The roles of a dinghy in the life of cruisers and sailors can’t be overestimated. The mother ship is your conveyance to any port on any ocean or lake of the world. But, once you get there, once you are ready to explore and enjoy your new landfall, you need a practical way to get from the mothership, which is hopefully anchored or moored in some spectacular setting, to everywhere you want and need to go. Going shopping or diving or beaching or touristing, you need a good dinghy.
It has long been the consensus in the cruising community that most of us need and like a RIB with a good outboard and, in many if not most cases, these dinghies are between 8 and 12 feet, with large Hypalon or PVC tubes and thick composite bottoms; they can handle outboards from 4 to 25 horsepower and offer speeds from 6 to 25 knots. The catch is that traditional RIBs are heavy.
Thirteen years ago, a French-Chinese company was formed under the Highfield banner to push the weight, performance and durability envelope in RIBs. With welded and powder-coated aluminum hulls, the new Highfields were seriously lighter than their composite cousins. That lightness means the dinghies require less power to reach cruising speeds and have greater payload capability. In reality, a lighter dinghy is easier to pull up onto a beach and it is easier to hoist into davits or onto the foredeck when going to sea. Extra speed is the frosting.
Built in China in the company’s own dedicated Highfield factory, the Classic 310 is right in the sweet spot for most cruisers at 10-feet, 2-inches. It can carry a 15-hp., four-stroke engine that will give it stellar performance, even with four adults aboard. You can put a 20-hp. motor on the 310 but that may be overkill, although you could possibly waterski or wakeboard behind it. The tubes are built of 1100 dtex coated fabric, either Hypalon or Valmex PVC, both of which are UV resistant, tear resistant and durable. The tubes have large heavy-duty rubbing strakes.
The 310 has a bow locker that is large enough for a small gas tank .I’d prefer to use the locker for my dinghy anchor and rode, and spare engine parts and mount a larger gas tank against the transom with the optional Highfield tank straps. The hull has lifting, towing and tow-bridle points welded into the aluminum hull.
One of the 310’s best features is the double deck floor construction that places a flat deck above the V-shape of the hull. Low and behold, when water comes over the bow, it doesn’t slosh underfoot but instead disappears under the deck and runs aft to the bailing sump. No more wet feet. If only they could come up with a way to keep our butts dry, too.
If you are in the market for a new RIB this spring, check out the Highfield line. They come in all shapes and sizes but each one is light, fast and durable. Read more here.