Putting Sides On A Riva Super Aquarama At Sierra Boat Company

Tired, stained hull sides

Tired, stained hull sides-1965 Super Aquarama no. 64, currently owned by Tom Turner.

Thanks to the Sierra Boat Co gang for sending in this cool report on Side Replacement For A Riva, not your average in the barn type of repair. Sierra Boat Co. is one of the leading places in the U.S for you to have your Riva worked on.

Hull side removed

Hull side removed

down to the frames

Down to the frames

Sierra Boat has a long history of maintaining vintage Riva boats. We first started bringing them to Tahoe in 1979 and started a trend that has resulted in over 50 Riva’s of all models, populating the waters of Lake Tahoe.
For those who have never had a chance to work on one of these craft, it is not advised if you are not an experienced professional. Unlike our American Chris Crafts, Hackers and Gar Woods, these boats are not simply screwed together. In fact, they are fully glued using resorcinol glue and some very clever laminating techniques.


laminated Riva panels

Laminated Riva panels

One of the unique construction features is the hull sides. Rather than the seam and batten construction seen on our domestic woodies, the Riva side is made off the boat in a single, three layer lamination, two diagonal and one longitudinal. Dating to the late 50’s Riva developed their “ armored laminate” hull sides with utilized a one sided mold and a rubber bladder “press” to mold the sides. This was a precursor to modern cold molded methods using epoxy and vacuum bagging. Riva took this process a further step by milling wood from one African Mahogany tree, so that the wood grain is perfectly matched. It is often hard to make out the plank lines on these boats to the extent that some erroneously assume the hull sides are made of plywood.

Hull side ready for intallation

Hull side ready for installation

Over the years these hull sides have proven to be pretty indestructible, but what do you do when the wood is beyond repair? The common malady is diagonal staining caused by water migrating along the seams of the inner diagonal planking. So how do you repair this. One method is to rout off the outer planking and then vacuum bag new wood on to the old substrate. In the extreme, all of the wood can be replaced including the diagonal inner layers.

fitting the hull side 2

fitting the hull side 2

fitting the hull side 3

fitting the hull side 3

fitting the hull side 4

fitting the hull side

Enter Sandro Zani of Riva World Holland. Sandro is probably the finest Riva restorer on the planet and guess what he makes? Complete new Riva hull sides! I passed on to him the hull number and a few dimensions and after two months and a month of shipping via container, voilà, the hull sides arrived at my shop ready for installation. Here are some pictures of the starboard panel being test fit. Tribute to Sandro’s work, the panel fit the frames perfectly. By the way, it should not be overlooked that Sierra Boat craftsman Mic McAndrews had to do a lot of careful trimming before the panels were permanently fastened to the frames.

Master carpenter Mic at work.

Master carpenter Mic at work.

Port hull side test fitted. Uncrating to this point was 3 hours.

Port hull side test fitted. Uncrating to this point was 3 hours.

Thanks so much to Herb Hall and the rest of the Sierra Boat Co gang out on lake Tahoe. Herb is always at lake Dora by the way, and a fantastic guy. If you have any Riva questions or are hankering for one, he is the go to guy!

14 replies
  1. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    That’s pretty amazing, would hate to see that Bill, just the shipping alone had to be pricey 😬

  2. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Yes amazing early technology…but not all that unlike our molded boats like Whirlwinds and Wagemakers….cold molded vs. “hot molded”…..really neat!

    John in Va

  3. Wlson
    Wlson says:

    …and I thought for sure you’d have the transom of Jenifer Mosher’s Crazy 8 in today’s header.

    I’ll bet there is a Lucky Seven out there somewhere for tomorrow’s

    • Don Vogt
      Don Vogt says:

      When someone inquired of jp morgan how much his yacht cost, his reply was “if you have to ask you can’t afford it.”

    • Herb Hall
      Herb Hall says:

      Thank you for all the comments. Yes, they are expensive, but cheap compared to the labor it takes to layup these sides. Container freight to Lake Tahoe was about $6,500. See everyone in Tavares.

  4. Rob
    Rob says:

    Very interesting indeed. Expensive (?) as a one-off, but I think in a factory situation this method would be a massive cost saver compared to ‘conventional’ planking.

  5. Jeff Funk
    Jeff Funk says:

    For those who have seen SBC’s shop in person, you soon understand a job like this is not unusual for these folks. Just another day at the office. Great work as usual.

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