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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Riviera 58

The first Riviera 58 I rode was Hull No. 1, last May at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in Australia. It caused quite a stir among the locals, there not being a lot of 58-foot enclosed-bridge convertibles that can do 40 knots in the Antipodes. Truth be told, the 58 impressed me as well, not so much because of her size or speed, but more because of the eerie quiet in her enclosed bridge.

Eight months later I was aboard Hull No. 2—courtesy of Florida Yachts International, the Riviera dealer out of Miami—and this time not just for a ride but also to conduct a full test. The boat threaded her way through the dilapidated houses of Stiltsville, just south of the Cape Florida light, and I found myself revisiting my earlier impression, only now I had a decibel meter to quantify it. As the twin 1,400-hp Caterpillar 3412s neared their peak rpm of 2350, my sound meter struggled to reach 76 dB-A, and had it not been for an annoying gurgle emanating from the sink in the nearby wet bar, I doubt it would have broken 72 (65 is normal conversation).

Combine such quiet with air conditioning, a big leather L-shape lounge, and a pair of optional, electrically adjustable Besenzoni leather pedestal seats that offer superb sightlines forward, and the feeling on the 58's bridge can devolve into the soporific. It not only becomes a challenge to stay alert, it's hard to convince yourself you're doing more than 45 mph, even when you're heading into a nasty two- to four-foot chop. With the Cats a distant purr, the sensation is more Town Car than tournament sportfisherman.

What this space does not provide is much visibility aft, but that's no real problem. A five-foot-deep observation deck handily covers that task, and its port-side control station (complete with wheel, engine/gear controls, Cat Vision monitors, bow thruster joystick, and VHF) ensures that the wheelman can position the 58 quickly for a fight or a docking. If you can't bear to leave the comfort of the enclosed bridge, you can always rely on the nifty standard Clarion AM/FM stereo/CD player/CCTV, which provides live views of the cockpit, as well as the saloon and engine room, on its 61?2-inch pop-up monitor.

But sooner or later, you will have to leave, and when you do, you'll do so by an athwartships ladder that leads from the observation deck to the cockpit; a hatch up top is a good safety feature, although the clip that holds it open let loose when we hit some chop, allowing it to slam shut, which could create quite a headache for anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way. At the base of the ladder, under the step leading into the saloon, is a refrigerated drink box, and to starboard of it, a small console with insulated stowage on top and three tackle drawers on the bottom, not the most convenient placement. To port of the saloon door, a console hides the door to the engine room, a sink, and a deep bait freezer. Behind a wide hatch above this console, shelves provide room for miscellany like artificials.

There's more stowage in this cockpit than any similarly sized convertible I've been on, mainly because the fuel tanks are forward of the engines. That leaves space for a big lazarette immediately abaft the console, fishboxes to port and starboard of the fighting chair, and yet another lazarette immediately abaft the chair. There's also plenty of under-coaming stowage in a variety of compartments, and the two-piece transom door-gate sits just to starboard of centerline, next to a deep in-transom livewell.

Open that door to the engine room, and you find a space designed with real-world use in mind. Virtually everything important is right by the door so you don't have to crawl inside the not-quite-standing-headroom space. That includes an electrical panel with battery selector switches, ignition keys, important switches and breakers, and gauge panels with digital tachs and meters for engine oil, gear oil, fuel pressure, jacket water temperature, gear oil temperature, and voltage. Duck inside and you can see both the engine coolant expansion tanks and Racors on the aft bulkhead. The two standard Onan gensets and their Racors are in each forward corner, a change from Hull No. 1, which had them abaft the engines. Riviera says that modification earned them more than a knot. Interesting. Conventional thinking is to put most of the weight aft for better planing performance, yet the 58 seems to do quite well with her two fiberglass fuel tanks and gensets nearly amidships.

Also on that electrical panel are manual overrides for each of the five bilge pumps. That's worth mentioning because the 58's hull has five "independent compartments," one of which is for the bow thruster. There's also a collision bulkhead forward and a manual bilge pump that can draw from any of the compartments.

The entire engine room is painted gleaming white to reveal the smallest leak. Faux "teak and holly" carpet covers the catwalk between the Cats; more aesthetically pleasing are the hand-fabricated, polished stainless steel seawater strainers forward of each engine. No, you can't see into them, but they are works of art nonetheless.

Inside, the 58's prime aesthetic feature has to be her beautiful cherry joinery (although I really like the sea rail overhead and in the flying bridge). It's evident the moment you enter, especially on the lovely starboard credenza. Also here are a standard wine cooler, sink, and copious glass and bottle stowage. To port, a large L-shape leather lounge provides plenty of relaxation space, but for dining, everyone will no doubt congregate at the large U-shape dinette to starboard of the galley, over which is a Sony flat-screen TV, DVD, VCR, and Bose Lifestyle Surround Sound system. Everywhere there's stowage under the seating.

The U-shape galley also has good stowage, but not beneath the faux wood sole. The hatch there opens to reveal valving for the fuel system, nothing if not convenient. Standard fitments above include Corian counters, two U-line undercounter refrigerators, a Nova Kool in-counter freezer, a Sharp convention/microwave oven, a four-burner ceramic cooktop, and a dishwasher.

Five steps down, the centerline companionway takes you to the accommodations level, which is divided among four staterooms and three heads. Because the hallway is offset to starboard, the master, with 6'4" headroom, is large enough to have its queen-size berth athwartships, freeing space aft for a ten-inch-deep vanity/desk. The forward en suite head is also large, with plenty of room for a separate shower. The VIP in the forepeak is only marginally smaller, as is its en suite head. Two starboard staterooms, each with bunks, flank a smaller head that, thanks to a second hallway door, is also a convenient day head. The bunks of the aftermost of this pair are at a right angle, which allows it to accommodate both a washer/dryer and the central vac. The smaller of the two, this guest stateroom would make a good captain's quarters.

But for me what makes the accommodation level outstanding are its hatches. Each of the three bilge compartments is readily accessible, thanks to large hatches in the carpeting. Six overhead hatches ensure that every stateroom and head gets plenty of light and air. Both of these highly practical features are notably missing or minimized on most of the other convertibles you see today.

Also rare is a 58-footer that turns 45 mph out of the box, handles two- to four-footers with only the occasional thud, and carves turns like a 30-footer. Our 58 also garnered her share of appreciative looks as we transited the marina. She may not be as unusual here as she is Down Under, but by any person's—or country's—standards, this is one big and impressive boat.

Riviera
(61) 7 5502 5555

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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