— By Capt. Bill Pike — November 2001
|Wellcraft introduces a plush 47-footer with a performance punch.|
Second, there's the race-bred powerplant. Our 47 was equipped with two 375-hp MerCruiser 496 Magnum MPI gasoline V-8s with Bravo Three stern drives. Such a configuration tends to boost both performance and handling. Stern drives, after all, generally reduce appendage drag, which increases speed, and they also tighten turning radius via both horizontal and vertical articulation. Additionally, Bravo Threes boost speed and reduce angle-to-plane, due to the extra transom lift inherent in their dual-wheel propsets.
Third is the helm. Upon settling comfortably into the adjustable driver's-side bolster, I immediately picked up on the racy ambiance of the steering console. The layout was logical, with all the essentials, from the sporty laminated mahogany Dino wheel to a set of single-lever Mercury sticks to starboard, just under my right hand. Faria tachs and speedo were center stage, in the top instrumentation pod, just above the compass. Bennett trim tab indicators were equally easy to read in the lower pod, along with a searchlight toggle and an annunciator panel for navigation lights, bilge pumps, and other mechanicals.
Driving the 47 was an intense, big-block adrenaline rush. Because the rounded bottom and the transom lift of the Bravo Threes join forces to keep the 47 from tossing her nose in the air, I never once lost sight of the horizon while powering out of the hole. Once the boat was on plane, I eased the throttles up to 4000 rpm, trimmed the drives out to the hairy edge of aeration, and tapped one of the tab switches a couple of times to remove the slight, into-the-wind list that's characteristic of deep-V hulls. Another deep-V characteristic announced itself as soon as I made a second tab adjustment while closing in on the 47's wide-open-throttle speed of 51 mph: the steering, tab, and trim sensitivity that results when only a small part of a hull is wetted and stabilized at speed. Driving the 47 calls for care and go-fast expertise, but the reward is extra-responsive handling. And the ride's as smooth as it is rock solid.
Riviera's all-glass construction explains this latter point. If ever there was a boat built to function as a unibody whole, it's the 47. The hull's solid FRP, with a vinylester barrier lamination under a layer of isophthalic gelcoat. Stringers and transversals are also of solid glass, bonded into the hull in-mold to maintain shape and then filled with high-density foam. With the deck upside-down in-mold, the uppermost edges of interior fiberglass bulkheads and liner modules are bonded to it, thus allowing workers to glass parts under foot, which is easier than glassing them overhead. When cured, the whole deck/liner/bulkhead construct is hoisted aloft, turned right side up, and then lowered into the hull where it's totally bonded to hull sides and the marine-plywood-cored deck that covers stringers and transversals. The collision bulkhead forward offers watertight integrity, as does the engine room firewall. Several areas inside the hull are filled with 20-pound high-density foam, including the space beneath the deck between the two central stringers, the space between the collision bulkhead and the anchor locker, and a substantial area under the berths and the engines.
After a thorough wring-out on the bay, I examined the 47's interior back at the dock. The layout's much like the 45's, with a master stateroom forward, a midcabin, and a big saloon/
galley/head area in between. Refinements are numerous, however. The midcabin, for example, has ample sitting headroom over both the port-side twin and starboard-side single berths, and there's standing headroom in a foyer that's large enough for the average-size person to dress or undress in. The cherry joinery in the galley and saloon is superbly finished, and the head not only has a motorized vent, but also a Bomar hatch overhead. There was only one detail I didn't like--upward-folding aircraft-type doors on the overhead cabinets in the galley. Doors that open laterally are more practical.
Test day drew to a close with a topside tour, and a quick look at the 47's engine room, which is accessed through a cockpit hatch that lifts electro-hydraulically. In the latter area, I was especially impressed with the installation of two, big 2,000-gph Johnson bilge pumps, one a conventional mount and the other a high-water auxiliary on a solid-looking stainless steel L-bracket secured to the transom, a long-lasting and easy-to-service setup. In the former area, what impressed me most was the size and accessibility of the chain locker at the bow. Need room to work on the windlass motor or untangle a snarled shot of chain? No problem.
Such savvy little practicalities are not totally indicative of the 47's nature, of course. But when added to the boat's style, all-glass gutsiness, and exuberant performance, they make it darn easy to conclude that, with the 47 Excalibur, Wellcraft and the Australians have another winner on their hands.
Wellcraft Marine Phone: (941) 753-7811. Fax: (941) 751-7860. www.wellcraft.com.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.