Here’s a craft that lets us rekindle our adventurous spirit – the BRIG Navigator 700. It’s a great go-anywhere craft that can handle rough water, drive through breaking surf and safely navigate shallow waters.
Rigid inflatable boats (RIBs) have long been used as tenders to superyachts, but now we’re seeing boaties buy them as pleasurecraft for all things nautical, from wakeboarding to diving and fishing.
BRIG, said to be the world’s biggest RIB brand, and the biggest-selling RIB brand in Australia, offers the Brig Navigator 700 – a big, spacious craft of 7m that’s super fast and super safe.
The Navigator has plenty of comfortable seating for passengers and its rock-solid stability makes it a great platform for swimmers – its soft pontoon sides are swimmer-friendly and ideal for scuba diving drop-offs. And with a self-draining floor, the craft is suited to mooring or marina berthing, making it a popular option at yacht clubs where owners can enjoy ‘instant boating’.
No better example of this trend is the Royal Motor Yacht Club, at Sydney’s Point Piper on Rose Bay, where I boarded the Navigator 700 for our test. Quite a number of BRIGs were berthed at the marina and on the drive-on floating dock, ready to go at a moment’s notice and a minimum of fuss.
As you step onto the side pontoon, you’ll notice how stable and how easy to board these boats are. You’ll also notice the quality of the build – there are moulded non-skid patches on the top of the tubes and a classy moulded fibreglass interior with comfortable cushioned seats fore and aft of the centre console. The console steering station has twin deluxe seats and there’s a T-top to shade the driver and companion. There’s also a stainless steel ski tower out back for wakeboarders and skiers.
In keeping with a craft that might be an offsider to a superyacht, everything is top quality. The flooring is finished in SeaDek non-skid that looks like real teak. The seat upholstery is in grey Silvertex, the same fabric used in top European yacht brands like Beneteau and Princess.
Interestingly, none of the Navigator 700 models sold so far have been put on a trailer, even though they’re trailerable. It seems the primary market is owners of bigger boats who like the convenience of having a BRIG at a berth ready to go.
There’s a fascinating story behind the BRIG brand. It’s a Ukrainian company that’s located hundreds of miles from the sea. Originally a component supplier to the Russian aerospace industry, it turned to building inflatable boats after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under CEO and founder Slava Rodionov, the company turned its engineering talent to creating the very best inflatable boats possible and, quick to see the growing trend in big RIBs, is now a world leader in this market.
BRIG’s sophistication of design and construction is evident in the Navigator 700. The hull design is very advanced and features a distinctive lifting edge chine and various spray rails. The moulded hull flares at the top edge to create a seamless curve with the pontoon which, at speed, acts like wings to trap air and spray and provide a soft and safe ride. The pontoons are made using high-quality Hypalon ORCA fabric, while the moulded fibreglass hull, console unit and deck fittings are also top quality.
The Navigator 700 weighs a modest 700kg dry – however, it is strong and sturdy. The tubes have an expected life of up to 20 years, but replacing them only accounts for about 10 per cent of the boat’s price and they can be factory-supplied through local dealers. The 700 has a five-year hull warranty and the brand has a nationwide dealer network for sales and service.
Underway, our test boat seemed to glide along effortlessly. The tubes only touched the water in the rear few metres, so there wasn’t a lot of drag, while the hull came on the plane very quickly and in a level fashion. At just 3000rpm, I couldn’t believe we were doing 18 knots (33.3km/h) and using only 20lt/h of fuel. The rest of the performance speeds were just as impressive, all the way through to 42 knots (77.8km/h) at 5300rpm.
A nice harbour speed of 35 knots (65km/h) suited the conditions, with a light wind chop and occasional big wave wash. The boat felt comfortable and smooth at this speed and I just relaxed in the helm seat enjoying the quietness of the harbour on a mid-week day.
Around this speed, we used only 34lt/h so, with the generous 340lt fuel tank, you could do a 300nm run without refuelling.
I was also impressed by the lack of spray. Even in rough offshore conditions, I think newcomers to RIBs will be surprised how dry the BRIGs ride – it’s one of the reasons they’re widely used by defence and rescue organisations.
Overall, the Navigator 700 is a fun boat to drive. Despite the width of the tubes, you have quite a bit of interior room. It would also suit fishing, especially with the forward anchor locker forming a raised casting deck. Additionally, the helm seats have flip-up bases, so you can drive while standing, which is always handy when fishing.
The hydraulic steering and power of the big 225hp Honda four-stroke allowed us to power through turns like a race boat – just be sure to keep your shipmates seated.
The Navigator 700 has a payload of 1800kg and a seating capacity of 12 people.
Our test package, provided by Sydney agent Sirocco Marine South, included a bimini T-Top with white canvas roof, overhead rod rack, and bow anchor gear with fast-locking cam cleat. It also sported a Fusion four-speaker sound system, Raymarine GPS sounder/fishfinder, VHF marine radio, navigation lights and stern swimladder.
Other great inclusions are a power switch in the cockpit, 240V shore power, pop-up mooring cleats, and davit lifting points. There’s also provision for a shower at the stern, and a choice of colours for the pontoons and hull, which can be mixed and matched to provide a customised appearance.
If you want a fast, wind-in-your hair sportsboat for summer with yacht-club class, then it’s worth considering the BRIG Navigator 700. It’s ideal for marina berthing or visiting a favourite waterfront café, and can easily be dry-stored … or towed, albeit with semi-deflated side pontoons, to stay within the Aussie trailering width limit of 2.5m.
BRIG NAVIGATOR 700
Dry weight: 700kg
Air chambers: 5
Power as tested: 225hp Honda four-stroke
Price from: $99,990
Price as tested: $123,000
More information: Sirocco Marine South, tel: (02) 9524 8288. Web: siroccomarinesouth.com.au, or: brig.com.au.