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The Riviera M360 is all about cruising in style, entertaining and enjoying destinations like Port Stephens, as DAVID LOCKWOOD found out…

Riviera M360

JUNE, 2006 - It was late autumn, post Easter, and the crowds had headed home from that mid-north coast boating mecca known as Port Stephens. They had left early, we arrived right on time. The water, you see, was still warm and the local seafood was very much in its prime. Over the next month I lost count of the number of fat oysters we ate, the kilos of sweet prawns we peeled and the long seafood lunches we staged on the boarding platform, not to mention the number of new anchorages we visited both above and below the water. Memories to tide us through winter, for sure. We happily crammed them in.

The marina at Soldiers Point where we kept our boat was as much of a destination as the jade-coloured Port Stephens' waterways. After a week of work, driving for two-and-a-half hours and arriving on Friday nights -?only once in time to try the excellent seafood restaurant perched above the marina - we would enjoy supper and a relaxing wine before heading for bed. Open the saloon door in the morning and the Saturday paper would be waiting, followed by the free cappuccinos, visits by dolphins and pelicans, and a steady stream of friendly marina patrons.

We had come partly to dispel the myth that Port Stephens isn't a great place in bad weather and, much to our pleasure, we found oodles of engaging things to do. The boating assignment took us from wild nights anchored at the Broughton Island in a storm to lazy days lolling about the Myall River and many afternoons watching the sunsets in aptly named Fame Cove.

Where's this heading? To an especially agreeable boat just a few berths on the marina away, one designed for entertaining the throngs by day and weekending away - a boat that would be perfect for doing most of the abovementioned things and more. While Riviera's M360 is the smallest boat in the range -?an entry-level model costing $378,000 as tested - it's as accommodating as boats half as big again.

Clearly, Riviera has taken everything that we covet about the modern well-designed apartment with courtyard and put it into a boat. As such, tick the following boxes: long lunches, lolling about at anchor, weekend entertaining, watersports, happy kids and nattering friends, sun-kissed teenagers on the foredeck, cool shaded cockpit, and boatloads of amenities within arm's reach of the lounges. And that's for starters.

I could go on and, yes, I intend to. Indeed, the M360 is very much about selling the sizzle and, as far as production boats go, it has the works and then some as standard. As an entry-level package, then, the smart craft sells itself. Though it looks different, it soon won our approval while testing the abundant lounges and being won over by the pleasure-giving philosophy behind what is an especially accommodating boat.



Wes Moxley, Riviera CEO, is a family man with young children who once told me he designed the sistership to this boat, the M400, as the ultimate in family conveyances. Everything that's great about that craft, which was released a year earlier, can be found in the M360. And, remarkably, it's not that much smaller, with space where it counts most -?the living areas.

In respect of family and kids, there are walkaround side decks backed by strategically located hand and bow rails. The foredeck, with its sunpad, acts as a separate outdoor area. Aft is a broad boarding platform with an optional barbecue and room to cook before the throng or even pull-up a folding chair and cast a line. Under the hardtop, the seating plan is just huge - room for six for lunch - and it's shaded by the big hardtop.

Delve into the design a little deeper and you will see that Riviera has put volume, living space, seating and accommodation above all else. To this end, there's an awful lot of boat above the waterline and, with the moulded hardtop over the cockpit, there's a pretty high centre of gravity. You sense that as the boat twitches when you set foot aboard.

This leads me to say that, despite twin 6.2lt 320hp MerCruiser V8 petrol inboards -?freshwater-cooled to help reduce maintenance - and the Sport Cruiser tag, the M360 is a lot more cruiser than sport. Like the M400, it's inclined to lean sharply into the turns. Some, like my partner, might be alarmed at first with the degree of heel. It's something like you feel on a yacht, though momentary.

But you can't have everything in a boat and, well, the M360 offers more boat for your buck than any other single-decked sportscruiser I have tested. You get everything right down to 8kW petrol Onan generator. So if long lunches and lolling about in quiet anchorages are your version of boating bliss then look no further.

What's more, from my summer observations, most pleasure boaters seek this very thing - instant just-add-water gratification at their nearest and most comfortable inshore anchorage. Hence the raft-ups of M360s and M400s at places like Store Beach in Sydney. This is exactly the young-family market targeted by this boat.

Conversely, if you want point-and-shoot performance, Don Johnson sex appeal and off-the-wheel sports handling this isn't the boat for you. For this purpose, you need something long and lithe with less beam and boat above the water, perhaps a soft top pulled back to a targa arch. Something like, ironically, the late Riviera M430, which was built for Wellcraft overseas, which is more your offshore racer.

Thus, depending on your needs, the M360 is a double-edged sword: the ultimate in entertainers and family boats, maybe a wallowing watercraft. But if I had to use an analogy, it's a bit like throwing a large 4WD around a bend. You can't get sports handling with so much volume. But drive in a considerate manner and you will find an excellent platform for packing them aboard. And with its many conveniences, the experience once your destination is reached is bound to be memorable.



You need to take your time with the tour on the M360 to see if for what it is. We came aboard with drinks and nibbles and set about familiarising ourselves with the thinking. First step was onto the full-width, integrated boarding platform, which is deep enough to plonk a deck chair or, reckoned my champion sunbaking partner, lie across on a towel.

The handheld hot/cold transom shower is nearby, with an optional aft mounting rail that accepts the 240V stainless steel barbecue that was stowed below decks. With Weaver snap davits you can carry your tender on the transom, too. The dedicated moulded fender basket will come in handy, as will the above-deck boomerang-shaped main cleats and secondary popup fender-swinging cleats, the aft handrail, nearby deck fillers and courtesy lights at night.

But the aft garage is even more accommodating, with room to stow your watertoys, dive gear and fishing rods, say, a barbecue-cleaning kit, mooring lines and more. The lid lifts on powerful gas struts and there's a pile of room inside, plus a 240V outlet for the optional barbie. For us, the garage came in handy for stowing the boat's camper covers that, with flyscreen panel, let you create an on-deck summer sleepout when you convert the cockpit lounge and dinette into a double bed. Fun for kids.

The boat has retro-looking cabin windows and engine vents that solicit a mixed reaction, but the blower or air-extraction vents are a tad too close to the waterline for my liking. Watch that water doesn't come into the engine room when heeled over in tight turns, as it has done on the M400 in my prior testing. Hopefully, a better venturi system is forthcoming.

The port-side transom door leads into the cockpit proper, with a storage hatch to port with the Shorepower connection, bowthruster breaker and fire extinguisher. Across the way, under the dinette, is another hatch with the main 12V breakers. Thus, you don't need to head down below to flick switches when you want to, for example, dial up the deck wash to hose a messy anchor.

The overhead hardtop, which has a non-skid top so you can get up there and clean it safely, casts shade over most of the boat's outdoor seating, which is a really smart thing in light of the incidence of skin cancer. Another important point: Riviera implemented a nationwide recall of all its hardtops and fitted new models with forward-facing ventilation to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and the station-wagon effect whereby fumes are drawn inside the cabin while underway. Full marks for that.

Beside clear access up front that, upon testing, got the thumbs-up from my partner, and the foredeck sunpad with Euro-styled grab frame and drinkholders that also wowed her, there's a practical flat work area before the supplied windlass. The bowrail with lifelines and toe rails adds to the safety of the foredeck and all the ground tackle including saltwater anchor washdown comes standard.



The smart, nautical-looking charcoal and white-striped upholstery on the M360 looks glamorous and gorgeous. Seating backrests are on tracks so you can remove them and create a deeper daybed mattress. By our reckoning the two-metre-wide aft lounge can seat four passengers when underway or, with the backrests removed, sleep one very comfortably.

The L-shaped lounge to starboard, surrounding the folding teak table which extends into a big buffet table, can seat four for lunch or up to six when you add the aft lounge, and perhaps eight with loose chairs. Post lunch, the dinette converts to a double bed sunpad if you prefer.

There is also a two-person co-pilot seat for a couple of VIP guests to travel opposite the helm love seat for two, with flip-up bolster for driving on your feet. All the while there's plenty of headroom under the hardtop and good views to all quarters, though you can't see the boarding platform when berthing.

Meantime, most of the port-side is taken up by a wonderful moulded amenities centre that has, in my view at least, become a signature item for Riviera's Sport Cruiser range. Destined to be the centre of attention, it includes food-prep and drying space, a deep sink with trendy hot/cold mixer, television (the supplied 42cm LCD number down below is relocatable) and 240V outlets for things like the cocktail mixer or toaster. Below is a terrific upmarket U-Line combo fridge with bottle holders and icemaker (among the best I've seen) and there is a useful grabrail for when boat wash roles in. Great stuff.

Additionally, there's a 45lt portable esky under the helm seat -?it beckoned to be filled with those scrumptious Port Stephens oysters and prawns and used to stage a picnic ashore - plus lined storage space under most of the seats in the cockpit and before the co-pilot. Snap-in teak-look carpet completes the picture.




The cockpit floor lifts at the flick of a switch and the actuator was nice and fast. There's also a day inspection hatch for at-a-glance checks and a ladder to assist with access to the small area of it easy to reach all sides of the big-block V8 motors and all the primary servicing items from oil dipstick and filler to header tank for the F/W cooling system, fuel filters, impellors and belts.

I noted double hose clips below the waterline and bronze through-hull fittings with ball valves, a sea strainer for the generator, which has a sound shield and is located against the forward bulkhead, and good access to the (maintenance-free) batteries and hot-water service. The boat's handy 400lt of water - enough to splash around on a weekend - is forward with the 800lt fuel in aluminium wing tanks linked back to emergency shutoffs at the helm.

The M360 comes with a fire-fighting system and, judging by the engineering and labelling, it's been designed for export markets and Europe as much as local waters. The time-proven Riviera hull has solid running surfaces and cored decks and hardtop, with a watertight collision bulkhead forward.

Back at the helm the stylish windscreen is supported by heavy-duty stainless steel frames and brackets with the Riv' designer emblem, while the thick tubular stainless steel uprights that support the hardtop don't in any way compromise vision. There are wipers with freshwater washers to ensure a good view in less than perfect conditions, high-quality surrounding clear curtains with zip panels for added protection, and a spotlight for night work.

The helm is a lovely bit of design, with low-glare moulded dash panels made to accommodate the boatload of switches, buttons and gear that comes standard. The stainless steel theme extends to the MerCruiser throttles and drinkholders. The boat had an optional bow thruster to assist mooring - the counter-rotating props on the Bravo III sterndrives offer good steerage in reverse - chain counter for anchoring (three times the depth is the rule), and there was a Navman GPS/sounder, which you can upgrade if you think more serious cruising is in store.



Riviera has taken interior décor to the next level with its Sport Cruiser range, engaging the better sex with swatches of designer soft-furnishing options - yet another area where the local product outshines the at-times dowdy or conservative American imports. As with the cockpit, there was a surfeit of space, super-wide companionway, and easily negotiable steps hiding storage drawers. Headroom is about 180-185cm throughout the saloon ranging to a little less in the forward stateroom.

As for styling, the light semi-gloss beech joinery, cedar blinds, Amtico hardwearing mock-timber flooring, white headliners and panelled opaque doors create the feeling of a modern apartment, with a hint of Japanese or Swedish or, perhaps, Shaker influence. It's light, bright and airy and, well, quit unlike a lot of sombre teak or mahogany accommodation plans.

The saloon is beamy, with a raisin-coloured leather lounge/sleeper to port before overhead storage hatches, AC/DC panel and an ottoman whose lid flips to create a coffee/table quasi dinette. Add the impromptu seat that is the lower step on the companionway and four people can gather indoors and watch television or whatever. It would have to pretty bad weather, however, as the cockpit seating is so very generous.

Although a chicken and salad or, did I mention, seafood kind of boat, the M360's starboard-side galley will cater for overnighters and breakfast really well. There are solid counters and a spread of handy amenities from sink and small microwave oven (sans convection function) to a single-burner stove and sub-counter fridge.

Two opening hatches in the saloon and an extractor fan provide ventilation to the galley, while storage, including dedicated rollout cutlery drawer, is quite good for a weekend-style boat. A small concealed garbage bin is a neat addition. And with the fridge and esky up top you aren't going to run short of drinks space, either.

In typical Riviera fashion, the head is a highlight. The moulded room immediately to starboard is handy to the cockpit, with a Vacuflush loo and Tankwatch gauge, linked to a small 68lt holding tank. Ventilation is by hatch and fan, there is a big vanity with mirror, 240V outlet and storage, but no separate shower stall.

A glass panel and curtain combine to keep the water contained and off the vanity, with a cover over the loo. But that glass panel is kind of unwieldy and, with the M400, you get a solid circular shower screen that's better. Still, there is a sliding shower rose, not just a handheld shower, and the styling is chic. Besides, it's hard to beat a deck shower in summer.



Two cabins, at each end of the boat, and a bifold privacy doors before the forward stateroom, make for a great family overnighter. The stateroom has an island berth, which you won't always find on narrower-gutted sportscruisers in this class. The smart black-and-cream bedspread, bedhead, side storage cupboards and twin hanging lockers lift the lux factor some more. Bedside tables are nearby and, upon testing the bed after a night aboard our boat, my partner proffered there would be no problem with sleeping.

Aft, meanwhile, one finds a settee and hanging locker at the entrance to the mid cabin that assist with dressing, a small privacy curtain and two single bunks that are adult length, which you could have converted to a full double bed with a custom infill. However, the archetypal owners of this entry-level Riv' are young families and, for kids, that aft cabin is cavernous. Hatches help with ventilation and, in case you're wondering, the colour of that carpet is gold mist.



Responsive Bravo III legs and a timber steering wheel, bowthruster and single throttles, and simple operating systems backed by a dealer and service network, make for a user-friendly boat. The throttles include single and dual leg trim buttons, with dash-mounted trim tabs to counter crew weight and crosswinds. At speed and underway we all thought the M360 was a quiet boat and about as pleasant as a chariot with twin V8s can be. By the way, the MerCruiser 6.2 MPI Horizon motors have three-year/300-hour maintenance intervals and digital throttle and shift with Smartcraft diagnostics.

As to be expected, the 320hp motors had no problem putting the M360 onto the plane. Up we went to a low-speed cruise of 20.5kts at 3500rpm that, being quiet and comfortable, would be agreeable for the family. The boat felt more efficient at 25.7kts and 4000rpm where it rates as a fast getaway machine. Maximum continuous cruise was 4500rpm and 25.7kts, with top speed of 32.2kts at 5000rpm. Thus, it's not the fastest boat around and, with the cost of fuel, those comfortable cruise speeds are where this boat slots into its comfort zone.

The straight-line cruising was great along picturesque Port Stephens, whose signature jade-coloured water winked in all direction and inspired all the options including, yes, prawns on the transom. We eased the throttles back at Shoal Bay whereupon my partner tested the foredeck sunpad and declared it was up to the task of, I guess it would have to be, post-lunch lounging.

As mentioned, it was only in the sharper bends that the boat sat up on its ear and she, who has been on many boats before, let out little yelp at one point. But once at the idyllic anchorage the boat comes into its own. It has unbeatable static appeal. And from my observations, in the scenario, the boats deliver untold happiness to those who like to put the anchor down, relax and have fun.



(Facts & Figures)



The Riviera M360 Sport Cruiser was selling for $378,000 w/twin MerCruiser 6.2 MPI Horizon freshwater-cooled petrol inboards with Bravo III sterndrives and options



$365,100 w/ twin MerCruiser 6.2 MPI Horizon FW-cooled petrol inboards with Bravo III sterndrives



Cruise package inc. S/S aft rail with barbecue, air-con and Navman electronics; bowthruster; upgraded upholstery and full décor and galleyware package plus digital television.



Materials: GRP hull and cored decks and hardtop
Type: Moderate-vee monohull
Length overall: 11.22m with pulpit
Hull length: 11.09m
Beam: 3.59m
Draft: 1.00m
Deadrise: n/a
Weight: 6,500kg dry std boat



Berths: 4+2+1
Fuel: 800lt
Water: 400lt
Holding tank: 68lt



Make/model: Twin MerCruiser 6.2 MPI Horizon with Bravo III sterndrives
Type: Freshwater-cooled petrol V8 inboards with multipoint fuel injection, digital throttle and shift and Smartcraft electronic monitoring
Rated HP: 320hp @ 5000rpm
Displacement: 6.2lt
Weight: 463kg ea.
Gearboxes (make/ratio): Bravo III 2:1
Props: Counter-rotating stainless steel



Riviera Sales Port Stephens, Soldiers Point Marina, tel (02) 4982 7455,

Source: Trade-a-Boat, Jun 2006

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