Vintage Riva Boat restoration

Passion for Riva: a ten-year history

Since his childhood, Romano Bellini felt a strong passion for Riva. «I always admired wooden boats and among the years I came to appreciate in particular Riva’s boats, for their harmonious lines, the quality of the materials and the perfection of the product».

From this passion Bellini’s attraction to the Riva dockyard was inevitable and Bellini Nautica established with them a relation founded on synergy and mutual esteem. Romano Bellini got increasingly more involved in the creation of books, events and documentaries on the historic Riva models thanks to his valuable and unmatchable private collection.

In 2000, following the acquisition of Riva by the Ferretti Group, Romano Bellini met the (at that time) president Norberto Ferretti, and established with him a fellowship that still continues today.

Restoring a boat is a kind of art.
Restoring a Riva is a kind of love story.

Every work requires meticulous attention to detail, patience and dedication. It needs time and accuracy, it has to go through, step by step, all the restoring phases and needs skillful and experienced hands. Bellini Nautica restored vintage Riva boats for decades and obtained all the proficiency required to return any model to its former glory.

When a Riva boat is welcomed to a Bellini dockyard for restoration, a series of meticulous processes that resemble an ancient and charming ritual take place. Just like a courtship every step is respected and performed with almost obsessive attention, in order to always obtain an amazing result. Patience is the keyword: you must not be hasty while performing a restoration of such a high level. It is just like a love story: every step has a right time to be reached and then achieved.

From the first day of work until its completion after 9 months is an intense period of time when the same suggestive adventure goes on and on. We come to know the boat, we pamper it, we gain its trust and its confidence and finally, we fall in love. So much so that letting it go once the restoration is complete is extremely difficult. It is similar to when a great love goes away to find its own path, or in this case, its own wake.

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Vintge Riva boats restoration: Nine months of meticulous passion for a fascinating trip back in time

Like a courtship, the restoration of a vintage Riva requires patience, passion and meticulousness. The phases of restoring a boat to its original glory follow each other in order like a ritual and must be completed with great accuracy using knowledge possessed only by those who know the history and charm of Riva.

Every time a Riva boat enters the Bellini Nautica B&C dockyards a sequence of coordinated and combined operations start, just like they were the gear of a clock. Bellini’s team performs a high level of restoration completing every one of the phases with great professionalism.

  • First, the boat is put on water for the engines and the compression tests. Once it reaches the dockyards the engines are disassembled so that the inside workshop can perform a complete check-up.
    After the instruments, the tanks and the internals are dismantled, all the chrome-plated components are checked and – if necessary – scrupulously re-plated with 20 micron. The upholstery is removed and a specialized technician takes care of the canvas, which is later coated with new original leatherette.

  • The boat is stripped-down and hand scraped to bare wood. Once the parts that need to be repaired or replaced are identified, the hull is inverted, the keel completely dissembled so that the frame can be taken care of. The holes of the over one thousand screws in the frame are closed one by one with small wooden wedges and glue.
    After frosting the lower part of the framing, the plywood is assembled by using special moulds that are wet and bent with steam. Then, everything is glued and screwed together. When all these procedures are completed the external part is painted using anti-corrosive products and one coat of anti-fouling paint.

  • The hull is inverted again so that the team of expert restorers can proceed with the replacing of the filleted covering, making sure that the fillet gap is always 34mm (about 1.33 inches).
    Only once the old covering is disassembled and the beams are checked and, if necessary, replaced, the new covering can be installed. It is fixed with screws later covered with plugs made of the same kind of wood and glued with the perfectly oriented grains so that they are undistinguishable by the eye.

  • Now a long, laborious and delicate process starts; only exceptionally trained operators can take part in it. The hull is sanded many times with sandpaper so that the painting phase can start. This last part includes from 22 to 24 coats of paint, of which the first 15 are done only using a paintbrush.
    This way it is possible for the paint to be well spread and be deeper and better absorbed by the wood’s pores. This process takes 6 to 7 months, because after every three coats the boat is sanded again and needs to rest so the wood can process the paint more naturally. In the end, the last coats are applied with spray paint and the painting oven gives the boat a shiny mirror effect.

  • After the painting is completed, all the accessories that were meanwhile being restored one by one, are re-installed on board. The same goes for the electric, hydraulic and fuel systems. The boat is returned to its previous shape and it is already possible to see a glimpse of the inimitable beauty that it once had when it was brand new.
    It is like the boat is being reborn, a magnificent phoenix that has risen again from its ashes. The chrome-plated parts are placed, straight and well aligned, the boat is now brightly shining once again.

  • In the next phase the interns and the external trims are replaced. The dunnages are painted, then the engines, the fuel system and all the instruments are installed. The final tests on water are incredibly important, performed with the hull not completely assembled in order to immediately locate any leaks or anomalies.
    If the boat passes this test, it is taken back to the dockyard to be completed with the final step of the restoration, the replacing of the upholstery, completely remade from the first to the last seam. The boat is now washed, the windshield’s gasket is tested and it is finally delivered back to its shipowner.