BOAT TEST: RIVIERA OFFSHORE 3000
An ideal getaway craft, Riviera's latest 30-foot sportscruiser takes DAVID LOCKWOOD out for a play and shows him a thing or two.
SEPTEMBER, 1999 - The idea was to give the Australian public something they'd never seen before, a playful sportscruiser high on pleasure, big on space, true to form with perky performance and pizzazz but none of the problems associated with conventional sportscruisers.
Hold the maintenance, forget the windage, ditch the dollhouse cabins and glitzy decor. Swap those petrol-swillers for diesel donks with shafts. More than anything, make this new 30-footer user-friendly. After all, the buyer will either be stepping up from a trailerboat or be new to boating. Probably a 30-something cutting a none-too-dusty living from the IT world; perhaps a retiree spending his or her hard-earned superfund; or an over-worked self-employee.
Whatever the case, they'll have little time for tinkering and be in need of a quick lifestyle fix. Chances are they'll park the boat at a new waterfront apartment, Queensland canal estate, or funky marina somewhere.
And they'll use it for socialising, entertaining, and family days out.
For that it needs comfortable accommodation. For tackling coastal passages, it needs strength and seaworthiness. And for those who like fishing, it should convert into a gameboat.
After much pondering, the eagerly awaited Riviera 3000 Offshore is finally here. The result of thorough research, the boat delivers a king-hit to the sportscruiser market. And given a half-tower it might make a great sportsfisher, too.
As anticipated, demand for the new 30-footer has ranged from those with Gold Coast waterfronts to the new rich buying harbourside estates. But beyond all expectations, the 3000 Offshore is now ranked as Riviera's most popular new model ever.
With single controls and twin shaft-driven diesel motors, driving the boat is just like shelling peas. As quick as that, you're cruising at 20-something knots with the wind in your hair.
Press a button and the anchor's down. Out comes the stainless barbecue which is standard and you're cooking with gas. But just as easily you're back home, hosing out the cockpit and pulling the covers across. See what they mean about user-friendly?
FLOORS WITHOUT FLAWS
A smaller version of the hot-selling 4000 Offshore, and exactly half the price, the new 3000 teams a social top deck with an interior that it is realistic for a 30-footer. Without trying to fit too much inside, the 3000 has a sleek profile and practical living space for weekends at a time.
Access onboard is made easy thanks to a full-length swim platform and a centrally-located aft marlin door. The first thing you notice is the stability afforded by the boat's low profile and the underfloor diesel engines. There is no sudden lurching as you move about.
The cockpit is big enough for a half-dozen guests, with low coamings that make you feel a part of the great outdoors. From here you can swim, fish, dive, barbecue the snags, or park yourself on a folding chair with a book if you prefer.
Though fitted with optional clip-on charcoal-colour marine carpet and a swim ladder, the self-draining cockpit comes with a good grade of non-skid. It's also spread with fittings including an aft deck filler, pop-up cleats for fenders, semi-recessed cleats in the transom corners, and a raw-water washdown.
But the piece de resistance is a portable stainless barbecue and 4kg gas bottle. This is stored in one of two handy deck hatches on the back of the cockpit lounge and assembled in minutes to hang out over the port coaming.
There are conventional storage hatches built into the cockpit sides that drain overboard, a deck hatch leading down to the engine room where storage is included. A rear engine bulkhead is planned for future models.
The cockpit hatch on the starboard side includes a button that gives the ultimate in engine access. One press and the entire cockpit floor rises on a hydraulic ram, revealing entry to all points of the engines, plus plenty of room for a generator and air-conditioning unit if needs be.
Moulded steps either side of the cockpit lead to the bow. A nice, raked stainless rail comes in around knee level, with the non-skid on the decks gripping my shoes, and room up front to sunbake if you have the body for it (Ed: trust me Lockwood, you and I don't!).
The foredeck includes a moulded bowsprit, electric anchor winch, remote-controlled spotlight, and a deep chain locker with wash-down tap.
The amidships and for'ard cleats are through-bolted, while a 11kg anchor, rode, fenders, dock lines, and boat hook are all part of the package.
Looking back from the bow, the 3000 looks sporty. It has a rakish five-piece wraparound windscreen with support struts and wipers, twin chrome portholes aside below the gunwales, and honed, go-fast moulded lines.
ON THE BALCONY
From the cockpit you step up to the bridgedeck, balcony or helm platform area. Unlike flybridge boats and multi-tiered sportscruisers, the 3000 has its day-seating within earshot of the skipper. Which makes for fun when you are cruising around.
On the portside is an L-shaped lounge with room to sit four people. A good-sized dinette table (optional) offers somewhere to stage lunch. Though the pedestal for the table was fixed, it wouldn't be out of the question to make this dinette convert into an outdoor bed.
Instead of providing a separate seat, the lounge is used as a kind of benchseat by the co-pilot. Sitting on its leading edge, the view forward is excellent when underway. There is a grabrail mounted in the dash and a sensible number of drinkholders nearby.
Behind the skipper's seat is a well-moulded amenities console fitted with an optional 12V cockpit fridge, sink with hot/cold handheld shower, and storage space below for hardware and cleaning stuff.
AT THE WHEEL
But for a little tightness around the knees when standing, the helm console was nicely moulded and ergonomic. The screen offers a good view whether standing or seated, going someway to deflecting wind while helping the boat's looks.
The dash has a compass on the furthermost section, walnut inlays for the engine gauges and ignition switches on the middle tier, an adjustable Momo marine steering wheel, and room to flush mount a GPS plotter and sounder.
Fitted with an Autohelm BiData gauge, VHF marine radio, and remote volume control for the Clarion sound system, the testboat also had a skipper's drinkholder and a lower switch panel. It was marked: horn, wipers, nav lights, instrument lights, engine-room light, windlass and trim tabs.
Overall, the dash is practical without being pretentious. The custom targa arch and bimini top, fitted by Lee Dillon to better match the quality of the boat, shaded the entire helm and seating area.
Clears could be fitted to provide shelter in winter and from the spray when tackling strong crosswinds offshore. But nothing except a few weeks holiday was left wanting.
THE INSIDE STORY
The companionway of the 3000 is covered by an opaque sliding plexiglass door. Four steps down the stairs, which pull out to reveal the boat's battery switches and 12V panels, is a cheerful, open-plan interior.
Natural light floods through the companionway, deck hatch, and a total of four portholes, while the 12V overhead lights are mounted in mirrored fittings. Foam-backed cream headliners add to the sense of space, while the dark navy-grey carpet is entirely practical.
Riviera's inhouse V2 decorating team had added green and gold, blue and yellow, scatter cushions, with a royal-blue and gold bedspread, and gold fabric covering the lounges. Steamed European beech joinery and chrome fittings adds elegance.
To port is a dinette table behind which two or three people can squeeze down and slurp their bowls of cornflakes. The back of the lounge lifts up to create an adult-sized pullman berth and a very small bunk for a child above if you need it.
But you'd be kidding yourself if you didn't see this 30-footer as an ideal getaway boat for two. The big island double berth in the bow is a beauty - bigger than a Riviera 34's they tell me - with a firm mattress, mirror-backed bedhead, and headroom to dress nearby.
There's a big hanging locker to port fashioned from beech wood, a linen and towel cupboard opposite, and from the bed, which has storage beneath it, you could view a compact television/VCR mounted somewhere near the galley.
While that galley isn't the biggest on offer, it has provision for a convection microwave in the beechwood cupboards behind. Along with a kettle and toaster, this is all you need to cook anything from a bosun's baked dinner to a bacon and eggs breakfast.
Moulded in Granicoat, the bench has a countersunk sink with separate hot and cold taps, timber storage cupboards for crockery, and room for a portable cooktop if you wanted it. The only thing missing is a dedicated cutlery drawer - a feature which may grace future 3000s.
The head is no less appealing. Located near the companionway on the starboard side, the large moulded booth has full headroom and a sink with a separate handheld shower. Only the plastic shower fittings could be improved to better fit the boat's image.
As mentioned, the boat's low profile and the weight of the diesel engines contribute to the terrific stability. When you step aboard, the chines don't jump up and down. There's a gently heave from a hull which feels good and solid before you so much as cast off.
Fitted with the twin Volvo TAMD 41 Series, which each put out 200hp at 3900rpm, the 3000 in standard guise proved sporty enough. For the real performance buffs, however, twin supercharged 260hp Volvo EDC diesels can be fitted.
Matched to single lever controls, the 3000 Offshore is above all an easy and fun boat to drive. One throttle forward, one astern, and the hull spins on its axis. You can see all quarters from the helm. Nothing much can go wrong.
Moving in and out of a marina and about a busy waterway is a real snap. Leaving Rushcutters Bay, the 3000 jumped clear of the water without need for trim tabs or a heavy hand on the throttles.
I reeled the engines back and found 3200-3400rpm or about 24-25kt to be to its liking. At this speed the hull slots into the groove and everyone aboard gets treated to an armchair ride. For tougher conditions, around 2800-3000rpm might be more comfortable.
While the boat seemed wet offshore at first, I discovered the trim tabs were wired back to front. With just a touch of tab, the boat works a headsea rather well, or at least the passive metre-high ground swell and 10kt rippling nor-easter didn't trouble us. In fact, the boat seemed solid and glued to the ocean, not inclined to jump about, bang, or rattle.
I drew a line for Norah Head and sat back in comfort. Given a few hours, we would have been at the Central Coast, then Port Stephens for the weekend.
Admittedly, while quartering the wind an occasional wisp of spray landed on the screen and licked my face. But considering this is a mere 30-footer, that you are driving the boat from down near water-level, the ride was confidence inspiring.
Running back home with the tabs free, the boat showed a willingness to hold its line. Though it runs flat, its natural attitude is slightly bow-up just like a battlewagon. Back inside, the boat banks around nicely and doesn't wash off too much speed in tight turns.
While sportscruisers are a dime a dozen these days, few are as clever as the new Australian-designed and built Riviera 3000. Few have its sleek profile, stability, aft cockpit, and smart interior. Even fewer have twin diesel motors and shaft drives.
For those of us in boating for the long haul, the 3000 offers comforts, classiness and low maintenance for years to come. Coupled with a pricetag that is in reach of more and more people, the 3000 Offshore is Riviera's opus magnum played out on a baby grand.
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA OFFSHORE 3000
PRICE AS TESTED
Swim ladder ($596); cockpit refrigeration ($1375); cockpit table and carpet ($1425); porthole curtains ($297); custom stainless targa and bimini with clears ($4860); V2 interior-design kit ($2422); Autohelm ST30 BiData ($983), and delivery, detailing, etc.
(w/twin 200hp Volvo TAMD 41Ps)
Type: Moderate-vee mono
Deadrise at transom: not given
Fuel capacity: 620lt
Water capacity: 260lt
ENGINES (as tested)
Make/model: Twin Volvo TAMD 41P
Rated hp (ea): 200hp
Type: inline six-cylinder turbo diesel
Displacement (ea): 3600cc
Weight (ea): 494kg
Riviera Sales Sydney, Rushcutters Bay (NSW), (02) 9363 0000, www.riviera.com.au.
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