W hen we purchased OLOH she came with what was at one time a very nice tender – a twelve foot Nautica DLX that was around seventeen years old. It was structurally sound, the 25 horsepower Yamaha engine was only about five years old and in excellent condition but cosmetically it had seen better days and it just wasn’t quite right for us. So we figured we’d spruce it up as best we could and use it for a season to get a good sense of what about it worked for us and what didn’t. After a full year of use taking Jasper and friends to dozens of sandbars and on countless harbor tours along with lots of gunkholing in The Bahamas we were ready to move on to what was next. She always ran great and we must admit that we had become somewhat attached after making so many great memories but we also know that our life on the water would be greatly enhanced by a tender that better suits our needs.
Below you’ll see what our parameters were as we began looking for as a replacement for T/T OLOH (Tender To OLOH), a most prominent part of our Adventures which we document here. After exploring lots of options, including all of the tenders listed below, we took a left turn and made a decision that was even a surprise to us.
Based on our original plan to stick with a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) with tubes and a fiberglass hull as the type of tender we’d get, we had some basic criteria.
Length/Weight: Twelve feet seemed to be the magic number as we’re restricted by the space we have on our top deck where the tender lives when not in use and we were essentially maxed out with our original twelve footer although we felt there was a chance a thirteen footer might have worked. The space you need on deck is actually a bit more than the length of the tender itself as the outboard engine protrudes a bit further and increases the overall length. Additionally, as the size of the tender increases, the weight typically does as well, although some builders employ materials that minimize this difference. In any event, we didn’t want any more weight on our top deck than what was absolutely necessary or more than we had now which was around 800 pounds.
Layout: This was really one of our biggest considerations. OLOH’s tender had a pod style console on the centerline of the boat. While this would be fine if it was just the two of us, Jasper is on the tender more often than not and this design really doesn’t work well for him and his 90 pounds. We felt that having more floor space would make it much easier for him to be on board, particularly when we have additional passengers. On the center console you have what is essentially unusable floor space on either side of the pod. With a starboard-side console he’d have a nice, big spot and would be able to more easily move fore and aft depending on where he feels like sitting (he can be picky depending on the activity). Some tenders with starboard-side consoles place an additional seat between the console and the port tube, breaking up the floor space. This would be nice to have but defeats the point for us. Based on layout alone our choices were a bit more limited.
Performance: A challenge typical of many twelve foot boats can be performance. When we first had our original tender it would require shifting weight forward to get on plane (when hydrodynamic lift raises the boat from the water so there is less “wetted” surface causing drag and inhibiting performance). Between the motor and whoever was sitting on the rear seat, the stern tended to dig in with the bow rising high. We added a $25 Doel Fin hydrofoil to our motor which was very effective in mitigating the problem. It was a real game changer and allowed us to feel better about continuing to keep the tender through that first season. But we wanted whatever we were going to buy next to ideally be designed to easily plane and provide as much stability as one can reasonably expect from a rigid inflatable boat of this size.
It may go without saying but we also planned to buy a build with quality materials from a reputable manufacturer. Our hope was always to find a well-cared-for, pre-owned tender but the more we searched the more we felt we would buy new if we were able to find something we fell in love with at the right price – and that’s always a challenge.
Walker Bay Generation 360
When we began our search, this tender checked off all of the boxes for our wants and needs in a RIB.
The Generation 360 is designed to plane at low speeds and has packed a lot of nice features including ample storage space into a relatively small package. We felt it would be relatively easy for us to outfit this RIB with a bimini top, VHF and chartplotter which were all important “wants” for us.
During our first year aboard OLOH, as we paid more attention to tenders than ever before, we started to notice the Walker Bay brand quite a bit. In particular, there was a nearly new Marlow 66E docked near us in Key West – a spectacular yacht, clearly owned by someone with a great appreciation of attention to detail (the tender was tastefully finished with custom yellow accents to match the Marlow’s yellow hull). Seeing that Walker Bay was their tender of choice said a lot to us about the brand.
AB Oceanus 13VST
AB is a quality brand and their tenders are quite popular. Only their Oceanus line features the open cockpit design we were seeking but… their twelve footer lacks seating directly forward of the helm console, only featuring the rear bench seat and the bow seat. We have come to know we want seating in all three areas. We would have had to step up to their thirteen footer which has our ideal layout and while the weight would be acceptable, the 6′ 4″ beam might have be problematic.
Link: AB 13 VST
Novurania Deluxe Series 360
Novurania tenders are ubiquitous in the yachting world. While we haven’t done a scientific study, we would guess that there are more Nourania RIBSs on yachts than any other brand. Their designs in our size range haven’t evolved much over the years but sometimes you just stay with what’s proven. They are known for their quality of construction and have an all-around excellent reputation, at least as far as we’ve ever heard.
Unfortunately, they didn’t appear to have a tender in our size range with a layout that works for our needs. Their Deluxe 360 comes in at right around twelve feet and looks terrific although from their website it’s difficult to tell if it’s available with a seating layout that we’d like. They are also relatively expensive with pre-owned Novuranias in our size range exceeding our perceived budget.
Link: Novurania Deluxe 360
Among the other brands we looked into were
- Avon (the Yachtline series under Zodiac-Nautic)
Either because of layout or price or some other non-starter we did not find any tenders by these makes that worked for us.
So… what did we end up choosing and why? Click here to find out!