GREENSBORO, Ga. — Three of the eight test boats at Honda Marine's press event here this week were from Flexboat, a Brazilian builder of inflatables and RIBs with a North American distributing company in Florida headed by an enthusiastic husband and wife.
I continue to see more RIBs on the water and at boat shows and press events such as Honda's, which was held on Lake Oconee at the Ritz Carlton in Greensboro.
"We're trying to get people to realize that quality RIBs are lifetime boats, not disposable rubber toys," said Rob Creemers, who along with his wife, Jenny, owns AI Boats Marine Sales & Service. The St. Petersburg, Fla., company has two other employees besides the Creemers.
Flexboats are built with military-grade hypalon, said Creemers, who began selling them at the 2013 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Flexboat is the largest RIB manufacturer in South America, Creemers said.
His Flexboat fleet includes vessels from 6-1/2 to 34 feet. The trio of boats at the Honda event were the 29-pound 7-1/2-foot Miniflex-S inflatable with the Honda BF2.3, the 12-foot SR-12 SLX RIB with a BF40 and the 25-foot SR-760 with twin BF150s.
I put the 12- and 25-footers through their paces. Both have explosive acceleration, but also deliver excellent fuel economy. For instance, the SR-760 can travel 3.8 miles per gallon at 28 mph and 3.1 mpg at 36 mph.
"Honda's engines are the perfect fit for our boats," Creemers said. "We've tried others, but we get the best fuel mileage with the Hondas."
“The quality of the [Flexboats] matches the quality of Honda,” added Dennis Ashley, assistant national sales manager for Honda Marine. "Our focus is higher-quality partners — quality when it comes to service and products. They need to pay attention to detail."
Creemers also services and repairs inflatables and RIBs. The Flexboats are shipped to AI Boats bare — just the fiberglass hull and tubes. AI Boats finishes the boat, installing the wiring, console, T-top and propulsion systems and steering.
I had a blast ripping around in the 12-footer. You drive from a go-cart-like driver's bucket seat in the bow. The boat has room for two other crewmembers, who sit in dual aft jump seats just forward of the engine.
Creemers and his wife have actually been a Flexboat dealer since 2007, but it was only last year that he secured full control of import rights for the product.
After working in auto industry management positions for 23 years, Creemers launched a dealership of Caribe inflatable boats in 2006. The operation also serviced inflatable boats. He saw a photo of the 25-foot Flexboat in 2007, immediately bought one and became a Flexboat dealer. Since October 2013, Creemers has sold 45 Flexboats, including one SR-760.
"It's really a do-anything boat," he said. "It can be a fish boat, dive boat, tender, military boat, commuter or just for a family.”
The test boat, which had many options, including a hardtop, retails for about $149,000.
"It's been a challenge to get where we are, but I believe in the boats and what they bring to the consumer," Creemers said.