BOAT REVIEW Sealegs 12m RIB Cabin

October 2022 Power Boat Reviews
Words by John Eichelsheim. Photography by Lissa Reyden.
Build Quality
MODEL Sealegs 12m RIB Cabin
DESIGNER Sealegs/Hall Marine Design
CONSTRUCTION Aluminium hull, Hypalon tubes
LOA 11.3M
ENGINE 2 x Yamaha 425hp V8 O/B/ Kubota 94hp
  • Well finished inside and out, well spec’d
  • Integrated AES 100 controls
  • Amphibious ability on an unprecedented scale
  • Practical layout for day-tripping or overnighting

While New Zealand remains a key market for Sealegs – New Zealand’s uptake of recreational amphibious vessels is unmatched anywhere in the world – export sales are an ever-growing part of the company’s business. Sealegs pioneered amphibious boating more than 20 years ago and continue to dominate the whole sector, both technologically and by sales volume.

Sealegs’ latest and largest recreational vessel to date is the 12RC (RIB Cabin) reviewed here. Sealegs has built and exported several similarly large vessels based around its heavy-duty Amphibious Enablement System 100 (AES), but those were for commercial or military applications. But while this vessel is also destined for an overseas buyer – in Brest, France – it will be used in a private capacity and has been specified with recreational family boating in mind.


Developed in partnership with Hall Marine Design (HMD), and bearing all of Jarod Halls’ signature styling cues, it’s the first vessel of this style for Sealegs. As reviewed, this first boat is pretty much “off the shelf”, according to Sealegs’ Craig Smallwood, who pulled this boat together. However, says Craig, a certain amount of customisation is possible, including different interior layouts, and the next boat will have a longer, slightly taller cabin.
At 12.3m overall with a beam of 3.8m including the tubes, it’s a big RIB. Weighing around 7 tonnes (8 tonnes fully loaded) it’s about as large as Sealegs’ System 100 can manage. Terrestrial power is provided by a Kubota 94hp (70kW) petrol engine, with the engine box integrated seamlessly into the transom. The Kubota powers the hydraulic pumps that drive the 12m Cabin’s three oversize wheels to a maximum speed of 7kph. All three wheels are driven, there’s hydrostatic emergency braking, parking brakes, and the wheels lock up in case of hydraulic or power failure. There’s also a momentary diff lock function for negotiating challenging terrain.

In what is clearly part of an ongoing evolutionary process, the amphibious controls are now unitary and well-integrated into the vessel’s console, alongside the boat’s conventional controls and gauges – you’d hardly guess this is an amphibious vessel from looking at the dashboard. A pair of 12-inch Garmin MFDs dominate the console and display high-resolution images from the 12m’s front camera when operating on land, as well as when transitioning from land to water and back again.
On land it’s a big machine to pilot – tall, wide, and long, with a very wide turning circle, though an excellent bow camera system (and headlights) provides good vision ahead. With its length and three wheels positioned at the boat’s extremities, I imagine the main concern is inadvertently striking objects with the side of the vessel when executing a turn. It took some skilled helming (the vessel is steered from the helm, whether on land or at sea) and a couple of multi-point turns to negotiate the tree-lined street from the launching ramp to the boat’s storage yard.

On the water, though, the 12m Cabin drives just like an oversize trailer boat. Twin Yamaha 425hp outboards ensure excellent performance. These five-litre V8 engines are punchy with lots of torque, so they have no issues launching the Sealegs onto the plane and propelling it to a top speed of 42 knots. While Sealegs envisage most of this model will be fitted with Yamahas, at least one will get a pair of Mercury 600hp V12 outboards.
Sealegs’ Liam Potter told us Sealegs has another 12RC underway for an Auckland customer, one on order for a customer in USA, two boats for Australia and one for Norway, and as many as seven others in the pipeline.
The big Yamahas are supplied with fly-by-wire throttle controls, integrated electric steering and Yamaha’s excellent Helm Master system, which allows unprecedented control and manoeuvrability at low speeds, especially when complemented by the Side-Power bow thruster fitted to this vessel. Among other useful functions, Helm Master with joystick control makes docking and low speed manoeuvring in tight spaces a breeze.

Considering that the transom must accommodate the Kubota diesel, batteries, cooling fans, exhaust system and associated machinery, it impinges very little on the cockpit. It’s a tidy and easily accessible installation. The wide transom features a large PVC cutting board/work surface and a couple of useful drawers, plus shelves for small items. Padded transom seats and cupholders are set into either side of the transom unit with engine breathers beneath. provide comfortable seating. The cockpit is self-draining through duckbills, plus bilge pumps in sumps.
U-Dek is used throughout the vessel, including on the decks and cockpit. Two large underfloor cockpit lockers accommodate the hydraulic pumps, accumulator, oil reservoir and more, rather than affording storage. And since it’s a RIB, there are no cockpit side pockets either, but there is storage provided under the cockpit seat against the saloon bulkhead, which also houses the manual bilge pump to meet CE regulations, and plenty of storage inside the cabin.

Also, again to fulfil CE requirements, there’s a hydraulically operated alloy boarding platform with a ladder that extends from the hull on the starboard side. This allows anyone in the water to easily board the boat – there’s a button on the hull exterior as well as inside to operate the platform. The box housing the platform and its mechanism is housed in one of the underfloor cockpit lockers.
It’s a big cockpit suitable for a range of activities, including sport fishing, though the wide transom and large wheels in the corners are obstacles anglers would need to work around.
A rocket launcher and cockpit floodlights are fitted to the trailing edge of the cabin roof overhang, there’s reasonable access along the tubes to the foredeck – the saloon roof provides secure handholds – and some useful space on the foredeck, which is furnished with low bow rails, a couple of tie-down deck rails and an extra-long bowsprit to clear the front wheel. The vessel is fitted with a Stressfree drum winch anchor system with free-fall.

The cabin layout follows the same general plan as many other Kiwi aluminium powerboats of similar length: there’s a compact galley along the starboard side behind the helm seat with a diesel hob, under-bench fridge, drawers and storage, a raised dinette to port with a reversible backrest on the front seat, and full height bi-fold doors aft. An electric cavity window behind the dinette really opens the saloon to the cockpit, while sliding side windows and a pair of electric sunroofs ensure plenty of light and ventilation. The boat is well provided with handrails/grabrails, including along the length of the cabin ceiling. It’s a wide cabin, so they’ll be useful in a seaway.
The 12RC’s 500-litre fuel tank, holding tank and batteries are housed amidships under the saloon floor, accessible through the floor hatches. Like the boat’s exterior, the 12RC’s interior is nicely finished and carefully detailed.

Although this model can be specified with up to four berths, the owner has opted for just two, in a simple v-berth configuration. Like the seats inside and out, the berths are upholstered in smart, water-resistant Sunbrella fabric. There’s a plumbed-in toilet under the berth on the port side, useful side shelves below the tubes, an underfloor hatch and a ceiling hatch opening onto the foredeck. LED lighting is used throughout the vessel, which also has plenty of USB outlets.
The helm seat is a comfortable place to be, fully adjustable and offering good lateral support, including folding armrests. There’s also a bolster for stand-up driving and a well-positioned footrest on the forward bulkhead. The curved windscreen offers excellent vision ahead – it’s currently the largest one-piece glass windscreen produced in New Zealand – and Webasto windscreen wipers deal with any rain or spray.

Driving the vessel is much like any other outboard powered vessel, though, as mentioned earlier, the way it drives and handles belies its large size – it’s an easy and fun boat to throw around and its electric steering, electronic controls, Zipwake automatic trim tabs and the throttle syncing function greatly simplify operation. I’ve already touched on the vessel’s excellent low speed handling control thanks to Helm Master.
The main switchboard is handy to the helm on the starboard side, the AES control module tucked away on the right-hand side of the dashboard close to the conventional throttle and joystick controls, The MFDs range across the top of the fascia, with the rest of the switches, controls, gauges, VHF radio and Fusion entertainment unit filling the rest of the space. While it’s a comprehensive array of equipment, the dashboard manages to look clean and uncrowded.

When we arrived at Motuihe Island for the beach test portion of this review, the tide was high – and it was a big tide. There was no room on the beach to drive out and turn around, so we had to be creative and approach the beach at an angle, drive along the narrow strip of sand remaining, and then re-enter the water at a shallow angle. We were a little apprehensive. especially given the unknown consistency of the sand, which is typically soft and deep at the top of a beach – this is nearly 8 tonnes of amphibian after all.
We needn’t have worried: the 12RC emerged from the water without fuss and made its way along the beach before re-entering the sea 50 metres further along. It was clear from the deep tyre tracks that the sand was soft, but the Sealegs experienced no problems with it. We didn’t even engage the diff lock.

Emboldened, we successfully repeated the manoeuvre a couple of times, before deciding to attack the beach head-on. Once again, the 12RC was unfazed, climbing up the steeply sloping beach until we ran out of sand and the bowsprit was amongst the pohutukawas. The 12RC managed the soft sand without any issues. To re-enter the water, Liam simply reversed across the narrow beach to re-float the vessel stern-first.
Upon launching the 12RC to customers and partners just prior to this review, Sealegs International CEO David McKee Wright told them, “The 12RC represents everything a traditional Sealegs does just more of it. More comfort, luxury, and freedom.”
He’s right – it’s a Sealegs, only bigger, which should give owners the freedom to use their 12RC in style and comfort in most weather conditions.


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