Author: Mike Brunn
Synonymous with inflatable boats, the name Zodiac is one that most professional and recreational mariners know well. Although, what most mariners don’t know is that Zodiac began its long industrial journey in 1896 as Europe’s leading manufacturer of passenger balloons. Zodiac has stayed close to its aeronautical roots and continues to develop such products as escape slides, helicopter floats and parachute systems. However, with more than a million boats sold, Zodiac continues to hold the title as the world’s first and largest manufacturer of inflatable boats. Enjoy our boat review about the Zodiac 650 and scroll down to find more details.
As a young boy, I vividly remember the name “Zodiac” on the side of the inflatable boats used by Jacques Cousteau. Since that time, I’ve always held an enviable fascination for the original inflatable boat made famous by that great television series.
Zodiac makes two types of boats with several different model variations of each. The “Inflatable” has a rubber bottom with a thin plywood, aluminum or inflatable floor. The floor can be removed for transportation or storage. Normally, these boats are used as auxiliary boats or tenders. The “Inflatable” makes a great addition to any medium-sized yacht and can be easily handled by two people.
The “Rib” has a rigid hull that is typically made of fiberglass or aluminum with inflatable tubes attached. The Rib is also utilized as a tender, or in its larger form, a sport boat. The Rib is heavier than the inflatable and normally needs a trailer for transportation.
The Zodiac 650 Comes With Ingenious Concept
The patented “removable tube system” for Zodiac’s Rib models is an ingenious concept that allows for simple disassembly and storage. The tubes attach via a slot that runs the length of the hull. Deflate the tubes, pull the tubes toward the bow, and remove. It’s that simple.
Zodiac’s new 650 Open is considered a Rib. With a compartmentalized, fiberglass hull, the 650 weighs in at 1,232 lbs. Zodiac developed the 650 to be a versatile boat for sportsmen and yachtsmen alike.
Onboard, the 650 has a unique arrangement with the helm station offset to the starboard side. This allows for a larger helm station providing excellent access to the bow from the portside. Interestingly, the double helm seat doesn’t include a backrest. However, this allows the driver to stand in a comfortable position while leaning against the seat for additional support.
From the helm, the dash is ergonomically contoured for easy visibility and includes all the necessary waterproof gauges. You will need to add your own electronics, compass, and VHF. Unfortunately, due to a lack of space, the electronics must be mounted on top of the dash.
Our test boat, configured for sport fishing, included six stainless rod holders attached to the rear of the helm seat, and four additional rod holders recessed in the transom. In addition, the 650 came equipped with an optional aluminum T-Top with six rocket launchers welded to the aft frame rail. The T-Top is also an excellent platform from which to mount VHF and or GPS antennas. Zodiac offers several different interior configurations for the 650 including bucket seats for four and a bench seat for two in front of the helm station.
Not What It Appears
The aft bench seat, large enough for four persons, is not what it appears. The center section of the seat is actually an ice chest that is locked in place. Once the seat cushion is detached from the top of the ice chest, the ice chest can be removed and stowed under the helm seat. This opens up the cockpit for fishing or other recreational water sports.
Zodiac has also incorporated a large amount of storage capacity into the 650. The two hatches located in the transom can be used as bait boxes or miscellaneous storage compartments. Zodiac also included a tackle drawer in the helm station and a large hatch with cavernous storage below.
Forward, the lockable bow compartment features additional storage and the gas fill. A cushion can be made for this hatch and utilized as another seat for two more passengers.
Size does matter! With 23-inch tubes, the Zodiac 650 offers one of the largest tube diameters in the industry. Larger tubes not only add more positive buoyancy, they provide a safer and dryer ride.
Powered by Evinrude’s® new oil-injected, 150 hp two-stroke engine, the 650 came up on plane within seconds. Pushing the throttle to 5,000 rpm, the GPS registered 50 mph. Since the top rpm for Evinrude’s tough little two-stroke is 5400, I believe that with the right propeller, the 650 could see speeds in excess of 55 mph. However, not many of us need to cruise the Bay and Delta at 55 mph. 35 mph seemed to be the perfect pace for this 21-foot rocket.
Lighter and More Efficient
Before I forget, Evinrude’s new line of two-strokes either meet or exceed the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) 2006 low emissions standards. Lighter and more efficient than many four-strokes, Evinrude’s new two-stroke engines lead the pack in efficiency and technology.
Thanks in part to the standard hydraulic steering, the 650 handles predictably and precisely. Add to this, the deep-V hull with a 24-degree deadrise, and the 650 is capable of cutting through the nastiest of conditions.
The Zodiac 650 Is Gaining in Popularity
Ribs seem to be gaining in popularity around the Bay and Delta. No fewer than six of my boating friends have purchased new Ribs in the last couple of years. Not only are Ribs safe and fun, they are also fuel-efficient.
Zodiac’s new Pro Open 650 is the perfect blend of technology and experience. If looking for a versatile Rib with room to spare, you may want to consider Zodiac’s new 650.
- Overall Length: 21’4”
- Inside Length: 16’3”
- Overall Width: 8’2”
- Inside Width: 4’5”
- Tube Diameter: 1’11”
- Passengers: 5
- Maximum Payload: 2,369 lbs.
- Fuel Capacity: 30 gals.
- Minimum Power Recommended: 115 hp.
- Maximum Power Recommended: 150 hp.