In the modern market, with its vast range of boat types and its unprecedented breadth of sizes, it is possible to classify pretty much anything as a tender. It really comes down to how much space there is on your mothership and how much money there is in your wallet (see choosing a tender). As you might expect then, this run-down of 10 noteworthy tenders encompasses a range of boats so excruciatingly diverse that they’ve probably never been witnessed on the same page.
1. Sea-Doo Spark
Sea-Doo's Spark may have increased a little in price and developed various tweaks and offshoots but it’s still a brilliant (and remarkably practical) tender for the money. It is more compact, lighter in weight, lower in price and more user-friendly to customise than anything else on the market. It is also child’s play to buy, spec and operate and can be tailored to your needs in terms of both power output and seating capacity. Despite being built from a plastic called ‘POLYTEC’ that is better able to cope with the knocks and traumas of repeated deployment, beaching and recovery, it even looks cool.
2. Williams Minijet 280
Williams has become a massive player in the world of high-quality tenders - but in the form of the nine-foot, 45hp, three-man Minijet, the brand has introduced a smaller, more accessible and lighter weight tender, designed to enable owners of cruisers as small as 38 feet to sample the Williams experience. Weighing less than 200kg and offering very compact garage-friendly dimensions, the BRP Rotax Ace 900 engine enables easy shallow-water running and speeds in excess of 30 knots. It’s a useful entry point but those who prioritise sport will continue to favour the Turbojet series. See our First Look Video here.
3. Flying Fish Coastal Pro
The twin-engined Coastal Pro from Flying Fish is a three to four-seat hovercraft designed to provide excellent load carrying capacity and quiet operation (just 74dbA) at cruising speeds. Based on the well-proven 'chassis' of the 2013 model, the new hull uses Kevlar-reinforced GRP for lightness and strength. The Vanguard V-twins produce 35bhp in standard spec or 50bhp in 'Rampage' spec for heavier loads or more testing conditions. At 4.3m x 2.1m, it’s also usefully compact. Personally, I find all hovercraft loud, limited, garish and agricultural but with prices from around £20,000, their merits for the Skipper who doesn’t mind wearing ear defenders to the yacht club cocktail party are beyond question.
4. ZAR ZF-0
The ZF-0 might be the smallest of ZAR’s ZF tender line, but this squat little outboard-powered RIB boasts an enviable range of assets. In addition to a six-foot beam, seating for four and a transom capable of handling anything from 20 to 30hp, it comes with a beamy bow framed in rigid mouldings (rather than invasive tubes) to help maximise internal space. You also get distinctive looks, plenty of storage options, a proper step-off point at the bow for beaching and user-friendly stepping points at the sides and the swim platforms for easy embarkation. See ZAR for more.
5. Avon Seasport Deluxe 470
Avon is no stranger to tender design and its longstanding SEASPORT line reflects that. The 15-foot 470 follows the established formula, with moulded jetboat-style internals allied to outboard propulsion of between 50 and 90hp to help mitigate the impact of the big (removable) tubes on internal space. At half a metre in diameter, the collar itself extends well aft of the transom, increasing the load carrying capacity and enabling the little Avon to carry nine people at a time. The teak-lined bow step comes with a new stainless steel rail to improve safety when mooring and the moulded aft ‘flaps’ help smooth your transition to the plane, even when the weight is awkwardly distributed.
6. MasterCraft XT20
If you want your tender to do more than just ferry people and provisions ashore, it makes sense to invest in a multi-purpose, saltwater tow boat – and MasterCraft’s XT20 is the ideal candidate. It comes with a spacious lounge, plus a classic ‘pickle-fork’ bow to expand the forward space. It also features a rather exotic Ilmor engine, plus 1700 pounds of hard tank ballast to help tailor your wake. The fact that it also features first-class credentials as a readymade party platform makes it a very effective tender indeed.
7. Frauscher 747 Mirage Air
The fact that Frauscher’s open (or ‘AIR’) variant of the 747 is based squarely on the established Mirage superyacht tender is very good news. With petrol and diesel power packages ranging from 220hp to 430hp, the AIR achieves the same 56-knot top end as the original model and it also boasts the same deliriously lovely looks. But with a flexible centre console layout, it adds greater freedom of movement, easier bow access and convertible dining stations both fore and aft. With plenty customisation options, it’s a first-class tender. See more from Frauscher in our guide to the world's best performance weekenders.
8. Riva Iseo
While most of us would love to own a compact open Riva as a standalone boat, the company’s Iseo continues to strike a particular chord with the tender market. This towable 27-foot open motoryacht can be specced with jet propulsion for easy shallow-water running and it’s also apparently the first in its class to offer an ‘integrated infotainment system’, with GPS charting based on your iPad. In fairness, I happen to think Rivas are overpriced and (dare I say it) overrated – but if you want a tender that people will stop and stroke; a tender that will win you friends; a tender that will make you instantly more attractive, this is the one to buy. See Riva Yachts for more.
9. Levi Corsair
Not every high-end tender has to be a preening plastic monument to worldly success. If you take the old school route, you could head ashore in a far more modest and classical fashion, like a seasoned Admiral rather than a catwalk celebrity. As a career highlight of legendary designer, Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi, the Levi Corsair is also a boat that performs with far greater vigour than its looks suggest. Built upon a famous race-bred deep-V hull, she hits 50 knots, handles like an angry wasp and keeps you safe and dry even in rough offshore waters.
10. Wally Tender X
Plainly, you need a hell of a boat to warrant a 45-foot tender – particularly given that a platform of this scale could quite easily carry any of the first four tenders in this list on its own aft deck. But this is not just a Wally Tender. This is a Wally Tender with the capacity to carry a trio of 400hp outboards on the transom, enabling it to combine the looks, prestige and quality of this famous Italian yard with performance well in excess of 60 knots. If you want to compensate for the sedentary pace of your gargantuan superyacht by popping a seriously rapid open-air day cruiser in the garage, they don’t come much better than a Wally - as our list of five super stylish runabouts proves.