Boating NZ - - Feature -

Widely-con­sid­ered one of the sex­i­est boats of all time, a Riva Aquarama is a feast for the senses – ex­otic, al­lur­ing, sen­sual. But it’s also very rare. So what can an en­thu­si­ast do to fill the void in his heart? Build one from scratch of course.

rigitte Bar­dot had one. So did Sophia Loren. As did Richard Bur­ton, B Peter Sell­ers, Prince Rainier and Aris­to­tle Onas­sis. In fact, the gleam­ing ma­hogany ves­sels with their dis­tinc­tive, flared bows, tum­ble­home hulls and un­fet­tered V8 power be­came an icon for the planet’s glam­our set in the 1960s and 70s. To be taken se­ri­ously on the Ital­ian Riviera, you needed a re­ally cool pair of sun­nies – and a Riva. Here on Auck­land’s Waitem­ata Har­bour, where things are a lit­tle less sunny and a tad cheaper, a Riva won’t nec­es­sar­ily un­der­score your sta­tus, but it will cer­tainly turn heads. For the owner of this boat though, re­flected sta­tus is not the driver for the project. He’s pas­sion­ate about clas­sic tim­ber boats and has a par­tic­u­lar ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the magic that is a Riva Aquarama. She’s the ful­fil­ment of a long-cher­ished dream.

The Aquarama was one of the mar­que’s most fa­mous mod­els – dis­tinc­tive for its seat­ing ar­range­ment, twin V8 pow­er­plants, sunbed loungers over the en­gine bay – and the cut­away on the stern deck to aid board­ing from the quay. Though this one isn’t a pre­cise replica, it’s pretty close. And, as I dis­cov­ered, build­ing an ac­cu­rate replica of a global icon is a lot more com­pli­cated than you might imag­ine.

In the main, two crafts­men are re­spon­si­ble for her con­struc­tion in an Auck­land ware­house: Mark Robin­son – boat­builder, cabi­net maker and spe­cial­ist in custom fur­ni­ture, and Steve Cranch, also a boat­builder but, in this case, the en­gi­neer­ing guru re­spon­si­ble for de­sign­ing and cre­at­ing the boat’s drive trains, pe­riod fit­tings and sys­tems.

With this build, both are in fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory: Robin­son has a lengthy track record in

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