The Walker Bay Solution

This builder of affordable hard dinghies diversifies with a line of innovative RIBs

After capturing a share of the dinghy market with its unusual thermo-formed products, Walker Bay USA has turned its attention to RIBs. With its Genesis line of 9- to 11-foot rigid inflatable boats, the company is injecting some fresh ideas into this popular category of tender.

What this Yakima, Washington, manufacturer brings to the small-boat arena is the ability to create hulls that are not only more ding-resistant than traditional fiberglass offerings but also sophisticated in design and detail. The key to this is the company's access to large-scale injection-molding technology. While this is common for small, high-volume items, not all facilities can create molded parts the size of Walker Bay's signature 8- and 10-foot dinks. But Walker Bay has just such a plant right in Yakima, the center of the state's inland fruit-growing empire, where a 70-ton steel mold--used to form apple crates--applies working pressures of up to 5,000 tons per square inch.

This device, plus Walker Bay's ability to keep up with the demand for its most popular sizes, enables it to offset the significant costs of tooling and manufacturing. Rather than simply mimic existing RIB designs in a new material, Walker Bay's design team undertook extensive R&D that explored the shape of the bottoms and such seemingly minor details as the composition and positioning of tube-mounted carrying handles. Taking advantage of the characteristics of thermoplastic materials, the designers sculpted hull shapes that incorporated details not found on traditional fiberglass RIBs.

Among these are a replaceable urethane grounding plate, inset nylon trim tabs that increase lift at the transom, and two built-in wheels that allow the boat to be rolled easily on the hard by one person. The hull also incorporates chines to improve turning performance and a V-shaped keel pad near the transom that directs cleaner water to the prop. The removable bench seat has a recessed cup holder and a removable gear tray set under a hatch.

Removable floor panels allow a fuel line to run from a bow-mounted tank to the engine, which is attached to an extruded aluminum transom that can easily accommodate a 10- or 15-horsepower four-stroke, depending on the RIB model (see "Walker Bay Genesis by the Numbers," below).

Tubes are constructed of either Heytex PVC or Pennel-Orca Hypalon, depending on the model selected, and the boats feature bluff bow sections to increase interior volume. All seams are glue sealed and buffed both inside and out. The injection-molded hull also permits a feature usually found on much larger and more expensive RIBS: the ability to remove the tubes for repair or replacement. Though the company doesn't advertise this as a process to be performed by the buyer, in Walker Bay demonstrations, one person has removed and changed a tube in five to 10 minutes.

Compared to fiberglass, the thermoplastic hull seemed during a test ride to provide a greater degree of vibration dampening and promised a high degree of resistance to the wear and tear of daily use. The forgiving plastic hull is also easy to stow when the tubes are deflated or removed, and the integrated wheels enable cruisers to easily transport them in the boatyard.

To realize the economies of scale needed to cost-effectively produce an injection-molded product, Walker Bay has concentrated on the most popular segment of the RIB market and, thus, is offering the four-model Genesis line in three sizes ranging from 9 to 11 feet long. The models are the Genesis RT (rigid transom) and the Genesis FT (folding transom) in three sizes Walker Bay has metricized as 270, 310, and 340 (about 9, 10, and 11 feet respectively), and the Genesis RTL (rigid transom light) and Genesis FTL (folding transom light) in the 270 and 310 sizes.

Depending on specific features and size, prices for the Genesis series range from $1,750 to $3,800. To enhance its product line, Walker Bay has also transferred many of the innovations of its Genesis products to the Odyssey line of air-floor inflatables.

Hanging a four-stroke engine on any small inflatable creates a degree of instability and a stern-down attitude, but all things considered, the 310 model handled a 10-horsepower four-stroke quite well, while the largest accommodated a 15-horse engine with equal ease. With two persons aboard, both boats were able to plane and carve corners with brisk efficiency, and the midsize model planed with a single passenger aboard without the need for a tiller extension or a splayed body position to shift weight forward. I think Walker Bay is on to something.

Pierce Hoover is the editor of Power Cruising magazine.

WALKER BAY GENESIS BY THE NUMBERS

Model Length Beam Weight (lb.) Max. Payload (lb.) Max. Power (hp.)
270 RT 8' 10" 66" 97 1,144 10
310 RT 10' 2" 66" 105 1,364 15
340 RT 11' 2" 67" 110 1,408 25
270 FT 8' 10" 66" 90 1,144 10
310 FT 10' 2" 66" 100 1,364 15
340 FT 11' 2" 67" 103 1,408 25
270 RTL 8' 10" 65" 88 1,144 10
310 RTL 10' 2" 65" 97 1,364 15
270 FTL 8' 10" 65" 80 1,144 10
310 FTL 10' 2" 65" 90 1,364 15

Walker Bay USA
(888) 449-2553
www.walkerbaygenesis.com