Zodiac Eclipse 17

Zodiac's Eclipse 17 is one of those boats that could serve as either a tender or an all-purpose family runabout.

Zodiac's Eclipse 17 is one of those boats that could serve as either a tender or an all-purpose family runabout, simply because traits that make Zodiacs exceptional tenders translate easily to everyday use. Take her unsinkable nature, for one. The Eclipse will float if her collar or fiberglass bottom is punctured, something most owners will love no matter how they use this boat.

The polyurethane non-inflatable foam collar has a high-gloss finish and serves as a cushion against contact with other boats and docks. It also helps provide a dry ride by deflecting waves and spray away from the side of the boat. I can personally attest to this. Fellow Yachting Senior Editor Dennis Caprio and I recently powered a Zodiac Medeline II (a more traditional RIB design) through a heavy chop at close to 30 mph. We took no spray on board as we buzzed by a few traditional runabouts, whose crews were bundled in foul weather gear. Dennis and I were dry as a bone in shorts and T-shirts.

Nine passengers can fit using seating forward of the helm and abaft the console. There is enough stowage for water toys and gear.

Outboard and inboard power options are offered, though the four-stroke Yamaha 115 hp would be a tough package to beat. Expect a top speed around 40 mph.

Zodiac of North America, (410) 643-4141; fax (410) 643-4491; www.zodiac.com.