By Steve Waters | Sun Sentinel
As an Arctic Warfare Specialist for the British military, Steve Bruce taught soldiers how to survive in extreme conditions.
That experience in saving lives eventually led to Bruce developing a foldable rigid inflatable boat for sailors, cruisers and anglers that performs in emergency situations.
As it turned out, the boats 9 to 15 feet long made by FRIB are also popular with those who don’t have room for a boat and a trailer, but want to have fun on the water.
“We have put these in some very small cars. Even a Volkswagen Up!” said Bruce, whose boats are on display at Bahia Mar Yachting Center at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which runs through Monday at seven sites. “Anybody could have one of these boats.”
Bruce began racing sailboats when he was 13. After leaving the military in 1997, he had a few different jobs before starting a company that sold racing yachts, then cruising yachts.
During that span, a Russian friend asked Bruce to design a military rescue boat that folded in half that could be carried on a helicopter, which he did.
“I realized if we could make that smaller and lighter, it’d have applications for cruising,” said Bruce, who originally sold FRIBs as shallow-water rescue craft. “It opened up a market I never thought of.”
Boaters without a lot of room could store a folded FRIB in its bag in a berth or hatch or console and not need a davit. Anglers and pleasure boaters could keep a FRIB in an apartment or condominium and transport it to the water in a car trunk or keep one in their RV.
The FRIBs are made in Russia by expert craftsmen. The three-piece hull is made of solid fiberglass in one mold. The pieces are secured by tongue-and-groove connections, as well as a bolt in the bigger models. When the state-of-the-art PVC tubes are inflated, which takes less than five minutes using a foot pump, the boat is ready for the water.
Bruce said the 9-foot FRIB275 weighs 80 pounds and sells for $2,995 at Nautical Ventures’ three South Florida stores. The FRIB360, which is 11 feet, 8 inches, can carry four people and get on plane with a 20-horsepower outboard. With two people, a 9.9 will get the boat on plane.
Guy Harvey, the marine wildlife artist and conservationist who lives in the Cayman Islands, is celebrating his 30th year at the show. His booth in the first tent at Bahia Mar is filled with his artwork and apparel, and he’s been busy signing much of it for his appreciative fans.
The clothing includes Guy Harvey Inc. performance shirts, which block 96 percent of ultraviolet rays, are anti-microbial, dry quickly and have a soft, cotton-like feel even though they’re made from polyester and spandex.
The shirts come in long sleeve, short sleeve and polo models. There are also T-shirts with and without pockets, shirts for kids and shirts for women. Those who text “marlin” to 88588 will be entered in a drawing for a $500 Guy Harvey gift card with the winner announced on Wednesday.
One of Harvey’s newest works, of a blue marlin in a school of dolphin called “Blue Escape” that is in his booth, was painted during a trip on the Norwegian Escape, a Miami-based Norwegian Cruise Line ship. Harvey’s artwork of a sailfish is on the ship’s hull and he’s done four cruises, staying aboard for three days each time, since the ship was launched almost a year ago.
“What it has done for art sales is incredible,” Harvey said, adding that it allows him to reach a market that often isn’t familiar with his work.
One of the best ways to enjoy the show is by taking the Water Taxi to and from the different sites. For $10, you can ride all day on Water Taxi’s fleet of yellow-hulled ships and not have to deal with automobile traffic. For a map of the routes, visit watertaxi.com and click on “International Boat Show” at the top of the page. Read more…