Utility and comfort are combined with speed and maneuverability in this "collared" boat that delivers exhilaration.
Life proof boats offers semicustom options in the growing field of “collared” boats such as the Cabin 33 Limited I tested. I won’t call them RIBs, because most of them are not really inflatable. Life Proof has taken the RIB concept in a different direction by collaring its boats with closed-cell foam that’s custom formed into a D shape that is then covered with heavy-duty polyester fabric that’s coated with urethane. The arrangement provides all the benefits of inflatable collars — buoyancy, stability, impact protection —without need of inflation.
Some Life Proof models have air in the tubes, but they also contain the same EPE (expanded polyethylene) foam as the collared boats. The foam provides 60 pounds of flotation per cubic foot, so even if the air escapes completely the boat is fully functional and remains stable and self-bailing.
The rigid part of the boat is constructed of high-quality aluminum, and Life Proof can modify the configurations and amenities to suit individual owner tastes and needs. The common denominator on all Life Proof boats is they are designed to be fast, fun and safe.
After seeing the Life Proof 33 on a trailer at the 2019 Seattle Boat Show, I was ready to tour the factory and test one of the boats. I brought my 18-year-old son, Avery, with me; rather, he brought me, as he is a licensed pilot and offered to fly me from Everett to Bremerton, thereby avoiding the traffic and the ferries. We arrived at the Bremerton airport, which is nearly across the street from Inventech Marine Solutions where Life Proof Boats are built in 30,000 square feet of manufacturing space, and were met by company CEO Micah Bowers.
As we toured the factory, Bowers explained the advanced processes Life Proof’s employees use and showed us the specialized materials they specifically select to construct the vessels. The collars on Life Proof boats are made from 40-ounce TPU (thermal plastic urethane) material that is double stitched. Rubrails and other attachments are heat welded for additional strength and security. The fabric is specifically selected for its quality and neatly covers the sculpted closed-cell foam beneath; it can also be removed easily for cleaning and repair.
The hull, deck and superstructure of the Life Proof 33 are made of 5086 H32-grade aluminum plate. Other builders use cheaper alloys, but Life Proof established its pedigree building military and government security vessels, which demand 5086. The same materials, design and construction used on commercial and military applications are now available to recreational boaters. Not only does the builder use this higher quality aluminum plating throughout the vessel, but the hull plate is one-quarter-inch thick, and at the bow the material is doubled to form a half-inch-thick “beaching plate” that delivers additional strength and security. All panels and the extensive I-beam construction and stringer system inside the vessel are precisely cut using a CNC router and then impeccably hand welded, with the beading steady and consistent throughout.
As an added safety feature, Life Proof packs bags of the same foam used in the collars inside chambers along the inside of the hull, which provides insulation, helps with sound dampening and gives the boats more buoyancy, making them nearly unsinkable. The decks are completely self-bailing and drain from completely flooded to empty within two minutes.
Like all Life Proof boats, our test boat, the Cabin 33 Limited, was semicustom. The hull, safety and performance features remain constant, but the accommodations, layout and features are set up to suit each individual owner’s needs. Our test boat had a large cockpit for fishing, mounts for downriggers and a forward-facing bench seat for entertaining. The installed Permateak decking looked nice and increased traction. Buyers will like the fact the twin Mercury Verado 350s on the swim platform can be canted all the way out of the water to prevent galvanic corrosion and marine growth.
Inside is a settee with a dining table and a galley with Corian counters, a stainless sink and a microwave. Forward and below in the cabin is a flushing head that hides beneath one of the seats whose bottom is hinged to swing up and down. Some models (not this one) have a recessed foredeck area that is accessed via a doorway from the front of the cabin. Another option for Life Proof buyers is a flip-down bow step that allows passengers to climb off the boat once it has been beached. The full cabin forward on our boat maximizes room, and the boat still has a large walkable deck above with access to the windlass and anchor at the forepeak.
The forward cabin encompasses 47 square feet of space and has a V-berth configuration. Guests can sit on either side, but cushions can fill the center section and turn it into a bed that is 98 inches long and 76 inches wide (it tapers off toward the bow.) A typical king mattress is 80 by 76 inches, so even with the V this is a substantial bed/ cabin that can comfortably accommodate a couple. Removing the filler cushions creates two long bunks that can sleep two adults separately, or a few children.
The table in the salon can be lowered to convert to a bed and provide further sleeping arrangements.
At the front of the salon, under skylights, twin Shockwave S2 Suspension Seats conveniently fold down so they have both a standing and sitting position. The seats are an $8,000 option, but they do more than look cool; they are incredibly comfortable. Conditions did not allow us to test these seats adequately, but Bowers insisted they are essential for traveling at high speeds in rough conditions.
The fully equipped helm is complete with a Garmin 12-inch chartplotter, an upgraded radar, a CHIRP transducer, an AIS-receiving VHF radio and an upgraded stereo system. Other notable options are Zipwake Trim Tabs, diesel cabin heat, and a shorepower system with a 1,200-watt inverter.
Gettin’ After It
The boat’s agility combined with its stability at speed is the trait that stands out the most about the Life Proof 33 Cabin Limited. During our test, the 33 got on plane in less than 7 seconds and exceeded 50 mph in 17 seconds. We reached 51.6 mph (44.8 knots) at WOT. From full throttle to a dead stop took only 10 seconds, proving the boat can stop quickly when needed. At a fast cruise of 35 knots, the Mercury Verado 350s burned less than 1 gallon per mile, yielding 1.05 n.m./gallon and a 261-n.m. range. At 27.4 knots the boat’s range, with the optional 275-gallon fuel tank, was 356 n.m. (with a 10 percent reserve).
What really made the boat stand out in my view was how comfortable and safe it felt at very high speeds. Many boats get a bit jittery at more than 30 knots, but the Life Proof 33, with 22 degrees of deadrise at the transom and 48 degrees at the entry, was solid. Making high-speed turns was fun as it carved tight little circles even at faster than 40 knots without any side slip or cavitation. Performance fins below the collars dig in and hold the boat during hard turns. This boat is exciting to drive and safe, since it won’t slide out and remains in control even when pushed hard.