Riviera 75By George Sass Jr.
The Riviera 75 shows how traditional Australian values translate into a custom globetrotting convertible.
“Okay, she’s all yours,” said the seasoned company captain as he surrendered the helm of the brand-spanking-new 53-ton Riviera 75. I slid into the plush leather helm chair while he reluctantly left his post, perhaps a bit wary of the Yank grabbing the wheel of his baby. Seas were running about 6 to 8 feet, with the occasional monster thrown into the mix to keep us on our toes. This sure beats a day in the office.
Outside of the cocoon-like environment of the enclosed bridge the air was thick, with an almost copper tint that hovered over the cresting swells. The stronger gusts sliced the tops off the waves, scattering saltwater around us in a swirl. Looking outside at the sea state my first reaction was to place one hand close to the Twin Disc Quick shift controls, ready to employ the 32-liter, 12 cylinder Caterpillar C32 ACERT diesels.
“Looks a little windy, but it’s a good day to test a boat,” said brand director Stephen Milne with a wicked smile. Indeed.
In short order, however, I started to get a better feel for the seakindly little ship and realized she didn’t need my help at all to navigate through the slop. She transitioned off the tops of the larger swells and into troughs with a silent confidence that instantly put me at ease and turned the foul weather outside into more of a nuisance than a safety issue. I pulled back the throttles to about 1700 rpm (67 percent load) and we found a sweet spot of around 21 knots, burning a total of 81.5 gallons an hour, heading into the seas. Figuring a 10-percent reserve, this gives the 75 a not-too-shabby range of 630 miles. The ride was comfortable and stable and all of us onboard were most likely thinking how nice it would be to continue to cruise south, lulled by the easy rythm. If longer legs are required, take her back to 11 knots and the range creeps pretty darn close to 1,000 miles, which makes planning logistics an easy proposition.
Fingertip adjustments pointed the bow away from breakers, and the 75 brushed off the quartering seas with a laugh. This unsettled weather would have qualified as foul weather Stateside, and I’m fairly certain more than a few builders would have postponed our test until things laid down a bit more. Australians can’t be so choosy when it comes to weather windows.
Before you ship your Riviera back to her homeport, consider a little side trip—how about a once-in-a-lifetime Great Barrier Reef adventure? With the range and the comfort of the 75, heading from the factory to the splendor of Lizard Island may be tough to pass up. If you want to put on your angling hat, the black marlin fishing in the area from around September through December is world class. Then your new baby can make it home in time for summer cruising. You’ll be in good company with other Riviera owners, including a highly customized Riviera 70 that frequents the area for the entire season. A new boat, a little diving, some great fishing, life is good.
A small, solid keel runs down the center of the boat to protect running gear in case of a grounding, and also added to her tracking ability. Coming into the narrow and nasty cut from the Coral Sea to Surfer’s Paradise the seas were running high. A shifting sandbar added another challenge.
“Do you got her?” asked the captain, mindful of the fact that this boat was being delivered to her Kiwi owner the following day. And putting a test boat up on the rocks would not do anything for my career prospects. Again, my hands held steady next to the controls. A little shot on the starboard engine brought the bow around, and then the fun began! With just two fingers on the bottom edge of the wheel I was able to hold this baby on a straight line as she tracked like a freight train. After I realized that the black objects low in the water ahead were not seals, but surfers, I made a few more additional adjustments and we were good to go. Sure, this approach left me with sweaty palms, yet the 75 never even hinted at being under duress or on the verge of broaching.
Back in the flatter seas of the Broadwater (it’s a lot like the ICW) we were able to finish our sea trials. Top speed was 34 knots, based on an average in two directions. At a high cruise of 2000 rpm, we averaged 27.9 knots. That’s impressive, especially considering the amount of volume of this little ship.
Riviera builds the 75 in its Coomera, Australia-based factory. The hull below the waterline is solid fiberglass, while core is used above and for the deck structure. Vinylester resin is used for the first layer of the hull, which is hand-laid, and comes with a five-year structural warranty. The systems in the stand-up engine room are designed for redundancy and serviceability. For a 32-liter engine, the C32 has a relatively small footprint compared to engines of similar power and thus allows decent access around all sides. The wiring runs were neat and everything was properly labeled. Two 22.5-kilowatt Onan gensets flank the access stairs to the cockpit.
Although Riviera is a production shop—building 15 different models from 36 feet—the flagship 75 is essentially a custom boat. In fact, our test model evolved from the 70, which I tested a few years back. The buyers wanted additional cockpit space for both fishing and entertaining over what was offered by the 70. Riviera’s design and management team saw this as much more of an opportunity than simply adding to the cockpit and not only added extra engineering elements, but inserted some fresh thinking in the interior layout as well.
On our test boat the galley was placed aft on the port side, an arrangement that has been very successful on the company’s 53. Highlights include six Sub-Zero drawer-style refrigerators and freezers (two freezer, four fridges), a Miele dishwasher and cooktop, and a huge pullout pantry. The galley’s aft bulkhead window hinges open to service the exterior dinette on the mezzanine level.
Australians like to live outdoors both on the water and off, and their boats reflect this passion. To fuel this need, in the cockpit there is a barbeque, freezer, refrigerator, and enough stowage for long distance cruising. Toe kicks around the bottom edge of the cockpit enable more comfortable fishing.
You may have noticed this is the first time I’ve mentioned fishing even though this is a convertible design. Isn’t the Riviera an offshore battlewagon meant to search for the next grander at the end of the world? Well, kind of.
“Our boats are designed and built to be cruising boats that sometimes fish, not fishing boats that sometimes cruise,” said Milne, while showing me around the cockpit. The emphasis was put more on entertaining and relaxing while pulling at the hook, and less on comfort while seated looking at your baits trailing behind the transom.
No matter what your passion, the saloon of our test boat would be well suited for either pursuit. The owners went without the carpet and specified an Amtico synthetic teak-and-holly sole that is durable and easy to clean. And there’s no carpet to trap any odors or mildew. The L-shaped settee to port rests behind a 42-inch flatscreen TV. The owners decided to forgo the formal dining table and chairs and specified a sizable U-shaped dinette with a large pedestal-mounted table. It’s certainly the better option from a practicality point of view.
Up above, the enclosed flying bridge could easily double as another saloon altogether. The huge settee and bar area rival the main saloons on many 50-footers. And this bridge has a secret: Touch the button and the roof slides back to bring the outdoors in. If you’ve ever hesitated about enclosed bridges, concerned that you’ll be isolated from the outdoors, the 75 will squash any of those thoughts with a vengeance. With all windows and the sunroof open, it’s like driving a center console.
Four staterooms with en suite heads are nicely appointed and finished to a level of sophistication that I’ve learned to expect from the yard. The master spans the entire beam and rivals the suite on much larger boats. In fact, four comfortable staterooms and four heads in this size and style of boat is a worthy accomplishment. The yard will work with buyers on customizing this area as well to suit individual needs.
Cruising up the sheltered waterway, the captain still at my side, I sensed he was growing restless that I was hogging the wheel for far too long.
“Are you all good now?” he asked, anxious to once again take command. I looked around as the late-morning sun began to burn through the cloud cover while we sat in comfort on the bridge. Hmm, a tough question. I reluctantly moved aside, and worked my way to the deck looking across the bow.
“I’d be a lot better if we were going back to sea,” I replied. His crooked smile said it all.
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This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.