You may have noticed a few RIBs in The Captain lately. They definitely have their place in the boating order of things. People might think of them as just tender boats, but they dominate when it comes to diving, spearfishing and, er, hooning around. But do they pass the ultimate test? How do they go as a fishing rig?
The Captain’s crew are cruising Pittwater, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. Usually, we’d be putting around in a kayak, tinnie or the 445F, but today’s a little different. We’ve got the keys to a Highfield 760 Patrol powered by a 325HP Suzuki. This RIB is one serious ride. With its low profile and gunmetal grey paint job, we could be a SEAL team, sitting two abreast on the hightech Shark shock-mitigation seats.
We cruise out of the Bayview channel and launch onto the plane. The 760 goes from idle to top speed in a just a tad under “holy shit”. Apparently, the kings are biting, so we’ve got an esky full of yakkas and the gaff is sharpened for the occasion. Er, actually, we might use a net — wouldn’t want an unexpected puncture.
After making record time from the boat ramp to Barrenjoey Headland, we pull up at the seal colony for a bit of light entertainment, adjusting our sunnies and zipping up our wet weather jackets. Today, we’re heading down to Long Reef, a 10nm run south. Hatches battened down, we leave the smell of seal shit in our wake and cruise around the headland into the blue water.
As if scripted, a pod of dolphins surfs the Patrol’s bow wave just as the sun cracks the horizon. Five minutes later, we’ve got breaching humpback whales all around us. What was supposed to be a fishing trip, feels more like some kind of Rob Pennicott-inspired Tasmanian eco adventure. The Captain’s crew is pumped — it’s an epic way to start the morning.
We arrive at Long Reef to find an absolute car park. Everyone is trying to fish in the exact same spot, so it’s bumper-to-bumper boats. Luckily, we’ve got dual airbags. The kings are on the chew, but alas, they’re mini models. We have fun hauling in 50cm rats for a few hours, but decide the best chance of actually scoring lunch is to head into Sydney Harbour and the Watsons Bay Hotel.
Grabbing a coffee and burger to go, we zoom down the harbour to the Opera House and go the gobble in front of the Harbour Bridge.
We have another crack at the kings on the run back home. As we arrive at the spot, a few suspicious fishos quickly depart — one of the advantages of looking like a Fisheries/Police RIB. Once again, we catch nothing but undersized fish and decide to return to Pittwater.
Despite travelling 45nm over the course of the day, the fisho fatigue factor is noticeably lacking with this RIB rig — a distinct absence of aching lower backs, legs or feet. Why RIB riggers are the only manufacturers making the most of shock-mitigating seats is a mystery. The Captain reckons it’s worth the extra coin not to feel like you’ve been massaged with a baseball bat after every fishing session — and it means you get to spend more days at sea.
The next day, we decide to throw a bunch of different applications at the Patrol and see how she handles them. In the one morning, we manage a bait fishing session then a quick spearfish while the girls sunbake.
An insane on-water picnic with a massive cheese platter is next, followed by snorkelling with blue groupers in a marine park. The Patrol 760 proves a versatile beast. If you’re looking for a boat that does a little bit of everything, this is your ticket.
On paper, the Patrol looks like a good thing. It’s more than 24ft long (7.6m), but is only half the weight of a modern 233 Formula. What it shares with a Formula is sharp angle at the bum — 24 degrees. Unlike a Formula, you don’t need bulk horsepower to make it move. But just to be sure, this model is fitted with a 325HP Suzuki with counter-rotating props — one of The Captain’s favourite outboards.
The props keep things nice and level, and avoid torque steer when coming off waves. They also bite bloody hard and rocket the RIB onto the plane and into turns. The Patrol has a soft landing, which you’d expect with 24 degrees, and it’s awesome fun to steer, with massive grip while still feeling safe. This baby puts a smile on your dial.
Upfront, the U-shaped seating doubles as a sun lounge — and triples as a casting platform — and has an anchor locker underneath. Moving towards the stern, a dickey seat in front of the console lifts up to reveal a small storage section with the battery and helm wiring.
The dash configuration is pretty tidy — you’d have no problem installing a couple of screens and a sound system. The four Shark shock-mitigating seats are bloody comfy and also hold us in position when we throw the Patrol into a few aggressive turns. Fittingly, the boat The Captain tested was the same one Prince Harry and Meghan Markle rode aboard during the Invictus Games. If Shark seats are good enough for Harry, they’re definitely adequate for The Captain’s ample derrière.
Moving aft along the self-draining deck, a long bench seat runs the width of the internal beam. It has more storage underneath and can easily seat another four. All-up, the Patrol is licensed to carry a 12-person posse.
Highfield RIBs are a direct descendant of the Aussie Swift range of alloy RIBs, which have been in service for almost 30 years. You may have been pulled over by one in Water Police colours — Captain’s crewman Trav certainly has. Selling into about 40 countries, Highfield reckons it’s now the world’s biggest RIB manufacturer. When it comes to hull factor, the Patrol boasts a 5mm bottom and 10mm stringer system built around a 285L fuel tank. She certainly feels solid and there’s no noticeable flexing when jumping off waves. It might be a tinny underneath, but the tubes are what make the magic happen.
As Rob Kirby — who builds Naiad boats in Western Australia — points out, RIBS cheat a little. They’re long and narrow at speed, but at rest the tubes drop down to water level to create stability. The Highfield is made of ORCA Hypalon and features six chambers. If you pop one, you’ll still make it home, no dramas.
DEAL OR NO DEAL?
So, how does it handle as a fishing boat? The lack of rod storage is a little tricky. We had to jerry rig some creative solutions — clamp-on rod holders and an esky as a live bait tank — but if you owned this boat you could mount rod racks on the sides of each console and on the tower. It’s obviously a bit compromised for game fishing, with limited freeboard, but still backs down amazingly.
The Captain reckons he could live with the Highfield as a chariot for chasing pelagics around inshore structure and offshore reefs.
The casting platform transforms her into quite a deadly sport fisher. Not to mention, the ladies will always prefer a sexy RIB to a heavy glass boat. With a base model 760 Patrol starting from $100,000, they’re fairly good value, considering you’d pay double that for a similarly sized base model Grady-White. If you’re a hardcore fisho and that’s all you ever plan on doing, this isn’t the boat for you. However, if you like to go bloody fast, jump waves, take the family on adventures to hidden beaches, dive and do a little fishing on the side, the Patrol 760 should be at the top of your hit list.
Place, Mona Vale, NSW
(02) 9979 4533
(07) 5594 6266