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Riviera 70EB

The best match for Riviera’s new 70? a salty, seasoned, well-travelled owner.

After arriving at an Adelaide hotel late the night before, semi-starved and tuckered out from a long trip to Australia, I nevertheless decided to stroll down to the port to see if I couldn’t scare up a decent meal, preferably of the Japanese variety. I mean, how often does a North Florida boy get to flail a set of chopsticks within a spider roll’s throw of the Great Southern Ocean? So first thing next morning, when Bryan Stokes welcomed me aboard his new 70 Enclosed Flybridge with a hearty, “G’day, mate!” I was still half asleep.

Stokes stood there expectantly, his giant tee-shirt-clad, Tasmanian-born torso protruding from the engine room hatch and a broad, devilish grin on his face. A green monkey’s fist hung down at eye-level, dangling from the mezzanine rail above, a low-tech reminder to duck when going below. Stokes brushed the thing aside, charged up into the cockpit, and stuck out a large hand, opining, “You’re a bit puny for a Yank! Most of the lot I see around here look like whales.”

Flamboyance often characterizes true seafarers, and as our conversation deepened, my mental cobwebs flat-out disappeared and a great certitude set in—here was one of the most seasoned yacht owners I’d ever crossed courses with. Not only had Stokes just put thousands of nautical miles on his 70 after buying her at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show near Brisbane only months before, taking her north to the Whitsunday Islands, then south to Sydney, then finally through Bass Strait and west to Adelaide, he’d also developed a host of interesting ideas and opinions while doing so.

His 70 looked brand-new, despite the pummelings she’d endured. “We came out of Jervis Bay one night,” Stokes recalled while leading the way up the internal stairway from the saloon to the flying bridge, “and the waves were wretched—six or seven meters high and 50 yards apart. I didn’t turn the wipers off for three hours, and we buried the nose again and again. But did the sunroof leak? Not a bloody drop!”

Stokes used the Edson wheel-equipped control station on the balcony at the rear of the bridge to undock his baby. Thanks to her substantial displacement, the torquey responsiveness of her Twin Disc QuickShift marine gears, two Side-Power electric thrusters (a 15.5-hp at the bow and a 13-hp at the stern), and some excellent sightlines down the starboard hull side, the process seemed effortless. And within minutes, we were purring through Adelaide’s Outer Harbor en route to the wild blue yonder.

A couple of things highlighted the performance data that I recorded once we got out there. First, the sound readings at the flying bridge helm station were exceptionally low, remaining well under 65 dB-A (the level of normal conversation) until our 1,800-bhp Caterpillar C32 ACERTs hit 1500 rpm. Indeed, at a few of the lower data points engine noise seemed to hardly exist at all. And second, the 70’s running attitudes of four degrees at an average cruise speed of 33.3 mph and four and a half degrees at an average top speed of 38.2 mph were both indicative of an accurately positioned longitudinal center of gravity and the performance-enhancing balance that goes with it.

Driving the 70 was a trip. With Stokes colorfully and extensively expounding upon his decision to mount a small, outboard-powered aluminum skiff in chocks on the 70’s foredeck (“She’s lighter, cheaper, and more croc-resistant than a rubber RIB,” he argued), I settled into my Pompanette Platinum Series helm seat, pointed the massive bow straight into the oncoming six-foot rollers, and juiced the throttles. What ensued was unusual, even for a guy in my line of work. I almost instantly felt so comfortable with what was going on between the extant sea conditions and the 70’s running surface (designed by Frank Mulder, the Dutch high-perf specialist who drew mega-speedsters like Octopussy and Moonraker) that a totally empowering sense of sync arose. “Yuh feel that, don’t ya,” Stokes chuckled, as I throttled this Riviera through a series of long, sweeping, balletic S-curves.

“Lovely,” I remarked. Visibility through the immense windshield and side windows was superb. Steering hydraulics (Stokes said he’s overjoyed that Riviera installs power-assist off both main engines, not just one) were smooth and instantly responsive. And the ride was sumptuously dry, thanks to a tad more bow flare than you’ll see in other Rivieras. “I’m off to the Neptune Islands soon with me mates,” Stokes blithely noted, as I banked one more hard-over rouser before heading full-bore back to the barn, “They’re west a here by about 160 nautical miles, I reckon—fine little islands, famous for the great whites, you know!”

Back at the marina, Stokes seemed to relish the time we spent examining his 70’s interior. It’s a straightforward, mainstream affair for the most part. On the lower deck there’s a full-beam master, a VIP, and two guest staterooms, each with a shower stall-equipped en suite head. One level up there’s a big saloon, separate dining area, well fitted-out galley, and a utility room with washer and dryer. On the flying bridge is the expansive steering console, a large L-shape lounge, and a wet bar. And while at the bottom of the whole shebang, I found machinery spaces that are ample, solidly engineered, and spotless.

Stokes was especially proud of several features however, among them: The high-gloss cherry interior he’d chosen over teak… “Cheerier stuff—keeps the crew from gettin’ dark and despondent.” The absence of fin-type stabilizers… “I don’t like ‘em—they add complexity, weight, and drag and they reduce range and operating efficiency.” The open-hatch alarm system with helmside annunciator panel… “A new thing for Riviera, I believe.” The over-size HRO Systems watermaker in the machinery spaces… “Why carry extra water weight when you don’t have to?” And the optional OceanView Apollo II thermal-imaging system on the bridge… “Coming out of a harbor after dark and seeing seals in front of you—why, it’s bloody magic!”

Saying goodbye to Stokes was like parting company with a salty old friend. And while my personal take on his well-travelled Riviera 70 Enclosed Flybridge was unreservedly positive, mostly due to her broad-shouldered open-water performance and the straightforward practicality of her layout, I’ve gotta admit that probably an even better recommendation for the boat is the simple fact that such a highly experienced guy—a true Tasmanian devil, as it were—owns one.

Riviera Yachts (772) 872-7260. www.powerandmotoryacht.com/riviera/.

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NOTEWORTHY

Bryan Stokes

This seasoned Aussie has enjoyed several boats over the years (he owned a smaller Riviera before stepping up to the 70), and he loves cruising with friends, usually four or five, although he says “it’s a piece of cake” for as many as seven to travel aboard his 70. While he retains a paid captain to care for the boat and help out with watches and such, he prefers to operate her himself. “I’m paying for the bloody thing,” he says. “I might just as well have fun with it!”

Come September, Stokes plans to visit the north coast of Australia, replete with crocodiles. Hence the croc-proof aluminum dinghy on his foredeck. How does he finance such endeavors? He started filling orders for toner cartridges in his garage some years back and the enterprise took off, eventually becoming Cartridge World, an international leader in the field. These days he’s mostly retired. —B.P.

This article originally appeared in the April 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.