By Kevin Wolfe.

Alan Paterson, The Riviera Group's project manager, stood on the walkway of the 'Alfred's' mariner at Pittwater in Sydney chatting to a customer on his mobile phone. A new Mariner 430 was moored alongside. The second line on the phone rang. It was another customer, who was enquiring about the progress of his 430. His boat was hull number 10 and it had just gone into the engine shop at the Group's Coomera factory on the Gold Coast to have its Volvo engines fitted

A classic example of the Australian penchant for taking something good and making it better.

Such is the success of the new Mariner 430 and 370 Express Cruisers that made their first appearance a few months earlier at the Sanctuary Cove Boat Show.

A smaller 290 version was released at the Sydney Show. "We saw a niche in the market where there was nothing available in size and price compared with what we have here," Alan Paterson said.

And the Mariner team has read the market perfectly, just as the parent Riviera Group did with the Riviera 4000, which when it first appeared was considered a radical move - but a very successful one.

The full Australian production of the Mariner 430 has been sold until March next year and an order for 21 is being filled for the United States where they will be marketed under the Wellcraft brand.

The Mariner Express Cruisers are a classic example of the Australian penchant for taking something good and making it better. The hull is based on the running surface of the Excalibur 45, but that is where the similarities finish. "We have taken a beautiful running surface and turned it into a well fitted out cruiser," said Paterson. The overall length has been taken out to 47.8ft, the chines and the gunwales have been widened and the beam taken out to 12.4ft. The result is a serious hull that feels solid and the foredeck with its slight camber is easy to walk around. As we found later, the hull just loves the open sea and the ride was one of the softest rides we have enjoyed offshore, even when cruising at around 27 knots.

Below, the cabin is surprisingly light and airy for an express boat, many tend to be dark and give the impres-sion of being closed in. This one is very open and the double doors to the forward cabin can be opened up to give the impression of even more space. Another surprise is the aft cabin that runs under the bridge deck. At first glance it appears that there are probably two single berths in the space. But poke your head inside and it houses not only a large single berth but a double berth as well.

The headroom throughout the boat presents no problem for a six footer. Even in the head there is full standing room in the shower stall. The galley is set up with an upright refrigerator and separate freezer, microwave and a cooktop with a feature that should be standard on most boats, but quite often is not, even on boats twice the price. The cooktop is recessed into the granulan benchtop - called 'granny coat' by the shipwrights at the factory. This stops the pots and pans from sliding off as can happen in an anchorage when the boat gets a rock up as a bigger boat goes past. It also stops any unwary person accidentally resting an arm on the hot cooktop. The wooden floor in the galley saves that inevitable spillage marking the carpet in the main cabin.

There was no need to back off, this was its playground.

Opposite is a settee, finished in a soft leather, that seats six adults around the high-gloss wooden table. All the woodwork is a product of the Riviera Group's Coomera factory and the hardware on the doors and cup-boards is sourced from Natalia in Italy.


The helmstation, dash and the cabin doorway are moulded in one piece with steps up though the split windscreen giving access to the forward deck and the large sunpad. The designers have thoughtfully moulded a step in the coaming to prevent an inglorious arrival onto the foredeck. The sidedecks are also wide enough for someone to move forward confidently. And being a boat that will spend time in the open ocean the design team has added gutters in the side decks, just before the base of the targa on the side coamings, to direct any water that may come on board over the side and not into the cockpit.

There are even more surprises on deck. There's an entertainment area behind the raised helmstation, that includes a sink and another fridge. The bottle and glass holders are not over-done and include an insert in the centre of the table for glasses and wine bottles - or a six pack if you prefer. The table is removed in seconds by lifting off the top and pulling the two aluminium supports out of their sockets. This not only gives more room in the cockpit, but is necessary to raise the entire cockpit floor and transom - all in one piece - for access to the engines. This is raised electrically and is activated by a switch under the cockpit sink. Why not have the switch on the dash panel, you ask? Well, the transom door needs to be open before the hatch is raised, if it is closed at the time you could be in all sorts of strife. Having the switch close to the action means that it would be hard to forget to open the door first.

The hatch swings up smoothly to reveal twin Volvo Penta KAD44s and even with an genset installed there is still enough room for a couple of mechanics to jump in and work on the engines. Changing a drive belt is easy. For a quick check of the oil levels before a day out there is also a smaller day hatch in the cockpit floor. The six cylinder KAD44 EDC Aquamatic diesels put out 248hp (182kW) at 3800rpm and are coupled to Volvo Penta duoprop sterndrives. The KAD44s are both turbo and super-charged and push the boat along at 26-27 knots and 3600rpm all day, everyday, with a consumption (tested by Volvo Penta) of 70 litres per hour. The new Volvo Penta KAD300 diesel, released at the Sydney Boat Show, has an output of 272hp (200kW) at 3800rpm and is also an option.

This style of hull likes weight in the back and the Volvo Penta Aquamatic installation is tailor-made for the job. The Mariner crew had just completed a photo shoot for a sales brochure in Pittwater and the boat was due to be delivered back to Sydney. And we went along for the ride. When we first went aboard the boat still had its clears, a bimini and an awning over the back in place. It was one of those pleasant mid-winter days Sydneysiders don't often appreciate until they move to Melbourne - sunny with a light sou'westerly blowing.

To keep the clears and the bimini in place for the run down the coast seemed like a waste. You have probably guessed by now that we are based in Melbourne. It only took a few minutes to unzip the clears, roll the awning up and zip it into its own bag, likewise the bimini.The frame is then folded up and the whole lot stows neatly away on the targa. At idle speed the twin KAD44s purr away. Put on some power and the hull simply rises out of the water and is quickly on the plane. The superchargers come in at 1600rpm, for first timers the unusual 'rattle' they make can be a worry that something may be wrong in the engine compartment. But when the turbochargers take over at 2200rpm the hull is well and truly up and running.

We ran down Pittwater towards Palm Beach and settled down to what felt like a comfortable cruising speed. The tachos were showing 3600rpm, the ride was smooth, we were not getting blown about behind the windscreen and we were able to talk in normal tones - a glance at the GPS showed 27 knots!

This is one well-behaved lady.

Mariner has put a lot of R & D into the shape and height of the windscreen and found the right one for the job in the United Kingdom. As we turned around Barrenjoey headland and poked the nose into the southerly swell the boat felt completely at home, there was no need to back off, this was its playground. The boat virtually trims itself, very little help was needed, but if necessary it can be trimmed with the trims tabs, the trim on the legs only, or a combin-ation of both.

The Mariner had the ride of a luxury car, very comfortable and smooth. Even when we deliberately dropped it off the back of a wave - just to see what it would do - there was no bone-jarring thump as we dropped into the bottom of the trough and more surprising, not a drop of water came on board. This manoeuvre has been guaranteed to bring some water on board in other boats we have tested. Okay, what happens if we throw it around? Nothing, this is one well-behaved lady. Even throwing the helm from lock-to-lock in tight port and starboard turns at speed couldn't induce it to break out. It was almost as if the boat was saying "try your hardest guys".

At wide open throttle, 3800rpm, the GPS indicated 30 knots. The gas (petrol) engine will, according to Mercury, up the speed to 36 knots for a similar fuel consumption as the diesels. But at the end of the day there are not too many people in the market for this style of boat who would want to run it flat out all day. Cruising at 27 knots will get you to where you want to go very nicely.

Soon we were rounding North Head and heading up Sydney Harbour to Rushcutters Bay, the 15 nautical mile run down the coast had taken us just over half-an-hour and was over all too soon.

Length overall: 14.53m (47'8")
Length at waterline: 14.33m (47'.0)
Beam: 3.76m (12'4")
Draft (drives down): 0.99m (3'3")
Fuel capacity: 1107ltr (292 US gal)
Water capacity: 307ltr (81 US gal)
Dry weight: 8000kg (17,637lb) (depending on engines)
ENGINES Twin Volvo Penta KAD44 191kW (260hp) diesels

Twin Volvo Penta Aquamatic sterndrives with Duoprops

Optional MerCruiser 496 MAG HO 318kW (425hp) with Bravo 3 legs.

Cruising speed: 27 knots at 3600rpm
WOT: 30 knots at 3800rpm
WOT operating range: 4500-5500rpm
Price as tested: $440,245.00
Base price: $384,539.00 with twin MerCruiser 496 Magnum Ho engines and Bravo 3 legs.
Test conditions: Fine, sunny, south west wind at 10-12 knots, low southerly swell.

Mariner 430 supplied by The Riviera Group, Coomera, Queensland.
Club Marine onwater crew wear Stormy Seas PFDI jackets and all figures
are recored with magellan GPS.