For professionals in any industry, performing your duty to the fullest means having the right equipment. When you work in a marine environment, there’s no equipment more important than your boat. That’s why it’s crucial to have a patrol vessel that’s ready to handle any operation — it allows you to get the job done right.
Choosing the right size boat is essential for any marine operation, but it’s especially crucial for law enforcement and assistance vessels. When duty calls, you don’t have the luxury of checking the weather and deciding whether to go or not — you need a boat that’s prepared to perform in the worst potential conditions.
Here at Fluid Watercraft, we make rigid inflatable boats, and we pride ourselves in equipping marine professionals of all sectors with optimal vessels. The Navy Seals, U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement and other patrol operations all use rigid inflatables boats. Why? Performance and reliability. There’s no time for anything less than the best.
The United States Coast Guard Office of Search and Rescue reports that the Coast Guard saved 4,188 lives in 2017 alone. Having the optimal boat couldn’t be more critical.
In this guide, we’ll take you through how to pick the right size rigid inflatable boat for your patrol.
The Right Patrol Boat Size for You
The best patrol boat size depends on your operation’s specific needs as well as where and how you operate. These are some factors to consider when picking your optimal vessel:
1. Operating Environment
The main deciding factor in selecting the appropriate rigid inflatable patrol boat size is the environment in which you operate. Simply put — ocean-going vessels are going to need extra size and capabilities than those used only for inshore purposes.
2. Inshore Operations
If your patrol operations are entirely inshore — like Fish and Wildlife enforcement on a lake or law enforcement on a river — you may be able to get away with a smaller vessel or one without an enclosed cabin. Most harbors and freshwater environment aren’t as affected by wind and waves, so you can opt for a less powerful, more maneuverable vessel.
Even smaller RIBs are ready to handle intense conditions, however. Our Fluid Patrol 505 model is the most used rescue boat in the United States and the main vessel in the National Sea Rescue institute’s fleet. At 16’5” and 80 max horsepower, it’s perfect for inshore patrol and rescue.
3. Offshore Operations
For frequent ocean-going vessels, more size means better functionality in rough conditions. You need a boat that won’t have you bouncing around when things get choppy.
Models like our Patrol 780 are perfect for ‘all condition’ operations. At 25’6”, it’s a versatile size that’s ready to handle intense days at sea. With stabilizers and dynamic hull design, it’s made to reduce impact and crew fatigue for long patrols in rough waves.
When picking a patrol boat, you have to think about not only what the conditions are usually like, but also what they could be like. As a patrol or law enforcement vessel, you should base your vessel requirements on the worst conditions of the year.
When things get rough, that’s precisely when people are going to need emergency rescues and assistance. If your boat isn’t more than capable of handling the conditions, you’ll find yourself in a dangerous situation, too. You never want to feel like your vessel is pushed to its limits — you always need to be in control so that you can perform your duties without worrying about the seaworthiness of your boat.
When your vessel is capable of easily handling the conditions, you’ll be able to focus on your job and providing assistance.
4. Type of Mission
The size of the vessel you need depends on its function. Think about your day-to-day operations and what they typically require, as well as any rare days in which you’ve wanted a different size vessel. Bigger doesn’t always mean better — sometimes, a small, maneuverable craft is more functional.
Ask yourself a few questions:
Is this boat used for picking up passengers or just to take a few crew members from point A to point B? Will I need to tow vessels? Could I have to pick up several extra passengers? Do I need to carry additional, heavy equipment?
Patrol boats must be ready for any mission, and as any patrol officer will tell you, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. The best way to always be ready is to pick a boat with extra size and capability than what you might typically need.
If you’re looking for a boat for tow and recovery capabilities, a model like our Tow and Recovery 780 is a popular choice. SeaTow and other companies trust the Tow and Recovery 780 because it’s one of the most rugged towing vessels available. Built with 1670 ORCA Hypalon fabric, the inflatable siding can handle the stresses of daily towing. Like all of our boats, our towing vessels have a two-inch-wide aluminum beach keel plate to guard against impact from trailer or club gantry loading.
5. Length of Mission
Consider the time and distance of missions your boat typically embarks on, as well as the rare ones where you have to go much further.
Larger vessels are better suited for long missions — not only do they have a larger range and fuel capacity, but they’re more comfortable for you and your crew as well. Also, enclosed cabins keep you dry and protected from harsh conditions when you need to spend a long time at the helm.
For these kinds of missions, our Patrol Cabin 880 has the power and capacity to cover long distances comfortably and an enclosed wheelhouse to keep you and your crew sheltered from foul weather. Known as the definitive Special Forces boat, it’s used by more patrol operations worldwide than any other watercraft.
The Patrol Cabin 880’s uniquely designed hull allows it to get up on plane even when carrying several passengers and a lot of gear. It comes equipped with removable, lateral stabilizers which add extra stability when speeding in rough conditions. It’s highly maneuverable and stable, even with a large cargo load.
6. Number of Passengers
The number of passengers you usually carry helps determine the size patrol boat you need — more seating means you’ll need a larger boat. And don’t forget to allow enough room for free movement on the deck — crew members need easy mobility to work effectively.
Also, if you operate a law enforcement or rescue boat, you may find yourself picking up extra passengers if you make an arrest or help people off a vessel in distress. It’s important to choose a boat that can accommodate additional passengers and has the load capacity to get them safely to shore.
If you’re the first responder on a scene of an emergency, you don’t want to risk overloading your vessel to get people out of the water — choose a boat with more than enough capacity.
7. Power Requirements
Larger boats are equipped to handle larger horsepower engines. If you need a lightning-fast patrol boat or to cover long distances quickly, you may opt for a larger vessel for the power capabilities. Not to mention if you find yourself doing frequent towing, more power means more control in your tow.
Our larger models can support up to 350 horsepower, or two 150 horsepower outboards engines.
8. Dock Space
Slip space may also be a limiting factor for the size of the boat you can purchase. But be careful not to buy an undersized vessel to accommodate for your slip if it isn’t capable of everything you need.
Is there any specialized equipment you need to bring onboard? Sometimes military and law enforcement operations have to carry large supplies or specialized equipment. Make sure the cargo you’ll need to bring along leaves enough room for your crew and a safe working load.
Why Use a Rigid Inflatable Patrol Boat?
Professionals from all marine sectors choose rigid inflatable boats because they’re unparalleled for functionality and performance. They’re perfect for patrol missions for several reasons:
1. High Capacity-To-Size Ratio
The inflatable siding of rigid inflatables gives them a much higher load capacity than a traditional boat. When carrying extra gear and passengers, it means you can do more with a smaller vessel.
If you’re looking for the most carrying capacity for your operation — our 880 model can carry up to 4,000 pounds.
2. Fuel Efficient
Unexpected missions may mean you don’t have time for a fill-up. If you get a distress call when you’re already out on patrol and far away from the dock, you most likely won’t have time to go back. Every second is precious when you respond to an emergency, so having a vessel that can go further with less fuel is essential.
As reported by the USCG Office of Search and Rescue — of the 618 lives lost in 2017, 198 of which were after the Coast Guard had already been contacted. Getting to the scene of an emergency just a few minutes earlier can mean saving more lives.
The rule of thumb for boating is always to use a third of your fuel to get out, a third to get back and a third as extra — should weather or other problems increase your runtime. With commercial operations, it’s better to leave yourself even more just in case or carry additional fuel supply.
3. Virtually Unsinkable
The Navy Seals and law enforcement officers trust rigid inflatable boats because they’ve been proven to be virtually unsinkable. These boats need to perform in rough conditions, and they also have to be able to deliver several passengers and valuable cargo safely.
Even if a RIB flips upside down, the inflatable siding is buoyant enough to keep the entire vessel afloat. And if the inflatable siding gets punctured, the baffled chambers ensure it stays seaworthy.
4. Highly Stable
The unique design of rigid inflatable boats means they’re exceptionally stable. The hard hull cuts through chop and provides a low center of gravity, while the inflatable siding reduces side-to-side motion. This stability provides crew members with a reliable place to stand and do their job.
Also, when you’re on patrol and have to be alert for several hours, you want a vessel that smooths ocean conditions and ups your comfort level. There’s a reason tour companies frequently choose rigid inflatable boats for their whale-watching and coastal adventures — they’re exceptionally comfortable.
Being a first responder to emergency distress signals or a law enforcement officer means you have to get close to other boats frequently. Having a boat with inflatable siding means you can approach other boats without worrying about fiberglass on fiberglass impacts.
The hard hull protects from damage in shallow areas or hidden underwater objects. Our RIBs are military-tough because of our advanced production process — using a low-resin, high-fiber composite, our hulls are free of imperfections and have an exceptionally high strength-to-weight ratio.
With a low weight and capability to handle more powerful engines, rigid inflatables are known to be exceptionally powerful vessels — speed is key for any first responder or law enforcement official.
The simplicity of the RIB design is what’s responsible for their performance, as well as their affordability. Operating under a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to settle for a vessel that’s sub-optimal. Also, simple components make for simple repairs and replacements if necessary.
The hard V-hull of rigid inflatable boats means they track just as well as a traditional vessel, but without the extra weight. Lightweight construction, plus a hydrodynamic design and power means rigid inflatables are quick and agile.
10. Easy to Trailer
Since RIBs are lightweight, they can be trailered by smaller vehicles for longer distances. One or two people can also quickly deploy them.
11. Easy to Store
If you need to keep your RIB patrol boat out of the water for a while, their inflatable siding means you can store them easily, even when space is limited. For transport, smaller models can be deflated and shipped trailer-free or stored in the cargo hold of a larger vessel.
Coast Guard and patrol officers worldwide are responsible for maintaining safety and law on the water, and they trust RIBs to do it. According to USCG statistics, their small patrol boats go on 396 missions/sorties, board 144 boats and inspect 100 large ships every day. There’s no time for an unreliable vessel.
Choose Fluid Watercraft for Your Commercial RIBs
We’re proud to make vessels that have been helping patrol vessels maintain safety on the water for years.
Our production team is made of engineers and designers — including ex-military aeronautical engineers — that design and manufacture based on real-world experience. Leveraging state-of-the-art production techniques, we use only the best materials to create superior vessels. We stand behind the quality of all of our products and offer a warranty for all of our vessels.
If you’re looking to upgrade your patrol vessel, feel free to browse our models of rigid inflatables. If you have any questions about choosing a patrol boat or would like to request a quote, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.