southernboating.com

The words “yachtsman” and “passion” are so often used together that I worry the emphasis is lost, like describing every boat as unique. That was until I spent time with the Walker Bay team that just delivered a 17-foot RIB they branded Generation 525 that’s intended to serve the 115- 135-foot yacht market rather competitively.

Passion, as it turns out, is precisely what drove naval engineers and product specialists to tweak and rethink nearly every aspect of a niche market, creating a RIB that pushes the boundaries of innovation and blends durability and practicality to what becomes an extension of the very yacht a tender serves.

Work began three years ago on a new stringer process to vastly improve and achieve a smooth ride. Some RIB manufacturers use a basic plywood stringer to support the hull and top deck. Repeat after me: Plywood and water are not a good mix over time. Think lumpy oatmeal and you get the picture. The Gen 525 incorporates a polyurethane composite micro stringer system in the floor that’s lighter and stronger than wood. Mating the hull and deck together required countless hours of testing various bonding materials. Instead of the typical air cavity between the hull and deck, Walker Bay created a unidirectional glass and a polyurethane stringer grid bonding system to absorb the impact from wave chop. This also serves to make the hull stronger and provides permanent positive buoyancy.

The real trick—and where the word passion comes to play—involves the number of hulls they created to get the ride perfected. Just as your tire alignment can smooth out your car ride, Walker Bay noticed that distortion and misalignment in competitors’ hulls led to poor handling and stress cracks. Engineers built a sophisticated jig and alignment process for joining the main parts, so stress energy is distributed efficiently for a better handling and predictably longer-lasting boat.

Skip Reisert of Tender Care Boats in Ft. Lauderdale, who sells Walker Bay and AB’s Nautilus and Oceanus series of tenders, joined the team as a consultant for the topside work. “So often I get an owner who has commissioned a yacht and wants to outfit it with a tender without really knowing what size will fit or some of the nuances of davit placement, lifting capacity, right down to davit lifting points,” Reisert shared. “For example, a Westport 112 can only support a tender up to 15 feet. Maximum length on the Westport 130 is 18 feet, so this is a very narrow, yet vital measurement consideration when shopping for the right tender.”

Walker Bay took note of the needs of this niche market and strategically located seven extra stainless-steel davit-lifting points and flush-mounted them, greatly reducing the potential of snagging clothing or skin of passengers. The team realized that especially in the charter market, guests are unaccustomed to maintaining a low center of gravity for boarding a tender, so they incorporated port and starboard recessed teak boarding steps and an ingenious removable leaning boarding post handle, all of which leads to a generous-sized clear pathway to seating.

When used for exploring, snorkeling or watersports, the Gen 525 is ready for fun. Retractable ski pole, deluxe boarding ladder and bow area sunpad are all options, along with the standard insulated cooler locker for refreshments and freshwater shower with 10-gallon capacity.

Our test boat in Naples, Florida, was equipped with a very quiet Honda 115 outboard. Once we left the no-wake zone, the tender popped up on plane effortlessly and held a true course with nary a touch on the hydraulic tilt steering and without any loss of the horizon even though I had engaged the driver’s side flip-up bolster seat. We topped out at 44 mph with two people on board and a full tank (32 gallons) of fuel. While Honda is the preferred engine partner, Reisert, who is an Evinrude dealer, says the E-TEC 115 two-stroke engine will easily add another 3-4 mph—more than enough speed to make your eyes water and get back home or to the yacht quickly.

With passenger backrest cushions, five stainless steel cup holders, the aforementioned cooler, and four pop-up cleats, those with access to the ICW may consider this a “second” boat for your dock and those impromptu waterfront dining dashes with friends—and bring a bunch of them. It’s rated for 10 passengers.

“Walker Bay has raised the bar in every way with this Generation 525,” says Reisert. “They added deadrise in the hull, smoothed out the ride, are easily two to three miles per hour faster than the competition, and created an open layout and vinyl seating appearance that will complement your yacht.”

By Alan Wendt, Southern Boating Magazine November 2016

Specifications:
LOA: 17′ 2″
Beam: 8′ 4″
Weight: 1,160 lbs.
Fuel: 32 gals.
Max horsepower: 115 hp
MSRP: $49,995
walkerbay.com