At last we’re seeing sport inflatables come of age as really practical, all-round recreational cum-fishing boats.
What is with the inflatable boat and the Aussie boatie? For some reason we’re bloody slow to adopt these practical craft for general recreation and fishing.
Compared to Europe, North America or even our Kiwi neighbours we’re way behind the eight-ball on the world trend. And the crazy thing is the modern ‘air boat’ with a rigid-bottom (RIB) is a brilliant fishing platform. They’re soft riding, super safe in rough water and deliver a level of safety you can only dream about in a normal tinnie, or fibreglass boat.
Part of the reason Aussies have been reluctant to buy inflatables is the idea they might be easily holed by fish hooks. Well, that’s bunkum because the modern pontoons are not worried by fish hooks or spiky fish!
People also think they’re expensive, but that idea has being blown away by more competitive pricing and the stronger Aussie dollar. After all, all these craft are imported.
The Brig Eagle 580H is an excellent example of the breed. It comes out of the European market, which is the world leader in air boats. It’s actually built in the Ukraine by a company originally involved in the aerospace industry. Suffice to say it has a top quality finish and keen pricing.
Brig is considered the leading air-boat brand in Europe, especially in RIBs, and builds tens of thousands each year.
Up close and personal, the Eagle 580H is top quality in finish and has a luxury style interior and seating. The letter H is for the high quality Hypalon fabric in the tube construction and these come in a range of colours including red, blue and white.
The Eagle 580H is rated to ten people because of the high level of buoyancy inherent in the pontoon tubes. You would never carry that many folk but it sure is reassuring to know the boat is so buoyant when you’re family boating or fishing.
There are plenty of benefits flowing from the highly stable hull and that’s why I reckon we should be looking at these RIBs for fishing as well as family boating. It provides a safe stable platform, even in offshore waters, which is just what you want when casting a line. Sure, you will lose some interior space from the pontoon tubes but you do receive 360-degrees fishing space around the centre console steering station.
The side tubes also form great fishing seats, plus a handy knee, or foot brace when stand-up casting.
Sydney dealer Liam O’Halloran is the man behind selling the Brigs in the Silver City and is convinced they’re the pleasure boat for today’s market.
Liam has sold many top brands over the years like Boston Whaler and Sea Ray so he knows his stuff. He’s a great believer in the Brig range and already is spreading the word about their virtues.
As he says, you couldn’t get a better craft for crowded city living. The Eagle is light to trail, easy to store and can even be partly deflated to squeeze into those tight garage spots.
The quality of fit and finish is excellent and you also have a high quality fibreglass hull that incorporates the cockpit floor, which is self-draining.
Not surprisingly, the Brig isn’t the cheapest inflatable on the market. However, with high quality Hypalon fabric construction, it’s one of the best value sports inflatables available.
Our test boat is quite typical of the rigs so far sold with a Brooker trailer, Honda 135hp outboard and stereo sound system. This costs $59,990, however, you can get the price down to $52,330 by opting for a Honda 90hp and fewer accessories.
Design: At 5.8m overall the Brig Eagle 580H is big enough to provide the room for family cruising and enjoying a range of water-sports from water skiing through to scuba diving and fishing.
Best of all she’s not too big for towing behind popular mid-sized cars and SUVs. For all these reasons the Eagle 580H ticks the box for many boat buyers – especially with summer coming up.
The hull extends to 5.8m from the anchor bow roller through to the fibreglass transom ends of the pontoons. You also get a fairly low-sided craft of 2.3m beam and internal dimensions of 4.0m by 1.3m.
The test boat looked eye-catching on its trailer with bright red tubes matching the crisp, white fibreglass hull. It’s a good-looker with a nicely styled console and raised Tee bar that incorporates the navigation lights.
Looking at her more closely you notice the bow sections are upswept and the moulded fibreglass bottom has a deep-Vee that ensures good wave cutting ability. The bow also has a snub design that ensures there is a huge amount of buoyancy up high to stop bow burying in rough water.
The deep Vee shape is carried right to the transom and this, combined with a series of sharp-edged lifting strakes, ensures the Eagle runs softly at speed in choppy water.
The inflatable pontoon is divided into five separate chambers so it’s virtually impossible to sink this boat.
Structurally, these RIBs are also much tougher than you think. They are made from high quality Hypalon material, while the rigid bottom is a very strong, fully-sealed fibreglass unit.
The Hypalon material ensures you have many years of service, and by adding a travelling cover to keep the sun off and lasting longer.
And when it comes to weight, the Eagle really soars. Hull weight is just 470kg and this makes her lighter than most conventional trailer boats, including some alloy boats. This means you don’t need as big a vehicle to tow.
Lighter weight also means the Brig Eagle 580H is very easy to beach launch, or move about at home. She is also easier on fuel.
Trail weight is about 1000kg on the road, making her well suited to cars like the Toyota Camry (1200kg) the Mazda 6 (1500kg) Holden Vectra (1350kg) or Honda Accord V6 (1200kg). The low profile also makes her easy to park in a garage, or carport.
And, yes, the Tee Top is detachable if needed for parking purposes.
Performance: After a few weeks of rain we were delighted to get out of the office for a test session in sunny autumn weather. Botany Bay was in a benign calm mood as we launched the Eagle 580H at Sylvania Waters and took her for a spin.
As expected, the Eagle is very easy to float off the trailer thanks to the extended transom ends.
Once in the water she also tracks beautifully at low speed due to the sharp, deep Vee bottom. This will be a real benefit, especially if you happen to be trolling a few fishing lines.
As I drove the Eagle into the wharf
I noticed how easy she is to dock. She is like a giant fender and all you do is turn at the last minute and let her slide into the dock.
It really is dead easy to board passengers because, as the hull is so stable, they can step onto the pontoons. There are also foot-treads for added security for passengers.
As we motored up through the slow speed zone we checked out the suburb that once was the subject of a famous TV show. The palatial homes show some Sydney people have done well in life and more than a few are keen boaties.
Water conditions were pretty calm as we sped up the bay. There wasn’t much to challenge the ride of this RIB sports boat, however, what we did encounter the Eagle 580H sliced through without fuss.
The Eagle seems to glide along at speed, which is probably due to the airlift effect you’re getting from the
She also turns beautifully at speed like a pedigree race boat.
Over in Europe they race these boats in offshore events and I’m not surprised after taking the Eagle for a spin at speed!
We got 40 knots at top speed, but the boat felt especially comfortable cruising at around 30-33 knots. She feels fast and safe at this speed.
I also love the helm station with its low windscreen and neat sports wheel. The helm seat also has a flip up at the base so it’s very easy for steering standing up.
It goes without saying the Eagle 580H is very stable at-rest and therefore pretty well suited to fishing. I wouldn’t think it’s so good for out-wide fishing, but perfectly suited to close-range coastal fishing plus inshore fast-action lure casting.
Power: The Eagle 580H is rated for single long-shaft outboards 115-135hp either in two, or four-stroke format. It’s designed to support quite a lot of weight so there had no trouble with the heavy Honda 135hp.
The latter motor gave us sparkling performance, which shot us out of the hole surprisingly quickly. The big DOHC four-stroke punched out a gusty low-end power that had us planing early. This gave us the following impressive results:
3500rpm 23 knots
4500rpm 31 knots
5500rpm 39 knots
6000rpm 41 knots
This level of performance ensures you have speed to burn, also the ability tocarry a big payload of people and gear. This makes her a great package for anyone intending to do water skiing a towing the kids on tubes.
For fishing purposes you could knock the power back to 115hp, or 90hp motor and still get a reasonable speed levels. There is obviously some savings in price too.
Still on the subject of power, I was pleased to see the Eagle come standard with 98-litre in-floor fuel tank and have a fuel-filler back aft near the outboard well where it’s easy to reach. She also has a 50-litre water tank for a shower after a swim. This could be a wash-down for fishermen!
The package also includes a slimline throttle box (right-hand side), 5-ganger switch panel, LED navigation lights, electric bilge pump, electric horn and a Fusion CD stereo.
Deck layout: The standard Eagle package comes with a very neat bow anchor roller with a cam-cleat arrangement for quickly securing the anchor line. There is also a for’ard locker seat that doubles as an anchor locker plus pop-up stainless steel cleats back aft.
The side pontoons provides side grab handles and safety grab handles for the passengers. The bigger grab handles on the sides are useful for man-handling the boat on the beach.
Moving back from the bows you find a mother-in-law seat in front of the console, a double-width helm seat and a two-seater lounge back aft. In total, there is fixed seating for six people, not counting seating provided by the side pontoons.
The console features a large dash panel that has room to flush mount a GPS chartplotter/sounder and VHF radio. You also get a glove box for your personal items like mobile phone etc and a larger dry gear locker with Sowpac hatch.
There is another glove box in the back of the helm seat. Given there’s no side pockets it’s good that there’s some stowage capacity under the rear and front seats.
While floor space is a bit limited for storing a kill box, it’s possible to incorporate this into the helm seat. Rod holders could also be attached to either the rear, or driving console.
Back aft there the raised Tee bar that doubles as a mounting point for the navigation lights. However, I can see this being converted to a raised cutting board, with navigation lights relocated to the drive console, and a separate white-light pole further aft.
Also, at the stern is a folding stainless steel ladder as well as moulded fibreglass pontoon ends that give the Eagle a very finished, sophisticated appearance.
Verdict: The Brig Eagle is one of those new craft that challenges our pre-concepts about boats. I believe that high quality sports RIBs like this should be considered seriously for fishing purposes. They have great ride, great stability and a level of safety that really is reassuring if you're fishing in open waters, or at night.
The Eagle 580H confirms the RIB craft has finally arrived as a mainstream recreational boat. With competitive pricing this is a boat you can consider dollar-for-dollar with conventional trailer boats. So, next time you’re at a boat show check them out!
A craft like this is right at home on inland lakes as well as coastal waterways so it’s quite a good all-rounder.
You only have to visit coastal beaches to see surf rescue RIBs in action. If you have any doubts they’re not superb in rough water, do yourself a favour and go to a surf carnival!
Obviously, for fishing there are a few items that need to be added. However, Sirocco Marine South says they have a fishing package ready to go for those buyers who are interested. This includes four rod holders, live bait tackle station and a decent sounder plus EPIRB and VHF radio if you’re roaming offshore.
By the way, warranty covers two years on the hull, and five years on the inflatable tubes.