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Aboard the new Riviera 38, fuel-conscious boaties can enjoy the boating lifestyle without compromising on size, accommodation and performance, writes DAVID LOCKWOOD.

Riviera 38

SEPTEMBER, 2008 - When you have sold something like 267 of one particular model in your fleet, you might think the last thing you should do is change the mould. Not so. Australia's biggest boatbuilder, Riviera, has taken its popular 37 Open Flybridge and given it a new lease on life via some plastic surgery, a shot of boat-tox, a facelift and implanted fully electronic diesel engines - options up to 425hp Cummins QSBs - for more get up and go.

Although there is a smaller 33 sister ship in its flybridge range, the rebadged and renovated 38 is virtually an entry-level Riviera in these times of bigger is better. And there's a good chance that if fuel keeps heading north, cruiser owners will consider downsizing to a boat like this.

With two cabins and a typically accommodating bathroom, the 38 serves as a floating holiday house for a family of four. Then there is the new electric or push-button sofa or trundle bed in the saloon in case your kids' mates want to stay over. Such are the refinements. And plenty more reveal themselves.

Even though there are lots of Riviera 37s on the second-hand market vying for your hard earned, the new 38 is pretty good buying in the sub-million arena. With more than $80,000 in options and the base 370hp Volvo Penta D6 electronic common rail diesel engines, the demonstrator was selling for $620,633. But for that you get a long list of improvements, refinements and accoutrements.

To assist with docking the boat had an optional bowthruster; indoors was optional air-conditioning for comfort in the height of summer or depths of winter; and there were additions from rocket launcher, fridge and new resin-transfer moulded (RTM) hardtop on the flybridge to icemaker, 65cm flatscreen television and carpet upgrade indoors. The boat was also fitted with a Raymarine electronics package including a multifunction E120.

If it were me, I'd add some good gear from one of our stainless steel fabricators, someone like Southern Stainless, by way of an electric barbie in the cockpit and a cutting board for fishing and outdoor food-prep. You can get away without a crane on the foredeck of the boat and carry a tender on the transom on snap davits or stow a rollup and outboard in the lazarette. Add a euro awning and you can spend even more time outdoors in what is an ideal cruiser for the Australian way of life.



The new 38 now has underwater exhausts to reduce running noise and improve passenger comfort, greater fuel capacity from 1225 to 1450lt, nifty QL trim tabs with retractable blades, EDC electronic engine monitoring panels with the Volvo Penta engines or VesselView in the case of the Cummins donks, and the aforesaid bigger engine options up to twin 425hps.

Light RTM parts such as the sleek flybridge hardtop, mounted on new stainless steel supports, and locker doors with bigger rubber seals and stainless steel instead of plastic latches are further refinements. There are also toe kicks in the cockpit so you can lean outboard and gain support on your thighs thereby improving fishability. Up front, the bow has a new through-sprit anchor arrangement.

The restyled dash in the bridge has room to mount two 15in electronic screens, while the latest Pompanette seats with footrests and Edson wheel add to the driving pleasure. Pushing the safety rail farther aft has increased the area behind the helm seats, too.

But at 10,900kg as a light ship, the Riviera 38 - which is more than a metre longer than its predecessor - is no lightweight. The 460lt water capacity is the same as this writer's 42, which means you can last a week if you ration and four days with relative showering abandon.

In the engineroom. I spotted Racor fuel filters, heavy-duty stainless steel sea strainers - but without glass inspection bowls they are difficult to monitor at a glance - separate AGM maintenance-free batteries for house and engine- cranking applications, PSS shaft seals and a freshwater outlet for cleaning out the engineroom or topping up the header tanks. The 7kW Onan is a decent-sized generator, but an inverter would be a useful addition for running the television, microwave oven and 240V outlets without it.

Surprisingly, the boat didn't have a fuel sight gauge and dash-mounted fuel gauges aren't that accurate. Further, one of the Volvo
Penta engines has its oil dipstick located annoyingly outboard. I would have thought paired engines would be par for the course. The utility room under the galley floor houses the Crusair air-con unit and sump pump, with room left over for storing victuals.




The decent Aussie-sized cockpit is ready for lolling about, entertaining with the addition of a table, and fishing offshore. There was a killtank under the optional teak-topped cockpit sole and two hatches into the lazarette where you can stow watersports gear and crab traps. You will also find the requisite sink, eutectic fridge/freezer, a deep swim platform for hanging out, a swim ladder and hot/cold handheld shower.

I thought the access around the sidedecks to the bow was easy enough and well supported by hand- and bowrails. While you can mount a tender and davit up here, you can save with a rollup rubber duckie and DC pump stowed back aft.

The ladder leading to the bridge wasn't too steep and full marks for the fridge in the bridge - a must-have so you can cruise in summer with refreshments at hand - the long lounge that can double as a daybed, and the new overboard venturi systems around the clear curtains that prevents rainwater running back inboard.

Clip-in carpet is another option box that was ticked.

As the boat was fitted with a half-depth cockpit awning (upgraded Stamoid material) you could still see the transom when docking - that's a good thing - while the Pompanette helm seats proved obliging and supportive. At anchor, the interior is another thing again.



Riviera has made better use of the interior living space, recessing speakers in the timber headliner trim panel, lowering the height of the servery for better conversation with the chef, and lightened up the ambience through high-gloss cherrywood joinery. The cocktail cabinet and optional icemaker near the AC/DC panel are located near the saloon door.

The separate dinette can seat four and offers views back outdoors. There's an L-shaped lounge opposite for watching a movie on the flatscreen TV or grabbing 40 winks. The optional electric trundle bed is, in my book, $1500 well spent. In rough weather, it's the best bed in the boat and, in winter, you can cuddle up and watch a DVD.

Amtico flooring in the galley is practical and, with convection microwave oven and the two-burner electric hob, you can cook up a storm. There are solid galley counters instead of moulded Granicoat, bigger pot drawers and more pantry space, additional drawers under the servery, and potholders on the two-burner cooktop that isn't recessed and therefore able to take a decent frying pan for the bacon and eggs.

Between the single-door fridge with freezer tray, the coolbox with eutectic unit in the cockpit and the optional fridge in the bridge you have plenty of food and bootleg storage on this 38. The water gauge, range hood and Grohe faucet are welcome, too.



The 38's two-cabin, one bathroom layout is accommodating enough for extended cruising, holidaying away, tournament fishing, and living aboard with the family. The second cabin has a larger cedar-lined hanging locker and bigger and longer bunks than the 37. Upon testing the beds, I consider them adult-sized.

A two-way door means the bathroom doubles as an en suite to the stateroom, which has a signature island queen bed in the bow. The bed is now 250mm longer, I'm told, while the bathroom has upmarket solid vanity counters and an improved shower. There's a freshwater (Vacuflush) loo, of course, and plenty of storage for personal effects.

Both cabins have drawers, but the gas struts on the side or pigeon lockers in the stateroom are a recent improvement. However, the round Bomar hatches have had their day. They're fiddly and you don't get a 100 per cent shade option so you can sleep in. Otherwise, a typically homely Riviera interior and one that we could very easily live with it.



Coming from a 42-footer, I was expecting the 38 to pitch a lot more at sea. But it wasn't to be. This is at once a big boat, that can bridge the troughs and deliver a dignified ride at sea, and a nimble flybridge cruiser with surprisingly sporty off-the-wheel performance.

With three-quarters fuel and full water, the standard 370hp D6s got the boat out of the hole to a low-speed economical cruise of 16kts for 75lt/h. But these are high-revving electronic engines that deliver the most punch in the 3000rpm-plus range.

Give or take a knot for the tide, optimum cruise of 3000rpm gave 20.4 to 21kts for 100lt/h consumption and a safe cruising range of 275nm from 90 per cent of the 1450lt fuel supply. At 3100rpm, the D6s push the 38 to 23.4kts with a touch of trim tab. Consumption was 110lt/h for a safe cruising range of about 288nm. That's your cruising groove.

Maximum continuous revs of 3300rpm return 26kts for 128lt/h and a safe 265nm range. So you can see that the boat is more efficient at the top rev settings, perhaps resulting in bigger engines being the ultimate match. Having said that, top speed was 29.4kts at 3530rpm which is fast enough for a loaded 38-footer.

With all the refinements, the 38 is more than a revamp. It's a new Riviera designed to take on the world and its waterways. Best of all, you can go places, spend time aboard, and enjoy the boating lifestyle without being strapped to the bowser. And in this day of bigger and thirstier, cruise of 21kts at 100lt/h is a real breath of fresh air.



(Facts & Figures)



$620,633 w/ Volvo Penta D6 diesel engines, and options



Bowthruster, air-con, electric trundle bed in saloon, GRP hardtop, teak cockpit, ice-maker, flybridge fridge, rocket launcher, Stamoid rear awning, bridge carpet, clears, flatscreen 65cm TV, Raytheon electronics, interior decorator packages, and more






Material: Fibreglass with composite superstructure
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
LOA: 13.09m
Length per ISO8666: 12.01m
Beam: 4.23m
Draft: 1.05m
Deadrise: 14° at transom
Weight: 10,900kg (dry)



Berths: 4 + 2
Fuel: 1450lt
Water: 460lt



Make/Model: Twin Volvo Penta D6
Type: Six-cylinder diesel engine with turbocharging and aftercooling
Rated HP/Kw: 370/272 (each)
Displacement: 5.5lt (each)
Weight: 677kg (each, excluding transmission and props)
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Twin Disc /1.8:1
Props: Four-blade bronze



The Riviera Group, 50 Waterway Drive, Coomera, QLD, 4209, (07) 5502 5555,

Source: Trade-a-Boat, Sept 2008

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