Riviera 58 Convertible

The Riviera 58 Convertible is ready for action.

When we took a look at Riviera some years ago, I suggested that the Australian builder's solid boats and solid value would be well received in America. I don't wish to gloat, but as they say Down Under, I was "spot-on". The United States has become a major market for Riviera, which is the largest production boatbuilder in the southern hemisphere. No doubt spurred by this success, Riviera recently unveiled its most ambitious project to date: the 58-foot Flybridge Convertible.

Creating an enclosed bridge design in just 58 feet is a challenge, lending itself to a top-heavy profile. This is not the case with the Riviera 58. Her deckhouse is biased well aft, and the gentle sweep of her bridge and window glazing complement her sheer. While her lines are clearly inspired by popular thinking in American convertible styling, to my eye her blend of modern and traditional forms is unique, well-balanced and seems the natural evolution of her builder's line.

Speed has become the commodity convertible buyers most favor. Aware of this, Riviera took no chances in the design of the 58. While the builder's in-house design team is proven, Dutch naval architect Frank Mulder was commissioned to assist in the design of the hull, and tank testing was done in Britain. Mulder specializes in high-speed planing hulls and is best known for his large, high-speed motoryachts. "Whether you're designing a large yacht, a patrol boat or a sportfisher, the basic rules governing planing hulls and speed apply", Mulder said.

Mulder describes the 58's hull form as a warped bottom. She has a fine entry forward to deal with the sea and an efficient planing surface aft with 10 degrees of deadrise at her transom. "Too much deadrise consumes horsepower and too little compromises comfort in a seaway", the designer said. "The trick is finding the proper balance for the application. She has shallow propeller pockets and tip clearance is a generous 25 percent of the wheel diameter, which helps reduce noise and vibration. Trim planes are recessed in pockets."

I tested the 58 in a light chop off Palm Beach with a full load of fuel. Her pair of 1,400 hp Caterpillar 3412Es produced a maximum speed of 36.3 knots in just 25 seconds from a dead stop. Easing back on the throttles, I recorded a speed of 32.6 knots at 2100 rpm and a fuel burn of 114 gallons per hour on the Caterpillar electronics. As I have come to expect, the electronically controlled 3412Es delivered the goods with a minimum of fuss and no black smoke. On the way out of the marina, we hit a submerged object, and a slight vibration indicated damage to the running gear. Given this, Golden Yachts' (Riviera's U.S. distributor) claim that the 58 will achieve approximately 40 knots is reasonable.

Her power steering is responsive, and she cuts tight, high-speed turns without hesitation. She rises evenly to a plane, and trim tabs seem necessary only for fine-tuning athwartships trim. Visibility is excellent. The balcony station allows the skipper a cockpit view when he's handling fish or backing into a slip. Our test boat was fitted with a bow thruster.

The helm-forward design is fairly typical for enclosed bridge convertibles. The 58's automotive-style helm console takes a bit of getting used to. I guess I'm just old-fashioned. Automated leather helm and companion bucket seating follows this theme and is a $16,628 option. While this arrangement was quite comfortable, I would probably opt for a more traditional perch. The shapely instrument console accommodates two large displays, as well as lesser electronic accessories and instrumentation. The optional teak-and-holly sole seems an appropriate upscale accent, and I was pleased to find a hatch for natural ventilation and grab rails fitted on the overhead.

The soles of our test boat's balcony and cockpit were finished with teak. A transom gate/door leads to the swim platform and a hot/cold freshwater shower. Cabinets beneath the coaming are suited for deck gear and an in-sole fish/stowage box is fitted with macerator and drains overboard.

The 58's high-gloss teak interior has a distinct American flavor. Our test boat's $11,000 custom leather and carpet upgrade seems fitting on a boat in this class. The galley, which is steps away from the dinette, has under-counter refrigeration and Corian surfaces.

While a four-stateroom, three-head layout is ambitious on a 58-foot boat, Riviera has done an excellent job in keeping the accommodations from getting cramped. A VIP stateroom forward seems the master's equal. Two additional guest staterooms with upper-and-lower berths share a head/day head and shower. Interior fit and finish are excellent, and the presentation is on par with American production convertibles in this class. The only oversight in this regard is that the hanging lockers are finished with soft goods rather than cedar.

Below the waterline is a solid blend of woven and stitched reinforcements supported by a network of molded fiberglass stringers, and resin-coated marine plywood bulkheads and web frames. Marine plywood interior soles are glassed into the hull, and a collision bulkhead is forward. Balsa coring is used to stiffen the hull topsides, superstructure and exterior decks. Riviera builds the interior in modules that are fiberglassed to the superstructure, while the machinery and tanks are installed in the hull. The hull and deck are then joined with mechanical fasteners and fiberglassed from the inside.

Access to the machinery space is from the cockpit. Mechanical installations and systems appear neat and tidy, however, because the 58 is packed with horsepower, access is a bit tight. Riviera indicates that it has made a few improvements in this regard. Machinery removal hatches are provided. Fuel is carried in fiberglass tanks that are bonded to the hull. Exhaust is neatly funneled aft in a fiberglass exhaust system with integral water-lift style mufflers. Water is carried in a stainless-steel tank. The 27.5kW and 9kW generators are fitted with sound shields.

If you are in the market for an enclosed flying bridge convertible to fish or cruise, the 58 would be a solid choice.