|It is 40 years since the first RIB was built and this new RIB from Punto Nautica shows just how far RIB development has progressed in that time. Such is the confidence with RIB building these days that this new RIB is the first design built by Punto Nautica and they have started with a 55 footer! By any yardstick, a 55 footer is a large RIB and this new design has the speed and performance of a very able craft.|
Italy has a long tradition of building stylish RIBs. Although most of the early RIBs were built in Britain, Italian yards took up the challenge early on and they took the RIB world by storm with the style that they managed to incorporate into RIB design. British RIBs were very functional but Italian yards took the RIB format and added sweeping curves and new ways of utilising the space on board. The superstructure is eggshell shaped with the curve relieved by the sweep up to the moulded windscreen. This new RIB from Punto Nautico shows just how far style has taken over RIB design and the style in the Heaven 55 is found both inside and out.
Probably the most notable feature of this new RIB is the power that propels it to high speeds. This alone makes the Heaven 55 unique and this is probably the only RIB to have four outboards strapped across the transom. Each of these outboards is a 225hp unit so there is close to 1000hp on the back of this boat. The outboards provide a compact solution to powering a boat of this size but they can make control quite a challenge.
To start with there are four gear levers and four throttles. Two of the gear levers are placed each side of the four central throttles and these throttle levers are close enough together so that you can get your hand around all four at once. This allows good throttle control at speed but to complicate the picture there are also four trim switches that control the angle of the outboards on the transom and four lift switches that control the height of the outboards on the transom. You can only handle two of these switches at any one time so to get this boat up and running at speed requires quite a degree of dexterity. This would be fine in calm conditions but it does become a challenge in rough seas.
This outboard installation is just one option on the Heaven 55 and would be the one to go for if you love the howl of the outboards as they rise to a crescendo and you want the challenge of driving a lightweight responsive boat. Top speed with this version is around 40 knots. The option is the inboard diesel version where a pair of 720hp Yanmar diesels provide extra power but make the boat heavier. This heavier version is likely to be the best option if you plan to run the boat in rough seas and want speeds up to 50 knots or where the price of the petrol could make the outboard version prohibitively expensive to run.
With the outboard version you get a range of Yamaha dials across the top of the dash. As these all look the same it is not easy to differentiate one from the other but two of these dials show the fuel consumption - when it gets to over 700 litres per hour you know you are going fast but it is hurting your pocket. Then there is one dial for each engines which shows the rpm and the trim angle and the final central dial shows the speed. There is plenty of information but the dials are LCD units and they are not easy to read in bright sunlight.
Four more dials on the dash show the height of the engines on the transom and then there is a Garmin fish finder and a Garmin electronic chart display. Finally, there is the range of switches that all look the same so you have to know where you are putting your fingers. The wheel is on the centre line on a sort of plinth with the displays and switches ranged on either side. Facing the helm is a double seat and there is a footrest, but with the wheel in the centre of the helm this seat is only useable for two if you are good friends.
Behind the helm is a bar and barbecue unit and then there is a settee at the front end of the large sunbed that covers the engine hatch if inboards are fitted. On the outboard version, the sunbed conceals a large, deep cockpit with twin settees and this space can be used for storage or for sitting out if shelter is required. The decks are all in teak that adds a quality look to the boat and this teak decking is raised at the sides of the superstructure where it forms a stable boarding point over the inflatable tubes. The teak decking continues into the self-draining forward cockpit where there is further seating and then steps rising up to the bow where the mooring facilities are mounted on a platform.
Under the deck there is plenty of stowage for water sports equipment and a portable ladder is designed to hook over the tubes on either side to form a swim ladder. The tubes themselves are large diameter and continue around the bow with very little flat area to impact waves. Handholds are incorporated in the tops of the tubes forward but for moving around the side decks you have to hold on to the windscreen surround. This is moulded in GRP and the highly curved screen is plastic.
The real surprise comes when you go down below on this RIB. From the stark practicality of the exterior the mood is transformed into a luxury environment with cherry wood panelling and leather settees. The accommodation is quite narrow because it has to fit in between the tubes so the designers have placed a double bed that occupies the full width at the forward end. Aft of this on the port side is a small fridge for drinks and then a bright yellow settee. On the opposite side is a generous sized bathroom with a full sized shower, toilet and wash basin with a marble surround.
This is two-person accommodation with cooking restricted to the barbecue on deck. However, this emphasises the target market for the Heaven 55, which is for a couple to have fun out at sea. This is a boat for serious cruising at high speed and the sea trial showed that the deep vee hull copes very well with waves from all directions. The outboard version tested is a lively boat that certainly needs driving skills when you get towards the 40-knot top speed but this is all part of the excitement and you fall in love with this boat at first drive.
With its deep vee hull, the behaviour of the Heaven 55 is predictable and the sea trial in lively seas did not show up any hidden vices. Size counts when it comes to seaworthiness and it would take quite big seas to make this boat step out of line. For manoeuvring alongside, you switch off the two inner motors and then the boat behaves just like any twin-screw boat and there is a bow thruster to help with fine-tuning the slow speed control.
RIBs have come a long way since those early days and the Heaven 55 shows just how far they have come but the story does not stop there. Punto Nautica is planning an even larger version, the Heaven 80 and when that design hits the water it will take RIBs into new territory.