Friday, November 7, 2008

Avon Rover Lite 310 RIB Inflatable Boat Review

Avon Rover Lite 310 Rigid Inflatable Boat

A lightweight inflatable boat for easy handling and fleet of foot for cool running.

It's all about easy. Avon's family of Rover Lite RIBs (Rigid Inflatable Boats), are lightweight, making launching and retrieval significantly easier. Shedding pounds also improved performance. Avon offers different two models: The Rover Lite 210 measures 8' 6" length overall and the Rover Lite 310 measures 10' 2" overall. I tested the R 310 for three weeks, from engine break-in all the way to the 20-hour check-up.

A smidge longer than three meters, the Rover Lite 310 weighs just 94 pounds. In comparison, a comparable RIB weighs about 150 pounds, or 60 more pounds to wrangle onto deck. The good news gets even better. With its tubes deflated, the Rover Lite transom folds forward, freeing up deck space. Avon also includes an attractive, high quality carry bag that protects the tubes and non-skid deck from UV and dirt.

Inflating the boat to full pressure took me about five minutes with the foot pump. Naturally, the bellows is included as a standard item. Elapsed time from unzipping the cover to starting the engine is closer to ten minutes, but that includes installing the seat, lashing in the gas tank, laying in the fire extinguisher, anchor rode and securing the wooden oars into their strap handles.

Both the USCG and Avon recommend installing no more than a ten horsepower outboard motor, with an eight hp motor still an appropriate choice. I tested the boat rigged with a Suzuki 9.9 hp four-stroke. The V-bottom puts the boat on plane in about 2.5 seconds. I tested top speed with GPS and recorded 20 mph with just myself and three gallons of fuel on board. Adding another passenger and provisions would probably drop top speed down to 18 or 19 mph. That s still plenty fast for running from the mooring ball into a marina. The boat stays on plane until slowed to about 14 mph. So when rigged with a 9.9 hp, effective cruising speed ranges from 14 to 20 mph.

Compared to non-RIB inflatables with a pressurized floor or wood panels, the Rover Lite handles like a dream. It tracks as straight as an arrow, both under power or when rowing.

Typically, at dead slow idle, the propeller didn't quite provide enough thrust for steering. Fast idle did. Fuel consumption computes to about one gallon per hour at wide-open throttle (WOT). With the three-gallon tank, and no fuel held in reserve, figure on about a 50 to 60 mile range. Maneuvering dockside was made infinitely easier thanks to the forward, neutral and reverse shifting.

There is room for two or three goodly sized passengers, or two persons and Jerry jugs.

Moored in the slip alongside my liveaboard, I came to appreciate the high profile rubbing strakes. When tide raised or lowered, jostling the Avon against the pilings, the rubbing strakes protected the tubes from abrasion. I also noticed twin bridle patches that allow securing a tow line low enough so that the bow does not plow into the water. I used the stainless steel bow U-bolt for attaching the painter. Options include a davit lifting kit for twin arm davits and a three-leg lifting sling for a single point lift.


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