BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 43 OFFSHORE EXPRESS

By: DAVID LOCKWOOD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

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Riviera's new 43 Offshore Express is a real crowd pleaser that proves you can be all things to almost all people, writes DAVID LOCKWOOD.

BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 43 OFFSHORE EXPRESS
Riviera 43 Offshore Express

MARCH, 2009 - Riviera Concept Design Manager, Stephen Ford, says the Riviera 43 Offshore Express draws heavily on the principles laid down by the first Offshore Express released mid last year. "We learned a great deal in designing the original 48 Offshore Express and, of course, this new model has Volvo Penta IPS propulsion, giving us the opportunity to evolve the dynamics of the boat," Ford says.

 "One week, the 43 Offshore Express can be an all-out gamefishing boat and the next, a couple can go cruising with their friends or family. The cockpit, for example, is large enough to fit a full gamechair or an entertaining table. Engineroom access is through the cockpit floor. The entire floor lifts and hinges forward on an electric actuator.

"We were well aware that, in gamefish mode in particular, the cockpit can take a lot of water. So the hatch is double sealed with special lock-downs. And the cockpit is specifically designed to drain water quickly for the game fishermen," Ford adds.

But is it really possible to build a boat for everyone and put everyone in the one boat? We think the new Riviera 43 Offshore Express pulls it off - on the one hand it appeases serious anglers with a platform that's seaworthy and fishing friendly, while on the other it placates fish widows and, moreover, the single-level cruiser crowd who prefers to entertain.

Of course, there's nothing new about multipurpose boats, only the new Riviera takes the concept further, with uncompromising utility for both catching fish and family fun. In so doing, the Gold Coast yard has proved that you can be all things to virtually all people. I've seen fully rigged 48 Offshore Express boats bristling with fishing rods and, only the other day, a family version overflowing with a happy clan.

Between the two user groups, and those who cross over, the 43 Offshore Express has been deemed a success. By the time we tested boat #1, Riviera was building boat #16. And with the way the exchange rate has been, the premium for Volvo Penta equipped boats isn't so great over the conventional American-made engines with shafts. Not that they are available on Riviera's 43 Offshore Express, rather, the point being that the boat's are becoming better value.

 


 
EXPRESS OPTIONS


Though time constraints prevented us from wetting a line, our time on the deep blue sea off the Gold Coast was long enough to get a feel for hull #1 of the new Riviera 43 Offshore Express. Some 15kts of northeast wind was driving into a run-out tide, but with the wipers running we retained our view of the road ahead and remained dry in the enclosed bridgedeck.

At which point you might consider that the 43 comes in three different versions: open with bimini top that will sit well in hot climates; a targa version targeting European buyers; and the hardtop that we drove that offers protection and is air-conditioned. As such, it is the best all-weather model. Add a Riviera tower made in-house and any of the above 43s will morph into a serious tournament fishing machine. Your call.

As touched on, the new 43 comes hot on the keels of its bigger sister ship, the 48 Offshore Express, which is the harbinger for this new range of so-called sports utility vessels. But while the 48 has been a big hit, the new 43 may point to a trend to smaller boats that can fish and cruise just as effectively and comfortably but more frugally.

To this end, the 43 Offshore Express seen here has a pair of Volvo Penta's revolutionary IPS 600s that are based on the fully electronic D6 engines with common rail injection producing 435hp per side. As well as the patented Joystick docking device, the demonstrator had yet another Volvo Penta trick - Sport Fish mode, which locks the forward-facing propellers and drives outboard for incredible agility on the throttles.

At the press of a button, with one lever forward and the other reversed, Sport Fish had us performing manoeuvres with a high degree of difficulty as though we were elite skippers or, should you get in a bind, Houdini. Costing around $10,000 for the upgrade, Sport Fish obviously targets anglers chasing big fish. But the Joystick device for a similar price is all you need to make pleasure cruising less of a worry and a fingertip affair about the marina.

Incidentally, standard power for the 43 Offshore Express is twin IPS 500s, which are based on 370hp D6 common rail electronic diesel engines. The boat we drove had upgraded IPS 600s. We're told it's a popular upgrade, as it gives a handy 32kts top end to create a sporty ride.

 



FOUNDATIONS FIRST


I am told the 43 Offshore Express is an adaptation of the company's 4400 Sport Yacht that is also IPS powered and which Trade-a-Boat and yours truly tested on a voyage from the Gold Coast to Fraser Island. Only the new 43 is built the old-fashioned handlaid way using solid GRP bottom and cored sides. The 4400 Sport Yacht, on the other hand, has a resin-infused hull. Resin transfer moulds were used only for components on the 43 such as deck hatches.

There are significant changes dimensionally, however. Being a serious offshore boat means the bow has a lot more flare to shed water and additional freeboard for punching into a headsea. And while the hull is shorter than the 4400, it's actually wider to deliver a more stable platform for anglers and entertainers. The increased wetted surface area back aft also helps the boat jump out of the blocks.

On the electrical front, there's something altogether new by way of a CANbus digital switching system that lets you control any circuit from either of two simple control panels at the helm or down below. The digital system dispenses with the usual circuit breakers and instead allows you to select the mode which best suits your operation, be it cruising, fishing, or something else like night boating.

These predetermined modes can be customised so the system works as you want it. For example, hit fish mode and the deckwash and bait pumps are running, the electronics are on, the outlet for the downrigger and camera are powered up, this kind of thing. Another nice touch was the automatic windscreen wash function.

The boat's batteries are maintenance free and there are the usual individual start battery banks, house supply, separate generator battery and emergency parallel function between them. The DC side of things is the more efficient 24V, with just a few 12V items via a converter. An inverter comes standard but it only powers for the AV system, leaving the 9kW Onan generator mainly for cooking duties and running the air-con. The battery charger is a snappy 80amp number.

Needless to say, the 43 boasts excellent engine access for routine maintenance and pre-departure checks, and the engineering in general reflects Riviera's ongoing commitment to create world-class boats. In the last two years, our biggest yard has come a long way in this engineering department.

 


 
OUTDOOR STATIONS


There is a lot of serious boating intent in the 43 Offshore Express. As with all good sea boats, the 43 has purposeful lines, a graceful sheer, plenty of freeboard and flare. Importantly, she performs fast or slow, going forward or in reverse. For serious fishing, the big cockpit is equipped with subfloor fishboxes with macerators, a tackle and bait-prep centre and options such as livebait well, outriggers, more rodholders, tower, and so forth. For pleasure boating, there is abundant drink and food storage.

The deep and broad cockpit has toe kicks so you can gain support from the coamings when leaning outboard. The in-transom livebait tank has a light, inspection window and split lid. Hawsepipes with below-deck cleats prevent lines being fouled. There is the option of no boarding platform, otherwise it will enhance your waterfront lifestyle.

At the division between bridgedeck and cockpit there's an aft-facing lounge for crew, with storage beneath, a eutectic  fridge/freezer, tackle drawers, fresh and saltwater deckwashes, recessed spreader lights, and scope for mounting rod racks under the rear fibreglass overhang.

Steps lead up to the sidedecks, which are finished in a good grade of non-skid and backed by hand and bowrails. Small clear infill curtains curtail spray when traversing crosswinds and, during testing, I couldn't discern any blow back in the bridgedeck.

Amenities on the bridgedeck include fridge, icemaker, outdoor television, dinette and lounges, allowing a crew of six to hang in air-conditioned comfort and be fed, watered and entertained. Opening side windows and overhead hatches help with natural ventilation and, make a note, express boats with hardtops do get hot.

The helm chairs were the ladder-back Pompanette types facing a huge dash home to the aforesaid CANbus digital switching system, plus EVC engine ignition panels and Volvo Penta electronic engine monitoring screens called HelmView. Add the Sport Fish button and single-level gearshift options, plus a Joystick for single-handed manoeuvring, and you have the latest high-tech helm. Twin Raymarine E120s add to the display and your fishfinding or cruising power.

 


 
HOME AWAY FROM HOME


Below decks, the 43 will silence the most ardent non-fisher looking for luxury rather than lines. There are two cabins and a head with a nice, big separate shower. An island berth lies in the bow, with a double and single bed for a couple and/or crew in the full-beam cabin back aft. Pity it has only one opening port, but I'm told a second port is an option so you derive cross-flow ventilation at night.

Both cabins are carpeted, replete with storage and cedar-lined hanging spaces, and you can pick and choose from Riviera's extensive soft furnishing swatches. The flip-down TV in the for'ard cabin is a neat touch, as is the TV in the bridgedeck, and third set in the saloon. Everyone gets a TV.

A sliding privacy panel shuts off the otherwise open-plan forward cabin from the saloon and galley, which has Amtico (mock timber) hardwearing flooring. The L-shaped lounge can seat four around the dinette. Cooks will be impressed with the two-burner stove with potholders, separate Norcold fridge and small vertical freeze, and decent amount of Corian counter space.

All told, six people, or preferably a crew of four can sleep aboard in comfort. With 450lt of water you can last at least four days with a modest morning shower. And such is the efficiency and seaworthiness of the 43 you will be tempted to explore other ports.

 


 
OFFSHORE RUN


There was some outgoing tide at the Seaway, a lively sea breeze, and about 1.5m of swell and sea. In other words, there was enough weather to test the 43 Offshore Express. With the bow buttoned down a tad, the ride improved as we blasted east.

Water was being tossed over the bridgedeck but wipers helped maintain vision in the dry enclosure.

At 1370rpm and 7.5kts, using just 13lt/h, the boat is nice and quiet whole trolling or trawling the bay or harbour as your guests sip champagne. The big Carolina-style flared bow and extra freeboard keeps the sea at bay.

Cruise speed of 21kts was clocked at 2855rpm, where the engines use just 95lt/h in total for a range of about 300nm from 90 per cent of the 1500lt fuel supply. At 3200rpm, cruise jumps to 28kts for 110lt/h and a superior range of 340nm. Maybe there was some tide factored into this latter run?

If the seas allow, you can run at 3365rpm for 30 to 31kts fast cruise and consumption of about 125lt/h. Only at full noise of 32 to 33kts at 3635rpm do the IPS 600s start gulping - 164lt/h.

Straight line running is one thing, but I like the motion of this boat at slow speed, too. The 43 Offshore Express feels stable and surefooted, predictable and pleasurable, and at once fishy and plain good fun. But, to conclude, its biggest competition may come from within by way of the Riviera 4400 Sport Yacht.

Source: Trade-a-Boat, Mar 2009

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