Boating: Phuket inspires whole new breed of luxury RIBs

PHUKET: Phuket has inspired a new ride on the waves. It’s rigid, it’s inflatable… and it’s a boat. The new 13m tender by Acronautic is ready to ensure that every superyacht sojourn starts and finishes in luxury.

The first of its kind is about to be built in the UK under the project name Thetis, with a design conceptualized by Phuket resident Stephen Crone.

The naval architecture and styling on the design has been provided by Whitehouse Yacht Design, which specializes in custom yacht projects and fluid dynamics to ensure the most efficient hull performance and ride comfort.

The project is managed in conjunction with Josh Richardson and the team from Superyacht Tenders and Toys to ensure quality finishes while maximum attention to details will meet the demands of fastidious superyacht owners.

“Acronautic specializes in managing marine projects and bringing clients’ dreams to life and the Thetis design is the perfect example of the skill set behind our team to fullfill this challenge,” says Stephen, who is managing director of Acronautic (click here), and lives with his family in the Bang Tao area on Phuket’s northwest coast.

“The greatest challenge was to develop a high-performance RIB [rigid inflatable boat] that was stylish, comfortable, and provided the functionality of an open day boat and luxury interior. The Thetis design is a fresh concept that checks the box in all these departments and can also be completely customized to suit clients’ preferences.”


Promoted as the “world’s first Limousine RIB Tender”, the Thetis was designed to meet the industry demand for a high-speed multi-purpose yacht tender, with a custom design as a fusion between an open style RIB and luxury superyacht limousine tender.

The plans for the Thetis were fnalized only weeks ago and construction in the UK should begin soon. Image: Acronautic

“The challenge was to develop a vessel that could carry passengers in a safe and dry environment yet also maintain a fun and practical purpose. RIBs are often referred to as utility boats due to their multi-tasking nature, high durability and ride comfort,’ explains Stephen.

“The Thetis design by Acronautic adds a fresh dimension to incorporate a limousine-style cabin and practicality for diving, beach access and cruising.”

Powered by twin 350hp outboard engines, the Thetis offers an exhilarating ride through a typical V-shape performance hull capable of speeds in excess of 40 knots.

Trimming the outboard engines gives the RIB an estimated minimum draft of a jaw-dropping 50cm. “I have a comparable boat here in Phuket and we have been able to get to every beach and jetty that we’ve wanted to,” Stephen says.

RIBs are often branded “unsinkable” and the Thetis, with its six inflatable compartments surrounding the hull, is no exception.

Stephen has had a long connection working with high speed luxury RIBs and is well known for his contribution to the Dariel-built 13m RIB Yoko – a luxury day boat delivered to a Monaco-based client. Yoko was a finalist in the 2012 ShowBoats “Yacht Tender Design of the Year” (click here).

“Rigid Inflatable Boats have always been popular as superyacht tenders, however transporting a large number of guests in protected comfort has continually been a challenge,” he says.

As the yacht tender is often the first and last impression guests have from a superyacht cruise, the Thetis design has been developed to become a focal point before, during and after the voyage.

“This vessel will provide an experience in itself for guests, whether it be transiting to shore, exploring local bays or diving from this ultra-stable platform, every detail is designed around versatility and user comfort including dedicated boarding points for ease of access,” notes Stephen.


Originally from West Australia, Stephen was sent to Phuket from Monaco in 2004 by a ultra-high-net-worth client on a reconnaissance mission.

“The project was to access the area for marine destinations and activities. From this research I designed and built two boats on behalf of the client to be based in Phuket and used privately for the family. I still work with this client, 10 years on and assist with managing their marine assets [boats], property and global logistics,” he explains.

“I grew up around the water and in the marine industry. While studying at college I started washing boats in the local marina for some extra cash; this then turned into a full-time marine services business.

“The natural progression from this was then to become an international yacht captain and engineer. I have now traveled to almost every corner of the earth in this profession, I’ve had some great adventures and made great friends. The best part of this career is that I absolutely love what I do, I feel so lucky to have made such a successful career from my passion for the sea.”

Stephen has several clients who frequent the Phuket area and he manages their boats, crew and marine activities.

“From day trips to Phi Phi Island, cruising on luxury superyachts, to arranging repairs, logistics, and maintenance, I get involved in every aspect of owning managing boats to maximize the fun and enjoyment for the owner,’ he explains.

Although Acronautic is registered and based in Australia, the very nature of the marine industry requires extensive international presence.

“There is lots of travel and dealing with many different nationalities,” he explains. “The team I work with ranges from British naval architects to Italian boat builders, American crew and right through to Kiwi electricians, so we truly are a global business.”


Yet it was Phuket that inspired the finishing touches to the design of the Thetis, and of all things it was odd torrential downpour that the island is renowned for that topped it off.

“The requirement [for the design] was very specific in that it must provide protection for guests during

Attention to detail was a high priority on the design team’s list. Photo: Supplied

rain squalls while cruising, and then be able to double as a day boat for diving, exploring and relaxing when the sun comes out. This vessel is ideally suited to the conditions here for this dual function,” Stephen says.

The basic concept is a day boat, however the specific functionality is the ability to cruise Phang Nga Bay for example while the superyacht mother ship – restricted by draft – would remain anchored in deeper water.

The Thetis provides a platform for exploring the islands with all the comforts of a superyacht such as plush seating, an amazing stereo entertainment system, sunbeds for relaxing and of course excellent weather protection for when the rain hits. The boat is capable of cruising for approximately 250 miles before needing to refuel so it has the range to really explore and get to know a region.

The other inspiration is simply fun – the design has soft edges and a great social arrangements in which guests can interact and enjoy the experience rather than simply sitting on a transfer vessel. Phuket has so many beaches, islands and great destinations to explore and this boat will get you to all of them without any restrictions. Even at low tide, simply trim the outboard engines up to reduce the draft and most beaches can still be accessed.

Will a completed Thetis be in Phuket soon? “Quite possibly,” says Stephen. “This design is versatile enough to appeal to both the superyacht market as a yacht tender / chase boat or to individuals seeking a very special day boat.”

More information about the Thetis tender project shall soon be available from the website In the meantime, for details contact Stephen Crone at Acronautic (Tel: +61 8 94679774, Email:

— Chris Husted

Thai Life

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