“Regrets, I’ve had a few.”
I couldn’t help but think of Frank Sinatra’s famous lyric while aboard the Riviera 68 Sports Motor Yacht this past summer (Australia’s winter) in Sydney Harbour and offshore in the Tasman Sea. You see, earlier in the year I’d had to pass on an invitation to help deliver the yacht from the Riviera factory some 380 nautical miles north on the Gold Coast to the 50th annual Sydney International Boat Show. As I wheeled and toured the boat during my one-day sea trial instead, I kept thinking, Man, that would have been sweet.
There’s a lot to like about the 68 SMY, but the thing that really drew me in was the after section’s layout. The 68 is a true hybrid boat, designed as much for elegant cruising as for offshore adventure. Her cockpit is an open, nearly Spartan space with enough room for dive tanks, Hawaiian slings, or even an optional fighting chair if game fishing is in the plans. A two-burner Kenyon “barbie” forward can handle all the shrimp you throw on it, and has a sink and freezer beside it. The space has a boys’ club feel — though the boat won’t leave anyone else wanting.
“We polled our owners and found that many of the men wanted a space for sports,” says Stephen Milne, Riviera’s director of brand and communications. “He might be a fisher, he might be a diver, and he can do that with this boat. But we found the ladies really wanted that mezzanine seating.”
Ah yes, the mezzanine. With a hardtop to shade it from the oft-harsh Australian sun, the deck has a dining settee that seats four at an aft bench seat, and another four on stowable chairs. A bar forward of that area connects to the salon’s aft galley via an upward-opening window that joins the main deck’s indoor and outdoor spaces. A flip-down TV in the hardtop is viewable from every seat in the space, so all at once you can sip your cocktail, watch your movie, enjoy the sea breezes and remind the chef either at the cockpit grill or in the galley not to put too much garlic on the grouper again, please.
That typically Australian aft galley setup also hints at this boat’s ability to go for the seriously long voyages that Down Under yachtsmen in this part of the world need to make to leave their island continent. There are four (count ’em) Isotherm refrigerators as well as two freezers for food stowage. Airplane catches on the drawers and cabinets ensure that nothing goes flying in a rough seaway. Perhaps not surprisingly, on our test boat, it seemed like every one of those drawers and cabinets housed lowball and wineglasses — it’s almost as if the Aussies have a reputation for enjoying a party or something.
Star Light, Star Bright
Other features that make the 68 game for rough seas include handholds throughout the engine room. They make it easier to check on the standard twin 1,550 hp MAN V-12 diesels that were aboard our test yacht (more powerful 1,800 or 1,900 hp MAN V-12s are options). Access to service points including the twin Cummins generators (rated at 27.5 kW and 13.5 kW) forward and to starboard is good, though a tight point forward and to port might be hard to reach. Cognizant of this, Riviera built a flip-up door into the crew quarters forward of the engine room for reaching the hydraulics systems and ball valves housed in that corner.
Another feature that speaks to the 68’s seaworthiness is the 17-inch bulwark design along the side decks. Those bulwarks support beefy, 37-inch-high handrails that should give crew confidence when docking or moving forward in a seaway. The side decks lead to a bow deck with a recessed area forward for security when handling the anchor and its stainless-steel Muir windlass, as well as enough space for a 16-foot tender. Three plush bench seats can accommodate 11 people, ensuring the deck is not strictly utilitarian and can serve as an entertaining area.
Once at sea, the Frank Mulder-designed yacht put on a tour de force. Her hull, which is hand-laid using vinylester resin, is solid below the waterline for strength and foam-cored above for weight savings. Carbon fiber is used in load-bearing spots such as where the swim platform bolts onto the transom. This all makes for a solid, exceptionally quiet ride. We splashed happily through the rolling 4-footers at 25 knots. When I dropped the hammer and put her full-steam ahead, the boat shot up to a zesty 30.5 knots, though her stability belied her speed, like a luxury sedan zipping down a highway. At 9 knots, the 68 (which has a fuel capacity of 1,849 gallons) has a cruising range of 2,000 nautical miles — enough to voyage from Sydney to Fiji (or Miami to Nova Scotia) — which is a pretty good poke without having to hit the fuel dock.
After the sea trial, we took the yacht to her slip at the Sydney International Boat Show. At slow speeds, Riviera’s company captain used the standard bow thruster and optional stern thruster to slither the yacht like an eel through the labyrinth of docks and lines. A control station aft and to port on the flybridge, with a Garmin screen, Twin Disc QuickShift controls and a joystick, was supremely handy, as was the complementary joystick to starboard.
After the lines were set, I hopped onto the dock and soaked in the 68’s burly lines. A sense of contentment washed over me; it was a day to remember. I got to crawl all over a beautiful boat, check out the rugged Australian coastline and do something I’d never done before — bring a boat into a show.
So, yeah, maybe I did have a regret or two, but just like Ol’ Blue Eyes said, they were too few to mention.