The U.S. has many great production boatbuilders, however, if I had to choose one that reflects the heart of America's sense of design and style on the water, it would probably be Tiara Yachts. The builder's latest model, the Sovran 3600, proves it knows what it's doing.
Though she is somewhat conservative by European standards, her lines can be traced to a theme that has pleased American yachtsmen for five decades. Compared with past Tiara products, she is smoother, softer and more graceful. While she is built on a platform of proven features, it is blended with a long list of subtle improvements that are both attractive and practical. This is the Tiara way-and it works.
The 3600 is the smallest of the four models in Tiara's Sovran series, all express designs suited for cruising. The emphasis is on comfort with more volume devoted to interior accommodations, compared with the builder's Open series. Still, Tiara has used exterior space wisely and creatively.
A year ago Tiara introduced a fixed fiberglass hardtop as standard on all Sovran models. The hardtop's integrated arch and fiberglass windshield frame eliminate the maintenance headaches associated with earlier designs that incorporated aluminum components. Wipers and washers are standard, and the tempered-glass side windows are an improvement over the isinglass inserts on earlier models.
While hardtop express designs go back to the 1950s, they fell from favor in the sun-crazed 1970s. I believe Tiara's timing in reintroducing the feature is perfect given a standup helm and a flexible, natural ventilation scheme. The 3600 has two hatches in the hardtop, an electrically actuated windshield vent and optional bridge air conditioning. Adding isinglass to the three-sided enclosure creates a true all-weather helm. This is a tangible asset for folks with well-defined leisure time, as crew morale will not wane when the weather turns and it's time to run.
The 3600's oversize integrated swim platform, measuring 13 feet by 4 feet, is also common to the Sovran line. Its port and starboard access will reduce the queue on family snorkeling trips. There is enough space on the platform to suit up, and an integral dive ladder folds away neatly into a covered pocket. A deep transom stowage compartment, ideal for stashing snorkeling gear, opens with the push of a button. A hot/cold freshwater transom shower is standard. The platform is designed to accommodate a small inflatable tender, as well.
The cockpit area has a foldaway table and aft-facing seating. A freshwater washdown tap is handy for cleaning up, and a 120-volt AC outlet would be useful for plugging in an electric barbecue. A foredeck cushion, bordered by a stainless-steel rail and drink holders, will satisfy sunbathers. An integral bow pulpit is fitted with an anchor and windlass, and there is deck access to the forepeak. I would recommend upgrading to the all-chain system if you are serious about swinging on the hook.
The bridge is a step up from the after cockpit. Tiara's signature charcoal-gray (non-glare) helm design remains the same for 2004, although our test boat was finished in an optional blue. The vertical stainless-steel destroyer-style wheel and hinged, backside service access also are standard Tiara fare. The helm seat is adjustable, and there is plenty of space for instrumentation and electronics, which include several large displays.
A portside navigation area has a covered chart flat and drink holders. Companion seating is designed with a drop section and converts to an L-shape settee. The wet bar has the customary sink and refrigerator.
The cabin is larger that you might expect on a boat this size, and the teak and Corian finish are first-class. A tongue-and-groove teak sole is standard, while a teak-and-holly sole is a $1,150 option. Add $7,850 for the leather upgrade. An enclosed head/shower adjacent to the entryway is convenient to the bridge. A VacuFlush head system is standard, though a macerator is not; those able to discharge legally will want to invest the $1,300.
An L-shape lounge/dinette to starboard converts to a double berth, and a settee to port converts to upper-and-lower berths. A 15-inch flat-screen TV and home-theater sound system are standard. The galley area has a cooktop, a microwave and dual-voltage refrigeration. The forward stateroom is separated from the main cabin with a bi-fold door. The queen island berth has an innerspring mattress and internal stowage. There are two cedar-lined lockers with removable shelves. A 13-inch flat-screen TV is standard.
The 3600's hull bottom is a solid, laminate-composed polyester resin with stitched and woven fiberglass reinforcement. A vinylester skin coat is used below the waterline to reduce the chance of blistering. Fiberglass stringers are built over foam/wood forms and are supported by marine plywood bulkheads and web frames. End-grain balsa coring is used to stiffen the topsides (hull sides) and exterior decks. All Tiaras now have fiberglass fuel tanks. These help reduce corrosion issues on any boat where aluminum tankage and bilge water are likely to meet.
Access to the engine compartment is through a hatch adjacent to the helm. For serious matters, the bridge deck can be raised for access to this area. The 3600 is offered with a range of power options, including 385 hp Crusader gas engines and 450 and 480 hp Cummins diesels. While the upgrade from gas to diesel will set you back $68,058, in my view it's worth it, particularly if you intend to cruise the Bahamas, where gasoline sells for a premium.
Our test boat was fitted with a pair of Cummins 450Cs. During our sea trial, with the 3600 fully loaded with fuel and water, I recorded a maximum speed of 29.9 knots. At 2400 rpm she moved along briskly at 27.9 knots; Tiara's data indicates a fuel burn of 36.8 gallons per hour at 2404 rpm. At 2100 rpm I recorded a relatively quiet 83 decibels at the helm. With some throttle, the 3600 responded quickly, reaching maximum speed in less than 20 seconds. She has a solid feel that experienced Tiara owners will find familiar and those new to the marque will find comforting.
According to John Garland, Tiara's vice president of design, the Sovran line represents the latest thinking in hull design at Tiara.
"V-drives allow us to position machinery farther aft", Garland said, "and as a result, there is less volume required forward, i.e. a finer, more seakindly entry."
As is the case on other Sovran models, the 3600's topsides are convex, which increases usable space in the interior.
"While flare is typically employed to control spray, we found our convex section design just as effective", Garland said.
Our sea trial seemed to support Garland's findings. Though we kicked up a little spray while slogging through the inlet, the 3600 was relatively dry at speed, even when I applied a bit of tab and dropped her nose to soften head seas.
Equipped with Cummins 450Cs, air conditioning and a generator, the 3600 is priced at $368,048. There are less-expensive alternatives, but considering her tangible assets and all-American pedigree, she is a good value.
Contact: Tiara Yachts, (616) 392-7163;