has produced a line of open boats that has been enormously
successful over the years. Starting out it was a high end
boat, and over the years has only gotten more so. The initiation
fee to this level of quality for a new boat is stiff, to
say the least. But the good news for used boat buyers is
that one can easily gain entry for half-price or better,
depending on how old you care to go.
that they call this boat an "open," not "express".
While we have no official explanation, we'd guess that the
reason is that this is intended as a multipurpose boat.
It is definitely that.
3100 has long been one of my favorites in terms of both
good styling, layout, quality and reasonable seaworthiness.
It's particularly popular in the southeast, Gulf coast or
anywhere the summers are more than three or four months
long. In part this is due to a large cockpit design
that is ideal for soft enclosures that can be put up or
taken down. Just about everyone hates the hassle and expense
of zippered enclosures, but on the other hand, we can't
live without them. In the warmer climates, one
has to be able to open up to get some breeze.
addition, the 3100 has an electrically opened center
section. This may not seem very important, but believe
me opening this little window section brings in a huge amount
of air while underway. This is a feature all boats should
have. Damn the leaks, good ventilation is more important.
combination of radar arch and windshield height give plenty
of head room under the Bimini. And when you close her up,
there is little sense of being seriously closed in because
of exceptionally good visibility and spaciousness.
complain about enough cockpit space here. Great for
all water sports. Even two folding chairs hardly get
in the way. Notice the foot cove under the gunwale.
Leaning over the side is no problem, and the height
is right, too.
won't find many helm designs better than this one.
Notice the removable clear plastic covering to keep
salt spray off and everything free of corrosion and
looking nice. A great idea!
don't have to bend down to see through the windshield as
you do on so many boats this size. That's the result of
a very high profile windshield. You can stand or sit normally
at the helm with no restrictions at all. This is one of
the little "big" details that more experienced
boaters understand and know to look out for when buying
that second or third boat.
is also a wonderful boat if you're the sort that hates lots
of ups and downs or being cramped. Except for that bottleneck
between the seat modules, it permits a great deal of freedom
of movement. There is no built-in seating in the aft cockpit.
I don't like seats against the transom because they are
too inhibiting to other activities. Personally, I prefer
the option of adding folding chairs, as you see above, rather
than having space filled with something I can't move. You'll
find that some of the later models do have the fixed seating,
in which case you really loose the freedom of movement.
cockpits of earlier models are even more open than our 1996
model, which has the full size seating modules that give
it more of a look of a cocktail cruiser than a multipurpose
boat. With a large L-shaped settee to port, no one is going
to mistake this one for a sport fish, though you'll find
many of them decked out with outriggers, bait wells and
such. Personally, I could do without the large L-lounge
because it takes up too much space. I'd cut the base of
the L off and leave it at that.
test boat had a pair of TAMD40, 220 hp diesels. The first
word to come to my mind when hearing about these engines
was "slow." Happily, I was wrong, For while she's
no speed demon with these engines, she topped out at 24.8
upwind into a 2 ft head sea but gave the impression of going
quite a bit faster. Actually, 24.8 knots is slow for a boat
this size, but when you choose diesels like this, it's fuel
range a buyer is thinking of, not speed.
engine options you'll find them available with the
3126 Caterpillars or Cummins 6BTA at 335 hp. We'd
recommend Cummins as the better engine.
If you're wondering how she does with a
pair of Crusader 454's, rest assured that she's plenty fast.
While we haven't tested one lately, figure at least 32 knots.
She's light enough that she won't be hard on gas engines.
If you are not going to be putting a lot of hours
on your boat, we'd definitely recommend gas power. Diesels
are a waste of money on boats that spend most of their time
just sitting and you'll gain no benefit from the extra cost.
a fairly steep chop, she did not pound. Actually, I was
surprised at how comfortable the ride was since Tiara does
not compete with Bertram, Blackfin or some other specialty
boats for rough water performance. Deadrise aft is 20 degrees
and forward around 32 degrees about 5 feet aft of forward
waterline. This looked to be a bit steeper than earlier
models, so perhaps the better ride shouldn't have been a
surprise. Propeller pockets didn't help her speed much but
then she draws only 2'2" of water. Or so Tiara says.
I didn't measure it. Looking at the stern view photo below,
that number seems to strain credibility.
not used to seeing Tiaras with this much dead rise.
It definitely shows up in the ride.
rudders are decidedly small, and with the props set
somewhat close together, a bit of slow speed handling
is lost. This is done so the deck level isn't too
high and keeps the boat profile from being out of
engines are quite close together, the rudders are smallish,
so that slow speed steering and maneuvering into dock comes
nowhere near to what you'd get with a Blackfin or Bertram.
helm layout is one of the best I've seen. That is so obvious
from the above photo I won't bother to describe it. The
large, 20" destroyer wheel -- well, I can't understand
how anyone could tolerate those puny little 12" wheels
they're putting on boats these days. Placed vertically,
manning the helm was a real pleasure for me, standing up
or sitting down. Sitting back I like to drive with my feet,
and that's nearly effortless here.
loved most everything about this boat but one really bad
thing: the engine compartment. I'll engage in some low class
language here and just say that it positively sucks. I mean,
they couldn't have done it any worse. Not even Sea Ray has
managed to create an accessibility nightmare like this one.
has a single large hatch, on which the heavy seating modules
are permanently mounted. It is then opened by an electric-mechanical
opener that dims the lights when you operate it, lifting
up the aft end. It then opens about two feet. Uh huh, two
feet. There is barely enough room for my two legs to fit
between the engines. I had to stand slightly sideways. That,
from the little hatch that accesses within the larger hatch.
A hatch that is all but useless because the space is so
small that all you can do is just stand there. Try bending
over and something unpleasant tickles your backside, especially
if the engines are hot.
just try crawling through that two foot hatch opening. Have
you ever tried to crawl across the top of a diesel engine
on your hands and knees? When it's hot? Well, that's what
you have to do. Folks, if you are any kind of do it yourselfer,
I'd counsel you to consider this aspect carefully.
Working on anything in that engine compartment is very difficult.
If you're going to pay someone else to kill themselves fixing
things, then no problem. Even something so simple as an
oil change is not easy. The Westerbeke 4Kw generator is
easy enough to service because it is at the aft end of the
space. You only have to lay on your stomach to do so.
there's no way I could live with this. Okay, that unpleasantness
aside, let's move on, assuming I haven't already turned
you off. The rest of the boat is a pure delight.
to the helm, it's probably one of the best designs I've
ever seen, and it looks great too without looking like something
out of Buck Rogers. If you like Buck Rogers, then I've just
insulted your taste. Sorry 'bout that. Modernism is fine,
but boats that look like fantasy space ships are not my
cup of tea. Plus, they're usually impractical as hell. But
this one's got a touch of heaven.
a large center-line sliding door into cabin. Again, one
of the nicest. You can rush down into the cabin without
getting bruised every time you enter. Not at all like the
contortionist arrangements Sea Ray and others love to create
for us. Cabin layout has offset double berth forward that's
sort of L-shaped. Not pretty, but very large. Fairly good
vertical depth (headroom) here does not give the sense that
you are sandwiched in between the deck and berth like a
sardine. You won't bash your head when you suddenly sit
up from a reclining position.
a settee layout that really works! And notice
the huge electric panel set at eye level. This is
one of the things that distinguishes Tiara from the
lesser breeds. TV is also viewable from forward berth.
galley. Yawn. It does have a nice hatch over the stove
though. Sink is hopelessly small. You can almost see
it. A lot of area is lost for the 3/4 size frig.
Nice size convertible lounge to starboard, of the sort that
you can get some use out of. One strange thing here is that
this one was not designed to convert to a berth. The table
is fixed and does not move without unbolting it. Odd.
The galley won't measure up even to a 30 Bertram. It's almost
completely devoid of useable counter space as they've
opted for a half-height reefer.
For any kind of food prep, you have to use the table.
without going overboard, the interior scheme is heavy on
contrast between a lot of white and the few pieces of teak
like partial bulkhead and standing locker. The available
stowage space is substantial. There's much more than average
deck space and ease of movement is nice.
nice feature is that there are three deck hatches. Now a
days builders are big on making boats with no ventilation.
You're supposed to rely on air conditioning all the time.
That is a decidedly dumb thing to do when you consider that
around half the boats we survey the A/C does not work. And
guess what? Nope, it didn't work on this one either. Opening
three hatches solved that problem.
head has no stall shower. Would I give up a shower stall
for all this extra interior room? Yes, I think it's worth
it. Wouldn't be the first time I've showered on deck, nor
the last. Standard is the loud but very effective PAR electric
head. Interior space here is adequate.
is above average but certainly not superb. For the money
(new) I think it should be better. The teak didn't have
much finish on it and detracted. You'll see a world of difference
between this and a 1999 model where the finish is superior.
If you want to see what a really nice interior looks like,
take a look at the new Tiaras.
major part of the quality in this boat is in the fiberglass
moldings which are first rate. You won't find gel coat cracks
all over this boat. In fact, there weren't any. The hull
is screwed to the deck with a wood backing strip on the
inside. It has the plastic rub rail with stainless molding
inset. No problems here.
the side decks aft are a tad narrow, this boat is pretty
easy to get around on. You certainly won't slip on that
deep diamond non-skid decking. The small molded-in step
on the sides of the cockpit is misplaced and hard to locate
when boarding, but other than this the ergonomics are pretty
darn good. There's a six inch step up to forward end of
cockpit, giving a bit better visibility. I'm 6-0 and there
was close to a foot over my head under the Bimini. The top
of your head doesn't get fried under the Bimini on this
windshield is quite tall without managing to look awkward,
which is what affords such good visibility. A very strong
design feature here. It's painted aluminum -- not done right,
no zinc chromate primer and is starting to corrode, though
not real badly. The aluminum radar arch: same story, mostly
around stainless snap fasteners. But hey, at least it won't
sag and distort like so many 'glass ones do. In another
five years, both these items will be real mess.
a large removable storage tub athwartships in the aft deck
that I managed to remove single handedly; it's light enough
to do that without getting a hernia. Below is good access
to steering gear, etc. Twin 123 gallon aluminum fuel tanks
are properly designed and installed. They'll be no problem
with corroded tanks here.
are a few other carping points I could bellyache about,
like all those plastic access ports in deck with handle
that break off. And the crappy plastic ports in the sides
of the cockpit liner that are actually crumbling under the
Florida sun. And the plastic through hulls above the water
line. None of these items belong on a boat at this price.
Nor do the plastic hinges on seating module storage doors
that are now cracking and breaking. Tiara saves two bucks
at the risk of their reputation with garbage like this.
I can smell the perfumed bean counters from here. They're
in need of a good salt water dunking. God, save us from
plastic hardware. Surely no one else will.
this is a big little boat that is very roomy for its size.
Ergonomically it's near perfect. It makes a nifty cruiser
or fishing boat or both. Overall, the quality level is satisfying
and means that these boats are going to be around for a
long time to come. We'd give this one 4-1/2 stars but for
that engine compartment.
Foot note: A possible
solution for the engine access problem might be to attach
very large teflon runners to the under side of the
seating modules. Then install some very large thumb screws
for hold downs (dinky ones won't work), and add a couple
of alignment guides on the deck. In this way, a single person
could slide the cockpit modules all the way aft, fully off
the hatch, and then lift the hatch more fully open for better
access. With a little forethought, this might make an intolerable
situation tolerable. The purpose of the teflon runners is
so that you can easily slide the modules without lifting
or damaging the deck. The alignment guides are needed so
you can get the hold down screws lined up right.
are "reviews", not surveys, and bear no resemblance to
our survey reports.
We do not publish the results of the surveys that we perform.
Please note that the purpose of these reviews is educational, to
help you discern the differences in quality among boats
generally. They are not offered as a means to help you evaluate
any particular boat builder. We have no other reviews than those