Used Boat Review: Riviera 48

Looking for a go-anywhere boat that can cruise or fish? The Riviera 48 looks good doing it all.

Looking for a go-anywhere boat that can cruise or fish? The Riviera 48 looks good doing it all.

By Capt. Richard Thiel

Riviera was a name unfamiliar to many Americans—especially those on the east coast—when the 48 landed on our shores in 1998, but the brand was already making a name for itself here, just as it had in Australia.

Company founder and then-owner Bill Barry-Cotter (who eventually sold Riviera and went on to found Maritimo) had a passion for offshore racing, and he applied much of what he’d learned on the racecourse to his production boats. Little surprise then that Riviera earned a reputation for being not only solidly and conservatively built but also for being seaworthy. After all, they had to withstand the notoriously nasty seas that surround Australia.

One reason for the 48’s popularity stateside was that it looked like an American convertible, right down to the band of blue on the house; it wasn’t uncommon for a neophyte to mistake a Riviera for a Bertram. Another reason was the fact that the 48 was available with either an enclosed bridge, like our featured boat Nick O’Time, or an open one. The enclosed version was by far the more popular version stateside; at press time I was able to find only one 48 Open for sale, as opposed to seven Enclosed Bridges. (The open version proved to be surprisingly popular in Europe however—especially in Italy and Portugal.)

Prospective buyers had a choice of two engines. The standard model was the 660-horsepower Caterpillar 3196, which some American buyers considered a bit anemic for this size and type of boat but which also kept the base price down and offered good fuel economy. Still, a minority of 48s went out so equipped: I found three for sale with this engine package in the United States. The more popular choice for the 48—enclosed or open—had the same engines as Nick O’Time’s: 800-horsepower CAT 3406Es. According to listing broker Chuck Royhl, “The big CATs were a very expensive option but a lot of buyers just didn’t want a 48 without them.”

The Riviera 48's enclosed flying bridge opens up saloon space for a spacious dinette and more. Note the searail overhead.

The Riviera 48′s enclosed flying bridge opens up saloon space for a spacious dinette and more. Note the searail overhead.

The 3406s nevertheless produced a fine turn of speed. Power & Motoryacht never tested the 48 with them but I did run one such boat in Australia while I was attending the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show back in 2000. According to my notes, on flat water the 48 turned in a top speed of more than 28 knots and a choice of reasonable cruising speeds above 25 knots. I also noted that the boat was quiet, but then this was an enclosed-bridge version. With the aft isinglass closed up and the air conditioning on, I felt so isolated, I wrote, that I was shocked when I looked down at the GPS and saw it read 26 knots.

Credit for that kind of speed no doubt goes partly to Barry-Cotter’s interest in performance boats but also to a moderate aft deadrise of 18 degrees, more than the Jersey sportfishing boats of the day but less than the Bertrams. All in all, the design provided a good compromise between seakeeping and performance. And although construction was conventional hand-laid fiberglass all the way, careful weight management yielded a moderate displacement of 36,900 pounds. The result is what Royhl characterizes as “a terrific sea boat.”

Back in the late ’90s Riviera promoted this and all of its boats as capable of fishing anywhere in the world, and indeed they were. But perhaps enticed by the boat’s comfortable layout, most American buyers, like Nick O’Time’s owner, considered the 48 a dual-purpose vessel and optioned them as such. As Sarasota Yacht and Ship’s listing states, “While tournament capable, Nick O’Time has been primarily a cruising boat that catches fish.”

Clearly that’s what her owner intended, as the boat has been spec’d with Rupp triple-spreader outriggers, a Bluewater fighting chair, circular livewell, flying bridge (and so lockable) rod stowage, teak cockpit, bait freezer, and a flip-up cockpit awning. To enhance her cruising abilities, Nick O’Time also has a UMT dinghy davit and cradle on her foredeck. Her swim platform (a compromise for the cruisers in the family) is easily accessed via the port side transom door, and a hot and cold transom shower is in easy reach. Nevertheless, Royhl says, “If a guy wants to tournament-fish this boat, she’s pretty much ready to go.”

All this makes Nick O’Time one of the better-equipped Riviera 48s on the market. Indeed, Royhl says the only major upgrades a new owner might immediately consider are to the TVs, which work fine but are of mid-’90s vintage. And her Seafoam Green hull makes her a standout; at this writing she is one of only two 48s on the market stateside with a colored hull.

Her interior layout is adaptable to either extended fishing trips or cruising. One of the features that made the 48 so popular in the United States is its midlevel galley, which has easy access to the dinette and saloon and even views to the outside; there’s enough room for a full-size refrigerator and trash compactor. Below are three staterooms: The forepeak master with queen-size berth and VIP with full-size berth have en suite facilities and VacuFlush MSDs. A bunkroom to port rounds out the accommodations.

Although 16 years old, Nick O’Time has been well cared for. Sarasota Yacht & Ship lists her condition as excellent, and she’s enjoyed a number of upgrades over the years, including a new teak-and-holly galley sole last year, Standard Horizon 590 GPS chartplotter, and Furuno FCV 595 fishfinder. A Furuno GPS provides a backup to the backup Northstar 951 GPS/chartplotter.

Riviera imported the 48 to the United States from 1998 until 2003, and it sold well, so a fair number of boats are usually on the market at any time. At this writing 16 are listed worldwide, but only nine are in the continental United States and of those, about half are on the west coast. Prices range from $299,500 (powered by the 660-horsepower Cats) to $565,000, so at $399,000, Nick O’Time falls in the lower-priced part of the market. The fact that her 3406s have less than 2,000 hours on them is a definite plus. When I spoke to Royhl they were just getting their 2,000-hour maintenance check.

Power & Motoryacht spoke to three brokers each of whom had a Riviera 48 Convertible listed for sale. Here’s what they had to say about fishing, and not fishing, and what it means on this boat. ▶

Caveat Emptor

Interested in Nick O’Time? While the boat was available as we put this issue together, we cannot be held responsible if she has since been snapped up. Have your broker contact listing broker Chuck Royhl at (941) 350-3437 or if you want to have a peek at Sarasota Yacht & Ship’s listings go to www.sarasotayacht.com.

LOA: 48’0″
Beam: 16’0″
Draft: 4’7″
Displacement: 39,600 lb.
Fuel: 940 gal.
Water: 227 gal.
Standard Power: 2/660-hp 3196 Caterpillar diesels
Optional Power: 2/800-hp 3406E Caterpillar diesels
Years imported: 1998-2003
Price range: $299,500 to $565,000