Boat Review Date: January 2011
Author: Mike Brown
In the same way that fly bridge cruisers developed hardtops and eventually converted the fly bridges into a second storey saloon, some express cruisers have converted their upper deck areas into backless single storey saloons. The Riviera 48 Offshore Express is one of these, and has done it very well.
An important feature of the 48 is that, like all Rivieras – like most Australian boats - it has a large, clear cockpit. Instead of containing built-in furniture it features space for serious fishing – or portable furniture if you prefer. It is far from naked, but all the added bits are around the edges. These include a live bait tank aft, a sink and cutting board forward, and bulwark lockers for berthing lines. Below the cockpit is a large storage bin that has pump in-pump out facilities.
The saloon deck is two steps up, the extra height being needed to give headroom to the forward accommodation. An aft-facing lounge mounted on a monster icebox is at its rear and sits back to back with the lounge that runs down two sides of the dining-snacks table. Opposite, to starboard, is another lounge and an industrial-sized wet bar. Its fiddled top covers a fridge, an icemaker and drawers and locker for glasses and plates.
This space, thanks to the absent rear bulkhead, large sliding side windows and a roof hatch, can be very airy indeed. Closed down, with the rear clears deployed, it becomes an indoor space complete with powerful air-conditioning. And, of course, it is also the wheelhouse; at the dash are two of the most sumptuous chairs I have seen afloat. Leather of course like most other upholstered surfaces on board, the driver’s sitting on the centre line and facing an excellent control and monitor layout. There are plenty of items here, but the arrangement is for ease of use rather than the impressing of onlookers.
The throttle-gear levers control the thrust of a pair of 715hp Caterpillar diesels via electronic engine controls and Quickshift gearboxes. The standard bow thruster completes the manoeuvring package, and effectively it provides a much lower cost alternative to the various computerised joystick-controlled manoeuvring systems. With a little technique, using the main engines and thruster together, the 48 can be driven sideways.
The glass area on three sides and fresh air on the fourth gives the driver superb vision. Fresh water washers and three bus-sized pantograph wipers keep the acreage of the curved windscreen clear.
The forward accommodation actually is spacious, but gives the impression of being even more so. The reason is the blending of the fore cabin with the saloon. The bulkhead almost vanishes with the opening of the door and the sliding of the panel above the dinette.
The galley is in the logical spot at the foot of the stairs, and is given the area and equipment to do a serious job: a two-plate cook top, convection microwave, a large sink, built-in garbage bin, AC/DC fridge and freezer – each consisting of two drawers – and a swag of lockers purpose-designed for cutlery and crockery.
Aft of the galley is the day head, also servicing the twin cabin in the after port corner of the accommodation. This is bigger than most twins, and the lower bunk is large enough to use as a double. Ahead of this cabin is the sitting area, which would spaciously take four people around the table. For non-eating occasions these people also face a large TV screen.
The occupants of the forward cabin have the option of viewing their own smaller screen while actually in the bed (which I tried, and almost fell asleep on it was so comfortable). Even with door and screen shut this is a big cabin, with plenty of room around the bed and ample hanging and other storage. The en suite bathroom, whilst not actually possessing a bath, is still a big room, and laid out far more thoughtfully than the typical bathroom ashore.
A count of the visible beds suggests five is the number of sleepers catered for, but there is also an invisible one: it drops down from within the timber lining behind the dinette.
Timber is a big feature of the fit-out. Bulkheads are largely in a lightish shade of cherry wood, and joinery uses the same timber (and very well too, I checked door and drawer clearances and found them absolutely consistent). The upper saloon, cockpit and marlin board are sheathed in teak, and the galley and saloon’s share of the downstairs has a synthetic timber-look deck covering. Very logical: food spills on real timber are unthinkable.
A hatch in that deck reveals a very large storage spot. You could waste it by keeping say scuba gear in it, but its natural use is clearly as a wine cellar.
This is a boat you could quickly learn to love.
Length overall 16.40m
Hull length 15.19m
Displacement, light 19.5T
Fuel capacity 3,500L
Fresh water 620L
Motors 2xCaterpillar C12s @ 715hp ea