A lovely launch, the new 18-foot Ocean 398 Super 55 is the highly refined, rigid-hull inflatable boat (RIB) designed by the naval architects at Dubois. While respected for its rugged and versatile nature, the RIB is often perceived as being utilitarian tough and therefore rough around the edges—more Hemingway than Hepburn—until now. Modeled after the wondrous wooden Italian day boats made in the 1960s, the Super 55 is a Hypalon-fabric inflatable whose visage has been made vogue with wood-and-epoxy composite construction, a polished mahogany-and-teak exterior, leather-upholstered seats, and the same windscreen found on the Jaguar E-Type automobile—top-notch touches that transform the tender into a bygone beauty.
But as with any inspired design, form still follows function with this classy five-person craft that carries an almost 8-foot beam. Making a splash are two standard 50 hp Evinrude E-Tec engines, though the boat is also capable of handling two 60 hp engines, a single 115 hp engine, or an inboard diesel alternative. At the helm are twin-throttle controls and a fully hydraulic steering system. The boat’s high bow design and ability to promptly plane help turn back any unwanted spray. And the inflatable’s buoyant collar system around the circumference—designed to be easily slid on and off for rapid replacement—helps ensure that even if, in a rare case, the boat takes on excessive water, the day will not be dampened. Hand-built in Britain by Ocean 398 and available through Dubois Yachts, the Super 55 cruises in at around $295,700. (duboisyachts.com, ocean398.com)