Author: Roger McAfee
Riviera has been building boats in Australia since 1980 and began exporting them to the U.S. in 1983. In 1985, the first boat was exported to Europe, and in 1990 the 1,000th vessel was launched. The company, which now builds boats in the 33- to 70-foot range, has in the past 10 years been the recipient of numerous boating and environmental awards, including, in 2008, the Australian Boat of the Year. While the builder was hit hard by the recession, it recently emerged from bankruptcy and has a new boat to fuel its recovery.
After a test of the new Riviera 45 Open Flybridge from Down Under, there is no doubt the Aussie boat builder will soon become even better noted for high-style, high-speed family cruisers. Our 45 OFB test boat came complete with Bellevue, Wash.-based owner Steve Brace, who graciously made his boat available to us. He said he had selected the 45 because he wanted “something different.” He had previously owned a smaller Riviera and had been very happy with it.
The Riviera is certainly something different, from its looks to its layout. The new 45 has the look of a deepwater, high-speed sportfisher with plenty of freeboard forward and an elegant sheer sweeping down to an open cockpit that`s ideal for fishing. For the really serious fisherman, there`s plenty of room for at least one fighting chair. On our test boat, the long foredeck is the permanent home for an outboard-powered RIB, keeping the aft area of the boat clear for fishing by keeping the dinghy off the transom.
The layout of this new model is also something different. It has no interior helm station. The vessel is conned from the helm on the flybridge. As the model name states, that flybridge is open. However, our test boat is enclosed with well-fitted canvas and isinglass.
We boarded the vessel over the swim step, which is at exactly the same height as the top of the dock. This feature makes boarding easy and safe, especially if the boat is used by a family that includes children or elderly parents.
The self-bailing cockpit is wide open without toe-stubbing deck cleats that can make fishing a real pain and cleanup more time consuming. The cockpit sole is nonskid teak, and the stainless steel salon door, window framing and handrails are all structural quality, highly polished and heavier than on most boats of the same size.
Another feature those boarding the vessel notice immediately is that instead of the traditional almost-vertical ladder to the flybridge, the Riviera 45 has a molded-in staircase, complete with substantial handrails. The stair treads have teak applied over the fiberglass, making them nonskid, even when wet. The stairs are steep, but not nearly as steep as a traditional ladder. The importance of safe, quick access to the flybridge on the Riviera 45 cannot be overstated, since the boat`s only helm station is up top – traffic up and down those steps will be heavier than on a vessel with a traditional helm station down and a command bridge up top.
As would be expected, visibility from the flybridge is superb in all directions. Even with the helm to the aft of the bridge, there is only a very small sightline bow shadow. As with most oceangoing sportfishers, the 45 OFB has an unobstructed view straight down into the cockpit, necessary for fighting large fish.
The flybridge is complete with an L-shaped settee and table to port, immediately ahead of the two-chair helm station. To starboard is a comfortable lounge/sofa. Six adults can sit in comfort on the flybridge, listen to music on the independent sound system, and take advantage of the contents of the wet bar and refrigerator.
ON THE MOVE
As we idled away from the dock at 650 rpm on the twin QSM 11 Cummins diesels, we were going a little more than 3 knots and burning a total of .4 gallons per hour. Engine noise on the flybridge was nil and about 71 decibels in the cockpit immediately at the engine-space access. Normal conversation is about 70 decibels.
At 1000 rpm, this pair of 670 hp 661 CI (10.8L) engines drove us along at 9.5 knots and burned about 8.3 gph. At 1500 rpm, we sped up to 12.8 knots with a fuel burn of 26.5 gph. At 1700 rpm, a good cruising rpm for these engines, we were making 19.4 knots and burning 34.2 gph. We made 23 knots at 2000 rpm and burned 47 gph. Wide-open throttle, 2350 rpm, produced 30 knots – not bad for a 20- ton boat – at a fuel burn of 66.9 gph.
The vessel responded precisely to the helm and carved turns with precision and grace. This is not surprising since this hull was engineered in conjunction with Frank Mulder, who is acknowledged as one of the world`s best naval architects and designers. His designs include such well-known vessels as Octopussy, Summer Wind and Moonraker.
After we had completed our high-speed runs, we throttled back to about 20 knots, and I made my way down the stairwell to the cockpit and into the vessel`s interior. As the boat continued at 20 knots, I checked for squeaks, rattles or flexing bulkheads and found none. My noise meter showed 76 decibels – quiet considering we had almost 22 liters of snarling diesels directly underfoot.
As I made my way back to the flybridge, I found myself agreeing with the builder that the stairwell was a far better method of getting up top than the traditional ladder, even a teak one.
Access to the foredeck is up a couple of steps to adequate sidedecks with grabrails along the cabin sides. While there is adequate space to move forward when the boat is at rest, common sense dictates it should not be attempted with the boat under way at speed.
BEYOND LIP SERVICE
Riviera boats used to be built as sportfishers that only paid lip service to family cruising amenities. This new 45-footer, however, has changed that. The vessel has three staterooms. The master is forward with an island queen bed and a full en suite head, complete with a separate shower stall. The starboard guest cabin has upper and lower bunks, and the portside guest cabin has twin beds, which can become a double with an infill installed. A second head, complete with a shower stall, services the two guest cabins and serves as a day head. All staterooms have plenty of storage, and the fit and finish is excellent in all of them.
The deck salon, three steps up from the accommodation spaces, is very large considering this vessel is only 51 feet long – including the swim step and the bow roller – but that`s one of the advantages of having no interior helm station. Immediately to port inside the salon door from the cockpit is an L-shaped lounge along the aft bulkhead. The portside galley forward of the lounge boasts solid-surface counter tops, a drawer-type refrigerator-freezer setup, a large stainless sink, an electric cooktop and a convection/microwave oven.
The entire deckhouse is flooded with natural light through windows forward and along each side. The aft salon door is glass, and there is a large fully opening window in the port side of the aft salon bulkhead. That window, called a “hopper window” Down Under, is gas shock-mounted and swings right up to the cockpit overhead. This feature, when combined with an open salon door, makes a gathering inclusive, even if some guests are relaxing on the back deck.
To starboard across from the galley is an L-shaped dinette/lounge with a cleverly designed folding-top table that takes up very little space when not in use. This adds to the overall feeling of spaciousness in the salon.
The bar and glass cupboard are located aft and starboard of the salon and contain a refrigerator/ice-maker and an entertainment center, including an AM/FM radio, CD/DVD player with iPod interface amplifier, multiple speakers and an LCD TV. This entertainment center is totally independent of the center on the flybridge, so two different parties could be under way at the same time.
Another useful design feature of this new Riviera is the separation of the engine space from the rest of the machinery in what would be the traditional engine room. The engine space, dedicated solely to the main engines, is accessed through a deck hatch at the entry to the salon.
The machinery space, located between the midship fuel tank and the twin-berth cabin, is accessed through a floor hatch in the galley. It contains systems machinery such as the air conditioner, water heater, bilge pumps, shower box, freshwater manifold, battery chargers and inverters. There is also additional storage space. The splitting of the spaces allows for easier service of the main engines and the ancillary machinery.
While it is clear this new Riviera is designed with family cruising in mind, it can easily be turned into a great sportfishing boat. The cockpit is large and uncluttered. There`s cockpit refrigeration, floor storage bins, side storage lockers and an optional live bait tank. There`s also plenty of room aft for a good barbecue to cook the catch.
I`ve seen and heard it claimed that the new Riviera 45 Open Flybridge will turn out to be the company`s best seller, and after testing it, I can`t disagree.