Riviera 48 Offshore Express

The Riviera 48 Offshore Express is built to chase fish, or any horizon.

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The new 48 Offshore Express is a different sort of boat for Riviera. The Australian builder has earned a strong position in the international market with designs that seem to transcend the regional niches in which boatbuilders are so often pigeonholed. While an "express" in Riviera's vernacular is usually something of an all-arounder, the 48 is more in tune with the raised-bridge fishboat market that flourishes in the U.S.

The 48 was developed to capture the attention of anglers moving up from smaller open boats or down from larger convertibles. One of the attractions for folks moving in either direction is that, at 48 feet, she is about as large a boat as you would want to fish without hired hands or savvy fishing buddies. An experienced fishing couple or family could manage since her raised-bridge layout means there's no need to scale a ladder. If my wife and I intended to fish the 48 on our own, I would add a second set of controls or a remote unit in the cockpit for convenience and to avoid the need to scramble up to the tower. With that said, this Riviera is a big "48-footer" measuring almost 50 feet so it would be best to bring a few angling friends along for the ride.

When I spotted our test boat at Riviera's South Florida sales and service center, there was no mistaking her fishing focus. Fitted with a full tower and Rupp outriggers, she looks the part. In fact, she was being readied for a tournament in the Bahamas. Her silhouette is businesslike with a conservative, smooth sheer and modest stem rake. Her shapely, molded fiberglass windshield frame is in keeping with the new standard for such designs now that aluminum is out. Her bow rail and integral pulpit might seem off key to hardcore tournament types who prefer a clean look, but I recommend both as they are sensible and practical. Our test boat was finished in white gelcoat, although those that prefer color can opt for a factory paint job.

Her cockpit will accommodate a full-size fighting chair and the transom door swings out and is fitted with a lift gate. There is a large in-sole fishbox with a split hatch that is plumbed for overboard discharge and, like the other cockpit hatches, it is gasketed and fitted with positive latches. A molded-in transom bait well has a viewing port and interior lighting. A cabinet with a sink and tackle storage is handy and a freezer is hidden within the settee. Cockpit coaming padding is an option that I would be certain to order while the teak cockpit sole that is offered is a matter of taste. I would opt for Riviera's recently updated nonskid sole design-it's easier on the skin than the old, more aggressive pattern and requires less effort to maintain.

The raised bridge area is laid out with helm and companion pedestal seating. The helm is on centerline and our test boat was fitted with a varnished teak helm pod with single-lever tournament-style controls. This setup is a must if you intend to fish seriously as the standard helm is configured in express-boat fashion with a 45-degree wheel mount and binnacle-style, single-lever controls. The console has enough space for three large displays in addition to the engine instrumentation. There is an L-shaped seating area aft and a bench seat adjacent to the helm. There is a freezer in the bench seat and space that is big enough for life jackets and perhaps a small liferaft in a valise. A wet bar has a sink, an ice maker, and a refrigerator.

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A sliding-glass hatch/door leads below to the main cabin. It is arranged with an L-shaped seating area opposite a galley equipped with drawer-style refrigeration, a microwave, and a cooktop. A day-head is positioned conveniently next to the stairs from the bridge. The owner's cabin is forward and has a queen-sized island berth and a private head with a separate shower. A guest cabin can be configured with upper and lower berths or a settee with a Pullman-style upper berth. There is a Pullman berth over the settee in the main cabin as well, which allows six to sleep in a pinch. I would probably substitute the Pullman in the main cabin for a rod-storage locker since this option is available. The 48's interior is surprisingly open as its design incorporates bi-fold partitions to segregate the owner and guest cabins. Riviera's interior standard has continued to move upscale and the excellent fit and finish of our test boat moves the bar even higher. The tidy high-gloss cherry cabinetwork was accented with a faux teak sole in the main cabin. A teak interior is also available and customers can choose from a selection of quality soft goods.

I collected speed data on the St. Lucie River in Stuart, Florida. Our test boat was fitted with a pair of 1,015-horsepower Caterpillar C18 diesels. I measured a maximum speed of 37.4 knots at 2350 rpm. This is a few more turns than Cat calls for but with a full load rpm) a relatively efficient cruising speed, noting a fuel burn of 59 gallons per hour on the Cat electronics. The C18 engines are the most powerful option offered for the 48 and they seem to suit her. I suspect most folks that fish this boat will want the speed even if they choose to cruise at a more conservative throttle setting. After our speed runs we headed for St. Lucie Inlet. Seas offshore were two to three feet with an occasional fourfooter. The 48 rose quickly to plane without excessive bow rise or smoke. Trimming her bow down into a head sea produced a soft ride at speed and a bit of spray. I found her driest with her tabs fully retracted. She is stable while loitering in a beam sea and given her generous power, she will be easy to twist about on a fish.

Riviera has a strong dealer network in Europe and to accommodate that market the 48 is offered with an express-style hardtop and a swim platform. Still, it is in the U.S. where she will likely be most at home. If you are a fan of fishing large raised-bridge boats the 48 is worthy of your attention.

Riviera Yachts of the Americas, (772) 403-1060, www.rivierayachtsinc.com