Boat Review: Riviera 56

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

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06boats_riviera

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.

Performance
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.

Flybridge
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.

Interior
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.

Cockpit
Overall, the Riviera 56 cockpit works very well. It features large, insulated fish boxes that you can plumb with an Eskimo ice maker or a cold plate. Within the mezzanine, you'll find a sink to starboard alongside a step-mounted insulated drink box, dry storage lockers and a bait freezer. The transom holds both storage and a baitwell.

One terrific feature - pop-up cleats in the covering boards both port and starboard - lets you hang fenders effectively where the tumblehome in the hull takes the worst beating against pilings or docks.

If Riviera cut a hatch into the side walkway stairs from the cockpit, they could use that dead space to stow gaffs, mops, boat hooks and the like. And you'll need a good gaff, as I found it a bit of a stretch to reach the water's surface when reviving a fish prior to releasing it.

Design and Construction
Anyone who's ever gone boating around Australia - where Riviera happens to be the number-one boatbuilder - knows they can get some truly rough weather there. Consequently, boats down under need to be tough and seaworthy. That's Riviera in spades. Every solid-fiberglass hull boasts a unique system of transverse and longitudinal stringers. High-stress areas also receive Coremat, end-grain balsa or other lightweight composite-core materials. And as you'll find in oceangoing commercial vessels, Riviera builds in a solid collision bulkhead forward, as well as separate watertight compartments throughout the hull.

I figure any boat heading offshore should have safety as its primary consideration, and Riviera does so with features like a recessed handrail down the centerline of the salon, which makes for a much more secure means of crossing the wide-open spaces belowdecks. The company also affixes an excellent handhold to the transom that, combined with the metal steps bolted to the hull by the tuna door, makes it much easier for people in the water to pull themselves up out of the water and back aboard.

I appreciated the ease with which you can maintain the Amtico flooring too. It seems much more durable than standard teak and holly soles.

Each Riviera I board seems to be better than the last - a good sign. And while Riviera continuously changes for the better, one thing doesn't change: When comparing bang for your buck between comparably sized boats, you'll find Riviera at the top of the value category.

LOA......63'4"
**BEAM......
17'4"
DRAFT......5'
WEIGHT......66,3000 pounds
FUEL......1,507 gallons
WATER......264 gallons
MAX POWER......T 1,570 hp Cat C-32s
BASE PRICE......$1,988,402 (as tested)**

Riviera Yachts of the Americas / Stuart, Florida / 877-403-1060 / www.riviera.com.au/usa