2015, June; Cowan Waters: With safety and versatility as key attributes, this Nautilus 17DLX Widebody Bowrider (to use its full branding) from AB Inflatables is right at home for anything from diving, cruising and emergency services to being used a tender for a luxury yacht.
The RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) market is booming these days with the benefits of light weight, excellent stability and high load-carrying capacity. Another feature is that the inflatable tubes have a certain amount of ‘give’ and so are unlikely to cause any scuff marks or damage when coming alongside another boat. For all these reasons, RIBs are very popular as tenders for larger vessels, as well as finding wide acceptance in other areas from rescue boats through to general purpose family runabouts.
AB Inflatables is one of the premier suppliers of RIBs with South American manufacture and world-wide distribution backed by a 44-year heritage of quality and success. That background was easy to accept when inspecting this Nautilus 17DLX Widebody Bowrider that was immaculately presented by the company’s NSW distributor Boating Connexions. Everywhere I looked were examples of thoughtful attention to detail and consideration for the end user.
There is something like 70 different models in the AB range from 2.4 through 9+ metres and ranging in price from $4,000 to $199,000 (the latter with twin 250 or 300hp outboards on the transom – pricing at the time of writing). So you’ll certainly find a size and style to suit your needs. This 5.2 metre 17DLX (the 17 is for 17 feet) is amongst the most popular size range.
On its trailer, which is included in the package with a 115hp Yamaha four-stroke, a few features of the 17DLX’s fibreglass hull were readily apparent. It carries quite a deep vee with a deadrise of around 25 degrees for a soft ride. There are three strakes either side of the keel for good stability and control, and the large-diameter tube collars effectively form strong chines that would help further with handling, and with controlling the wake and spray.
The hull carries further forward than on some RIBs to also benefit ride and handling, and it overlaps the tops of the collar tubes to provide more internal space and a more user-friendly style. For example, aft on the port side there’s a non-slip-surfaced step on the fibreglass side deck. The interior too has a strong non-slip surface pattern for its self-draining sole with vee-shaped seating forward for which there are in-fill panels to convert the whole area into a big sunlounge.
All the seats have lift-up bases with neatly upholstered closed-density foam cushions for good comfort and support, whilst below them on both sides are insulated coolers and a large anchor locker centre-forward. If you didn’t need that much cooler capacity, they could easily be used for general stowage. Space for that was extra generous with more room inside the helm position console and then a true cavern of capacity down into the back of the DLX under the full-beam aft lounge which lifted on gas–support struts.
That cavern gave good access to the battery and its master switch as well as to the fuel filter and into the aft bilges. Both the fuel and fresh water tanks are under-floor to keep them out of the way; and a shower is standard at the transom. The visible engineering is well designed and installed. The helm console is on the starboard side and is neat, simple and effective. A carbon-fibre style dash panel carries a stainless tilt-adjustable wheel plus two Yamaha multi-function digital gauges with the usual variety of scroll-through data.
Switch panels for lights and accessories with matching circuit breakers are to either side of the wheel and a Fusion Bluetooth stereo head is positioned a little lower down. A cushioned panel in the front of the console forms a backrest for the starboard side front seating and hinges open for pleasing access to the back of the dash and its associated wiring.
Hardware around the 17DLX is beautifully made in stainless with pop-up cleats at strategic spots and a combined nav light at the stem. Low profile guard rails run back along the tops of the forward gun’ls. Even at this size, AB Inflatables are often used as tenders on big cruisers and luxury yachts, so tie-down and davit-lift points are fitted as standard.
The driving position was quite comfortable although there’s not a lot of leg room between the aft lounge and the console. There was enough for me however, and I slightly tilted down the wheel for a clear view of the gauges; all-round visibility was of course perfect! The throttle and shift were ideally positioned on the fibreglass side-deck and I had a comfy reach to that and the wheel.
The 17DLX handled just great and was a real pleasure to drive. The 115 Yamaha gave all the power you’d need with plenty of push away from rest and with solid mid-range acceleration. We had three people on the lounge as well as a near-full under-floor fuel tank, so that gave a fair bit of weight right aft. The result was some noticeable bowrise getting on plane, but that could have been reduced with some of the crew seated forward. In any case, the AB quickly settled to a good running angle and fairly scooted across the water.
From planing at 3,000 rpm and 25 kph we cruised through 4,000 and 44 kph to a top end at 5,900 rpm of 73 kph which is very good for this set-up and showed that the four-blade stainless Solas 17inch pitch prop was a good choice. The hull held on well through turns and was rewarding fun to skipper.
AB Inflatables is one of few in this market segment that has CE, NMMA and ISO 9001 certification to prove that these craft are built to the highest world-wide standards. The inflatable tubes are made from a 5-ply Orca Chlorosulfonated Polyethylene fabric designed to provide durability and to resist scratches and UV damage; it must be good as the company guarantees it for ten years. Seams are overlapped a full inch (2.5cms) and tape-reinforced on the inside, while multiple air chambers use a special baffle system to equalize pressures across the individual chambers.
SPECIFICATIONS: AB INFLATABLES NAUTILUS 17DLX BOWRIDER
Overall Length: 5.18 metres
Beam: 2.46 metres
Weight (boat, dry): 537 kgs
Capacity: 10 persons
Fuel capacity: 125 litres
Water capacity: 38 litres
Power (as tested): Yamaha four-stroke 86 kW (115 hp)