Those who read about the Dutch Coastguard last year may recall the commercial diesel-powered RIB that was kept aboard the 43m coastguard cutter Zeeraend and the boarding antics that were employed ship to ship on this impressive craft.

Well, that RIB was a very tough, uncompromising Duarry 8m, supplied and fitted out by the highly respected Dutch marine supply company, Datema. Datema’s expertise lies in their ability to supply commercial/rescue boats and equipment for maritime commercial operations throughout the world and, in addition, they are specialist agents for Duarry RIBs, so when they offered us the opportunity to test a new Datema Duarry 9.2m, fitted out by them with a pair of counterrotating Evinrude 250hp E-Tec outboards, we jumped at the chance. The Duarry we had tested with the coastguard was an 8m fitted with a single Volvo D6 350hp diesel sterndrive unit and, whilst it performed extremely well, this longer outboard-powered version not only had an additional 150hp but was also lighter, so promised to be both quicker and more seaworthy!

Based in the port of IJmuiden, Datema’s modern workshops are typical of what we have come to expect when visiting other Dutch RIB suppliers: modern, clean and well-lit workshops manned by skilled, professional personnel with knowledge of what is needed to provide reliable craft for commercial operators. The Datema workshop was a hive of industry, with several craft in various stages of build or repair, and one new particularly interesting deep ‘V’ aluminium RIB with a Volvo D6 370hp motor coupled to a Hamilton Jet unit, evidently being fitted out for commercial operators. This serious-looking craft, with its tough deep ‘V’ hull, looked capable of taking on just about anything and is typical of the Datema ethos of supplying top-quality equipment to discerning commercial operators.

The Duarry 9.2m is heavily constructed to withstand the harshest environment, and the strength and quality are not just in the hull and tubes but also in the fittings. Items such as towing eyes, crane/davit lifting points, grab handles and ‘A’ frames etc are all immensely strong, and in place of the usual plastic hatches are expensive 100% waterproof aluminium units.

The layout of this particular RIB was for passenger-carrying and she was laid out for ten passengers forward of the steering console, plus the driver/navigator seats, with two additional seats behind these making a total of 14 seats. The ten seats forward were side-by-side five-seater jockey-type seat pods, each with their own backrest and substantial forward grab handle. The seats behind the console were four of the latest Ullman suspension units, each with their own grab handles and, as we were to find out a little later, these were much appreciated off the Dutch coast when testing.

As on the coastguard version, the steering console is a tough, Datema-sourced unpainted aluminium unit that has been designed to accept all the usual navigation/engine displays, the remote controls etc, and the ergonomics are good. With grab handles on three sides and good access to the internal electrics, this is a model of how a workboat console should be.

The whole deck area is covered in excellent non-slip material, as are the tops of the buoyancy tubes and, with full-length internal lifelines, one feels secure moving about in the craft.

Aft is a robust double aluminium ‘A’ frame with radar scanner, lights etc and right aft, attached to the transom, a stout aluminium engine stand-off bracket, fitted with the twin Evinrude 250hp E-Tec outboard motors. All electrics pass through completely watertight trunking direct from the transom into the engine, and there are two large elephant-trunk-type bailers, backed up by a large auto/manual electric bilge pump.

With strong onshore winds the seas off IJmuiden can be huge and unpleasant, but the day of the test was reasonable, with a steady swell running under a cloudy sky. Just a few miles out of the port is a weather station pylon with a steel ladder and the plan was to drop me onto this to use as a photo platform.

Datema’s test driver for the day was professional RIB pilot Paul Hollander, the same man who had shown me his boat-handling skills aboard the coastguard RIB and, as we left the port, he wasted no time in putting the craft through its paces, opening the throttles to maximum whilst heading directly into the steep swells. At a shade under 55 knots on the GPS we flew completely out of the water off the first swell and stayed airborne for what seemed an age before landing into the deep trough behind, repeating the process some half-dozen times before I could catch my breath and request some respite! It was instantly obvious that this Duarry 9.2m handled very well and, considering the height from which we were landing, provided a remarkably smooth ride, the effect of the Ullman seats helping to cushion some of the impact. The hull seemed completely impervious to ill-treatment, even when Paul chucked the RIB into high-speed tight turns, ran down wind and waves and generally exploited the craft’s limits – nothing seemed to faze the handling or blunt the performance. I took over the helm and tried to find a flaw but was unable to, and had to admit that this ordinary-looking hull delivered an outstanding performance/handling combination rarely experienced on any craft.

Boat test over, I was deposited onto the weather station (more of a metal pole stuck in the middle of nowhere than a platform) and, hanging on with one arm, did the best I could to get some pictures. This was somewhat precarious and probably bordered on the insane, but to my surprise some of the shots were pretty good (well, dramatic anyway) and certainly worth the effort.

To sum up: Duarry RIBs appear to offer a serious alternative to the established and better-known makes from the UK that do similar commercial work offshore. The build quality, handling and performance of the craft that we tested are up there with the best, and with the ‘Datema treatment’ there are few better combinations of design and fit-out to be found in the commercial sector of the RIB world.

Paul Lemmer

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