At 1 inch longer than 17 and a half feet, the Zodiac Open 5.5 RIB from Z Nautic Group is small but versatile. More than a tender, the single-engine center-console Open 5.5 is capable of being a fishing boat, a watersports towboat, a dive boat and a dayboat.
A rigid polyester hull and a removable tube of Strongan or Neoprene deliver performance and underway comfort, and a double grabline provides added safety. Five airtight compartments in the tube ensure that a puncture won’t deflate the entire tube.
Yamaha testing with a VF115LA yielded a top speed of 43.7 mph and a highly efficient cruise speed around 20 mph, where the outboard was burning just 3.3 gph. That’s a full day of cruising on a 26-gallon tank.
A doublewide helm seat/leaning post faces a molded helm console filled with displays, throttles and switches, and is protected by a wind screen. An optional Bimini or T-top furthers the protection factor. Further seating is found on a four-person transom bench settee — its backrests detach and stow, for when it’s time to fish — and a single seat is tucked into the bow. An optional extension turns the bow into a sundeck.
Action-seekers will appreciate the elevated tow point provided by the optional roll bar/ski mast and rear platforms and a ladder that facilitate easy reboarding. Those rear platforms will also serve anglers well, as will a front casting deck created by removing the cushion. Under the helm seat is storage for dive tanks.
Storage is maximized in a compartment hidden in the center console behind a forward door that swings up. A 14-gallon cooler makes it possible to keep the crew fed and hydrated for a day of anything-goes.