A new wave of craft can handle ship-to-shore duties in stylish comfort, writes David Lockwood.
Far from the days of longboats, whaleboats and row boats, today's tenders have morphed into super-cool craft that ably reflect the high calibre of mothership moored out yonder. No longer just taxis for the shore party, the latest tenders are stylish, sporty, fast and capable craft that open up a whole new realm of boating possibilities.
Tenders fulfil a multitude of essential boating duties and are great learning platforms for budding bosuns - what greater sight than a bunch of tykes puttering about the anchorage in a tender? Consider adding a prop guard if you're going to cast the kids adrift.
But whereas the ubiquitous rubber ducky has been de rigueur for decades, the latest tenders have taken a turn for the better, becoming bona fide boats with dedicated helm stations, plush seating, even amenities such as freshwater showers. Propelled by trends on the Med, tenders have become status symbols to flaunt alongside your cruiser, tie outside the taverna and be seen on board. Remember: you will be judged by your tender.
Liam O'Halloran from Sirocco Marine South, a specialised inflatable-boat outlet, says tenders have become such important parts of boaters' lives that he's now fitting aftermarket backrests to helm seats to make them more comfortable for cruising. A couple of recent new tender owners put in four hours on Sydney Harbour, he says, adding that the latest, virtually smoke-free and silent, four-stroke outboard engines make boating for extended periods totally agreeable.
But it's thanks to the advent of transom garages, hydraulic swim platforms and slewing davits and derricks that launching and retrieving a tender is no longer a chore. Even roll-up inflatable tenders have become smarter craft these days, with veed-hull sections for an improved ride and firm inflatable floors instead of the old pesky wooden slats.
O'Halloran says rather than buying a new boat, Sydney boaters are accessorising their pre-existing craft these days and a new tender heads the shopping list. Boat manufacturers now realise as much, designing dedicated transom tender garages and providing storage on yachts where previously there was none.
This brings us to the BRIG Falcon F330HL. Teaming light but strong construction with a smart moulded centre console and electric-start outboard, the BRIG is a joy to command. A great turn of speed, sports-boat-like handling and electric trim add to the user-friendly experience.
A cut above your average vinyl tender, the BRIG boasts superior hypalon sponsons using Orca fabric sourced from France. Backed by a five-year warranty, the Falcon F330HL allows cruiser owners to hoist the tender with the 200-kilogram lift davit. With an electric-start 20hp Honda outboard, battery and fuel tank, the rig's dry weight is just 164 kilograms.
Test-boat options included bilge pump, navigation lights, the aforesaid backrest on the seat, and a Permatrim plate on the outboard to improve low-speed planing and acceleration. With the outboard trimmed in about three-quarters and this writer on board, the boat will rocket to a top speed of more than 22 knots. The supplied stainless-steel prop helps provide grip rather than slip in tight turns.
Meanwhile, the bow includes sub-seat storage for an anchor, the battery and remote 25-litre fuel tank carried beneath the centre console, where the helm seat can easily take a couple and doubles as dry storage. All told, the boat has a four-person capacity and seating, with abundant handy grab and rope handles nearby. There's also a quick-drain plug should you ship water and want to empty it.
Priced from $13,990 drive away with a Honda 20hp, the BRIG Falcon F330HL represents a leap forward in tender design.
We're told some Sydney boaters even run 650 or 780 BRIGs with a 300hp outboard as their tender. More from Sirocco Marine South, 79-81 Cawarra Road, Caringbah. Phone 8061 6475.