RIB technology for a voyaging boat?

The world has seen schooners built of wood, steel and even ferrocement. Until now, though, no one has ever thought to build a schooner rig on the hull of a rigid-hull inflatable (RIB). And why would someone do that?

In a boatshop in Olympia, Wash., there is a 33-foot RIB being put together by someone who believes in the vessel’s viability as a stable, lightweight platform for such a sailing rig. "My design objective is to create a light-displacement cruising boat that combines the safety and performance of a rigid inflatable with the practicality and aesthetics of a custom-made wooden boat," said amateur boatbuilder George Kurzman of his project. He is prepared to build the boats for others, but the prototype vessel is for his own use.

The hull is constructed of plywood and epoxy composite and the inflation tubes, hand-built with a heat-seal machine, are of urethane-coated nylon. Inside the skin is an inflated tube, which can be replaced if punctured, according to Kurzman.

"I’m attracted to the RIB concept because air tubes offer a great deal of volume without a lot of structure, which allows for more buoyancy and stability for a given displacement," Kurzman said. "While I sacrifice a certain amount of storage and interior volume under the side decks where the tubes are, I get light displacement without sacrificing structural integrity."

The shallow-draft cat schooner has – or will have – dual centerboards and a 20-hp inboard diesel. The vessel’s ballast, such as it is, is the engine, batteries and the tankage. The vessel’s fully battened, sliding-gunter-style rig is fully collapsible during rough weather or when powering. The vessel will weigh an estimated 6,000 lbs loaded and be capable of powering at 10 knots, according to Kurzman.The design will also feature a standing-headroom, fully-enclosed pilothouse with drains that flow through the centerboard trunks. The project, now four years in the making, is 75 percent complete. Visit Kurzman’s website for more information: www.doriak.com.

By Ocean Navigator