A motor yacht for the modern-age monarch.

REMEMBER THOSE old margarine ads? You know, the ones where a crown appeared on someone's head when they bit into their English muffin? Haven't you always wondered if it's really possible to feel like a king and enjoy the rich flavor of a high-priced spread, while paying only two thirds as much?

This new Jefferson 48 Rivanna Sundeck Motor Yacht says you can. But there's a twist. Jefferson Yachts, a company that has built its reputation on offering traditional-looking motor yachts at an attractive price, has changed with the times. Although Jefferson will continue to build their more conservative models, the Rivanna series (six models in all) is targeted at the couple who wants an affordable, practical motor yacht with a taste of modern-age styling.

Baby boomers, unlike their parents, don't necessarily have a strong motor yachting tradition. Their idea of a good time does not include getting up at six in the morning to chamois the dew off the brightwork. In fact, they don't even want any brightwork. So bring on the smoked acrylic, stainless, and black anodized aluminum.

 

JOY RIDE – The Jefferson Rivanna 48 gets respectable performance with 425-hp 3208TA Cats, and this Taiwan-built yacht sports the most contemporary styling yet from this once “traditional” builder.

 

A FRESH START

The principals at Jefferson saw this trend and ran with it. Rivanna-esque touches include a more modern interior and a more striking visage. In fact, the first thing you'll notice about the 48 is her dramatic profile. Hull and superstructure design elements include a gently faired-in cabin trunk, rakish supports for the sundeck, and a sleekly styled bridge. (Naturally, the smaller opening ports are the de rigueur Eurostyle-type and the sharp-looking Medstyle arch is standard.)

Jefferson's design team has also heeded the fact that big boats unlike big people - look slimmer with horizontal stripes. The fiberglass weathercloths surrounding the sundeck are horizontally ribbed, giving the 48 a more cultured look.

The Rivanna belowdecks marks a radical change from the conservative all-teak Jefferson interiors of yore.

 

The interior is a fresh start, too. And Jefferson's all-teak woodwork is something to behold. Teak is beautiful, but it's possible to have too much of a good thing. An interior of all teak is dark. Therefore the Rivanna comes without teak cabin soles, teak bulkheads, teak cabinets, and teak furniture. Instead, bulkheads are covered with attractive fabric and the carpet underfoot is keyed to the fabric valances at the head of the mini-blind-equipped windows.

Of course Jefferson has by no means abandoned teak altogether. The interior highlights: moldings, fiddles, handrails, drawers, and cabinets are all still hand-rubbed teak. If your decorator wants them lacquered black, however, Jefferson will do it. The company knows that new-age motor-yacht buyers often like to bring their decorators (or decorating ideas) when they order a boat. No problem. If your designer strides into the meeting with a bolt of faux ostrich headliner material they might blanch, but they are ready to work with you. These arrangements certainly mark a radical change from the conservative all-teak Jefferson interiors of yore. I don't suppose the designers at Guy Couach are getting nervous, but this is something new for Jefferson. To paraphrase the advertising jingle, “this is not your father's motor yacht.”

INTERIOR HIGHLIGHTS

The Rivanna’s layout is prototypical for a 48' motor yacht: big midships salon, lower-level dinette and galley, and a pair of big staterooms with private heads fore and aft. (There are also some layout choices. For example, an alternate plan replaces the lower level dinette with a midships stateroom. Forget moving bulkheads around though; Jefferson's got to draw the line somewhere.)

Although her overall accommodations may be standard, the 48 does have some nice surprises belowdecks. The first is the (standard) lower helm station. As expected, it's at the starboard forward corner of the salon, but it's concealed behind a trio of smooth-running teak tambour doors. Slide the front pair open and the top one back and you have a helm; slide them shut and you don't. This hide-away helm is fully found with the same equipment found "upstairs." To wit: Morse controls and Teleflex steering and a full set of very readable VDO gauges.

Owners and guests alike get the imperial treatment. Each of the two staterooms has a roomy berth with a 6"-thick mattress. The fore-and-aft heads are fitted with brass cross-handle faucets and cultured marble lavatories. The forward head has a large shower with a vent fan and a teak-trimmed seat. At the stern, there's a tub, of course.

In addition to the beveled glass mirrors and acres of hand-rubbed teak found in both staterooms, the aft one has something special: an extra room. Since it has a convertible sofa and a small desk built-in, it can serve as a mini-stateroom, a dressing room, or even a home (boat?) office. (If you don't have use for this area, the wall opens up to create an even larger aft stateroom.)

No-nonsense is the watchword out on deck. Generous workarounds with grabrails and double lifelines (welded stainless-steel rails with vinyl-coated stainless cable lowers.) For the très chic sun lover, Jefferson provides a pair of black sunpads on the foredeck. Trendy yes, but not my first color choice.

Each walk around leads aft to a weather door. This is the way to the aft cockpit. Here you can enjoy the shade under the sundeck and find ready access to the standard wet bar (ice-maker optional).

When the cockpit crowd tires of the ice-maker and wet bar, they have two choices. Down the stern ladder for a dip from the fiberglass swim platform, or up the stairs to consult with the helmsman and see how the folks there are doing. The upper station wrap-around seating holds about eight and the helm seat is a nice adjustable number. Instruments, electronics and switches are protected from spray by clear, hinged lids and there's lots of room for nav gear.

SOLID CONSTRUCTION

When Taiwan-built pleasureboats were first landed on U.S. shores in quantity - in the '60s - they seemed too good to be true. And they were, especially if you ran one aground. Then you'd find out that components had non-U.S.-standard threads, propshaft tapers, etc. When you break a boat, such things really do matter.

Well, you can all relax; the 48' Rivanna carries American brand names. There are a few Chinese-lettered parts in the boat, but they're all low-tech items (primary fuses, ball valves, raw-water strainers, and the like) and easily replaced. The important thing is that they're all made to standard U.S. dimensions and machined with U.S. threads. That's really what counts.

On the engineering side, while this boat is new-generation, it isn't new generation Hatteras. No ultra-light pre-peg composites, vacuum bagging, or even coring (in the hull). Here we're talking all fiberglass and five yards wide. The decks and superstructure sections have end-grain balsa coring. Longitudinal stringers are foam-cored fiberglass, with fabricated steel engine beds.

Jefferson has done a nice job with the systems details, as well. Fuel is ordered about by a full-crossover system with three Racor filter/separators: a pair of Racor 1000s for the engines and a 500 for the genset. This unit is a freshwater-cooled 15kw Westerbeke with a sound shield.

Yard touches include sight gauges on the twin 300-gallon aluminum fuel tanks (better than gauges for my money), double hose clamps where appropriate, drip pans under the propulsion engines, and neatly organized, color-coded wiring. The Rivanna is built according to NMMA and ABYC guidelines.

CATS AND DETROITS

Designers of 48’ motor yachts virtually always use diesel power. But a decision has to be made as to the size of the diesels. Depending on the intended use, there's quite a range of possibilities. For at or near displacement speeds, a pair of the standard small diesels (243-hp Cummins) would fill the bill. If the design calls for more speed (and less economy) make room for some large-ish mid-size diesels, perhaps something from the Caterpillar 3208 family or a DDC 8.2.

Or, if the design team is targeting a buyer who likes to go fast (and spend accordingly) they order up the heavy artillery, which in the case of your typical 48' motor yacht would be a pair of juiced-up 6V-92TAs or 6-71TIBs from the Motor City. These, however, are not offered. Instead, the engine options range up to a pair of the latest Cat 3208TAs; the 412-hp version. That's how we tested her.

(If power-hungry motor-yacht buyers clamor too much, Jefferson can put in the larger Detroit Diesel prime movers. There's enough room — the same hull has carried them in convertible trim.)

However, I think the Cats make sense. Unless you just want to mosey along, the standard 243-hp Cummins engines are too small. And unless you need to go really fast, larger engines are not called for. The Caterpillars are, as someone in a children's story once observed, “just right." A bit below warp speed but a much more modest fuel burn than a pair of big Detroits. The Caterpillars cost less, too. This helps Jefferson keep the boat's price attractive.

As expected, the Rivanna’s speeds were not blistering. While we measured a top speed of 18.5 knots, there were two factors that have to be taken into consideration. First, the wind didn't drop below 35 knots for more than five minutes during our two-hour performance testing session. The seas had built up to a genuine 3’ to 4' (what most folks call eight-footers). As you can imagine, the wind exerts a harsh performance penalty on a big boat like this.

Then there's the matter of propeller pitch; our test boat definitely had too much of it. (Test boat WOT rpm was 2600 rpm. Caterpillar's recommendation for the 425-hp 3208TA is 2800-2850 rpm.) Jefferson is re-pitching down 2" (26" x 24"). That should be just about right - there ought to be another couple of knots in those last two hundred turns. This suggests that a properly wheeled Rivanna would likely be a 21- to 22-knot boat (when gale warnings aren't posted).

The Rivanna’s handling was competent and predictable – motor-yacht material. The day's conditions were not enough to ruffle this boat's feathers and the hull ran with dry decks despite the wind and seas.

What we have here is one competent 48' motor yacht. Inside and out she reflects just enough new-age charm without going overboard. While her performance may not satisfy speed junkies, the 48's economical operation can't be ignored. Less costly to run, less costly to buy. With Caterpillar power and the relative low cost of Taiwan labor, the Rivanna’s price (plus all of the options found on our test boat) was $389,000. At this rate, she's bound to give the high-priced spread a run for the money. Who knows, maybe you can feel like a modern-age monarch without being charged accordingly.