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June 18, 2007

Riviera 56

You'll have no complaints about how this wonder from down under performs.

The trip following the Miami International Boat Show from Miami to Bimini proved completely uneventful, which, in the world of passage making, qualifies as the perfect outcome. To be truthful, for the past few years, Riviera concentrated a large bit of its effort on the cruising market over the fishing crowd. But that mindset has changed. This 56 represents Riviera's realization that many more cruisers will buy a well-equipped fishing boat than the other way around. Overall, Riviera does an excellent job of accommodating serious anglers with the new 56.

You'll have no complaints about how this wonder from down under performs. The prop tunnels help this hull jump up on plane in just less than eight seconds. Like many convertibles, it goes faster with a slight bit of trim. Top speed at 2,300 rpm hit 38.2 knots while burning 167 gph total. It reversed course in approximately five boat lengths at top speed, though personally, I'd never own another boat without power-assist steering.

At an 11 1/2-knot trolling speed, the wake exhibits two narrow alleys of clear water amid considerable surface and subsurface turbulence. Drop that back to a single-engine idle speed of just over 7 knots - about what you'd use for dead-bait trolling - and the wake cleans up beautifully. It can do that speed and more in reverse, backing down straight as an arrow and in total control at 8 knots. She spun like a top when I asked her to.

Creating our own beam sea, the Riviera 56 exhibited a very comfortable roll moment with super-gentle transitions.

The underwater exhaust system also impressed me a great deal. When we started the engines at 0500, the occupied boats surrounding us in the marina never even woke.

This Riviera probably boasts the largest flybridge of any boat in its class. Many sport-fishing convertibles sacrifice handholds and rails to aesthetic considerations - not Riviera. Climb the well-designed, comfortable ladder to the flybridge, and you find secure handholds all the way to the top.

Visibility from the helm is good. The instrument panel raises on rams, and the electronics box drops down from the overhead. The helm station also provides a glove box, a foot well for the helmsman, a sink, a refrigerator with storage, a portside straight settee and a huge guest-seating area forward of the helm. I particularly like the large, high-low table for the guests; its fold-out wings turned this space into a genuine alfresco dining room. All you need now is a dumbwaiter to transfer the plated food up from the galley! (Just kidding.)

The owner of this boat opted not to use teaser reels, ergo the lack of a recessed space in the overhead to house any. Personally, I'd also install the bow-thruster switches right on the single-lever throttle and shift levers, making maneuvering on a fish much easier for the helmsman.

Pompanette supplied its Platinum helm and companion seats, as well as the tower and 'riggers.

One other simple change I'd make involves the flybridge enclosure. The owner preferred to roll the opening section directly in front of the helm rather than tacking it straight up to the overhead. When you roll it, you leave massive numbers of finger prints on your clean window that then stick out like a sore thumb directly in the helmsman's line of sight when you unroll it again. To its credit, Riviera uses the flat method as standard.

Engine Room
I believe the engine-room door needs some means of holding it open, whether a latch or one of the new magnetic stops. Thankfully, the engine-compartment opening itself proved plenty large enough to transit. Riviera engineers all its engine rooms well, but tight. This 56 sported interesting rubber inserts in the floorboards for excellent nonskid. The floorboards lift on hinges, revealing the bilges.

You'll find all routine-maintenance points on centerline, so you have little need to crawl outboard of the engines. Batteries and freshwater washdown are along the aft bulkhead for easy access. Filters, the fire-suppression system and the generator line the forward bulkhead. I'd rather see the generator aft to attenuate the noise transferring into the living spaces. I admit to liking the unusual mirrored ceiling plates. Though I'm not sure of their true purpose, they do make the space feel larger and more open.

Riviera's beautiful glossy varnish shone flawlessly throughout the interior. But like an impeccably made-up woman, one touch leaves fingerprints and smudges. While I love the beauty of gloss varnish, a satin finish on interior joinerwork is much more forgiving. But of course, it's all a matter of preference.

In the cabin, you'll find oblique over/under singles in the forepeak with storage beneath, though you can opt for an island double on centerline instead. A unique rod locker in the aft bulkhead side sports a gleaming wood finish.

Our boat had the master stateroom to starboard with a double berth. And lastly, the layout calls for over/under twin berths in the aftermost cabin to port. All three staterooms have separate, private heads with shower stalls and individual climate controls for each living space.

The portside dinette easily seats five adults facing the galley, with its Corian counters and lids covering all the appliances and counter features. Refrigerator and freezer drawers hide under counters. The L-shaped settee in the salon features additional hidden storage. Sony's big-screen LCD TV raises on rams out of the starboard-side cabinet.

A huge hatch in the salon ceiling opens downward on rams, revealing rod storage. And an even larger storage space under the belowdecks companionway means you can leave for an extended journey with no worries.