Value and luxury are often mutually exclusive terms when it comes to boats. Silverton has long produced boats that are good values. With the introduction of a new series of sedan cruisers, or Sport Bridges as Silverton calls them, this manufacturer is hoping to edge into the luxury market-without leaving its value-oriented roots. To see if they could pull off this feat, I tested a prototype 43 Sport Bridge.
IT STARTS HERE. A requisite for any luxury product is good durability. Boats possessing solid mechanical, electrical, and plumbing installations along with robust construction and assembly techniques allow their owners to spend less time in the bilge and the shop and more time enjoying the layout and amenities while cruising. The 43 Sport Bridge makes the grade.
Check out the engine room. My test boat's twin 480-bhp Volvo Penta TAMD 75P diesel inboards were through-bolted to steel I-beam engine beds. The I-beam beds themselves are bolted to structural bulkheads fore and aft. This is an exceptionally robust way to install engines, typically found only on large yachts and inlet-busting sportfishermen. It transmits the torque and thrust of the engines to the hull more evenly than simple L-angle beds, making the boat more responsive while at the same time allowing the use of softer mounts, which minimizes vibration. From a maintenance perspective, you can be confident that your propshafts and gearsets stay aligned longer, and through rougher water, than those aboard boats in which the engines are "through-bolted" but only to the tops of stringers. The engines, as well as the genset and air-conditioner feature internal sea strainers on the intakes, a costly fitting that makes fixing a clog easier than aboard boats with external strainers.
Now check out the wiring. It's well supported and neatly run, and when I inspected the ground bus (mounted aft and to port), I discovered that all terminals are shrink sealed. This not only keeps out moisture, it helps prevent connections from vibrating loose. Chafe protection? The 43 Sport Bridge shows that Silverton is a stickler for preventing electrical wire chafe, a common cause of electrical headaches for every boater. For instance, note the nylon grommets where cables pass through the forward bulkhead. Aboard most boats, a hole is drilled, the wires are run, and a glop of sealant is all that's used to "chafe protect" the wires. This said, I noticed that the spotlight wiring in the 43 Sport Bridge's anchor locker was sloppily supported and wasn't chafe protected coming through the deck. Silverton assured me this was because the boat had been rushed out for me to test and that the glitch would be corrected. Keep them honest and check it out during your inspection. Another glitch: The icemaker water line-run in the lazarette-was supported by glue-on clips, most of which fell off during our test. Silverton says screwed clamps will replace these. Again, check.
Of course no boat's electrical system is bulletproof-the marine environment is just too unforgiving-but aboard the 43 Sport Bridge, your troubleshooting time will be minimized. The wires are neatly run and labeled every foot or so right on the insulation. I see too many boats in which the wiring is a confused bundle of cables.
While you're snooping in the 43 Sport Bridge's guts, check out its hull-to-deck joint. In addition to being a major source of leaks aboard many boats, this connection is what literally keeps the lid on a boat. Instead of using the common shoebox fit, Silverton connects the 43 Sport Bridge'stwo major components via through-bolted horizontal flanges. A gasket is sandwiched between the flanges, sealed with adhesive, and capped by a heavy-duty rubrail. This way, the hull and deck move in concert as the boat works through waves. Leaks and worries are minimized.
All of this culminates in the solid feel the 43 Sport Bridge delivered while I was at the helm. Grab the wheel, shove the levers, and take off. The 43 Sport Bridge planes with authority. It made comfortable way through three-to-five-foot headseas at 25 mph during my test. Running with seas on the aft quarter, the wettest tack for any boat, proved dry. It stayed on plane as I throttled back to 10.7 mph-a good attribute. Get caught in a blow and you can still make headway and maintain steerage without resorting to idle speed.
Running downsea, the boat had a tendency to bow steer. It requires a bit more attention to the helm on this course than I liked. Of course, you'd have to eliminate the deep forefoot that helped slice through the headseas and widen the roomy stern to allay this characteristic, a tradeoff I wouldn't want to make in a sedan. So in sum, the 43 Sport Bridge is no ICW darling: You can cruise open water and be confident in its handling and in the integrity of its systems and installations.