BOAT TEST: RIVIERA 43 PRO TOURNAMENT
It's taken some time for Riviera to launch a serious assault on the liveaboard gamefishing arena. But, as DAVID LOCKWOOD discovers, it's been worth the wait...
DECEMBER, 1999 - When Capt Bob Jones heads out to sea people pay for the ride. With decades of experience and a history of successful gameboats to his name, the good-natured skipper knows the secrets of successful big gamefishing. These qualities have taken 28 years to procure - starting when Jones was a weekend fisherman out of Moreton Bay, teaming up with his wife and a good mate on a classic Cresta 32.
Back then, however, Jones didn't imagine he would one day go professional. And not in his wildest dreams did he contemplate his present job campaigning the latest new gamefishing boat for Australia's biggest boatbuilder, Riviera.
Jones came to Riviera after serving as a skipper for 15 years on a colourful and diverse bunch of fishing boats. These include a Mariner 43 called Inkeeper, which Shimano now runs in Sydney under the name Triton; a Randell 55 called Prime Mover; a Pleysier 35 called Cervantes; a Precision 46 called Shoki Maru; and a Choy Lee 48 called Swordfish.
Yet he will tell you the greatest comfort came five years ago when he approached Riviera about making a better fishing boat. That's how the Riviera 48, Diamond Girl, was born. Then came another successful big fish-catching 50 (48+2), called Iceman.
Though he has driven a Pleysier 56 and skippered a Randell 56 in seasons past, Jones has returned to the helm of a Riviera by choice. Of all the craft he has lived with, these are the most homelike and, with the latest changes, comfortably fishable.
"About five years ago, Riviera let me have some say in setting up a boat. One of its directors came up and fished with me. Since then the company's been pretty spot on with its fishing boats," he says.
What Jones does is modify the company's boats for live-aboard charter fishing. This involves making sweeping changes to the refrigeration and water system, and ensuring that there is plenty of space for both long-term crew and clients.
From a fishing perspective, his Rivieras have raised covering boards for the deckhand to lock under, a bigger marlin door with better drainage, a tackle centre and bait-preparation station, and other nice touches such as a heavy-duty chair and outriggers pitched higher for towing big baits.
"But really that's about as far as I go with them," a modest Jones says, "the rest is the work of the company's managing director, Wesley Moxey."
The way Moxey has implemented Jones' improvements is how the Pro Tournament range came into being. Beginning with a Riviera 48, moving to a 36 and 40-foot canyon runner, Riviera has now applied Jones' know-how with its production-building nous to produce what it sees as the ideal liveaboard 43-footer.
While the 48 is perfect for Cairns, with plenty of accommodation, they're a little big to compete with on light tackle, Jones states, confirming his belief the 43 Pro Tournament will be more competitive to run. In addition, the 48 weighs over 20 tonnes when done-up as a full battlewagon, but the 43 Pro Tournament comes in at just 16 or so.
"So she's gotta be more manoeuvrable," says Jones, adding that he is looking forward to smaller fuel bills, too.
With twin GM 565hp 6V92 DDECs on Diamond Girl he used 160lt/hr at 19kt. On Iceman which had 635hp DDECs, he burnt through 180lt/hr at the same speed. But this new Riviera 43 with twin Volvo 610hp engines is back to using 120-130lt/hr.
Jones says the other attraction of his new boat is that it is almost twice as big as any other 43. With three-cabin accommodation and that signature Riviera finish, the boat is "streets ahead of anything else".
Indeed, the new 43 looks pretty as a picture in the calms of Hope Island. With a sunset-yellow hull, full stainless tower, teak decks, and blanked-in lower screen, the boat exudes a tournament look that any skipper would be proud to flaunt in company.
But it's not until you step aboard the boat that its intent becomes clear. Not just another gamefishing boat, the Riviera 43 has been set up for 10-day liveaboard chartering at te Great Barrier Reef. The interior and engineering changes really are quite special.
Low maintenance meets high-spec engineering in a boat that's also wonderfully luxurious inside. The fore-peak cabin, for example, hasn't the usual island berth but a vee bunk and another single, which leaves ample shoulder room and a good deal of headroom for paying clients to bed-down for days on end.
Big hanging lockers provide personal storage, while natural light and fresh air drift inside through an overhead hatch. There are no portholes or deck strips to spoil the boat's clean look. Instead, all three cabins are airconditioned.
The decorating is something else again. Crafted by design company V2, the 43 blends the traditional teak joinery with a satin finish, and blue-sisal carpet with the elegance of top-grade fabrics.
In the forepeak cabin, cream liners and pull-down Roman blinds highlight the bedspreads which were caramel-coloured with a stylish, quilt-like pattern and fine edging or flounce.
But the companionway, galley and crew cabin have a more workmanlike look. A unique imitation chequer-plate flooring material has been used to good effect. An Antico product, it is in fact hard-wearing and durable vinyl.
The crew cabin to port reflects the wisdom of professional skipper, Jones, who will camp here with the boat's deckie or resident hostess. A two-person self-contained bedsit, it has everything you need at sea.
There is that vinyl chequer-plate flooring, two bunks, a moulded sink and vanity emanating from the wall, plenty of hanging space, and a Vacuflush loo so the guests don't have to share toilets.
Like the other two cabins, it has airconditioning and that classy toffee-coloured fabric for bedspreads and teak joinery. What is unique is the rod storage under the lower bunk.
The starboard side amidships cabin is at the boat's most stable point and away from the slap of water on the chines. It has a giant king-sized bed that beckons, with a burnished blue-and-gold bedspread and firm inner-spring mattress.
With an en suite also accessible to those staying in the forward cabin, the suite offers lots of hanging and storage space in a chest of drawers and lowboy, with room to spare to mount a TV/VCR.
The en suite glitters with gold towels, there is a standing-height shower just like home, and the Vacuflush loo means, well, daily ablutions won't be left lingering for all to share.
COOKING UP A STORM
Up three steps from the accommodation, the galley to port is the domain of the chef de partie charged with turning those fresh coral trout and painted crayfish into a meal fit for a king or queen.
To this end, the appliances are all heavy-duty and the layout functional with L-shaped Grannycoated benchtops.
Facilities include a sink big enough to wash dishes, single-action tap, big fridge/freezer hidden behind a teak facia, and lots of cupboards and drawers for cutlery and crockery near the servery.
The microwave is an industrial-strength convection type with browning facility. Nothing more needed.
Inspired by American wants, the saloon includes a separate dining setting that will also offer charterers a view. Opposite the galley but with windows looking outside, the facility can seat four on its canary-yellow lounges fronting a big teak table.
There is an everyday dinette and L-shaped lounge on the portside of the saloon, too. This is the place to hang out during the day, as it fronts the gallery on one side and has a big view of the cockpit behind.
The impression in the convivial saloon is one of understated elan. Blue-sisal carpet and yellow-and-blue fabrics for the lounges create a cheery mood.
The saloon door, offset to starboard, is just two steps away from the heart of Jones' fish-catching machine. The cockpit is where battles will be won and lost, which is why the wily skipper has ensured his 43 performs where it counts most.
Due to survey requirements, there are the usual lockers for fire extinguishers, steering gear and bilge pumps. The trim tabs were improved with stainless steel mechanisms, while the cockpit deckwash is a 240V pool pump. The engine room had dedicated tool and oil storage.
The armoury comes in the form of heavy duty rodholders to suit 130lb tackle, raised cockpit coamings for survey and a bait preparation station under the Sunbrella canvas cockpit overhang.
There is also a better flybridge ladder. And note that the oversized marlin door incorporates a unique scupper system which keeps water out when backing up and empties any that does splash aboard at other times quickly.
Other features include a big eutectic bait freezer, a cockpit sink and access underneath to the Volvo engines.
In the engine room, you'll find a 12kVa Onan genset, airconditioning units and more.
An extra fueltank hides in the bow (total is 3100lt) while a watermaker ensures long showers for all. The forward section of the hull, in front of the engine room, has foam insulation.
Back up top, deck fittings include heavy-duty stainless steel hawsepipes, pop-up mooring cleats, a low profile bowrail, and dedicated coaming storage tubes for gaffs and tagpole.
Next comes the extra-stiff black carbon-fibre outrigger poles from Reelax, the powder-coated handrails leading to the bow, and the full stainless steel tower from Coastal... Time to take a look up top.
Jones' main office is a fully-carpeted flybridge equipped with one central helm chair that looks down on the teak cockpit and whoever is tied to that fish in the heavy-duty Reelax gamechair.
Forward of the console is a U-shaped lounge, a drinks or lunch table, and a bar fridge almost within arm's reach of the helm.
To boost the boat's range, the underside of the bench seats in the flybridge have been converted into giant fridges. Fitted with eutectic units, they are intended to store perishables during extended charters.
Electronics comprise an impressive suite of Raytheon gear. There's a 24nm radar, V850 colour sounder, 620 chartplotter and ST7000 pilot, with a separate LCD sounder, both VHF and HF radios, and a PA system.
With repeater gauges and a stylish Riviera wheel, the tower is perfect for navigating safely through the reef as dusk approaches.
WHERE IT COUNTS
Yet all this counts for nothing if the boat can't find fish in the deep. With twin 610hp Volvos fitted with massive 1.7:1 gearboxes, the 43 doesn't take long to find its way to the grounds.
Sadly, however, conditions weren't exactly suitable for fishing during our fly-by test. The Gold Coast Seaway had four-metre swells breaking across its entrance, and the past week's heavy rains had painted the inshore waters dirty brown.
We merely shot up and down the passages and talked about what could be. Around 1800rpm produced the desired 21.8kt cruise speed, while 28.5kt was registered flat-out.
But don't take it from me that Rivieras have fish-raising capabilities. Turn to Jones. The biggest fish he has weighed from a Riviera was a 1046-pounder.
"Diamond Girl was the top boat last year in Cairns. There's no worries about them catching fish," he opined.
"The old story was that you could always make a fishing boat into a pleasure boat, but not the reverse. But not any more. This is both. If the average guy wants a boat to go fishing and keep the wife happy, well, we're going to kill that market. That's what we're after," Jones explains.
While it's taken some time for Riviera to launch an assault on the fishing-boat market, the company now acknowledges there is a world out there with people like Bob Jones, crews that are prepared to live for months at a time onboard, and anglers who pay to catch the behemoth of the sea.
(Facts & Figures)
RIVIERA 43 PRO TOURNAMENT
(Three cabin layout with twin 610hp Volvo TAMD 122P EDC engines.)
PRICE AS TESTED
Extra forward fueltank and transfer pump, solid windshield with hatch, deleted portholes, flybridge seat footrests, teak cockpit floor and steps, saloon icemaker, refrigeration in bridge, fire system, foam-filled hull, spotlight, oversized carbon-fibre outriggers, rocket launcher on bridge, five heavy-duty rodholders, reinforced cockpit floor, flybridge dash cover, flybridge carpet, flybridge clears, yellow hull, short bowrail to suit Qld survey, stainless tower, two Vacuflush toilets, watermaker, flybridge eutectic fridges under seats, raised cockpit coamings (for survey), stainless trim tab hoses, two-piece flybridge ladder, heavy-duty Reelax gamechair, 240V deckwash pump, TV/VCR in saloon, port cabin with sink and toilet, starboard cabin with toilet access and inner-spring mattress, folding dinette table, rod storage under crew bunk and in bridge, tool and oil storage in engine room, high-volume bilge pump system with sensors, vinyl flooring in galley and companionway and crew cabin, smoked glass in saloon, rear awning, 12kVa Onan with sound shield, bilge blowers, lifebuoy rings, liferaft, vee berth and bunk in forward cabin.
Type: Moderate-to-deep vee mono
Deadrise at transom: 15 degrees
Displacement: approx 16,000kg
Berths: Two double, two single
Fuel capacity: 2200lt (3100lt on testboat)
Water capacity: 620lt
ENGINES (as tested)
Make/model: Twin Volvo TAMD 122P EDC
Type: Inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel
Rated hp (ea): 2 x 610hp
Displacement (ea): 12lt
Weight (ea): 1295kg
Gearbox (make/model): ZF 1.76:1
Props: Teinbridge three-bladed 2 x 35-inch
Riviera Marine, Hope Harbour (Qld), (07) 5530 1477. Charter from: Bob Jones Sports Fishing Australia, 018 742 039.
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