Riviera 42 Flybridge Review

Issue: September 2003
Manufacturer: Riviera

The Riviera people owe a huge debt of gratitude to their in-house design team who created the “new-look” style premiered by the 40. Boat builders try very hard to define their range by distinctive external styling, and not many succeed (the original Bertram style was perhaps the most successful ever) but Riviera’s distinctive automotive-inspired superstructure styling is now so well established in the eyes of the public that it could not come from any other manufacturer, the onlooker knows instantly he is looking at a Riviera. After the 40 came the 37, then the 58 and 47; the 51 has yet to be seen; an August release is planned. 

Only the 48 retains the familiar, more traditional upright styling of the previous Riviera generation. The 36, another old-styler, is still listed, but will be replaced by a new-style 33 in late 2003, according to Riviera publicity. The 42 is brand-new; the boat shown here is only hull number two. Peter Devery from Sydney dealers LDM reckons that in comparison with the 40 the cockpit is noticeably bigger, but it seemed to me that the big change is down below. The extra length has given room for a second bathroom forward, and there is much more floor space around the galley and the walkway/corridor forward. It is a purely subjective statement and has no worth whatever but to my eye, of the entire Riviera range this 42 (and perhaps the 58) achieves the best aesthetic balance of superstructure volume to hull/foredeck length. 

The 42 layout has two bathrooms and two cabins and if you need to sleep a few more guests you can use a pull-out bed arrangement in the saloon. A drawer slides out from beneath the portside settee, and there you will find the innerspring mattress which helps make up the double bed. This is a real double bed, not a makeshift affair which will leave the guests with aching backs and thick heads. In the saloon, the entertainment unit is forward, on the starboard side and occupies the full height, reaching to the roofline. Because the unit is offset, two of the three windscreen panels are glass so if you are sitting in the saloon you can see 300 degrees or so of the horizon, which I prefer to a fully blanked-off windscreen arrangement. 

Sitting at anchor and keeping an eye on what’s going on in the neighbourhood is one of the delights of boating. A lower helm station is an option; whether it is an essential item is for you, and you alone, to decide. The trim on this boat is leather on the seats and cabin sides, matching vinyl overhead. The wood trim is high-gloss, which has become the style of the era, a style which makes a lot of sense because it looks classy and the gloss timber finish reflects a lot of light. For it to work best you need a midcoloured timber, as here. The galley, on the lower level two steps down, is simple, a two burner cooktop plus microwave. 

There is plenty of room to work here, we had on board a woman who has produced meals from many Riviera galleys and she liked what she saw on the 42. At this point the boat feels wider than the 40, but a look at the specs shows that beam is the same. The master stateroom in the bow has the island double bed on the hull centreline and good stowage including a hanging locker. The bathroom is en suite. The second sleeping cabin is on the starboard side, featuring three single berths, two singles and one bunk berth. A connecting door links this cabin with the huge bathroom, which serves as an en suite for this second cabin as well as the bathroom for the boat, because it is also accessible from the main companionway. Both toilets are Vacuflush, indispensable on a 21st Century boat. 

These modern toilets represent the most important development in marine hardware since the screw propeller superseded the paddlewheel. On the portside on this lowest level, lining the companionway, is a wall of gloss finished timber which hides a number of storage areas. Behind one door we found the washer/dryer. Up on deck the trickiest aspect of boat design is the flybridge ladder; get it right and the whole boat feels right. The 42’s ladder is a good one, as only the lowest span is steep-ish and the angle eases the higher you climb. The layout is appropriate; a settee to port, L-shaped lounge to starboard ahead of the helm station, sink and bar fridge, stowage in the bulkhead forward. 

A companionway hatch is an option, (at about $1500) and would be the first choice on my options list, both for safety and for noise suppression. The cockpit is a gem; there are three lifting hatches in the floor, giving access to a stowage area spanning the full width of the cockpit. On this boat the bait tank was set up as a live tank and is wired for light. The sink unit against the main bulkhead swings aside to provide engine room access. On earlier boats the steps up to the sidedecks proved so popular that on this boat (and the latest 47) they have adapted to act as extra seating. Side and handrails combine perfectly when going forward along the sidedecks. This is an aspect of design that is often overlooked by boat buyers. 

Always take the time to go forward while the boat is under way; you will be surprised at how bad, how dangerous, some are. On the Riviera the side rails support the backs of the legs as you move forward, facing the superstructure and holding onto the grabrails. The boat shown here has the most powerful engine option, a pair of 535hp Cummins (have you noticed that kiloWatts are fine when referring to car engines, but boat engines are best in horsepower?) The base boat has 480hp Cummins with Twin Disc controls; the only other option is 480hp Volvos. The Volvos and the 535 Cummins have electronic controls. The options on this boat, including the bigger engines, bow thruster, teak decking aft and numerous smaller options stretch the price from a base of just under $700,000 ($695,182 to be precise) to around $800,000.

In a time of offshore winter westerlies we could find no rough water to test the ride. The 42 is an easy cruiser; 1800 revs produces an unstressed 21-knot cruise. At 2000 revs the big Cummins seemed to run perceptibly smoother than lower down, though with a bit more turbo whine. At this speed the readout above the helm station showed we were using 20 gallons (90lt) of fuel per engine per hour. 2400 revs gave us just over 30 knots; she topped 31 on the delivery run from the Gold Coast. The steering was sticky towards full lock but that would be sorted during its pre-delivery service, said Peter; new boats are detailed after their delivery run from the factory. 

What more can be said ? This is a very pleasant boat with good handling manners. Externally it is very attractive; internal styling is also clever, simple, but the combination of mid-coloured timber and cream fabrics looks impressive to me. This blend of quality fabrics, glass and wood is a universal theme, the style followed by interior designs of even superyachts. More expensive craft may differ in some small details, but they are not superior in ambience. But who am I to judge ? Mere mortals like me have different tastes from even the moderately wealthy, I have discovered. And the ways of the seriously rich are mysterious indeed, the subject for a whole separate discussion. 

Words by Barry Tranter