Mention the name Tiara and most skippers will picture the popular and beautifully built series of express cruisers that define the higher-priced end of that niche.
That's about to change.
With their new Tiara 4800 Convertible, the company is serving notice that they are now seriously into sportfishing convertibles, and clearly aiming at the big names that have owned that market.
Sure, there have been previous Tiara convertibles dating back into the 1980s, but these were faint-hearted attempts to cross over from the family cruiser market, and none were really aimed at the serious tournament fisherman.
Many skippers aren't aware that Tiara falls under the S2 Yachts corporate umbrella and is a sister line to Pursuit Boats, with its series of offshore fishing machines that helped define the open sportfish category. Thus, it's clear that Tiara has mined that wealth of fishing knowledge to create a yacht that will satisfy the most avid angler, yet still have all the luxurious features expected of a Tiara.
As a fishing machine, the cockpit is of prime importance and the 4800 has acreage to spare. Our test boat, provided by HMY Yacht Sales in Dania, Florida, had the optional 80-gallon livewell in a transom bulge, with an oversized pump that changes the water in fewer than five minutes for healthy bait. Without the optional swim platform, with the Bennett trim tabs flush under the hull, and with no external cleats, there's nothing to snag lines. An oversized aluminum backing plate is standard under the balsa-cored cockpit sole to handle a fighting chair. Other niceties include aggressive nonskid surfaces and two fishboxes capable of holding record catches.
Up a sizable step on the mezzanine is a large, shaded settee, but serious fishermen face a tough choice here. Our boat had the standard molded stairway to the bridge, which is great for those of us with kids or bad knees, but you lose a bait-prep area. Go with the optional prep station, and you have a fairly vertical steel ladder. Decisions, decisions.
However you choose to get there, the bridge is quite wonderful, with a tournament-style helm aft and wraparound seating forward. Our optional teak helm console had a stainless steel wheel with brodie knob and Palm Beach-style single-lever controls. The molded instrument panel easily handled dual Raymarine monitors, and each side of the helm has more electronics space under lids or in lockers for protection. Access to the back of the electronics area is superb, with the entire settee hinging forward.
The standard hardtop has a pale blue underside to reduce glare, and it could easily be enclosed to go with the optional bridge air conditioning. There are a pair of large ice chests behind the settees, and immense stowage under the eyebrow forward. Thoughtful touches include both 12v and 120v power in the helm lockers for recharging cellphones or handheld VHF radios.
Inside the salon, the optional teak and holly sole (all teak is standard) combines with the teak cabinetry to create a yachty and inviting living space. A cabinet to starboard holds the 37-inch Aquos flatscreen TV, and buyers face another choice to port: the L-shaped settee can face either forward or aft. Our test boat had the long side of the settee across the after bulkhead, but you can also choose to put the settee against the back of the galley counter. My preference would be forward-facing so you can talk to the chef or watch TV equally well. After all, there's already a settee outside the salon if you want to watch your bait. I think it might be difficult to sit facing aft on the settee when running, since the running angle and motion would combine to slide you off. Again, your choice.
The galley is very well equipped, with four Sub-Zero undercounter fridge drawers, a three-burner cooktop with sea rails and, particularly impressive, anti-spill edges on the quartz counters. There is no forward window, but there is good cabinet space above the counter. You can sacrifice some of these cabinets for a fixed forward window, which would add light through a skylight into the master stateroom as well as the salon. Opposite the galley is a smallish dinette, with a table sized more for two than four.
The hallway to the three cabins had an optional hidden washer/dryer opposite the master, which fills the port side. A pocket door saves space for a queen-sized berth with an innerspring mattress and a recessed headboard. The en suite head has a space-saving two-piece pocket door and a shower sized for big anglers.
Forward, the 4800 has a clever guest cabin with over/under berths to fit most needs, from couples, to kids, to two fishermen with a double-sized lower berth and a single upper. This cabin has private access to the day-head, with another large shower. The final crew cabin is smallish and has bunks, but it passes the pants test: you have room to stand up and comfortably put on your pants.
Our test boat had the $63,000 upgrade to boost the power of the standard Caterpillar C18 ACERTs from 815-horsepower to 1,015-horsepower each. Engineroom access is through a section of the cockpit seat that lifts with gas assists and, once inside, there is 4 feet, 10 inches of headroom on diamond-plate soles. Though these are big mains, I found access to the seacocks, batteries, and dual Racors to be quite good, although one shaft log is a bit hidden because the soundbox-enclosed 13.5 kW Onan genset is above it. There is a fine level of finish throughout the engineroom, with high-gloss, easily cleaned panels.
Underway, the 4800 is pure delight. She's plenty quick (36 knots) and as nimble as a cutting horse. We had a flat day in the Gulf Stream, so we amused ourselves by spinning donuts and crossing our wake, which showed the aplomb of a nearly 15-degree deadrise slicing through four-foot seas. She backs down hard (and dry), and spins to chase her tail with throttle or helm. With an idle speed of six knots, you'll want to add the optional trolling valve if that's your fishing pleasure.
Beautifully built from the fully infused hull to the dovetailed drawers, the Tiara 4800 Convertible is a warwagon that I expect to start seeing on the tournament circuit next season. She's got the style, the poise, and the amenities to satisfy the most demanding Izaak Walton.
Tiara Yachts, (616) 392-7163; www.tiarayachts.com