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Building a Riviera Saved My Life

On March 25, 2020, in Inboard Powered, by Gayle Brantuk

by BobD

Riviera built by BobD in Australia

I’ve recently completed building a Riviera in Canberra Australia. I’m a Navy veteran forced into retirement with PTSD and have been using the build as part of my therapy. I’m OK now, but It has saved my life – literally! There is no other project like building a wooden boat, and there have been times when I wonder if part of my team are more impressed with its progress than I am.

The outer skin is Jarrah, a timber native to Western Australia (where I grew up), and that is its natural colour. I’ve used hoop pine plywood and natural hoop pine for the battens (an Aussie conifer a little heavier but much stronger than douglas-fir and with beautiful straight grain), and Tasmanian Oak and Victorian Ash for the frames/chine and sheers (both these timbers are actually eucalypts, but acquired the common names for (allegedly) having some resemblance to the timbers after which they were named – they are nowhere near as heavy or hard as real oak.

The engine is a PCM ZR409 – which at 364 ci is a little bigger than I had planned, but a little lighter than the 350 chev all steel units, and it’s fitted with the whole suite of environmental compliance gear which would not have been the case with any other. I’ve stretched the boat to 22′ including a 10″ swim platform which follows the line of the bottom and increases the waterline length on plane as well as adding a fin stabiliser underneath, and I’ve propped it not to go over 50 knots to keep things safely within hull limits. I got the engine with 3.5 hrs on it with a full warranty for almost $5000 less than a new 350 ci from PCM, or any other manufacturers equivalent (around $10000 less than a mercury), so it was more a financial decision than going for more power at the prices we get charged over here. I don’t have any of the young man’s desire to go too fast any more.

The boat was finished but for some upholstery at the end of October last year (2019), when I went down to Tassie for seven weeks to learn traditional clinker building at the Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin on the Huon River.  … I didn’t get a chance to launch until January when I took it up to Forster for a first run with the lady after whom the boat is named.

There’s a bit of porpoising above 40 mph, but otherwise flawless; rock solid stability, head snapping acceleration and a serious howl when I open up the V8.  I’ve a plan to fix that porpoising at high speed in the longer term.

I’m delighted with how it behaves, and how it has come up – adding the chromework as that very last thing absolutely transforms the overall impression of the boat and it has been a real head turner.   I’ll never be short of a helping hand at the boat ramp, and while I expected some attention, the extent of it has been overwhelming.  I love seeing the surprise and disbelief on people’s faces when I tell them I built it myself.  So glad I took the time to pay attention to the detail.

See BobD’s Gallery of photos of his beautiful Riviera on the Glen-L Site!

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Your Thoughts?

10 Responses to Building a Riviera Saved My Life

  1. Bob, great inspiration. I run a nonprofit for disabled veterans out of Savannah GA and we are preparing to build a flats boat for inshore fishing. This will be our first build and we are encouraging veterans with all types of disabilities to participate. I love how your’s turned out. Great job!

  2. BobD says:

    Thanks Eric. A very sweet ride, with head snapping accelaration. In retrospect, 250-300HP would be plenty for this hull, but still, can you have too much power!

  3. archimedia says:

    Hi Bob, well done on the build. I’m following in your path but I’ve got a long way to go. I’ll be finishing the hull in a few weeks if I can get the materials I need. I’m in Melbourne and you clearly have access to things that I’m finding difficult to source. Any chance of a mentoring session? Well done.

    • BobD says:

      Glad to help if I can. I’ve kept records of where I got everything, and bought everything through local suppliers where that was possible. 0421076974. Look forward to hearing from you.

  4. Bryn says:

    Thanks for your service Bob. If not for people like you, idiots like me can’t turn mums garage into a boat shop. Awesome boat.

  5. Jeff R Pynnonen says:

    Beautiful boat ! Well done !
    Thanks you for your service!
    Enjoy the ride!

  6. Lennis Camfield says:

    Beautiful boat and thankyou for your service to our country!
    Mike C.

  7. John Zeigler says:

    Keep up the good work! Former US Navy ( OT2 ) with PTSD and TBI. I’m on my 10th home built boat. And have carved over 70 sailboat half models from lines plans. Only recently purchased the plans for Gentry, but have to finish another strip planked pram I started a while ago. I might slip a USCA marathon C-1 racing canoe in after the pram though….we’ll see. I agree, it’s great therapy so stay with it!
    ps: I managed to slip in 34 yrs of competitive paddling and rowing also! And I still paddle and row! Helps the focus and concentration. Lots of time to think….about the next project.

    • BobD says:

      John – Thanks Mate – you are prolific, not sure I’ll build another as big and complex as the Riviera, but there will be more to come! The ‘thinking about it’ is as important as the doing!

  8. Eric Fairchild says:

    Great build, and looks like it would be a nice fun ride. And I say Thank You for your service. All of Us Veterans need to stick together.

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