Help me identify these mystery vessels!
August 23, 2010 5:57 AM   Subscribe

I took the night ship from Oslo to Copenhagen last week. When we were about an hour out of Oslo, two of these boats came up on us out of nowhere, spent nearly an hour zooming up and down the length of the ship and back and forth across the wake, then abruptly vanished. Who were they and what, exactly, were they doing?

The first boat had about ten people on it, in two single-file rows of five, plus a driver, and the second boat (photographed above) had slightly fewer people. All were wearing identical florescent yellow jackets and black pants, and everyone was sort of straddling a domed seat and hanging onto a bar in front of them for security.

They did not attempt to touch or communicate with the ship in any way that I could see, just drove around it nonstop and at high speed for nearly an hour and then suddenly fell back and were gone.

A lot of passengers on deck were snapping photographs, but nobody seemed to who they were or why they were there.

Can anyone provide any insight? Was it a drill or practice of some kind, and if so, for what? My curiousity is killing me here.
posted by anderjen to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Those are RIB boats.

You can rent them out for sightseeing, conferences, events. They go very fast.
posted by three blind mice at 6:02 AM on August 23, 2010

I don't see obvious paramilitary gear or communications equipment so I doubt law enforcement. Did the people on board wave?

Those are RIB boats... They go very fast.

Yes. And it is lots of fun to just blast back and forth in the wake behind a large ship.
posted by anti social order at 6:17 AM on August 23, 2010

Best answer: It looks like a tourist pleasure trip to me: there are lots of passengers but no sign of the kind of fishing or diving equipment that these boats sometimes carry. Nor to the passenger have the kind of specialist equipment that would be used by customs officials, coastguard or rescue organisations. The two outboards will provide at least 120Hp of power and will allow the boat to go at about 30 knots or so. But the big deal, as anti social order says, is to play about in the waves of a larger boat (particularly if the sea is otherwise rather boringly flat).

RIB stands for "Rigid (hulled) Inflatable Boat". The design was developed at Atlantic College (school) in the UK during the 1960s. The school gave the design to the Royal National Lifeboat Association to use it for inshore lifeboats. Today the RNLI still uses many ribs - but you will find them everywhere.
posted by rongorongo at 6:57 AM on August 23, 2010

I'm with anti social order and rongorongo here - I suspect it's just fun to bounce over the wake.

Last year I was on a ferry from Alaska coming into Belligham, Washington - about 30 minutes before arrival a jetski rode out towards us and spent about 20 minutes just jumping the wake.

Just before we arrived however, a police boat came out, made him stop and towed him to back to port. So, in Bellingham at least, they don't you doing it.
posted by jontyjago at 7:25 AM on August 23, 2010

We used to sail small boats in San Diego Bay and chase the big harbor excursion boats to bounce in the wakes.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:30 AM on August 23, 2010

In Oslo, there are many tourist boats that come off the wharf near Aker Brygge that look just like that, matching jackets and all.
posted by RedEmma at 8:55 AM on August 23, 2010

Response by poster: Did the people on board wave?

Yes, they did.

Thanks for the info! It never occurred to me that it could be for pleasure; I think it was the matching jackets that made it seem like they were there in some sort of official capacity. It did look like a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by anderjen at 11:37 AM on August 23, 2010

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