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The Struggle of Size - Testing Two RIBs to Find the Right Fit

AQS Spirit 450C
The AQS Spirit 450C

Most small to midsize Rigid Inflatable Boats serve as tenders, but they can also find significant usage with owners who need an easy-to-use shuttle for short distance runs.

Whether that be within a marina or harbour, shuttling guests at a waterfront hotel or facility, work crews heading out to a nearby jobsite, or simply serving as a handy A-to-B vessel, the RIB generally underappreciated for the value it provides. In all cases with all boats, deciding on the right RIB comes down to three mitigating factors -- size, function, and cost.

To get to the root of 'which RIB is right for me?' we tested two excellent platforms- The Gala Atlantis A330L and the AQS Spirit 450C.

The Gala Atlantis A330L falls into the 'small' category with a modest 10'10" LOA, but that title (and length) feels like a misnomer once you're aboard. The A330L isn't big, but we had no trouble fitting two large adults with film gear while still having an enormous amount of space to work with. Had we been shuttling somewhere, or going on a 'gear run,' there was plenty of space going unused. We didn't even have to tap into the bow locker, and there's more room next to the helm than you'd expect. I am not small at 6'2", 250 lbs, and I was able to switch places with our cameraman easily as we crossed paths beside the console. The boat didn't wobble either, and that's a fair bit of weight moving around.

The A330L has decent power too, backed by a 25 hp Yamaha outboard. With a bare weight of just 230 lbs, plus another 450-ish lbs in passengers and gear, we had no issue getting up on plane (the A330L is rated up to a 660 lb capacity). Even after doing high speed turns and testing out acceleration and handling, we found the ride stable, comfortable, and very easy to use. No gear sliding around (or crew), and she was a joy to cruise in. The 'Gala Tabs' came in handy, as they do on any RIB, and you'll make good use of them, especially if you're solo.

You're not going to see many boaters run a small RIB as a day boat, but I wouldn't necessarily rule it out with this platform. We had a hoot.

 Gala A330L RIB
The Gala A330L

Some other perks of the A330L include a big list of standard features showcasing their understanding of what RIB owners want and need. Hidden transom brackets and keel protector are there if you're in the shallows. The power-coated aluminum hull is noticeably robust, and the metal cockpit deck is completely flat, with good grip, to add an extra sense of security if you're heading into waves or wakes.

The windshield above the steering console comes in remarkably handy if the weather turns, and the grab rails on either side of the helm made it easy to switch places without feeling like we were teetering on going overboard. There are grab handles all along the perimeter as well, so you're never short on finding extra grip. The helm seat is surprisingly a double wide, which is exceptional for a RIB with a 5'7" width, and that extra seat space is great for relaxing if you're solo, and very helpful if you have to double up if you're running with 3 passengers.

The boat even comes with a repair kit and spare paddles, so even with space at a premium Gala still managed to sneak in a couple helpful extras.

Then we got to the 'big' boat- the AQS Spirit 450C. Standing above it at the dock before heading out, it doesn't really feel like a RIB. Sure, it has some of the look, but at 14'8", with a 70 hp Yamaha outboard on the back, and a colour scheme you're more likely to see on a ski boat, it definitely gives off the impression of a veritable dayboat. And it performs like one, too.

It's evident right away what a difference power makes with a RIB. The Spirit 450C has a dry weight of 465 lbs (without the engine), which is about twice as heavy as the Gala, but with almost three times the horsepower you will definitely notice the performance improvement. When you're onboard and at cruising speed, it doesn't feel like a RIB at all. The aluminum hull paired with the wider 7' beam (compared to 5'7" on the Gala) creates the same sturdy feel as a fishing boat. The reinforced metal tubing around the console and the stern provides extra grab handles, plus it creates the look and feel of a robust boat that can handle big water. We found the 450C nearly as stable as a typical fiberglass runabout in flatwater conditions, and a real treat to drive. We had a hard time bringing it back to the dock.

The larger 6 person capacity means the 450C is better served for families or groups who need to shuttle multiple people in one trip, rather than multiple runs in a smaller boat. The double wide helm seat is always a good idea, and with the added size of the 450C there's also a seat in front of the helm console. With enough room up front for 2 adults, plus the console seat and the double wide helm, it's easy to seat 5-6 people onboard and still have floorspace leftover. There's added storage under the seats, so there's still plenty of room to load it up. Choosing the right size for a RIB is tricky, but if it's serving as a tender, the decision will come down to your larger vessel's capacity. If that's the case, you're bound by size limitations. But if you've got room to play with, or you'd like a RIB that can be more than just a shuttle, both the Gala A330L and the AQS Spirit 450C are not your 'typical' RIBs.

You won't get much more out of a 10'8" RIB than the Gala, and while the 450C is not small it can still fit in a garage if you want to use it as a standalone boat, or to occasionally detach from your primary.

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Hop onboard for a ride on both boats in the video below:

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