South – in a hurry

Kate Innes | VOLUME 24, ISSUE 6

A new Riviera 5800 Sport Yacht, a deadline and a weather window.

I’m not complaining, but two days aboard the Riviera 5800 Sports Yacht was never going to be long enough. My whirlwind 700km jaunt from the Gold Coast to Sydney was nothing more than a tease; a cruel assignment for someone seriously overworked and in dire need of some real time-out.

At least I had the chance to experience the latest Riviera doing exactly what it was designed to do: deliver its passengers comfortably, swiftly, efficiently and economically. It did this admirably, and luxuriously, and also scored highly on my female-skewed personal rating system of a boat’s three most important features: bed, sundeck, shower, in that order.

This spanking-new Riviera 5800 had a date in Sydney and with only two days to get there, it was always going to be a quick trip. There was plenty of time, however, to be impressed by the attention to detail applied to the interior of this model, backing up its maker’s claim that the Riviera 5800 ‘takes luxury to a new level’. Riviera says the designers set out to develop a product that not only delivered the best of the three previous models, but built on them, and I tend to agree. It definitely steps it up in the glamour stakes.

Modern window furnishings and lighting, a quality Bose sound system and reverse-cycle air conditioning combine to provide all the comfort and convenience you’d expect to find in a small, well-appointed apartment. High-gloss cabinetry, a trademark of Riviera’s robotic varnish system, combined with fabric bulkheads and walls, and generous use of textures and cushioning in soft, muted tones, added to the warmth and ‘homeliness’ of the interior.

Everything about the Riv 5800 screams al fresco. Open the generous, stainless-framed glass bulkhead; push another button and the window behind the galley opens. Another push of a button and the huge sunroof slides open to reveal blue sky, instantly flooding the entire saloon with fresh air and sunshine.

Even the foredeck is designed for sunny afternoons, with a built-in double sun pad, with drink holders and cool box to keep the champagne cold.

In the cockpit, outdoor sound isn’t blown away courtesy of four big Bose speakers and subwoofer, which can be operated from outside the saloon by remote control.

The barbeque is well designed, with a built-in fridge below and the additional cupboard space in the cockpit is a useful touch. The outdoor table, which seats eight, converts to another sun bed when it’s not required.

The tender garage can accommodate a 3.25m tender and a hydraulic lifter for the swim platform allows for ease of launch of the tender or PWC.

EATING THE MILES

No time for deck parties or water sports this time around, but the first leg of our journey from Runaway Bay to Port Macquarie, a distance of just over 370km, proved a perfect opportunity to see how the serious side of the Riviera 5800 performed in less than ideal conditions. Although we left as dawn broke on a glorious, sunny Queensland day, a lumpy 2m swell greeted us at the New South Wales border and grew in leaps and bounds as we headed south.

Despite the swell, we travelled reasonably comfortably throughout the day at around 20kt (37km/h). Our course to Port Macquarie hugged the coast and having a backdrop of spectacular scenery more than compensated for the bumpy ride.

The geography of the coastline of northern NSW is stunning and certainly deserved more than a cursory glance along the way. With more time up your sleeve, a leisurely stroll from the Gold Coast to Sydney would be preferable, with time to explore some of the coastal intricacies along the way.

Under a cloudless sky, we skimmed past perpendicular cliffs topped with lighthouses, and seascapes that transformed seamlessly from dramatic and austere to blissful and blue. Surprisingly, huge expanses of coastline remain relatively untouched by development, and rugged sea caves, channels and patterns carved out by millions of years of wind, waves and rain, beg to be explored, photographed and more closely admired.

For a couple or family, the Riviera 5800 is spacious and comfortable enough for a long haul adventure. It’s fast when you want or need it to be, or it can be a great place to hang out if time or distance mean nothing more than a measurement. But if you have the time and the inclination, the advantages of swapping petrol fumes for salt air are enviable.

It beats the tedium of a road trip hands down. By boat, there are no traffic lights to contend with, no chance of speeding fines, and the only ones you’ll move over for are a few friendly fishermen and the occasional whale or dolphin.

Forget the expensive motels, too – just mooring fees at any number of welcoming marinas, or anchor up in a quiet cosy corner and use your tender. Stay as long as it takes to stock up the fridges and the bar and get to know a few of the locals.

Almost 30 per cent of the seafood sold at the Sydney Fish Markets comes from the bountiful waters of northern NSW, so visit one of the many local seafood restaurants while you’re in port. You know it will be fresh. Even better, catch your own. In these waters, it’s a cinch, or at least it should be.

The beauty of travelling by boat is you can stay overnight wherever you choose, for as long as your heart desires, provided you have the depth and conditions you need. The maximum draft on the Riviera 5800 is 1.2m, making it relatively easy to sneak into lots of pretty NSW coastal towns.

Tweed Heads, Ballina, Iluka, Yamba, and Coffs Harbour all have bars that are usually navigable. Checking first with the local VMR is always advisable, as bars and conditions can change unexpectedly.

OVERNIGHTING IN STYLE

Our overnight stopover was at the halfway point, Port Macquarie, 320km north of Sydney. Although our time in port was brief, we did visit one of the local restaurants and Port Macquarie Panthers, a large club just a few minutes’ walk from the marina.

Accommodation options on the Riviera 5800 are three or four cabins plus the addition of crew quarters, if required. Our boat had four cabins and could sleep 10 comfortably, but the layout can be adapted to suit the European concept of having the galley, along with the hired help, located downstairs.

It would be impossible to feel you’re hard done by, no matter where you laid your head for the night on the Riviera 5800. Snuggled up in the indulgent master stateroom, I was instantly envious of those lucky enough to own this lifestyle.

The master stateroom has loads of walk-around space – a luxury on any boat – a king-size double bed and a stylish en suite, with contemporary glass vanity bowl and frameless glass shower. The walk-in robe has ample storage and hanging space for a few months-worth of clothes, but with a washer and dryer on board and the option to install a desalination unit, there’s no need to over-pack. There is a good-size dressing table with seat, LCD television and sound system, and a comfy leather couch that’s perfect for a lazy afternoon with a book in your cabin.

You would hardly feel like you’d won second prize if you scored the forward VIP stateroom. It is also very stylish, with a queen-size island double bed, hanging lockers port and starboard and another well-appointed en suite.

The starboard twin cabin quickly and easily converts to a double, thanks to a clever sliding system, which also adds another bedside table to suit the new configuration. The portside cabin features two bunks, which are perfect for the kids, and, like all cabins, has its own LCD television.

The standard saloon layout includes an open U-shaped, low-maintenance galley in the starboard aft quarter, complete with a breakfast servery and two stools forward. The high-low dinette table is surrounded by sumptuous leather seating, loads of loose cushions and room for eight. There is also a big, 40in, electric-lift LCD screen, with integrated sound, and a built-in cocktail bar.

All the galley inclusions needed for a long trip are there and the space is well utilised. A three burner cooktop, microwave convection oven, two fridges and freezers, ice-maker, ample cupboard space, including overheads and a breakfast servery, complete the compact galley.

But, no time for dinner parties and cocktails on this trip; another reason to feel a bit depressed about the brevity of the experience.

BACK TO SEA

The last leg of our trip from Port Macquarie to Sydney, a distance of approximately 330km, began with a leisurely bar crossing and conditions that were in stark contrast to the previous day. Days on the water rarely come better and even the whales were showing their appreciation with some dazzling aerial acrobatics.

The remainder of our trip slipped by quickly at almost 50km/h and although we chewed through a little extra fuel, the time we saved allowed us to slip into Pittwater and pick up some lunch from the Royal Motor Yacht Club. It offers a range of ‘boat packs’, which you can peruse online, as well as a good selection of takeaway liquor. Call ahead, no need to be a member, and they will have it ready for your collection at a time that suits. They are great value and even the hungry Riviera crew couldn’t get through all the food.

THRICE IS NICE

The Riviera 5800 is powered by Volvo Penta’s Inboard Performance System (IPS), an integrated system of pod-type diesel engines and steerable drive units mounted under the hull, with twin counter-rotating, forward-facing propellers.

Three Volvo Penta IPS 600 diesels, rated at 435hp, are standard inclusions. As well as providing easy handling and manoeuvring and a joystick to make docking easy, Volvo Penta’s IPS also offers 30 per cent better fuel consumption than traditional shaft-drive systems. The fuel capacity is 2650lt, which will give around 830km at 40km/h.

Using a revolutionary system that was first seen on Riviera’s 4400 Sport Yacht, the hull has been constructed utilising infusion-moulding technology, rather than the traditional open-moulded lay-up of fibreglass and resin. The resin is introduced to the hull mould via an injection system and drawn through the glass-fibre layers using vacuum suction, resulting in consistent hull thickness, reduced hull weight and an improved glass-fibre-to-resinratio, providing greater strength.

Sharing lunch aboard the Riviera 5800 highlighted the very social nature of this boat. Even at the helm and underway, the skipper is very much part of the action and conversation. Throughout the trip, I noticed the companion seat was rarely empty and when it was, I quickly filled the gap. It wasn’t because the skipper looked like George Clooney, but rather the ergonomically designed leather helm seats were just incredibly comfortable. They looked great, too, and you don’t need a degree to operate the electronic controls. Vision from the helm is good in all directions and the navigation equipment and controls are all within easy reach.

We all decided it would have been a perfect afternoon for a sunset harbour cruise, but that omnipresent clock was ticking. So after a copybook run, our trip ended at Rushcutters Bay and we headed to the airport for the far less exciting return trip.

Flying home, I thought how easily the NSW coast could be compacted into a one-hour flight, a nine-hour road trip or an exhilarating 18-hour ocean adventure on the Riviera 5800. Flying, I get on the plane and can’t wait to get off. Driving, I’m constantly calculating how many more kilometres I need to endure before I get off the wretched highway.

Give me option three any day – only next time I’d prefer to take it a little slower, catch up on all the amazing places I missed, and soak up a little more of the luxury of the Riviera 5800 Sport Yacht.

SPECIFICATIONS: RIVIERA 5800 SPORT YACHT

Length overall: 19.2m

Hull length: 17.6m

Beam: 5.38m

Draft: 1.28m

Displacement: 21,300kg

Fuel capacity: 2650lt

Water capacity: 750lt

Holding tank: 272lt

Standard engines: 3 × Volvo Penta 625hp IPS

Sleeping capacity: 8-12 people

Base price: $1,850,000

Builder: Riviera,www.riviera.com.au


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