October 13th 2010. By Lenny Rudow.

Tiara 3900, Express Combo

Tiara's new 40 footer makes fishing a pleasure, combining the best express and convertible features into one boat.

Which type of design is better for a 40-foot class fisher-cruiser: express or convertible? No matter how you use your boat this can be a real conundrum—expresses let you remain in touch with your guests as you cruise and give you easy access to the cockpit when you fish, while the Convertible design removes you from conversation and makes it tough to jump from the helm to the rods. But for the same amount of LOA, convertibles have a third or so more room in the cabin. What would combine the best of both worlds? An express with a cabin that makes you feel like you’re in a convertible. Impossible, you say? The Tiara 3900 might just change your mind.

The Tiara 3900 is an express with a cabin that feels like a convertible.

A single stateroom layout greatly enhances the usable space.

Open, airy Cabin
Step belowdecks and the first thing you notice is an open, airy environment. Tiara maximizes the space down here by using a single stateroom layout, which may cut into the number of couples that can overnight in privacy, but greatly enhances the usable space. As a result, you get an express-style cabin with convertible-style elbow room. There’s a galley to port, a dinette to starboard (which swings up into a single top Pullman berth with a double berth below), and a head forward, next to the stateroom. Slide into the head for a moment, to take a gander at another of Tiara’s space-creating tricks.

The master stateroom

You’ll note that there’s no enclosed shower stall, even though the head is large enough for one. As a result, it feels incredibly roomy in there. Of course, you can’t build a 40-footer without putting in a shower. Now look a little closer. There actually is a shower stall, but it folds flat against the bulkhead. When it’s time to rinse off just pop it out, and when you’re finished fold the stall flat again to regain all that extra space.

The stove has a Corian cover with a built-in safety shut-off switch.

Quality Finish
So far as quality is concerned, the 3900 cabin’s interior is on the level we’ve come to expect from premier builders like Tiara. The cabin sole is teak and holly, countertops are Corian, and the folding inlaid two-tone teak dinette table has a finish that’s so glossy, you’ll think the varnish is still wet five years from now. The two-burner stove top has a perfectly fitted Corian cover with a safety shut-off switch, so as long as you replace the cover, it’ll be impossible to accidentally leave the stove turned on. Even more impressive is the wood cabinetry. Pull out the galley drawers, for example, and you’ll discover real dove-tailed wood joints instead of the glued laminates we’ve become accustomed to settling for.

Smart Bridgedeck
The bridgedeck is where an express could have a space advantage over convertibles, but rarely does. Most builders place a big L-shaped lounge here, which looks great in the showroom but in reality is an awful place to sit while underway. As anyone who’s tried it knows, every time the boat hits a wave the people on the center-facing section of the L slide aft, until they’re knocking shoulders with the people next to them. But Tiara beat this problem with a tricked-out passenger’s lounge that swivels from sideways to forward-facing with the press of a button. That means you can turn the L-lounge into two forward-facing seats with room for five total passengers.

The L-lounge turns into two forward-facing seats with room for five.

Great Performance
And those passengers will be glad for it when you pin the throttles down. Acceleration was impressive when we sea-trialed this boat, as was the top-end speed of 40.6-mph. Efficiency is about average for a boat of this size, and while cruising with the twin 600-hp Cummins QSC 8.3 diesel inboards (a $37,460 upgrade) set at 2500 RPM, we made 30-mph while getting 0.8 MPG.

The big fishbox hatches feel feather light when you open them.

Roomy Cockpit
You’d think that the cockpit would be one spot in which Tiara couldn’t boost the comfort factor. After all, it’s just a wide-open space, right? Still, they found ways. Check out the deck hatches, for example. Hinges and latches all sit perfectly flush with the deck in molded recesses, so toe-stubbing won’t be a problem. And even though the fishbox hatches are big—there’s enough space below them to ice down a 100 pound tuna—they feel feather light when you open them. Tiara split the hatches, then added gas-assist struts to either side, so swinging them up with a single finger is a piece of cake.

Big Livewell
Even your baits will be more comfortable than normal in this boat, thanks to the 55-gallon transom livewell. It has a baby-blue interior (which has a calming effect on nervous baitfish), a powerful 2,000-gph pump that maintains excellent water flow, and a restrictor that lets you adjust the pressure in case you load up with delicate baits like bunker. Serious fishers will want to consider adding the Tournament Series options (which add nearly $16K to the boat’s list cost of $689,670), which were on the 3900 we tested: four gunwale-mounted rodholders, 10 hardtop rocket launchers, 28’ Rupp outriggers, fishbox macerators, stainless-steel bowrails, a bait prep station, and an ice maker.

Sure those are cool goodies, but here’s the really good news: you’ll actually be able to use and enjoy them. Because unlike the guy that bought a convertible, you’ll only be a few quick steps away from the action—and a spacious, comfortable cabin is just a few steps in the opposite direction.

Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld, boats.com, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.