Avon is a brand that’s been around for years, but of late hasn’t been represented in the UK, and owners Zodiac have brought it back with a luxury range of tenders. Greg Goulding tests the 3.4m model to find out if it’s a welcome return.
My passion for boating kicked off when my father traded our soft-floor tender for a 3.4m Zodiac with a 30hp on its back. My Sundays on the water were never the same again. I had swapped spending hours crawling along at 4 knots on a sailing yacht for annoying everyone on the river while I ploughed around like a lunatic. With a bit of a tail wind it managed a cool 32 knots. That might not sound impressive, but in a little tender that’s pretty exciting, and with no weight it handled like a go-kart. When used for its primary purpose, it offers a comfortable and stylish ferry to the shore. It’s a luxury tender that’ll put a smile on your face all day long.
Move on 10 years and there’s a new Zodiac, but this time branded as the Avon 340 Seasport Deluxe. Avon have been quiet in the UK recently, but are now back and ready to play ball with the big names in the market.
What is it?
The Avon looks great lying elegantly on any bathing platform, but it’s not so snobbish that those with boats of a lesser ilk can’t tow it behind. The tubes are colour customisable, so they coordinate with the mother ship, but if in doubt, go for the blue and it’ll look great in its own right.
What gives this tender a different feel at first glance from those commonly available is the small details. There are various patches of teak, sculptured seats, an offset helm position and patterned tubes. Up front there is a bow seat that leads to a teak-laid bow step, so passengers can move from the tender onto the quay or bathing platform, limiting the likelihood of falling into the water.
When ferrying ashore there’s room for four to sit comfortably, although unlike standard RIBs, there’s not really room to increase that with tube seats, as the console removes extra foot space. The seating plan allows two on the rear bench, one on the central seat that’s offset to port and a fourth on the bow seat. There’s not a huge amount of room, and when loaded you’ll not be getting on the plane, but it will cruise at displacement speeds nicely.
That bow step, which is mounted above the tubes using the stainless steel pulpit, also houses the LED navigation light and twin cleats positioned on the faux-teak decking.
As is often the case with small RIBs, weight distribution is a problem, but one that Avon have addressed. At first glance you could be fooled into thinking that it started life as a jet RIB, but the impressive sculptured transom moulding is there to push the helmsman, and weight, forward. Getting on the plane is easy, with the RIB keeping level.
The day of testing was pretty choppy, with 3ft waves rolling into the Lymington River. As I punched through the chop, while avoiding crossing paths with the intimidating Whitelink ferry, I knew that I should really be in something bigger. However, the little RIB kept its cool and I felt safe the entire time. Those tubes really are oversized and do a great job of deflecting even the most serious cases of spray. Unusually for a tender-style RIB, the hull V is deep enough to be able to tackle the said chop, and the boat can comfortably traverse waves at varying angles without too much difficulty. A few times it fell nicely into the groove of the waves and quickly accelerated, feeling like 40 knots, although likely to have been around the 25 mark. On this particular model there are no displays, other than the simple tachograph, so speed was monitored using a handheld device, but as good as the hull is at handling the waves, I wasn’t in any hurry to take my hands off the wheel to keep checking the speed. It was still great fun, and never really felt dangerous, as can be the case with tenders in anything other than flat calm.
The hull on the Avon is pretty impressive; even an inexperienced driver is safe, which is important if you’ll be letting your children loose at the helm. Bouncing off the waves at the wrong angle, it always seemed to land softly and without too much drama. This little RIB certainly kept its cool. The bow would rise up, but never aggressively. The worst angle of attack is downwind. With a following sea, there were a couple of hairy moments as the bow jerked around, which caused passengers up front to feel a little uncertain, but
the Avon Seasport is the type of boat that gives passengers the confidence to head to shore, even when things are rough. It might not be fun for all, especially up in the bow, but it’ll get you there. Avon have also tackled the problem of bench seats on small RIBs as there’s often very little to stop you just sliding off into the water. On this model, the sculptured transom is moulded forward, wrapping around the bench seat. It does limit the width, which is noticeable when there’s two sitting down, but it’s high enough to hold in your hips and give you protection. The wrap-arounds are finished with more of that faux teak, which has the subtle effect of giving the Seasport that superyacht tender luxury.
So there we have it – a great tender from a returning brand. But as usual, it comes down to the comparisons. It might feel better built than most tenders of a similar size, but the price list is equally ‘well built’. Fitted with a 30hp Yamaha on its back, which we recommend, teak deck, cover and prop guard, it’s just shy of a whopping £19,000.
In comparison, the British-built Williams 325 TurboJet with 80hp costs £22,600. It’s still 20% more than the Avon, but with that extra power it’ll get on the plane even when loaded, and with its central jet engine, there’s more room inside the boat for the four passengers while being shorter.
That said, BHG Marine were offering £2k off the list price at the London Boat Show, which might help you make the deal.
- Detail finishes add quality feel
- Good handling
- Comfortable as a tender
- Too close to the price of a Williams
- Moulded transom eats space
- Confused branding
As tested: £17,241