Since they relocated from South Wales to the Solent area Cobra RIBs have gone from strength to strength.
Not only have their normal RIBs been selling well but they have even had custom orders, one of which was for a specially built sports fishing RIB. As far as I know, this is the first dedicated fishing RIB built. There are other normal RIBs being used for fishing, but that is not quite the same thing. I was lucky enough to have a ride on her and am looking forward to taking up my invite to have a go for some big fish from her another time.
The basis of the craft is the tried-and-tested 7.5m Cobra hull, with special seating arrangements, live-bait tanks, and fish boxes built in, with a hefty power plant in the shape of a Yamaha F250 to get to the fishing ground fast. There are also rod holders and a second fishfinder mounted in the stern sheets. The tubes are made from Orca collars that have been heavily reinforced with 6mm rubber armouring along the working length. This armour has been applied to overcome one of the worries of using a RIB for sports fishing, namely the danger of a large hook or gaff going in the wrong place! With these dedicated fishing aspects she is a far cry from the usual Cobra leisure RIB, and the all-black livery really makes her stand out.
Another fishing-dedicated aspect of the boat is the rocket launcher-style rod holders fitted to the top of the tubes. This is a clever innovation because one of the problems of fitting anything to the inflatable sides is the soft material and the inability to bolt things down. The rod holder fabrication has been fixed to a GRP backing board, which has then been fastened to the tubes by gluing it in place with an Orca covering. The angle of the holders is a little low, but they can be made at any angle so as to be able to fish a spread from six rods if necessary. Lanyards will be required on each rod for serious fishing, otherwise I can see some expensive gear going overboard.
The essence of the client choosing a RIB to be built specifically for fishing was to allow him to get out when the conditions were marginal and still have security. The inherent stability of a RIB, with its collars deflecting waves and providing plenty of buoyancy to keep the boat upright, makes for a very comfortable fishing platform. The speed of a RIB through choppy conditions provides the ability to keep the passage speed up and so still get out and back quickly, even in the rough. This hasn’t been designed as a charter boat, this was built for a private sports fisherman who takes his friends out for mid-Channel wrecking and sharking trips.
A long passage like that could be pretty uncomfortable, pounding at speed for a couple of hours, so the seating has been given special attention. The two seats at the console are an option as they are expensive Ullman items. These suspension seats act as shock absorbers for the body and reduce the effect of heavy landings and deceleration upon impact with a wave. The jockey-style seats have been fitted on standard pods, which take up minimal room but are no less effective at taking the jarring out of wave jumping at speed. The remainder of the cockpit has been given a novel layout, with a large central box locker encompassing bench seating either side with a central backrest. The deep padding on the locker top provides a surprisingly comfortable seating position, even in normal sea conditions; when fishing you can sit facing outboard with your line over the side in total comfort.
Under the box lid there are the batteries and fuel filters, well protected from any possible water on deck. There is also a full galley with spirit burner and sink. So once you have caught some fish you can cook them up fresh. Fantastic! If you don’t stretch to such culinary measures aboard, then at least you can brew a hot cuppa on a regular basis.
There are more specialist fishing features in the stern. There is a fishfinder mounted on the aft end of the main locker, so when drifting you can see the terrain or wreck coming, enabling you to keep your hooks at the optimum level and help prevent getting snagged up. There is also a live-bait tank with its own pumping system, so you can have constantly changing water instead of an air stone. There is a fish box built into the bilges, with a waterproof hatch for access through the deck, so your take-home fish will stay fresh as they are close to the cooling effect of the water. You could also put ice in to keep them even fresher.
The double A-frame provides a strong and secure mounting for mooring cleats, and the top is used for the VHF, GPS and radar antennae, plus the running lights. The advantage of this mounting is the extra height above sea level for greater range, but also it allows for a very tidy installation, with the wiring running through the tubing of the frame and under the deck to the console.
The console itself provides good weather protection for the helm, with a screen high enough to keep the wind blast off. The second seat is slightly offset and is not quite so fully protected. The dash area is well laid out with a choice of communications and navigation aids, and there is also a simple perspex strip running the full width of the moulding, which creates a nifty shelf for all sorts of small items. In the console itself, accessed through a watertight hatch on the after side, there is a large, dry locker. The fuel filler is set into the side of the console, and the fuel tank is built into the hull below the console for optimum balance of the finished boat. Access to the electrics is through a lifting hatch behind the backrest of the jump seat in normal fashion.
The console is set well forward to provide more working area aft, and this didn’t adversely affect the handling or the balance underway. It does, however, minimise the amount of foredeck area, but if you have it at the back you can’t have it at the front. There is plenty of space for working the anchor and mooring, probably the only times anyone will venture ahead of the console – on this fishing RIB, anyway. Having that amount of power available on a 7.5m boat gives the expected kick-up-the-pants performance that is associated with fast RIBs, but not normally associated with fishing boats on this side of the Atlantic. With four big lads aboard she ran happily at over 48 knots. That puts mid-Channel wrecks within one hour’s range, and the Channel Isles from Poole just over two hours away, given good water. With a lumpy sea, progress would be pegged back, but she is still good to cruise at 30 knots in over 2m seas, those Ullman seats taking the harshness out of the ride.
The Cobra sports fisher is certainly a new concept, and I am sure the lure of being able to get out to big fish in next to no time will appeal to more anglers keen to make the most of their time on the water. I can’t wait to get out on her and try for some sharks and see some real fish being brought over the gunwales. Time will tell, and if it happens we shall be sure to tell you all about it.