Medline III. It sounds serious and it is. She’s a big, multi-functional, rigid inflatable designed to fulfil the demands of a large day boat, without forfeiting the features. These little luxuries include an enclosed forward cockpit, designed for a loo and an area aft of the helm that converts (using rails) to an outdoor dining room.
These features combined create a very interesting day boat. Inflatable boats have been evolving since the first Zodiac inflatable boats hit the water in 1934. And now they are highly respected by a large segment of the marine market. But the groundbreaking Medline III aims to deliver a Rigid inflatable Boat (RIB) that breaks into a market that has been dominated by traditional fibreglass hulls.
Zodiacs Medline III breaks from the original RIB mould, because in this new boat you can travel long distances, stop and have lunch, while still enjoying a range of luxuries including a vast sun lounge, a good turn of speed, super stability and the option enclosed head.
On the day we tested the Medline III the team was faced with the chop and slush created by a congested Sydney Harbour. But this inflatable on steroids revelled in the conditions. Her weight, coupled with the large inflatable sponsons, easily suppressed any chop heading her way.
The rig was powered by twin Mercury 115hp, EFI four-strokes. These had more than enough power for the job, but turned out to be difficult to trim. This was because both engines lifted at different rates, so it was easy to get the trim out of wack. The guys from Zodiac assured us that this was something due to be rectified in the workshop.
But once we got the trim worked out the boat demonstrated good handling/stability at all speeds. But it was only after I went for a run in the smaller RIB camera boat that I realised how rough the harbour was. The 7.3m 1100kg Medline III, combined with the weight of four passengers, had carved through the choppy stuff, but the lighter 4.9m Avon photo boat behaved like most small planing hulls by leaping and jumping between the waves at speed.
The Medline III has a long, ridged hull and massive air-filled sponsons, so when planing she behaved quite differently to a traditional hull. In fact, she sort of felt a bit flat. It took some getting used to, but the principal worked well to produce a well-balanced and stable rig.
The craft has heaps of seating. In the bow there were seats that convert to a sun lounge. Then, there was a double seat at the helm and an aft seat that also converted to another extremely large sun lounge. More than a dozen people could find a place to sit in this boat, which has an offshore Cat B capacity of eight passengers and an inshore rating for 15.