Throughout the 34, materials
are of a high quality and have been skillfully worked, but equal care
is given to the practical necessities of cruising. One of the most impressive
examples of this is the seemingly endless amount of stowage. From the
saloon to the wheelhouse to the forward stateroom, it seems that every
possible space is artfully employed. Together, they are enough so that
a couple—along with occasional guests—will never have to limit their luggage.
My long scrutiny of the 34’s comfortable interior was at least partly
encouraged by the morning’s foul weather. Now the time had come to
see if she would still seem like such a snug refuge once we let go the
lines. Although the rain had lessened by the time Tomco’s vice president
of engineering, Kurt Dilworth, steered away from the dock, a westerly
blew at 25 to 30 mph as I got busy stowing lines and fenders. The 34 has
sturdy, thigh-high 1 1/4-inch bowrails running as far aft as the pilothouse
doors. Beyond that point there are grabrails mounted on the superstructure
and tow rails on nonskid side decks that are 11 inches wide at the saloon.
If you have two free hands, the grabrails are sufficient, but with one
hand carrying a pair of fenders, I wished the side decks were a bit wider.
I forgot all about narrow spaces when I climbed the ladder from the cockpit
to the sun deck above the saloon to rescue our ensign from the buffeting
wind. Fully enclosed in stainless steel rails, this broad area is roomy
enough to berth a RIB and still provide lounging in fair weather.
Conditions in Skagit Bay were far from fair. The wind, along with one
of the highest tides of the winter, had raised a three- to four-foot chop
and floated many logs off the beaches, giving the 34 opportunity to prove
her stability and her maneuverability simultaneously. Aided by Teleflex
Seastar hydraulic steering and her full keel, she did well, turning smoothly
and keeping on track even when broadside to the near gale.
We ran speed trials over a limited area of relatively flat water in the
lee of Whidbey Island. Because the high winds and tidal currents seemed
to fluctuate significantly even in the space of a few hundred yards (there
was a great deal of funneling action in the pass between Whidbey and Goat
Islands), the numbers we recorded may differ from those you’d get
in calm, open waters. In any case, the 34 gave a notably un-tuglike performance.
With her single Cummins at wide-open throttle (3000 rpm) she stepped up
onto plane smoothly and reached a reasonable top speed of 24.8 mph; at
2750 rpm she managed a nice cruise of 23 mph with an excellent range of
around 580 miles. PThough the 34’s semidisplacement hull is a far
cry from what an actual tug would rest on, it does have commercial origins.
Solid fiberglass reinforced with a one-piece integral-grid stringer system,
it was conceived for a Bristol Bay salmon gill-netter by noted Northwest
designer Lynn Senour. Salmon boats in those Alaskan waters are limited
to 32 feet LOA, so to carry more fish they have to be beamy. Also, in
Bristol Bay there are more than 1,500 permits, so to compete boats have
to be fast. These two factors led Senour to design a sturdy platform 13'3"
wide that’s quick, even with a single engine.
Once we returned to LaConner our 34’s standard bow thruster ably
countered the gusting wind, as we tied up once more in the marina. The
National Weather Service was calling for 60-mph winds off the coast; soon
even the sheltered waters of Skagit Bay would be getting pretty bumpy.
As I climbed the ramp from the boat slips, I turned for a final look at
the 34. The gale had blown away the cloud cover, and sun glinted off the
polished steel bow plate below her anchor. She looked ready for anything,
just like a tug.
Tomco Marine Phone: (360) 466-9277. Fax: (360) 466-0466. www.americantugs.com.
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