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John and Ellen Bruno's life-changing journey with Riviera

by Riviera Australia 25 Oct 2023 13:49 PDT
John and Ellen Bruno with all the family enjoying time on their Riviera 5400 Sport Yacht Black Tie Affair © Riviera Australia

When John and Ellen Bruno discovered Riviera in 1999, they couldn't have imagined how life-changing it would be. Riviera gave Ellen a new confidence on the water. Now they spend nearly half the year aboard their 5400 Sport Yacht, Black Tie Affair, and the best is yet to come.

Life would have been very different for John and Ellen Bruno if, in 1999, they had not discovered Riviera. Ellen would not be the enthusiastic boater that she is today; it's unlikely they would be spending five months of the year on the water, and John almost certainly wouldn't have attempted a voyage in mid-winter seas to Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration. Alongside Riviera, the Bruno's boating journey has been long and fruitful and, happily, the best is yet to come.

"The first Riviera we acquired was in 1999. It was a 45-foot Excalibur. Back in those days, there weren't many of them around," says John from the couple's Annapolis home in the mid-Atlantic US state of Maryland. "What drew me to Riviera were the handsome lines, and since nobody knew Riviera, it had this je ne sais quoi about it.

The layout was very comfortable, and its performance was great - power boaters like performance!"

While John had always been a boater, before 1999 Ellen hadn't spent much time boating. Riviera gave Ellen a confidence on the water she hadn't felt before. "I'm not a big fan of ocean travelling and the big water," admits Ellen. "But I feel safe in a Riviera because it takes the waves well. It feels secure and that was important to me. Our first Riviera allowed me to really get into boating; it was such a joy that I almost didn't care about the conditions! You have confidence with a Riviera."

John and Ellen kept up to speed with the Australian yacht maker's evolution. In 2005 they acquired their Riviera M470 Sport Cruiser and three years later moved on to the new 4700 Sport Yacht. "It was an interesting progression," says John. "There was a leap in our boating experience with the 4700. Ellen started coming with me more and felt more comfortable and safer. We started doing bigger, long-distance trips up to Maine on the east coast and to Florida. It was a totally enclosed yacht and it had heating so we could travel in all weather. It could be 45-30 degreesF [7 to -1 degreesC] weather and we could be inside in a T-shirt."

Maryland was experiencing typically freezing mid-January conditions when John took the 4700SY to Washington DC for Obama's first presidential inauguration in 2009. Only a 'stoutly built boat like a Riviera' could have withstood the conditions, he says.

"I think it's one of the highlights of my boating career," says John. "It was a different dimension of boating...this 12-hour, 185-mile trip in the middle of the Maryland winter.

It would have been under 30 degreesF out, so the spray of the wave immediately froze on the rails. Every half an hour or so we had to stop to knock the ice off the rails so it wouldn't list [from the weight]. When I show people the photos, they can't believe it didn't capsize or sink! It must have had 8000 pounds of ice on it, and I was inside with a T-shirt on."

The 4700SY was also the first time the Brunos had experienced living on a boat with the galley on the same level as the helm.

"That and the alfresco dining really grabbed us," says Ellen. "In the galley, I could be a part of what was going on; it was so spacious and easy to use."

Now on their new Riviera, a 5400 Sport Yacht, Ellen likes the way the grill is located just outside the saloon door. "It means I can be preparing food and talking to guests in the cockpit while John's on the grill. It's easy for entertaining and it's easy for when we're just there by ourselves."

Like all their previous Riviera motor yachts, their 5400SY is named Black Tie Affair, after their penchant for the finer things in life.

"The stateroom on the 5400SY is amazing; we can walk around the bed - a king-sized bed - there's great headroom and a chaise lounge, and it's definitely comfortable," says Ellen. "It's easy to live on and there's plenty of room even with our children and the six grandchildren. We've got more than enough space for what we need to take on long trips; we've gone to Florida for a few months at a time. It's a big, liveable boat and has everything we need - a microwave convection oven, a good dishwasher and a freezer."

Having worked their way into four Riviera luxury motor yachts, the Brunos are content to enjoy their retirement on the 5400SY and are looking forward to new adventures.

John recently voyaged to Boca, Florida, to meet 'the boys', one of whom recently took delivery of a Riviera 645 SUV which 'is just spectacular'. Later joined by their wives, the couples cruised south to Key West for six weeks, joined at one point by their children and grandchildren. "We plan to head up the west coast of Florida stopping along the way. We'll also head over to The Bahamas for a couple of weeks if we can," says John. "We also have plans to travel to the northeast to Boston where Ellen is from, Block Island, Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and back to New England.

"Having a Riviera expands our recreational boating much further than if we had a different boat. In 1999 there weren't many Rivieras around at all... I think I must have influenced many of my friends; we're a tight and maritime-oriented community here. People get on the Riviera and go into the engine room, and they can see that it's well-built; every electrical line and plumbing line is well-marked. Now 20 years later when you tell someone you have a Riviera, they say, 'Wow, that's a nice boat. That's from Australia'!"

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