Unveiled at the Auckland International Boat Show last month, the new Caribe DL15 is a large, frisky inflatable designed for family fun with plenty of space for more serious tasks. Gary Lovell reports.
"Both Vicki and I have worked on superyachts overseas for a number of years," says Fred, "and have first-hand evidence that Caribe inflatables are popular tenders. When we returned to New Zealand a few years ago we believed there was a gap in the market for quality RIB’s using Hypalon tubes, and set up the Caribe agency."
Caribe RIBs are manufactured in Venezuela by Caribe Nautica C.A. The company’s been manufacturing the RIBs for more than 30 years, and the vessels are characterised by large diameter, Hypalon tubes, deep-vee fibreglass hulls and a quality finish.
Arguably the toughest material used for RIB tubes, Hypalon is generally specified for all military and US Coastguard inflatables. Caribe makes 29 models ranging from 2.54m to 7.3m – and offers a 10-year warranty on the tubes.
At 4.65m long and 1.97m wide, the Caribe DL 15 has attractive lines with a significant rise in the tubes at the bow. The large diameter tubes are fitted with dual rubbing strakes, and with its wide, square bow and stubby stern profile, the boat has a "solid" look. The beige tubes and grey trim are a welcome change from the predominantly two-tone grey of most inflatables.
The boat’s designed to take a maximum of eight persons (with three or four seated on the tubes). Passengers have five strap handholds each side for added security. Fitted with a stainless steel hand rail and a mahogany steering wheel, the helm console’s a classy feature.
It’s offset on the starboard side of the boat, which allows good access fore and aft on the port side. It’s an easier arrangement than the narrow passages on either side of a centrally-mounted helm station.
Standard DL 15s are equipped with a fuel gauge and switches – though Caribe NZ fits the boat with whatever instrumentation owners prefer. The test boat’s console contained the Yamaha tach and speed log plus a Lowrance X47 fish finder, a Uniden Oceanus DSC VHF and Danforth compass.
The helmsman shares a full-width seat across the aft end of the cockpit with another single seat directly in front of the console and a third seat just back from the bow. These seats are all upholstered with the cushions secured by press studs – I’d suggest Velcro would be a better option in the marine environment.
The cables for the standard steering system and the fuel lines exit from behind the aft seat into the transom area on the starboard side, while a shower hose and nozzle exit on the port side. Water for the shower is supplied from a 25-litre tank under the aft seat.
On either side of the rear seat, are two, built-in rod holders, which eliminate the rod storage problem in an inflatable. Their location quite low down makes them a little awkward to get at quickly in the event of an unexpected strike. A ski pole is also fitted to the boat.
The cockpit drains into a sump under the aft seat from where the water is pumped out by an automatic electric bilge pump. I imagine that the bilge pump would only get used after a wash down or heavy rain – the boat was surprisingly dry at all speeds in the light chop that we experienced. If water does find its way in, a gravity bung drains the hull space under the cockpit floor.
The seat forward of the helm station sits atop a small locker/bin which I suspect would get pretty good use for storing refreshments and ice. Under the aft seat is a full width storage bin currently used to store the boarding ladder, air pump, repair kit and telescopic paddle.
Under this, at near floor level, is a small locker specifically for storing a fire extinguisher. It’s ideally positioned within easy reach of the helmsman.
In the bow the forward seat, which accommodates one adult or two children, conceals a reasonably large locker – big enough for holding bulky items such as lifejackets.
Forward of the bow seat and a comfortable step higher, is the anchor locker which is deep enough to hold plenty of anchor chain or warp, plus an appropriately sized anchor. Fitted to the top of the bow tubes is a fibreglass step withy a fair lead to guide the anchor rope over the bow without harming the tubes.
I couldn’t fault the finish and quality of the boat and can understand why Caribe are popular with the superyacht set.
The standard boat weighs in at 250kg. All kitted up with the motor and options fitted, the review boat with a full tank of fuel and water the all up weight was closer to 420kg.
We launched the DL 15 at Westhaven on a pleasant autumn afternoon with a light chop out on the harbour. In displacement mode the boat cruised along comfortably with three on board and moved up onto the plane in seconds as throttle was applied to the 60hp Yamaha four-stroke engine.
The large tubes directed the bow wave downward very efficiently and at 30 knots the top of the tubes remained dry without a drop of spray coming on board. At close to top speed the boat handled well with very little slide on the cornering and with the characteristic lack of lean into the turn.
With the 60hp Yamaha the boat has a top speed of around 38 miles per hour and according to Fred uses about 19 litres of fuel per hour to give a theoretical range of 180 miles.
Crossing the wake of the photo boat at high speed with only the driver aboard the Caribe DL15 revealed the full length of its fibreglass hull but held its level aspect throughout the manoeuvre.
This is certainly a boat that will accommodate the family for getting from A to B quickly and safely. It’s also a boat for having fun in, with sufficient speed for water skiing, wake boarding or bouncing along in a rubber tube.
Equally, its layout provides plenty of space and good accessibility for the more serious tasks of ferrying bulky gear or going out fishing or diving.
At a base price of $18,300 including GST for the standard boat or $35,500 for the boat, trailer, motor and options that come with the reviewed boat, plus a 10-year warranty on the tubes, anyone looking for a 4.55m RIB would have to say that this was good value.
Specification Caribe D 15 (as reviewed $35,500 incl GST)
(Standard Caribe D 15 $18,300 incl GST)
Inside Beam 0.91m
Tube dia 500mm
Air chambers 4
Fuel tank 90 litres
Water tank 25 litres
Max persons 8
Max payload 907kg
Max hp 70
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