Jonathan Peers takes a brace of Redbay RIBs on a run to the wild and windswept Rathlin Island off Ireland’s northern coast and discovers there’s more to the new Redbay 1150 custom model than just an extra 50cm LOA!
Ireland’s Redbay Boats have been producing their formidable Stormforce 11m Cabin RIB since 2001. With a choice of twin inboard or outboard engines providing reliability and high speeds, coupled with a build quality forged in the furnace of the professional maritime industry, it’s understandable why the Stormforce’s pedigree has proved such an attractive proposition for many seriously minded seagoers these past 19 years.
However, following this impressive record of production, the designers at Redbay felt that the time had come to revisit the drawing board in order to modernise the concept, with the result that in 2018, Redbay launched their very first new 1150 custom model. Outwardly, the design changes are clear, particularly in the case of the vessel’s superstructure, which now benefits from a more pleasing, sleeker-looking cabin design.
The 1150’s larger format likewise gives the opportunity for a power upgrade. The decision was therefore made to upgrade from the former Yamaha 315hp straight-six inboard motor to the Yanmar 8LV-370 V8 and ZT370 sterndrive combination. In fact, the newly designed engine bay, which benefits from the 1150’s increased 15.24cm beam and 50cm length, has been designed specifically to accommodate the Yanmar’s larger ‘V’ configuration cylinder design.
But to business … My most recent visit to the Redbay yard afforded me the opportunity to test two variants on the new 1150 theme, namely the privately commissioned vessels Dromquinna and Rocket ‒ boats that, while sharing the same new hull design, possess, as we shall discover, very different specifications and fit-outs.
Rocket’s understated contrasting grey livery looks purposeful yet relatively neutral in appearance, but it sets the tone for a craft that is built for serious offshore use. Boarding, the rear deck is made via the GRP and stainless gunwale side gates, which face each other port and starboard. These integrate well into the adjacent design and offer great functionality. Here on the aft deck, the rearward projection of the cabin roof assists in providing a welcome degree of shelter from the elements. This area is then also complemented by LED deck lights and a CCTV camera installation, which allows the skipper in the main cabin to maintain a visual rearward.
Here on the rear deck, one’s greeted by a lavish expanse of Flexiteek and a large, centrally located engine hatch. Electrically operated, this flush-fitted hatch opens to reveal a beautifully configured engine bay that affords a superb degree of access to not only the twin-engine installation but also the compartment’s associated electrics. Redbay certainly know their stuff when it comes to the business of fitting out a vessel’s essential hardware. This engine bay is clearly designed by people who understand the practicalities of maintenance and servicing.
Enclosing this spacious aft deck are sturdy stainless steel pushpit rails adorned with fender baskets plus a life raft cradle, the latter being located for rapid, single-handed deployment right next to the rear bathing platform. However, despite the meticulously well-engineered steelwork, the access to the bathing platform is guarded by a less impressive and rather basic set of four security chains. A gate would have been more appropriate perhaps, I feel.
The centre of the rear deck area is also fitted with a stainless socket into which a table can be mounted. The tops to the engine breather boxes/storage compartments on either side of the engine hatch then provide the seating. An extra storage box is also located directly to one side of the cabin door and is ideal for quick stowage of wet mooring lines, etc.
Going forward, access to the foredeck is made via two narrow companionways either side of the cabin. To aid safe movement fore and aft, the decks have been treated with non-slip polymeric gelcoat, and in addition, well-placed shoulder-height grab rails run the length of the cabin bulkhead. Another likable design feature in this area of the craft is the small, lift-up panels found midway along each walkway, which, when raised, reveal recessed mooring cleats.
The foredeck itself features sturdy mooring cleats, a fairlead-mounted anchor and a powered anchor windlass, which can be controlled remotely from inside the cabin.
Entering the cabin through the toughened glazed watertight door, one steps down into the spacious saloon. The floor here is also laid with Flexiteek, though why it’s of a different finish to that used externally is rather puzzling. Rather than having black caulking, as in the case of the external decks, the cabin floor features off-white detailing. Internally, the decor is plain and certainly purposeful, but at the risk of being a little dated in appearance. That said, the use of modern, black carbon weave upholstery throughout, and the cabin’s abundance of natural light, as well as the overall finish and attention to detail, are very pleasing to see.
The layout of the saloon involves an L-shaped bench seat unit designed around a sturdy GRP table from which a stainless steel pole rises to the roof bulkhead to provide a handhold. An additional longitudinally mounted bench seat is situated on the starboard side of the cabin. Galley facilities, located to the rear of the cabin, are limited to a microwave, a fridge and a sink, but this simple set-up suits overnighting or weekend cruising needs very adequately.
At the helm
Continuing forward to the helm area, it’s clear that the design continues in the vein of strong functionality. To this end, a total of four forward-facing Grammer Avento Pro Air suspension seats, fitted with lap belts, provide the crew with a high degree of comfort and security. These shock mitigation seats not only reduce fatigue massively where extended passage making is concerned, but they also allow higher cruising speeds to be maintained in heavy seas.
The navigator’s position consists of a small table fitted with a grab handle and a black instrument pod. Onto this pod are mounted a Garmin 7400 series multifunction display, a Garmin 115i VHF and a Fusion SiriusXM sound system, as well as 12V and USB charging ports.
The helm position has a similar, though smaller, instrument display, which again incorporates a Garmin multifunction display along with 12V and USB charging ports. Interestingly, there is no VHF provision for the skipper. This therefore requires the helmsman to partially remove themself from their seat in order to reach the radio mic. This could be addressed by the addition of a second unit or even a remote microphone. Lined up neatly alongside the helm are the engine ignition controls, bilge pump switches, Garmin GHC 10 autopilot and the activator controls for the Lenco electronic trim tabs.
Taking up prime position here at the helm is the twin-throttle VC10 electronic vessel control system. This makes for finger-light operation and allows the speed of both engines to be synchronised automatically without having to keep such a vigilant eye on the rev counters. This system aids the driving experience and contributes towards the commendable ergonomics found on this craft.
Enhancing the vessel’s role as an offshore weekender and accessed via a hatch ahead of the helm station, there is a two-berth cabin located down within the bow/forepeak. This forward cabin represents an impressive use of space and has been designed to facilitate a generous-sized wardrobe, a compact but perfectly functional toilet and a shower compartment. The bed itself is full width and double topped with upholstered cushions. Ahead of the double berth is another small hatch to the forward bulkhead, which provides access to the chain locker.
The bulkheads, ceiling and inside faces of the hull are neatly lined with carpet, providing a degree of thermal and acoustic insulation. In addition, an overhead skylight provides sufficient natural daylight to prevent this space feeling claustrophobic. The forward cabin may not have full standing room and may be relatively plain in appearance, but for the weekend cruiser it offers all that’s required, and to a very able degree.
I’m going to allow my sea trial of Rocket’s sister vessel, Dromquinna (coming up next), to provide the main appraisal of this new 1150 hull and its twin Yanmar installation, but there are just a few things to highlight based upon the trip we made aboard Rocket from the outlying island of Rathlin to Ballycastle (the former being a wild and windswept rocky outpost located north of the infamous Fair Head and its race, and about an hour’s steaming out of Cushendall where the Redbay yard is based).
I strapped myself in and observed while our designated helmsman put the vessel through her paces, driving her at speed through the rough. He pushed her hard, but at no time did she deliver a single hard landing. I have to admit, though, to finding the peculiar combination of the conditions raging outside and the warm serenity of Rocket’s cabin with its Fusion SiriusXM sound system playing quite a surreal experience! Certainly, the latter gave a strange sense of ‘homely normality’ and psychologically had the effect of dumbing down the harshness of the conditions on deck.
Being aboard one of these Redbay cabin RIBs in adverse weather is an experience that can only be truly appreciated in person ‒ but safe to say, it’s very similar to that of being on an all-weather lifeboat. You feel utterly secure, in control, with a strong sense that the vessel’s power delivery, sturdiness and seakeeping attributes are able to match the worst the weather can throw at it. If I had to sum up the experience of being aboard the new 1150 in heavy weather in just one word, it would be ‘impressive’.
Despite issuing from the same mould, Dromquinna is a very different craft to her sister ship, Rocket. Dromquinna has been commissioned by a leading Irish luxury hotels owner, who wished to not only have a very capable private cruising vessel for he and his family to enjoy exploring their local west coast waters, but also one that would allow the entertaining of guests from time to time. Needless to say, it was a must that the boat’s performance and its fit-out had to be pretty uncompromising.
But the commissioning of Dromquinna has represented quite a pivotal point in the Redbay story. As designers and manufacturers of professional offshore craft, it’s fair to say that Redbay have never really been in the business of building luxury leisure boats. But in the case of this build project, the remit was to produce a vessel that possessed virtually all the attributes of an all-weather lifeboat while providing amenities and a fit-out more akin to a high-price-tagged blue-water cruiser. Hence, the Redbay team, in order to meet the client’s expectations, had to adapt their approach ‒ not only from the initial drawing board stage but through to the selection and choice of materials, components etc., right down to this special edition’s final execution.
Externally, the rear deck differs from Rocket’s only in the choice of deck finish. Rather than going for a traditional teak look, Dromquinna’s owners decided upon a grey and black Flexiteek livery. This colour finish contrasts well with the boat’s all-white GRP superstructure.
Lifting the inset rear-deck engine hatch reveals two beautifully presented Yanmar 8LV 370hp diesel engines. The installation of these motors and their ancillary hardware is thorough and displays great attention to detail. The underside of the engine hatch also contains the table for the rear deck, and just forward of the engines there is sufficient space for a pair of folding bicycles.
Going forward, Dromquinna’s external layout is essentially a blueprint of Rocket’s deck plan and forms a very workable bow area. Accessing the boat’s cabin via the toughened-glass sliding door brings one down into the rear of a spacious and well-appointed cabin. But wait … At the threshold of the sliding door there is a surprise in store ‒ upon pulling up the gas strut-assisted panel to the companionway top step, a hidden storage locker materialises, whereupon a mini wine cellar, of all things, is revealed! This neat addition to the boat’s inventory is a reminder that Dromquinna is a vessel built with both home comforts and functionality in mind.
The cabin’s interior is also tastefully enhanced by a hand-carved hardwood table ‘centrepiece’, which proudly depicts a map of Ireland’s west coast ‒ the home of Dromquinna and the vessel’s name. On opposing sides of this eye-catching feature are two longitudinal bench seats, upholstered in high-quality designer fabric. The cabin floor has been laid using the same hard-wearing synthetic flooring found aboard Rocket, though in Dromquinna’s case it’s also been laid with the addition of hardwood trims that give teak-styled flooring throughout.
Granite and resin
Heading forward, the galley section is complemented by high-quality wood-faced units and granite work surfaces. On the port side, between the saloon seating and the navigator’s seat, is a good-sized cupboard for crockery and cookware, behind which is a deep wet locker accessed via a lift-out granite lid in the worktop (this is an ideal place for stowing life jackets, out of sight but not out of hand). The starboard-side galley unit then incorporates more storage, this time in the form of drawers and a small but adequately sized fridge. A generously proportioned black resin sink complete with mixer tap dominates this side of the galley. Likewise, the cooker hob, powered not by electric or gas, represents the very latest in diesel power! By utilising diesel, safety and ease of use are prioritised. But in addition to the cabin’s Eberspacher heating system, the lid to the hob houses a small fan, which allows the cooker to double as a mini space heater. All of this underscores the fact that the boat has been designed from the ground up as a vessel to entertain and live aboard ‒ one that has long-distance cruising very much at its heart too. Nevertheless, this degree of domestic fit-out means there simply isn’t the room for the number of crew seats that Rocket features. So, as a result, just two Grammer Avento Pro Air seats are positioned behind the helm on this boat.
Naturally, the helm position is a serious affair and, in the style of all Redbay RIBs, has been designed very much with offshore navigation in mind. Dromquinna’s helm position benefits from having all her controls and switches, including the VHF radio mic, within easy reach of the skipper’s driving position. In addition, a Garmin GPSMAP 7412 nav system with radar and depth sounder is positioned in direct view. Both the wheel and throttles fall nicely to hand, which means driving fatigue is kept to a minimum.
Up in the bow cabin, Dromquinna may have more home comforts about her than her sister vessel, but she shares the same small head and shower compartment as Rocket. The main double berth in the bow is also comparable to the latter.
Despite being based on the same 11.50m deep-vee hull, I would say Dromquinna’s internal design feels more cohesive than her Rocket equivalent. A few subtle refinements no doubt contribute to this: Dromquinna’s owner insisted that he didn’t want the saloon to feature any vertical handrails, and all plug sockets and domestic controls should be concealed from view.
Handling and performance
With limited time left and failing daylight, we slipped from the shelter of Rathlin’s stone quayside and headed out, as a brace of 1150s, into the heavy seas beyond.
Strapped into my seat by a simple lap belt, I naturally found myself bracing for the impending impact as we took off from the top of the first big sea, before descending amid plumes of spray in the trough beyond. I have known suspension seats to bottom out upon an exceptional impact, but not so with these Grammers. They gained my confidence, and my respect too, very quickly indeed.
Upon opening the throttles, it was immediately apparent that these newer, larger 8-cylinder engines, with their extra power and torque, were a great choice and complemented this 8.25-tonne craft beautifully. She felt responsive and spritely, and it’s worth noting too that while the weight of the twin-engine rig positioned aft represents a substantial payload, the boat didn’t suffer from an exaggerated bow-up attitude when powering up onto the plane.
Being able to synchronise both engines to just one throttle lever simplifies the business of helming a big beast like this greatly. But then, of course, having the benefit of being able to work the throttle levers independently represents a big advantage when manoeuvring at slow speed and when coming alongside.
The combination of finger-light throttles and steering, along with the highly responsive power of these 370hp Yanmar engines, meant I was having to exercise restraint at times. The shock loadings resulting from this type of tonnage landing heavily are major, and I confess that I found the 1150’s nimble attributes getting the better of me at times. Furthermore, being so luxuriously cocooned within an all-weather cabin and therefore removed from the true conditions prevailing outside meant I was pushing the boat a good deal harder than I would have done if I had been in an open cockpit.
In terms of the 1150’s sure-footedness, putting her into a hard lock generated a very steep heel, but at no point did the hull break loose or show any tendency to hook. The propellers also stayed firmly planted, biting as they should, with no hint of cavitation even amid the rough conditions.
Head sea performance is striking, but with such a high bow, the 1150 makes light work of a following sea, allowing best speed to be maintained at all times. At no time did she require being nursed through the conditions. On the contrary, she ate them up! The forward section of the hull possesses great lift and excellent recovery, but when punching through the face of a wave with the spray striking the screen, the wipers also play their part in clearing the salt water quickly and efficiently.
Back to the dock
Upon completing our passage successfully, the Yanmar’s JC10 joystick control, positioned on the starboard side of the rear deck, proved its weight in gold. Moving the joystick in the desired direction, the system manipulates each outdrive leg independently in order to provide whichever direction of thrust is required, so coming alongside the marina berth to tie up was a joy.
Summing up, I would say that these latest 1150s are exceptional craft. Redbay specialise in the business of customisation ‒ it’s the company’s skill set and what they are known for. Whether it’s a commercial client or a private individual, Redbay understand the need to fulfil clients’ expectations. In addition, the Redbay yard has an impeccable track record of understanding engine installation and the fitting of electronic systems. The yard’s technicians work closely with these suppliers and Redbay craft have often been used to showcase new technology. There is no doubt in my mind that the 1150 will prove an immensely successful model in Redbay’s armoury.
Yanmar 8LV-370 engine package
4 x Grammer Avento Pro Air suspension seats
Garmin GPSMAP 7412 nav system with radar and depth sounding
Forward-mounted toilet compartment
Saloon seating with table
Lewmar anchor windlass
Passad cabin heating and demisting system
Teak and holly cabin sole
Polymeric deck finishes
Enclosed aft deck with side access doors
Optional extras or upgrades
Yanmar JC10 joystick docking system
Glass bulkhead to after deck
Mastervolt shore power and inverter system
Solar panel charging
Multiple engine and drive options including water jet
Galley with Wallas 85U diesel stove
Tender with snap davits
Customised internal layouts to customer specification
Bespoke cabinet finishes
Dimensions and weight
Fuel usage figures
Cruising at 30 knots, these vessels typically burn 70L per hour
Tank capacity/range: 1200L or 1600L
From £265K (plus VAT) for standard spec to £350K (plus VAT) with various upgrades