them to make us a boat using Orca 866, but at the time they could not source it because of the situation in Venezuela. They did still have some Orca 828 on hand, and agreed to make us a RIB using that. So that's what we ended up with. We were the first of the new hull design. It came out a bit heavier than expected (a common occurrence for the first hull of anything), but it does ride very well.

I don't know how well Caribe is doing now, or even if they are still manufacturing. The situation in Venezuela is even graver, and the Covid must be taking a toll there. Politically, I'm not sure they can even import into the US anymore.

Apologies for the length.

Mark
 

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colemj

.
Jul 13, 2004
88
Dolphin Catamaran Dolphin 460 Mystic, CT
Oops, I have to correct something I said earlier. The OP was asking about BRIS dinghies and I replied that I had experience with them.

This is incorrect. I have experience with BRIG dinghies, and confused the two.

Mark
 

colemj

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Jul 13, 2004
88
Dolphin Catamaran Dolphin 460 Mystic, CT
One correction/addendum to the above fabric discussion. Achillies does not use Orca fabric. Instead, they make their own hypalon equivalent. It is a good fabric, but close to ORCA 820. Possibly a bit more robust, but not as robust as Orca 828.

Mark
 
Aug 24, 2020
41
Beneteau Oceanis 321 321 Little River, SC
After extensive research & looking at all the great advice offered here, I’ve narrowed it down to a few options. Zodiac has a nice 8’ RIB which looks great for $1,600 (includes under seat storage bag). It’s a little small but I really like the hard V shaped hull. Next there is another Zodiac I found which is a 2017 but is brand new and is 9’ long with an aluminum floor (Zodiac Wave) for $1,200. Lastly I found a 9’ Zodiac Cadet with aluminum floor for $1,500. They are all made with PVC - I looked at hypalon but they’re all just a bit out of my price range. I’d prefer hypalon but simply can’t afford it at this point. There are some beautiful tenders available out there but also quite pricey. I don’t need a big tender for a 32’ long sailboat and it will usually be only me with maybe two other people. Plus I’m on a budget after just buying the sailboat and new sails (dropped $3,800 on new Neil Pryde battened furling mainsail & 155% genoa headsail). I had to, the sails on there now are the original 25 year old sails and are beat to hell. So I figured the best place to spend the most money was on new sails. Will keep you all posted on the final decision for my tender.
 
Aug 22, 2017
1,608
Hunter 26.5 West Palm Beach
When buying replacement tubes for larger Zodiac RHIBs that had bolt rope attachment, I was able to get the same 5 year warranty on Hypalon & Vinyl tubes. If that 8' RIB with hard V bottom is new, with a 5 year warranty on the tubes, that would be my first choice, assuming that you don't need the larger carying capacity of the bigger RIBs you are considering.
 
Jan 22, 2008
40
Hunter 30_88-94 Ipswich, Ma MA
We have a 9‘ Zodiac Cadet with a slat floor. Zodiac is definitely a very good brand and much more durable than any knock off brand, especially ones made in China. We found that out the hard way.
The main reason we went with a roll up, was for easy of storage. I would have like to go with an RIB, but we don’t have anyplace for winter storage.
With the roll up, once our boat is out of the water, it gets a good cleaning, rolled up and stored below on our boat. It’s compact enough so it stores easily.
Also, being light weigh, it tows nicely.
 
Aug 24, 2020
41
Beneteau Oceanis 321 321 Little River, SC
Yes Jim, actually all 3 of my tender options are new. Even though the Zodiac Wave is a 2017, it’s a leftover and the 5 year warranty starts the day I buy it. I agree that the 8’ Zodiac Cadet RIB is my first choice assuming I don’t need a bigger tender. I’m getting it from Defender.

Art, I’ve noticed the same thing. All the knock-off brands have either a 30 day or 1 year warranty whereas the Zodiac has a 5 year warranty. My brother has a 10’ Zodiac Wave & loves it. That’s not to say that you can’t get lucky with one of the Chinese or Korean knock-offs but the main complaint I hear with those is that they literally fall apart in the sun from UV exposure after a while. And in SC that’s certainly an issue. The 9’ Zodiac Cadet is a great choice. I don’t really need the tender to be ‘space saving’ (roll-up) in my case as I’m going to use davits to hang it off the stern or tow it. It’s nice to not have to winterize my boat here in SC :)

Will keep you all posted on the final decision. Turns out Defender just started a sale on tenders so it may be sooner rather than later. Thanks for all the great input!
 
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Jan 22, 2008
40
Hunter 30_88-94 Ipswich, Ma MA
I’d highly recommend Defender. I’ve bought lots of items from them over the years, including out latest Zodiac.
Excellent prices, fast delivery and knowledge customer service.
You’re correct that uv rays are a problem. Defender recommended using Areospace 303 protectant periodically
to prevent fading and cracking. Seems to work OK.
 
Aug 24, 2020
41
Beneteau Oceanis 321 321 Little River, SC
Well folks I ended up buying a brand new 2021 Zodiac Cadet 270AL from Defender. It’s 8’ 10” with aluminum floor and 17” tubes. They were having a sale so I got it for $1385 which I thought was a good price for that model. It was one of the three original models I was considering.
Which now brings up another issue. The max rating for the engine for that model is 8hp but Zodiac recommends 6hp. I would like to get the 8hp and max it out because I always hear people say they wish they had gotten a bigger engine for their tender. There is about a 30 pound difference between those engines which can be an issue with taking off & putting on the engine solo. Also I believe the new 6hp engines include the internal gas tank whereas the new 8hp engines do not. It’s not a huge deal but certainly worth considering those little factors. Curious what y’all think