BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 56 FLYBRIDGE
The party never has to end aboard Riviera's 56 Enclosed Flybridge – DAVID LOCKWOOD discovers a true entertainer that's also geared for going places.
JULY, 2006 - I have been guilty of having a fervent imagination before, but this time there are some co-accused. I opened up the ingenious rear saloon window - what architects refer to as an awning window and rarely seen on boats - and the sun-drenched cockpit became one with the aft galley on Riviera's new 56 Enclosed Flybridge. If nothing else, Riviera's 56 Enclosed Flybridge screams entertainer.
Though the aft galley will be the centre of attention on the new Riviera 56 (hull No. 1 reviewed here) there is also an accommodating enclosed flybridge with internal stairwell. Up top, there are yet more enticements: fantastic high-backed Pompanette helm chairs and lounges , views extending in all directions, air-conditioning, and not a grain of salt.
Open the optional electric sunroof and you have a rooftop terrace with natural ventilation, views of the stars, and a different ambience again. Will the party ever stop? No, it will just move upstairs. No ladder to contend with, you see.
Put all the innovation together and it's apparent Riviera has entered an exciting new design phase. The youthful - at least in mindset - team in the New Product Development department has designs on stimulating the traditional flybridge market. While gamefishers are likely to prefer a more conventional layout, the many Riviera owners who don't chase marlin may well consider this an ideal coastal cruiser, floating weekender, holiday home and, yes, grand entertainer.
However, for all this, there's still the option of a conventional saloon layout and a gamefishing version with open flybridge - the battlewagon or convertible for the American market - and apparently interest has been split evenly between it and this aft-galley version. Following the 56's release at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show in May there were 17 expressions of interest, I'm told, among them New Zealand and east coast boaters who range further south than the traditional Riviera market.
Considering Riviera has always laid on the comforts, it's great to see it's now focussing on the engineering. A serious live-aboard coastal cruiser for long-hop boating, the new 56 features solid GRP running surfaces, balsa-cored decks, foam-cored stringers and, on all future boats, a separate engine room liner with gelcoat finish.
The cockpit now has a fully moulded liner that includes integrated side pockets and mouldings around the aft cleats, which are back below decks. The first of Riviera's top-to-bottom computer-designed and moulded flybridge cruisers, the new 56 was tank tested in Southampton, designed using CAD equipment, manufactured with the aid of CNC cutters, and features closed-moulded fibreglass components such as the boarding platform for weight savings, a better finish, added strength and less factory emissions.
Speaking of which, the high-gloss joinery was stunning - the result of a $2 million Italian automated varnishing machine. Good to see some reinvestment.
The warped-plane hull is the work of Frank Mulder. Mulder is a Dutch naval architect renowned for making fast boats. The hull has half tunnels to lower shaft angles, fine-tuned running gear and a relatively flat run aft to carry the weight of everything including a pair of big diesel motors that were upgraded to MTU 10V 1350hp models (a $230,000 premium) on the test boat over the base twin 1015hp Caterpillar electronic Cats.
Interestingly, Riviera has moved away from the integrated exhaust system devised by American George Von Widmann, which is built into the hull structure on its 60, to a simpler underwater system with bypass from specialist UK-based exhaust company Halyard, which also makes Sunseeker's exhausts. Why? Apparently the American system didn't give the claimed speed advantage and was more costly to build.
Other significant changes on the new 56 include locating the 4200lt fuel forward of the engine room, where it has the least effect on trim, with room for a second 1000lt cruise tank in the bow as per the test boat. The 1000lt water tank is back in the lazarette, thereby creating a bigger engine room than Riv's usual one, which has water in wing tanks. The big holding tank and hot water accumulator were outboard of the motors, but they were easier to negotiate than water tanks.
Engine room ventilation is from an automatic Delta T fan-forced system which, I'm told, doesn't engage very often since natural ventilation is so good. The moulded engine room liner and mirror-finished stainless steel roof liner make for a clean servicing space, with battery-management panel at the entrance, maintenance-free battery banks at last, standard 3000W invertor, and a quiet 22.5kW Onan generator plumbed to a gas/water separator.
The (optional) watermaker was to starboard. There is a new stainless steel fuel manifold system, dual Racor fuel filters per motor, and ducted wiring looms. I couldn't find the sight gauge on the fuel tank, but I'm sure it will be fitted on all future 56s. I also noted solid strainers - the MTUs need a lot of water - an oil-change system, dripless shaft seals, black boxes for the MTU brains, a fire-fighting system, intercom, and a wide rubber-lined walkway between the motors.
All good stuff and a quantum leap forward for Riviera.
The boat has accommodating decks with hawsepipes and below-deck cleats that are less intrusive that the usual above-deck peanut-shaped cleats. There were extra optional rodholders, the new closed-moulded boarding platform with grabrails which is half the weight of a GRP boarding platform, swim ladder, deck shower, and optional built-in transom barbecue in place of the livebait tank/icebox.
The moulded cockpit sole ranged through trick side pockets right up to the coamings and there are injection-moulded deck hatches leading into port and starboard subfloor fishboxes that had pumps. The lazarette reveals the sight gauge on the aft water tank and access to the power-assisted hydraulic steering.
Forward of the water tank, in another floor hatch, is an interesting athwartships battery compartment that doubles as large hold for, say, stowing the folding chairs and table, tubs with fishing gear, watertoys such as tubes, crab traps, and dive gear.
I also found the external fuel shutoffs in the cockpit, a twin 15amp shorepower connection, trick blue LED courtesy lights, but no shore television connection. The cockpit spotlights and Bose speakers were accommodated discreetly in dedicated mouldings, the usual 240V cooler to port extended outboard under the side decks, with the hatch to the engine room and cockpit sink nearby.
Access around the boat to the bow has been made easier by two moulded steps in the cockpit and a new dot-pattern non-skid that will be easier to clean than the usual rough-moulded Riv pattern. Moulded toe rails, cabin side rails and a supportive bowrail assist your passage. The 56 can be fitted with a 400kg davit and Zodiac Projet 350. Bigger bollards and fairleads were also noted, as were optional underwater lights at the transom.
If not the aft galley then the raison d'etre for jumping aboard the new Riviera 56 is that enclosed flybridge. From its uppermost point, I noted pad eyes for clipping on a safety harness when washing the hardtop and there were red night driving lights. However, the optional electric sunroof delivered the knockout punch, turning the enclosed bridge into yet another entertaining area. Sliding side windows provide additional natural ventilation and climate control.
The reverse-cycle air-con doubles as a demister, plus you get wipers with washers on the wraparound safety-glass windscreen which, as always, goes streaky when you are wearing polarised shades. But from the lovely Pompanette high-backed helm seats the vision forward was superb. I'm sure Riviera will raise the height of the surrounded passenger lounges to improve guests' views, too.
The aft driving station on the bridge overhang affords a better view when berthing, however the demonstrator had an optional extended canopy that, while shading the lunch setting on deck, blocks the view of the transom. Passenger seating in the bridge ranges from a portside L-shaped lounge for four-to-six around a folding drinks/lunch table, to a starboard two-person lounge, back to an aft-facing three-person lounge. Together you can seat 10 up top. Amenities include a small stainless steel Italian-made Vitrifrigo fridge and food-prep space with 240V outlets. Storage is in sub-seat areas and drawers.
The 56 had the usual aft rocket launcher, recessed grabrail in the hardtop, hand rails here and there, but also a terrific push-button roller door over the internal hands-free moulded stairwell, which was built as an integral part of the boat. Close the door and running noise is faint. An intercom lets you dial-up lunch from below.
The full-width mock-walnut dash has been designed to take three 15-inch colour screens or monitors. The demo boat has two Raymarine E120s, closed-circuit television as standard to the engine room, separate Clarion sound system, new compact trim tabs with gauges, and overhead MTU system-monitoring panels.
The controls - wheel, electronic throttles, bow and stern thrusters - fell intuitively to hand. And while a very generous flybridge, with seemingly more floor space and features than the flagship 60, it doesn't look top heavy. The boat was designed to wear the hardtop from the outset; that much is clear.
Descend the moulded staircase, passed the 24V/240V control panel at its foot, and you enter the saloon. That aft galley is bigger than any I can remember seeing, yet dining and lounging space remains generous; one advantage of not having walkaround decks.
The high-gloss cherry wood joinery is immaculate, thanks to the new Italian varnishing equipment. The low-level layout, the fact that the saloon and galley are on one level, and that you can see right through the guest's VIP cabin in the bow, is more like the floor plan of a modern house than a compartmentalised ship.
Its designers told me that size was a driver of the aft galley, yet its U-shaped space is still practical in a seaway. There are abundant solid fore and aft serveries and food-prep areas, hard-wearing Amtico mock-timber floors, and a good spread of amenities including two sub-counter 24/240V fridges and a separate freezer, twin sinks, filtered water, and three-burner cooktop with rangehood.
Across the saloon floor, near the internal stairs, is the wet bar with icemaker and, looking forward, the surround tinted windows offer great views. They're fitted with Roman blinds for privacy. The mechanisms are a bit fiddly, but motorised blinds are an option. A push-button rod locker hides in the ceiling - as you might have gathered by now the Riviera 56 has more push-button devices than any other Riv.
The entertainment system, a big Sony flat-screen television linked to Bose and satellite-fed Foxtel, was forward before the L-shaped lounge for five. Look closer and you will see that the air-con is ducted and concealed. A centre handrail assists access in a seaway. I was smitten by the portside raised dinette, which enjoys the best views in the saloon, though the timber storage cabinet behind the windscreen breaks the panorama. The conversation/drinks table extends with a terrific mechanism to create a sturdy dinner setting for up to six opposite the television.
Casual dining, if you can recall, is back outdoors in the cockpit. I'm not sure about the scope for casual sleeping, that is, a double bed in the bridge for the weary skipper or a convertible dinette for making a double in the saloon for when conditions are trying. But I'm betting there are options for both or aftermarket possibilities.
Who can argue with three cabins and three heads? From my experience when heading away with guests, two cabins each with an ensuite are perfect. The third head therefore doubles as the dayhead.
As with all Rivieras, the moulded ensuites have Vacuflush loos, generous separate shower stalls, good ventilation by way of 24V fans and opening hatches and/or air-con outlets and new double floor drains and raised shower floors with gutters to keep them dry. The dayhead had a big floor space with shower curtain on a track instead of a shower stall, and a linen press designed to accommodate a separate washer and dryer or a combo unit.
In respect of sleeping arrangements, the smallest cabin immediately to starboard features cross-over bunks. I tested these beds and they can accommodate an adult, though I'm betting they become the domain of (grand)kids.
You won't miss another first; fixed portlights in the sides of the 56. Though they would be great if they opened - they do cast additional light and provide a captivating view at water level. However, you have to sit-up on the master bed to enjoy those views and, for what its worth, I would like nothing more than to be able to wake, squirm down the sheets, tilt the head, open the eyelids and enjoy the views while supine. Both the third cabin and owner's amidships cabin opposite, which have the portlights, are far enough away from the bow to escape the water playing on the chines and insulated from the engine room by the amidships fuel tank. All three cabins feature air-con outlets, 240V outlets, cedar-lined hanging spaces - owners get a big wardrobe - drawers and good head room.
The metallic gold or bronze bedspreads were elegant and I found the guest's VIP island double bed in the bow to be a beauty. Add a separate entertainment system and I'd happily escape to the bow. To summarise, it's all very engaging above and below decks.
TANK AND OCEAN TESTED
Mulder, the 56's hull designer, will tell you that people want comforts above all else in their boats these days. With all the aforesaid inclusions, the Riviera 56 Enclosed Flybridge is a 35- to 40-tonne boat when laden. With the upgraded MTU 200 Series V10 1350hp engines, the top speed of hull No. 1 came in around 34kts. A knot or two more might be forthcoming after further refinements to the running gear - at this level hydrodynamics play a big role.
During sea trials there was barely a hint of swell, no wind, and a vibration that Riviera has since fixed. The port motor was down on revs, an injector was the cause, plus the shafts we realigned. Such are the teething problems of boat No. 1 and, as such things affect fuel consumption and speed, I'm not going to be too analytical in the performance department. Suffice to say I noted the 56 seemed to run better and flatter at fast cruise speeds than intermediate ones. The Americans will like that.
Off the balmy Gold Coast, a cruise of 29kts at 2125rpm was achieved using 448lt, giving a safe operating range from the standard 4200lt supply of more than 250 nautical miles. And in no time. This boat had another 100lt cruise tank in the bow with cross-over pump. Riviera quotes a cruise of 2250rpm, 200rpm off top revs, which returned 31.6kts for 500lt/h and a safe range of more than 250 nautical miles again or more than 300 nautical miles with the cruise tank.
If you think lower speeds are more efficient you are only barely right; 20.3kts at 1710rpm saw the MTUs consume 283lt per hour for a safe range of more than 270 nautical miles from the standard tank. So the saving is only 10 per cent for a speed penalty of 30 per cent. On global boat markets, speed is very much of the essence these days. So just get to where you want to go and party post haste.
Riviera will unveil an open version of its new 56 with conventional forward galley primarily for the American market. The 56 Enclosed Flybridge is very much the cruising boat. And when not counting down the sea miles to that next port of call, where your onboard holiday really begins, you can entertain the throng from that capable aft galley and swing-away awning window which had me thinking of a waterfront bar.
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA 56 FLYBRIDGE
PRICE AS TESTED
The Riviera 56 Enclosed Flybridge, hull No. 1, was selling for $2,403,829 w/ twin MTU 10V 2000 Series diesel motors and options.
Engine upgrade, extra 100lt fuel tank, sternthruster (bowthruster std), electric sunroof, Raymarine electronics pack, satellite television, underwater lights, watermaker, built-in transom barbecue, soft-furnishing, galley ware and bathroom packages, entertainment and satellite communications, teak floor, davit and more.
$2.045 million w/ twin Caterpillar C18 1015hp diesel engines.
Material: GRP hull and cored decks and hardtop
Type: Warped-plane monohull with half prop tunnels and keel
Length overall: 19.30m inc. bowsprit and boarding platform
Hull length: 18.18m
Weight: 30,000kg dry w/std motors
Holding tank: 273lt
Make/model: Twin MTU 10V 2000 Series M72
Type: Fully electronic V10 four-stroke diesel engine with common-rail fuel injection, turbocharging and aftercooling.
Rated HP: 1350hp @ 2,450rpm
Weight: 3020kg each.
Gearboxes (make/ratio): Twin Disc 1.96:1
Props: Veem four or five-blade
The Riviera Group, 50 Waterway Drive, Coomera, QLD, 4209. Phone (07) 5501 0000, or visit www.riviera.com.au for your nearest dealer and further boat information.
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