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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Silverton 43 Sport Bridge

Over the course of 35 years, Silverton has established a reputation for offering extraordinary spaciousness and livability per foot of boat length. Occasionally, however, it's been opined that maximum interior volume has been achieved at the expense of exterior styling and proportion. In other words, Silvertons have been accused of looking top-heavy.

That said, I am impressed by Silverton's new 43 Sport Bridge. Gentle curves and sweeping windows complement a pleasingly proportioned profile that belies her voluminous interior. Most noticeable to me is the deft styling of the builder's signature "sidewalk" side decks. A practical feature that allows safe and direct access from the flying bridge to the foredeck, it has always struck me on older Silverton models as glaringly out of proportion. But tucked inboard of her radar arch and blended into the upsweep of her deck edge, the sidewalk steps virtually disappear on the new models; the only tip-off to their presence are the high stainless steel rails that extend from the radar arch all the way to the bow.

Intrigued by the refinements I saw in the exterior styling of the 43 Sport Bridge, I was anxious to see what surprises might await in her interior. But that would have to wait, because it was already well into the afternoon when I first got the chance to go aboard, and I wanted to have plenty of time to see how well she would perform. With Mike Usina, Silverton's VP of sales and marketing, at the helm, I set up our test gear as we headed out of the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, inlet. In the process, I got a chance to take in some of the nice features of the flying bridge. For starters, opposite the forward-facing helm and companion seats there's an aft-facing settee on the port side (with stowage space beneath) that would let at least one more guest converse with the skipper while underway.

Aft on the flying bridge, there's an L-shape settee with a sunpad behind; a thoughtfully placed walkthrough on the starboard side gives access to the sunpad, without guests having to climb over the settee. Facing the settee (just aft of the helm seats) is a wet bar with a countertop just right for preparing beverages or serving snacks. Options on the bridge of our test boat included a Raritan ice maker, snap-in carpeting, a zippered bridge enclosure, and a canvas soft-top. During our speed trials, I was especially appreciative of the latter as the top's sturdy stainless steel frame provided a secure handhold while taking measurements with the radar gun, not a trivial issue while ripping through midafternoon chop at speeds of up to 34 mph.

In truth, I found her ride qualities quite comfortable at all speeds and headings, taking the two-plus-footers in stride. From a standing start, she got out of the hole quickly and moved effortlessly onto plane. Even with an open bridge, the 43 seemed surprisingly quiet, generating only moderate wind noise and leaving much of the engine noise in her wake. My only negative impressions were that her steering seemed stiff and her turning radius wide compared to other boats of similar style and size.

It came as no surprise that the 43 performed well, since she is built on the same hull mold as her predecessor, the Silverton 410 Sport Bridge. Her proven hull form is one of the only elements that was not refined in creating the new model. Indeed, inside the 43 offers a completely new layout, boasting a second full head and a more open main-deck plan that enhances spaciousness.

To be sure, the idea of an open floorplan is not new; indeed it's become a virtual standard for the industry. But Silverton's take on the concept is nonetheless striking, mainly because the raised-sidewalk side decks permit the saloon to extend across the full beam of the yacht. Combined with two large windows on either side, a wraparound windshield forward, and big glass panels facing aft, the saloon takes the perception of openness to a higher standard.

Joinery is crafted from what the company terms furniture-grade cherry with an added clever refinement. Rather than using either satin or high-gloss finish throughout, Silverton combines the two finishes; horizontal surfaces (tabletops and the like) are all done in high gloss, whereas vertical surfaces are done in a satin finish. The high-gloss surfaces thus provide accents without being overpowering. Nicely complementing the cherry joinery is an Ultrasuede headliner and Ultraleather furniture; to port is a love seat that converts to a sleeper, while to starboard there's a settee that's offered with stowage drawers beneath or in a double-recliner configuration.

In the galley, situated forward on the port side, I took note of several more refinements aimed at improving livability: a side-by-side NovaKool refrigerator; Corian countertops; handsome, low-maintenance Amtico flooring; and plenty of stowage, including an undersole bin for stashing dry goods. But perhaps my favorite feature was the stainless steel sink. Why? Simple. The sink is big enough to really be useful, big enough to hold a pasta pot or wash a large cutting board. A common object, it seems to typify Silverton's uncommon obsession with spaciousness.

Opposite the galley on the starboard side is the dinette with a handsome cherry table ringed with seating for four or more. Raised, the dining area creates headroom for a guest stateroom beneath, on the lower deck. Twin guest berths are fitted with innerspring mattresses (rather than foam), and they can easily be pushed together to form a double berth.

In the bow, the master stateroom offers a queen-size berth with innerspring mattress, along with port and starboard hanging lockers. But the best feature, in my opinion, is the split-head arrangement, allowing one person to shower while the other has unimpeded use of the sink. Beyond livability, it's a major milestone in domestic tranquility.

My last order of business aboard the 43 was to check out her engine room, accessed through a shoulder-width hatch in the saloon sole. While the short drop down to the diamond-plate flooring below was manageable, some sort of ladder or step would be a nice addition. The space itself is certainly roomy, offering good access to both engines and the 10-kW Kohler genset against the aft bulkhead. Dipsticks are inboard on both Volvo Penta D9 diesels, but the engine-mounted filters are on the outboard side of the starboard engine. Seacocks, raw-water intakes, and strainers are forward, flanking the centerline, and within easy reach.

In assessing Silverton's construction quality, I took note of the massive angle-steel engine beds through-bolted to heavy transverse frames that provide a firm foundation for the motor mounts. The hull is a solid fiberglass laminate, reinforced with a grillage of longitudinal stringers and transverse frames of marine plywood encapsulated in fiberglass. It's a well-proven method of construction that Silverton has employed for many years.

The new 43 Sport Bridge builds on the core strengths of her predecessor like that hull laminate, while adding refinements in accommodation and styling that demonstrate Silverton's continued commitment to spaciousness and livability. It's a successful makeover, faithful to the company's long-standing priorities, but presented in a significantly more attractive package.

Silverton Marine Corporation
(856) 825-4117

This article originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.