Both RIBs are gas outboard motor vessels and reach a maximum speed of 50 mph. One thing Croop likes is that the vessels obtain this speed pretty rapidly. "What you need is the ability to hole shot, to accelerate quickly and get up on someone fast," he says.
The RIBs are designed with a console located in the center rather than to the left or the right, which affords better visibility on both sides. It also has a towing tower and reel, and 100 feet of tow rope, allowing for patrols to easily tow an average-sized ski boat, or even one twice as large, depending on the conditions. The vessels are equipped with GPS, department RF and VHF marine frequencies — critical for multi-agency uses, says Croop.
There are concerns if fully inflatable collars need constant re-inflation or if they will puncture easily. Croop says they haven't experienced any of those issues, although he notes the tubes do need replacing after 10 to 15 years, depending on use.
Functional and versatile
Darren Reid, assistant chief of Camano Island Fire and Rescue, located on Washington's Puget Sound, uses a 19-foot air-filled inflatable and a 17-foot rigid foam-filled collar.
Reid likes that the vessels can be launched from almost any point "without issue" and the boats can run in shallow water. This is especially important because they have mud flats, he says.
These two examples illustrate some of the factors agencies need to consider when choosing a RIB. If officers patrol an environment with sharp objects, puncture is a consideration. In this instance, a hybrid or foam collar might be a better choice. If shallow water is an issue, this could determine the decision made about propulsion. For example, Sandeman says their vessels, when equipped with a diesel jet, can run in as little as 12 inches of water without damaging the hull or propulsion. If more interior space is desired, a D-shaped hybrid could be the ticket.
The body of water to patrol and the conditions presented will help dictate the size of the boat.
"If you're using these vessels in open, rough water, the bigger the better," says Craig Henderson, president of Bullfrog Boats Inc., located in Bellingham, Washington. "You also want to think about how many people will be on patrol." A typical number of rescued individuals carried at any time also must be considered.
Size should also be taken into account when considering the propulsion/fuel system, says Sandeman. "For example, gas jets are good on small boats, but on larger, you want diesel because they are more powerful and the fuel consumption is less."
Eric Ingraham, a volunteer with the Pyramid Lake Piute Tribe Search and Rescue, says weather and lake conditions determined their watercraft of choice, a 27-foot RIB with a hybrid collar. Located 30 miles north of the Reno/Sparks area, this desert lake can turn ugly in seconds due to the wind. Ingraham says wind is a factor in about 80 percent of their rescues.
"The water here is very unique. It can be dead calm and then suddenly the wind comes up, and it's a wall of wind," Ingraham says. "You can actually see a blue line coming at you across the lake from the wind." Ingraham says these dangerous conditions have caught people off-guard, swamping boats and sinking them.
"But this is when our boat performs beautifully," he says. "I wouldn't feel comfortable in any other boat."
As specifications indicate, over the years, these vessels have become a great deal more sophisticated.
"The old term 'inflatables' once meant a simple rubber raft," says Ken McFalls, vice president of sales for SeaArk Marine Inc., located in Monticello, Arkansas. "Nowadays, we may be describing a complex, multi-mission, twin diesel powered, high speed, 40- or 50-foot craft."
These sophisticated choices can be overwhelming for agencies. The following manufacturers offer varying options and choices to law enforcement agencies based on individual needs and situations: