BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 33
The new Riviera 33 is rather like Napoleon Bonaparte: what it lacks in size, it makes up for in power, prestige and influence. DAVID LOCKWOOD has the story.
JULY, 2004 - I am on the Gold Coast. Stranded. High and dry. My situation isn't the result of sandbank, but rather a breakdown in communications. You see, the demo boat - all 9000kg of it - is about to trucked to Melbourne. Apparently no one knew I was coming.
But having winged my way up the coast, I knew that this was just too great a day not to be boating. Besides, Riviera needed to know that its new "entry-level" 33 was a big story that needed to be, well, communicated.
I imagined there were scores of would-be Riviera owners champing at the bit for this new baby. There is no more affordable ticket to the world of Riviera flybridge boats. With the 33 you can join the fold, the family and the fun afloat for $380,000 as seen here.
Since its debut at Sanctuary Cove in May, Riviera has allocated 64 of the new 33s to dealers worldwide. Australia and New Zealand have already taken 18 of the handy, easily driven cruising boats. Should Riviera increase production, it would create yet more converts.
Thankfully, hull #1 was refloated by the time I'd asked the whys and wherefores. And after meandering down the seemingly endless Coomera River, I was duly treated to a wind-in-the-hair offshore drive on a wonderfully blue and benign Queensland winter sea.
Cruising at mid-20kt across the lazy ocean, the 33 felt great. Communication problems were now but a memory; I was aboard yet another excellent new Riviera.
TUNNELS & EXHAUSTS
Back on the dry, the 33's underwater sections appeared to have more in common with the flagship 58 than any other Riviera. The hull was based on the Mariner 3350, but with some major changes from world-renowned superyacht designer Frank Mulder.
Like all good seaboats, the bow carries most of its volume above the waterline. The entry is quite sharp, but plumb rather than raked, with a rounded stem to maximise waterline length.
The entry splays to pronounced chines and, driven into the sea, the boat exhibits a good deal of lift. Although the wind was light, the hull's dryness seems to be more a factor of the water being shunted down and low to the sides. I didn't notice any blowback in the cockpit either.
The boat is responsive to trim tabs; tame the hobbyhorsing by trimming the bow in a touch. Yet the boat remains dry. But the most interesting changes are at the transom.
The new Riviera 33 has underwater exhausts with bypass outlets - no more dirty transom, annoying fumes and loud running noise. The exhaust system was courtesy of an expert in such matters who contracts to Hatteras and Bertram.
The underwater ports have rid the boat of the drum-drum-drum one gets with some diesel engines. The hull also has a three-quarter-length solid keel, which was likely the reason for its straight tracking when driven down the wee Gold-Coast waves.
But it is the introduction of prop tunnels that makes for a sporty and smooth ride. Only one other Riviera, the 58 also from the pen of Mulder, has tunnels. And I have it on good authority that tunnels are going to be introduced to other models in due course.
Whereas a lot of boats with twin diesel motors and shafts are slow to turn off the rudders, the Riviera 33 snaps about more like a sportsyacht. The off-the-wheel handling reminded me of the fancy UK and Euro sportscruisers that often win me over.
In terms of hull design, the 33 can certainly be deemed a thoroughly modern boat. The lines are those of a seaworthy boat, but the house or superstructure remains identifiably Riviera.
Construction was described as "standard Riviera", which can be interpreted to mean a solid, handlaid GRP hull with Coremat.
Stiffening comes by way of a combination of 'glass-encapsulated foam and plywood stringers. The engine bearers are 'glass-encapsulated foam, capped with 'glass-encapsulated steel stiffeners.
Once inside the engine bay, one finds room to scamper around all sides of the Volvo D6 310hp diesel motors (330hp Cummins are optional). There isn't headroom, but there is more room in the all-white bay than you'll find in some bigger boats.
The 1000lt fibreglass fuel tank, which ranges aft into the lazarette, has shutoffs. The polypropylene water tanks - 170lt a side - and 12/240V water heater are outboard of the motors.
A lot of effort has gone into making the 33 a quiet cruiser, both underway and parked with the generator and 16,000BTU air-con running. There is servicing space on at least three sides of that 4kW Onan genset (freshwater cooled with sound shield), which is forward of the motors.
The boat also has emergency rudder-locking pins for its bronze blades on stainless-steel stocks. The stainless-steel engine shafts appeared to be about 1.5in. On the engineering front, you could consider this to be up there with the bigger Rivs.
BIG LITTLE 33
One thing Riviera doesn't do is skimp on space. The 33 has an overall length of 37ft 7in or 11.46m. Hull length, excluding appendages, is 35ft 2in or 10.73m. The boat's beam of 3.83m and walkthrough headroom make for a big baby grand.
Offshore, in calm seas with just a loping metre swell, the 33 was dominant. It hobbyhorses between swells more than, say, the 42 we had as a camera boat, but it is by no means hard-riding or wet. And I'd happily campaign it as a weekender for port hopping, passagemaking and gamefishing.
While the boat can accommodate a family of four thanks to its convertible dinette with concealed sofa-bed, it's especially nice for couples. Empty-nesters with a berth at the foot of their apartment need look no further.
The boat has a deep boarding platform, with cut-outs for drainage, that can accommodate swimmers, bathers and tenders. I reversed up quite hard at sea and, despite the appendage, the transom didn't dig in too badly.
Moreover, the offset (to starboard) and outward-opening transom door (to maximise cockpit room) is virtually watertight. That is a welcome improvement over the Riviera transom doors of old.
The hardware on the boat is in keeping with bigger Rivieras. The transom door has a heavy-duty catch; there are piano hinges on most hatches; and the above-deck cleats cater for crew more than anglers. Popup cleats provide somewhere to swing a fender.
The self-draining cockpit isn't big in fishing terms, but there's room for a table and four chairs beneath the awning.
There is a plate built into the floor in case you want to swing a gamechair, but really the boat is too small for one. You'd be better off fishing stand-up tackle if you want to catch gamefish. The transom did have a big plumbed livebait tank - or icebox - mid-transom with pump and water recirculator.
I noted the optional clip-out cockpit carpet and standard-issue hot/cold deck shower, courtesy lights and five storage hatches around the periphery. There is a saltwater tap and manual bilge pump.
A moulded sink with H/C water is built into the starboard side of the cockpit, and a 12V fridge/freezer lives in a moulded box behind the ladder to port. Under the bridge overhang I noted speakers for the Clarion CD player and 12V spotlights. Subfloor is a big fishbox with pump-out and access to the portside of the lazarette for storage. The hatch lids lift on gas struts.
Moulded steps lead to the sidedecks, which have toerails, a supportive bowrail with lifeline, and handrails. The flat, non-skid deck continues around the outside of the foredeck to the bow, the deep anchor locker and windlass - which can be operated by dash control. Importantly, the decks are easy to traverse when tending mooring lines.
There is a step up to the aluminium saloon door, which has a groovy doorknob. It opens into a big saloon for a 33-footer.
Headroom is excellent. The saloon roof has an integrated grabrail, and there are sliding windows flanking the lower helm and galley on the mezzanine level to port.
Unlike other Riviera flybridge boats, the 33 has hard-wearing Amtico - a mock parquetry material - flooring instead of carpet, which can be serviced once a year to reglaze the material and hide scratches.
Picture windows provide great views when seated on the portside U-shaped lounge before the dinette, and cream liners and satin cherrywood lend a warm glow. Timeless blue leather upholstery lined the lounge.
The saloon's starboard side had a built-in cherrywood sideboard with mock-walnut liner and various glass, bottle and storage lockers and drawers. There was an overhead radio box above the windscreen and a flatscreen TV facing back to the lounge.
The lower helm, which can be deleted in boats built for warmer climes, would be useful when the weather turns really foul. There wasn't a helm seat on the demo boat, yet there were good views when standing.
There were wipers with washers, a spotlight, and a low-glare, soft-touch, matt-grey dash with carbon-fibre panels for engine gauges. Aside from the chrome-rimmed analogue gauges, the Volvo D6 motors were wired to an electronic engine-monitoring panel - but it was mounted behind the timber wheel and difficult to see.
I noted a 7in flush-mounted Raytheon GPS/combo sounder unit, room for another screen, and fingertip-smooth EDC controls. There are visual and audio alarms, and the air-con control panel, beside the steps leading down to the galley.
The galley is in proportion to the interior and is very well equipped. A servery assists with distributing the canapés, but it's not so high as to prevent conversation between cook and crew.
There is a single-burner electric stove, microwave oven and a 12V/240V fridge with a small freezer shelf, which would make the galley work well as a heat-and-eat proposition.
Okay, so it hasn't lots of guest accommodation - but it does have a large owner's cabin. There's an island double bed as big as you'll find in some 40-footers, and a huge hanging locker with shelves.
There's also drawers, a cupboard for personals, and room to mount a second LCD television.
There are two doors into the en suite/dayhead from the cabin and companionway. Again, the head is more your big-boat number with a shower stall, Grohe fittings, Corian counter with sink, Vacuflush loo and plenty of storage for personals.
Nearing the end of the long trip down the Coomera River, I decided to head up to the bridge. A hatch closes over the ladder for safety up top.
While a hardtop and clears will be available, the soft-top worked well. It takes just a minute or so to assemble. A powder-coated aluminium rail and Perspex windscreen cuts the breeze, and vision from all seats is excellent.
Seating in the bridge comes by way of a transverse lounge ahead of the console for three people. It's three-quarter length, so one person could probably take a catnap here. There's also sufficient floorspace to sleep on a mattress.
Both helm and co-pilot seats are fully adjustable. Due to space constraints, the helm seat is offset to the wheel. Some say it feels odd, but I didn't think it was an issue.
The console appears to have room to mount a 10in electronic screen. I noted a 12V outlet for the mobile, Volvo diagnostics panel, switch panels and controls for trim tabs, lights, windlass and so on - and last but not least, the EDC controls. Despite the awning, I could see the transom and leading edge of the boarding platform when backing down.
Plant the throttles and the boat gains speed smoothly before the turbos kick in and the Volvos catapult the boat to planing speeds. At 2000rpm the boat planes at 10.7kt using 40lt/h. At low-speed cruise of 2500rpm/15.6kt the boat uses 70lt/h.
At the most economical setting of 3000rpm, the boat will cruise at 23.1kt and use 90lt/h on both engines. Leaving 10 per cent of fuel in reserve, you will get a safe cruising range of 230nm over 10 hours. Full speed was 29.5kt, but consumption jumps to 135lt/h.
Admittedly, the sea was such that Riviera's 33 wasn't challenged. But compared to most of the bigger-is-better flybridge boats these days, this hip-pocket cruiser isn't a mouse. As tested it cost $380,000, which is a lot for an entry-level boat. But it could be the boat you move back down to.
It wasn't much of a start to the story, but the day panned out better than I expected. From my observations, that's a trait of Rivieras: you jump onboard, advance the throttles and nothing much matters. What communication breakdown?
(Facts & Figures)
PRICE AS TESTED
About $382,634 w/ Volvo diesel D6 electronic diesel motors and options
Flybridge fridge, air-con, rocket launcher, half awning, cockpit and bridge carpets, strata-glass clears, safety kit and electronics
$349,999 for standard model
Material: GRP Fibreglass
Type: Hard-chine planing hull
Length overall: 11.46m
Hull length: 10.73m
Draft: 1.00m (max)
Weight: Around 9000kg (dry w/ standard engine)
Berths: Two plus two
Make/model: Volvo D6
Type: Six-cylinder diesel w/ turbocharging
Rated hp: 310 @ 3500rpm
Weight: About 656kg
Gearboxes (make/ratio): tba
Props: Four-blade bronze
The Riviera Group, 50 Waterway Drive, Coomera, Queensland 4209, (07) 5502 5555 or visit www.riviera.com.au
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