If you mix an express cruiser, a flybridge sedan, and a convertible, what do you get— besides a headache? Hopefully if you follow the recipe to the standards of Riviera Yachts, you’ll end up with the Riviera 43 Open Flybridge —the company’s latest model, debuting at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October.
“We’ve gotten away from solely focusing on fish boats,” commented Stephen Milne, Riviera’s director of brand marketing. “Yes you can fish the 43, no problem, but it’s really meant for cruising. It’s a cruising boat that is designed to cruise all the time and fish some of the time, not the other way around.”
When Milne and Riviera’s head designer Neil McCabe first walked me through preliminary drawings last January, I couldn’t fully wrap my jet-lagged brain around the concept. “Boating has needed a change,” said Milne while explaining the company’s approach to this model. Yet change for the sake of change can often backfire once the design actually hits the water.
That’s certainly not the case here. McCabe and his team have kept the basic profile of a typical convertible design, but that’s where the similarities end. The connectivity gained between the salon and cockpit with inclusion of a sliding door and fold-out bulkhead window is one of the most noticeable design elements of the 43. Yes, this is being executed on a fair number of new express designs, including models such as the Riviera 5000 and 5800 Sport Yachts, but incorporating the treatment into a production convertible design is refreshingly original. Milne, himself an enthusiastic boater, eagerly revealed all of the cockpit’s cruising attributes: a transom barbecue grill, mezzanine seating, a cockpit fridge under the flying bridge ladder, and salt- and freshwater washdowns. But what if you’re one of those chaps who would occasionally like to fish? Not a problem, thanks to six rod holders, two fishboxes, tackle drawers, and a cockpit coaming that is designed to be forgiving on the thighs while reaching over to tag a fish. (Milne also mentioned a retail sale to a gentleman in Tasmania who planned to go all out with a full tower and outriggers.)
The engine room is beneath the cockpit, housing twin 435-horsepower Volvo IPS 600 diesels. Access is gained by pushing a button and letting the electric lifts do the work. Riviera also included a smaller hatch for routine engine checks while underway.
On the flying bridge, you’ll find more space to relax. By placing the helm aft, Riviera is able to offer an L-shaped settee forward of the helm. Guests will have a great view of the action in front of them and, the captain won’t feel left out of the conversation. A wet bar with stowage is to port.
Overhead lights are recessed into the hardtop, and by enclosing this area, you’ll have yet another social area. Executing a hardtop design, especially on a boat of less than 50 feet, is not an easy task. It often comes off as looking top heavy and out of place. McCabe and his staff incorporated the 43’s hardtop design into the profile from the get go. Not only is it functional, with overhead hatches and stowage, but it follows the profile lines of the 43, and contributes to the design, versus distracting your eye. I like it a lot.
Access to the cockpit is via a teak and stainless steel ladder. The ladder’s incline and sturdy railings combine to provide a safe and secure transition.
Inside the salon, a U-shaped settee to starboard faces a settee for two. But wait, there’s a trick! This not a settee at all, but two moveable lounge chairs with drawers. They can easily be placed at the dinette or even in the cockpit for additional seating. The galley has enough stowage to feed a large family for an extended cruise. There’s a dishwasher, microwave/convection oven, two drawer style refrigerator/freezers, and an electric ceramic cooktop.
I know fishing purists turn their noses up at a convertible design with a front windshield. I personally enjoy light and seeing in front of me — kind of a quirk, I suppose. On the 43, the openness afforded by the windshield and lack of an after bulkhead give her a very unique, and welcoming feel.
By starting with a clean slate, and taking advantage of the aft placement of the IPS drives, Riviera was able to maximize the accommodations. Below the salon, the amidships stateroom spans across the full beam. The headroom above the berth is reduced, but is sufficient enough to allow sitting up to read. A single berth, or settee, is at the foot of the berth. Two large windows, with opening ports, and an overhead skylight below the windshield, help to avoid a cave-like atmosphere in this area. A spacious en suite head is to starboard.
The master stateroom is forward and features an island berth, lots of stowage, an overhead hatch, and an en suite head.
During our test, Milne encouraged me to go beyond the sheltered reach of the Broadwater and into the ocean swells of the Coral Sea. “This is our typical boating, go for it,” he encouraged. We lifted gradually off the four-footers, and gently settled into the troughs at a top speed of 30 knots, staying completely dry during the entire run.
The IPS drives provide an easy cruise of 25 knots, and a high cruise of 27 knots, while sipping a miserly 34 gallons per hour. And she’s damn quiet as well, peaking at a whisper-like 70 decibels. Handling was responsive and tight at the full range of speeds. I easily pictured myself heading down to the Florida Keys, cruising at 25 knots, laughing off any foul weather.
A unique yet functional layout, sound construction, lots of amenities and economic performance combine to make the Riviera 43 a lot of boat, as well as an exceptional value.
Fuel: 476 gal.
Water: 122 gal.
Holding: 40 gal.
Engines Tested: 2 x 435-hp Volvo IPS 600s
Base Price: $759,000
The Riviera Group, 772-872-7260; riviera.com.au