Cruising under the Verrazzano Bridge with the Statue of Liberty directly ahead of them and Manhattan Island beckoning, Ellen and Gary Wasserson discovered a new-found appreciation of The Big Apple aboard their Riviera 565 SUV (this model has been replaced by the 575 SUV).
Gary Wasserson spent years searching marinas before he happened upon his Riviera 565 SUV at a Maryland boat show. Immediately impressed, he video-called his wife Ellen for a virtual tour.
“He’d been looking for five years and when he said that he loved that boat I knew it had to be special – it seemed perfect,” says Ellen, speaking from their home in Philadelphia.
“And it is,” says Gary. “This boat is meant for cruising and using, not sitting at the dock: it’s not a glorified RV, it’s a true boat.”
Once acquainted with Off the Hook, Gary and Ellen departed Chesapeake in June 2019. Their four-week cruise soon evolved into a two-month urban exploration through the east coast’s most famous cities.
“Entering Manhattan by boat is a very special experience. As you come under the Verrazzano Bridge the city opens up before you, the Statue of Liberty is directly ahead and you see the tip of Manhattan Island. It’s amazing on the East River to go under the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges – a thrill from that perspective.”
A thrill and a challenge. Being a tidal strait, Manhattan’s East River has strong currents and can be particularly tricky when running up to 10 knots at the aptly named Hell Gate where it forks into the Harlem River.
“As long your engines don’t fail it’s easy to get through.”
This is one of the reasons that when Gary first saw the 565 SUV, the first thing he did was climb in the engine room. According to Ellen, it’s the first thing he shows all their guests.
The Riviera 565 SUV features twin Volvo Penta IPS 900s at 700-horsepower each. With a fuel capacity of 3,500 litres, the 565 SUV has a cruising range of around 390 nautical miles with a top speed of more than 30 knots.
“I cruise at 20 to 25 knots; if I wanted to travel at 8 knots, I would have bought a trawler. Once we travelled for six hours in five- to six-foot seas at a full cruise and it was still so comfortable. The 565 SUV has an amazingly well-designed hull.”
Planning and provisioning for an extended trip was a learning curve for the Wassersons and in charge of the itinerary was Ellen.
“I had a general idea of what we were going to do and found a fantastic website called Dockwa for making reservations at different marinas; it was incredibly helpful.”
Yet it was important to keep things fun and flexible and, having grown up in Long Island, Ellen was particularly keen to get to places she hadn’t been to before – and in new ways.
In Greenport and Port Jefferson, the Wassersons ventured inland on their electric bikes – ‘the game changers’ – which opened up Long Island to them in new ways. On Block Island (on Rhode Island), the pair managed an epic 20-mile ride.
“Greenport and Port Jefferson were two places I wanted to explore and so I did a lot of research around them. At Port Jefferson there wasn’t a slip big enough for us, so for the first time we moored up.”
Whether mooring up or manoeuvring in marinas, steering is easy with IPS joystick control, and is especially useful for a 61-foot vessel that is large by US standards.
“The IPS has an option called Dynamic Positioning System that locks onto a satellite position and it’s been incredibly helpful. When we’re near a dock or mooring up, I push a button and the boat stays completely in position while we get the lines or fenders ready. It takes the pressure off,” says Gary.
A technical person by nature, Gary was equally impressed by the CZone digital switching system that controls and monitors all aspects of the vessel through a single-touch screen.
“I met with a CZone trainer and reprogrammed the system to my liking. It’s a pleasure to get on board, press one button and know everything is in order.”
In Boston, the Wassersons ran into another couple of Rivieras and, because they were enjoying the Riviera cruising life so much, decided to extend their trip.
“In Boston, we decided to moor in the harbour because we got the most amazing views. It’s a beautiful architectural city, with a mixture of old and new. We had lots of friends visit us too. Oh gosh, friends love our Riviera,” Gary laughs. “We have a waiting list! It’s always good to have a friend with a boat – and I’m that guy!”
A key design feature of the 565 SUV is the expansive single-level living, which is ideal for entertaining.
The saloon’s oversized windows lighten a well-appointed interior where an L-shaped lounge and dining area to port complements the three-seater side lounge on the starboard side. A large glass sliding door and galley window opens the aft galley into a spacious cockpit, creating a great entertainment area and is the 565 SUV’s standout feature.
“The galley is amazing – I can’t even tell you how much food I prepared on that trip; we provisioned plenty for entertaining,” says Ellen.
For Gary, second to safety, comfort was the priority.
“Riviera is incredibly efficient at making use of space. The finish is precise, purpose-built and it’s incredibly luxurious,” says Gary.
The Wassersons lost track of exactly how many nautical miles they travelled, around 1,600 perhaps. However, they do have other certain measures of success: zero mechanical failures, 20 pints of ice cream and 3,500 gallons of fuel.