BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 47 FLYBRIDGE CONVERTIBLE
Australian builder Riviera's new 47-footer is built and equipped for an endless summer both at home and abroad, writes DAVID LOCKWOOD...
DECEMBER, 2002 - I looked down from the fabulous flybridge on Riviera's new 47-footer at a pod of dolphins dancing off the bow. Without question, the giant bridge is where you will find all the action on this summer-savvy convertible.
Akin to a rooftop terrace, the bridge has loads of seating, a fridge and sink, and room for at least two couples to cruise with the captain in style. There is even a lunch table for dining on the run, courtesy lights for night cruising, and a remote for the sound system.
Designed for outdoor living, the social flybridge will help stop cruiser buyers from shifting into sportscruisers for the sake of a single-level entertaining area. Brand-loyal, the owners of this 47 came from a Riviera 39, a nice set of training wheels, indeed.
Like a lot of Riviera owners, John and Wendy Thorsen have visions of cruising to tropical Queensland in their capable 47. Hence the optional watermaker, Projet 55mph RIB on the foredeck and serious Raymarine electronics package.
By the time you read this, the second 47 will be cruising in Fort Lauderdale. But this is hardly surprising, as The Riviera Group derives 50-60% of its turnover, which was some $180 million last year, from exports.
Riviera cruisers are now becoming almost as common in North America and Europe as Sydney Harbour or Southport, where I coasted along the channels, pulled the wheel around to starboard and headed out to sea.
I didn't count on the dolphins dancing off the bow or an ocean so calm I could have cruised all the way to, well, tropical Queensland. But what I did count on was comfort. After all, I have come to expect as much after more than a decade testing Rivieras.
The new 47 is every bit as comfortable as the company's famous 48, which has a fully-enclosed flybridge. But with a hardtop and clears, the new 47 may well be more summer savvy. Covers up, top down, splayed toes on the teak deck … it's that kind of cool conveyance. Americans will consider it a real convertible.
Beneath the styling, there are significant new technological touches and engineering refinements that prove the big boatbuilder isn't prepared to rest on its laurels. Indeed, every year Riviera seems to build better and better boats - this 47 is one of them.
Engineering has these days become one of the company's strengths. Certainly, this 47 was made to go places and, as such, it has lots of good gear in its standard inventory.
In typical Riviera fashion, the cockpit sink swings open to reveal a ladder leading down into the engine room. (The angle of that ladder has been changed since this test.) In all other respects, the engine room is accommodating.
The engine room has 12V and 240V lighting, impressive new stainless-steel exhaust elbows, and a generally cleaner and simpler layout that may encourage owner/operator preventative maintenance. All the plumbing lines are colour-coded for hot water, cold water and raw water, and the wiring is coded, too.
There is a lot of room around the Cummins QSM11 660hp straight-six engines, an upgrade from the standard 535hp Cummins. Other motor options include 660hp Caterpillars, which will take up more servicing room, and 700hp Volvos.
The motors sit on Polyflex soft mounts and spin five-bladed bronze props, a feature of this 47 and the 58-footer only. The props contribute to the boat's smooth and quiet ride, a trait of all Rivieras, and are also said to provide 1-2kt improvement in cruising speed over four-bladed props.
I found a stack of three air-conditioning units (two come standard) and a eutectic fridge unit in front of the port motor, where they are easily accessed. Heat-insulated polyprop water tanks flank the motors.
A 12.5kVa Onan is in front of the motors. Serious offshore boaties might consider mounting the genset another way, but full marks for the pressure freshwater tap for post-service clean-ups.
The stainless hot-water system, with a 50lt holding tank, runs off 240V and a heat exchanger. A holding tank system is to starboard, while the all-important Racor fuel filters and sea strainers (with clear inspection ports) are accessible for pre-start inspections back near the ladder.
A separate 12V house and 24V engine-start battery system is included, with a small inverter for the television. A parallel switch is on the dash in case you need some extra engine-starting amps and a battery charger is under the galley floor, away from the heat generated by the motors.
The main control board at the entrance to the lock-up engine room includes battery isolators, a separate isolator for the davit, main circuit-breakers, and battery-charger fuses. Two 240V outlets, the thermostat for the cockpit fridge/bait freezer, and a small fire extinguisher are nearby.
As with all Rivieras, there are fuel shut-offs in the cockpit. A dorade system, which separates air from water, feeds fresh air into engines via new-look vents. These are part of the 'Millennium' styling utilised by Riviera for the 58, 47, 40 and 37 models.
STRONG AND SLIPPERY
Construction is typically time-proven Riviera stuff comprising solid glass below the waterline and composite decks. The formula must work, as this scribe hasn't heard of a Riviera breaking.
The new 47 has a watertight collision bulkhead and bulkheads front and aft of the engines. Naturally, each compartment has its own auto bilge pump with audio and visual high-water alarms. The fuel tank, under the cockpit floor, carries an impressive 2168lt for a theoretical range of more than 330nm at a racy 22kt cruise.
While there was barely a ripple and the new 47 may as well have been on the Med or the Gulf of Mexico during our outing, the hull sure felt slippery. The running surface has a moderate vee and no tunnels, much like the company's 48-footer, but with a bit more flare in the bow and an increased stem angle for a cleaner entry.
The boat and its hardy Riviera crew had been given a thorough workout during a tough shakedown cruise from the Gold Coast to the Sydney Boat Show this winter. A 25kt southerly headwind had separated the men from the boys. The boat didn't seem at all sloppy or slack as a result.
The return trip from Sydney was reportedly quite a contrast, with the 47 maintaining 26-27kt at 2000rpm on flat seas, the same conditions that prevailed during my test drive.
The decks are where you will find the biggest changes between the 47 and the company's tried-and-true 48-footer. For starters, the transom has a new (inward-opening) central marlin door (no locking mechanism to keep it open) with a raised lip that keeps water out of the cockpit when reversing.
The top-mounted deck cleats in the transom corners are customer-driven. While fishers might find they foul lines, crew will love them for their ease of access. The above-deck cleats make dispatching the mooring lines a snap.
The boat was fitted with optional Reelax rodholders, pop-up cleats for swinging fenders, and deck fillers on both sides of the cabin. A pump for the massive in-transom livebait tank is an option. As it is, the tank drains overboard, has a handy lid whose replaceable underside doubles as a cutting board, and enough volume to hold drinks.
A big change is the underfloor lazarette. The giant hold has a non-skid liner for attaching D-shackles and tying down long-range provisions. There is room for stowing plastic tubs, dive gear, a duckie, outboard motor, outdoor furniture, spares and more.
Full marks to Riviera for fitting gas struts to the cockpit hatches. These also have nice big toggles for getting a good hold.
Either side of the lazarette are two additional hatches that, when open, reveal massive in-floor holds that can be used to store fish, bait, dive gear or lines.
Storage also exists for ropes in sidepockets and in rear hatches that harbour things like a hot/cold handheld shower and fresh-water hose, raw-water washdown and dock-water connection.
To starboard a garbage bin is built in for the empties. There are cockpit spotlights and a boat hook over the saloon door.
A moulded bait fridge/freezer, new deep sink with hot/cold water with Grohe faucet, and tackle locker are fixed against the rear bulkhead. As they are in the shade under the bridge overhang, their lids double as impromptu seats when waiting for some fishing action or idling about the marina.
PLENTY OF FRONT
New moulded cockpit steps lead to the boat's wide sidedecks and ultimately the foredeck. There are toerails, a bowrail with an intermediate rail, and grabrails to make the passage safe. The boat has extra cleats for spring-lines and fenders, and the stainless work is just beautiful.
The tender mounted on the foredeck doesn't cover any of the cabin hatches, which are rounded and frosted and have flyscreens. There are fender baskets and serious anchoring gear up front, including a Muir windlass, double chain lockers, moulded bowsprit and an upgraded 60lb anchor instead of the standard 45-pounder because, I'm told, the owner likes to sleep.
With lots of foot space that is both flat and backed by the bowrail, the foredeck is a useable part of this boat. You can sit up there at anchor and take in the fresh air, cast a line or use the bow for dolphin and whale spotting.
BRIDGING THE GAP
A terrific eight-step ladder with a nice bit of rake leads through a lockable oval hatch to the bridge. The views are great from every seat in the house. Amenities include a sink with hot/cold water and a fridge set in fair, all-white mouldings.
The three-person lounge to port ahead of the skipper can double as a daybed. Four people can sit opposite on a U-shaped lounge. Add director's chairs and you have a lunch setting around a moulded table for up to three couples (subject to loading regulations).
I noted a waterproof speaker, a neat moulded hardtop with a hatch for fresh air, and solid stainless-steel stanchions. Headroom is more than 1.90m. Grabrails are where you need them.
Storage exists in the flybridge brow - the perfect spot for lifejackets - and inside the big moulded helm console, where there is a 240V outlet for things like phone chargers. There are also spotlights and courtesy lights all over the bridge for night driving.
Staggered Pompanette helmseats make this an easy boat to get around. The skipper has good views to the cockpit and the transom edge, even with a rear awning fitted. An overhead radio box contains an Icom VHF; twin Cummins LCD displays showing things like fuel consumption, oil pressure, engine temp and so on; plus an indicator panel with alarms for the boat's pumps.
The great big console features carbon-fibre dash panels with cool chrome-rimmed Cummins analogue engine gauges, a Clarion remote, and switch panels for everything from the boat's keyless ignition to engine synchro and trim tabs.
A Sidepower bow thruster and vision to the starboard side of the hull help with close-quarters manoeuvring, as do electronic shifts. For some, the one-second delay will take some getting used to. For others, electronic shifts are the only way to go.
Push-button hands-free boating is available thanks to a Raymarine electronics pack. The boat had radar, GPS plotter and depth sounder in a 10in by 7in flush-mounted screen. There was also an ST6001 autopilot. Access to all the gauges and instruments is via removable dash panels.
Riviera has responded to feedback and made the saloon door much wider on the 47 than other models. Indoor and outdoor areas of the boat relate better to each other than on other models, too. A sliding aft saloon window adds to the flow.
Conveniently, the boat's AC/DC panel is beside the saloon door. Undercover floor space is sufficient to entertain a dozen guests if need be. Air-conditioning will keep everyone cool, while surrounding tinted windows with Roman blinds provide privacy at the marina.
The high-gloss teak joinery adds a salty touch to the styling. This boat had a factory-supplied decor pack with an Egyptian theme. There were statues, elephant prints on scatter cushions, and bone-coloured leather lounges.
The starboard side of the saloon is taken up by a teak cabinet containing separate isolators for the air-conditioning units and, get this, switches for the hydraulically activated overhead ceiling lockers. These are the perfect spot for stowing fishing rods, extra cushions, pillows and doonas when that catnap strikes.
Seating comes via a five-person L-shaped lounge/daybed to port, set around a coffee table and a dinette that seats four to six people around a great big teak table opposite the galley. You can enjoy views as you dine.
Set behind the windscreen to starboard is the boat's entertainment centre. This 47 had a Sony surround-sound system with DVD/CD and VCR, a big television screen, CD locker, and overhead digital depth sounder and pump alert panel.
To port is a teak cabinet that contains bottle and glass drawers, supplied polycarbonate drinkware and an optional icemaker. Gold lamp shades and 24 and 240V lighting add to the boat's elegant international-hotel ambience.
COOKING UP A STORM
The galley floor, down two steps to port and topped in mock teak and holly timber, hides behind a teak servery that doesn't preclude conversation with guests while you prepare meals.
There is an underfloor storage hold for serious long-term provisions, loads of teak cupboards and drawers, and sand-coloured Granicoat benchtops.
Amenities include a moulded sink with Grohe fittings, a top-loading receptacle, good-sized Tundra fridge with overhead freezer, Fisher & Paykel dishwasher, two-burner ceramic hob (in need of fiddle rails but with an extractor fan) and a high-tech LG convection microwave.
NEW CABIN PLAN
A high-gloss teak-lined companionway, almost ship-like in size, leads down a further three steps to the three cabins and two bathrooms. Despite the generous use of teak, which is rare these days, lots of warm light floods inside.
All the cabins boast some form of storage for clobber. They also have cool chrome reading lights, designer bedding, air-conditioning controls and/or opening hatches for fresh air, and lovely teak doors with double-toothed rattle-free catches. Riviera is getting better at the details all the time.
The smallest cabin is immediately to port and harbours two bunks that are surprisingly long, wide and adult-friendly. Two overhead cupboards, lockers at the foot of the bed and a teak hanging locker with a light take care of clothing. This cabin also has an optional Thor washer/dryer.
Either of the two remaining cabins can be used as the master cabin. The cabin amidships to port has loads of floor space and an almost apartment-like feel. There is a giant king-sized mattress on the floor that might serve big people better than any other bed on the boat.
The amidships cabin also has a small dresser with mirror, a leather lounge that converts to a pullman berth when you want to pack a crowd on board, a hanging locker and cupboards. A door leads into an ensuite, which has a second door allowing it to double as a dayhead.
As with most Rivieras, this hotel-like bathroom is a beauty. In fact, the 47's dayhead is said to be bigger than its equivalent on the 48. The big, easy-clean moulded space has room to dress, a separate shower stall, Vacuflush loo, timber-framed lockers and moulded vanity.
The bow cabin gets Riviera's traditional island berth flanked by hanging lockers, floor space at the foot of the bed for dressing, lots of lockers, and a stylish mirror-backed bedhead with blue Ultrasuede surrounds. There is a separate Sharp flat-screen television with DVD.
If not a sleeping beauty, then the new Riviera 47 is most certainly a cruising beauty. At least that was the impression I got at the helm on the ridiculously flat seas, with nary a cloud in the sky and the CD playing over the purr of the Cummins.
The electronic shifts have three idle settings: Idle 1 gave 6kt at 600rpm, Idle 2 returned 7.2kt at 750rpm, and Idle 3, at 8.3kt at 900rpm, is perfect for trolling. After the turbos kick in, the boat hits a slippery long-range cruise speed of 22kt at 1800rpm, consuming 130lt/h.
A fast boat with the 660hp Cummins, the Riviera 47 can maintain 28kt at 2100rpm for 180lt/h. Top speed, in case you need it, is 32.9kt at 2360rpm for 230lt/h consumption.
The sea was quiet enough to sit on that top speed, so it's best to leave offshore analysis for another day.
The factory-rolled Riviera 47 is a stylish convertible that drives well, has loads of floor space, creature comforts, generous accommodation and serious liveaboard amenities.
On top of all that, there is great engineering from a production yard, cool styling and the goods to go places.
Unlike a lot of smaller convertibles, the big new 47 is a true long-range, liveaboard production boat. It's not too big to drive or berth on your own, especially with the supplied bow thruster, and offshore it will reel in the sea miles.
En route you might even see a dolphin or twp jump off the bow.
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA 47 FLYBRIDGE CONVERTIBLE
$765,424 (with 535hp Cummins engine)
PRICE AS TESTED
About $900,000 with 660hp Cummins QSM11s
Engine upgrade, icemaker, teak decks, soft furnishings pack, Zodiac Projet 350 ($32,000), Davco davit, extra AC unit, washing machine/dryer, electric oil-change pump, Sidepower bow thruster, Raytheon electronics kit and more
Material: GRP and foam-cored decks
Type: Moderate-vee mono
Length (overall): 16.36m
Weight: Around 17,500kg dry (base motors)
Make/Model: Twin QSM11 Cummins
Type: Turbo-charged, fully electronic, straight sixes
Rated hp (ea): 660hp
Displacement (ea): 10.8lt
Weight (ea): around 1125kg plus gearbox
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Twin Disk 1.53:1
Props: Five-blade bronze
Riviera Sales Coomera (Qld), (07) 5529 8622.
The Riviera Group, www.riviera.com.au
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