August is Inventor's Month, and this year we're showcasing some of the many goings-on at Northern Diver.
For most of the last 40+ years, we've had various divisions serving different diving and marine markets. In this article we'll take a look at our strong historical link with inflatable boats and boat racing, and the development of our current range of inflatables and related specialist items.
In modern times, rigid-hulled inflatable boats, also known as RIBs, have been the go-to vessel for divers wanting to explore the open sea. Their shallow draught enables them to enter areas off-limits to other craft, and their stable platform gives plenty of capacity for dive kit - not to mention the excellent sea-keeping abilities these boats are known for.
In the 80s, Northern Diver founder Mike Armitage established Osprey Inflatables to fulfil both his and other divers' needs for rigid inflatable boats. The brand would later become world-leading in the field.
The following decade saw Osprey - and its founder - expand into racing RIBs and competing in RIB races, in particular the RIB World Championship, won by Mike in 1995, and the Round Scotland RIB Race - a 500-mile course through some of the UK's most challenging sea conditions.
To house the two-man team of pilot and navigator, the racing boats were built with features such as moulded cockpits, wraparound consoles and rally-style seating, which at the time were pioneering.
Running alongside the sports and racing boats, the diving boats side to Osprey continued to thrive, with the innovative stable hulls giving extra security in rough seas.
Until Mike stepped away from the Osprey brand, over 2500 boats were produced in the UK and sold worldwide, including specialist rescue craft for ice and swift water. Osprey was now regarded as a leading international RIB brand.
This expertise in inflatable boats has helped us to develop a comprehensive range of inflatable boats, sleds and other rescue aids, including a compact Osprey RIB and two Osprey inflatable boats. In a nod to years gone by, the RIB is controlled via a centre jockey-style console.
Our boat range caters mainly to our sport, rescue and military divisional sectors. All of our current boats are compact models and come in a great deal of sizes, colours and specifications.
Rescue customers often make good use of our in-house design and branding service to purchase an inflatable vehicle with their organisation's livery applied to it.
Research and development forms a significant part of daily life at Northern Diver, and in partnership with our sister company Defence Submersibles International, we've recently launched the DDC (Diver Delivery Craft). Designed for strategic military applications, the DDC is a wet submersible, meaning it can travel on or below the water's surface.
In consultation with a rescue client, we created the inflatable rescue life board, a versatile rescue aid that can be towed behind a personal watercraft (jet ski) in swift or rough water scenarios to quickly reach an in-water casualty and carry them to safety. The device can also be used to swim out to provide assistance in calmer waters.
A customer of ours who trains triathletes and open water swimmers got in touch to show us a similar item to the life board, our RR3 sled, used with a jet ski as a safety feature for training sessions.
Another example of our R&D output is the Saturn reg inflation kit, designed for rapid, near-instant inflation of boats, sleds and so on.
We hope you enjoyed reading about our history in the boat business. We never get complacent and are excited for the future of this part of the company.