A week or so before I did the wring out of Buddy Davis’ new B&D 34 Center Console, my wife convinced me I should go on the South Beach Diet. So, in keeping with this nutritional newness in my life, prior to showing up at Davis’ waterside facility in West Palm Beach, Florida, I chowed down on a honkin’ low-carb extravaganza: three eggs, six slices of bacon, and ten slices of tomato. Which was cool, I guess. But eventually the time came to return the boat to her slip after a long, adrenalin-rushin’ sea trial and photo shoot on nearby Lake Worth. And, in the three or four hours that had elapsed since breakfast, the carbohydrate-based brain sugars that normally support my modest mental capabilities had all but faded from the scene. So what happened when I tried backing the 34 down was not good, although I’ll skip the details for a moment.
The protein-fest actually came in handy at first. A big part of our sea trial/photo shoot was devoted to developing a series of running shots wherein the 34, driven by me, had to zoom back and forth, crisscrossing the wake of a chase boat, one of Davis’ feisty B&D 28 Center Consoles with a gorgeous, Carolina-flared hull and photographer Jim Raycroft in the cockpit. Proximity was crucial. Raycroft wanted me real close on each pass, and he wanted the turns at the end of the passes tight and dramatic. Moreover, he wanted speed, meaning I had to throttle the 34’s twin four-stroke, 275-hp Mercury Verados up to 5000 rpm occasionally, a move that engendered velocities in the 40-mph range.
Talk about a test of a boat’s agility! Albeit one I’d not recommend minus the vigilance of some onboard boat-handling experts, Buddy Davis himself being one and Davis’ right-hand man, Bobby Reece, being another. Check out the 34’s acceleration curve shown on page 87—the boat charges out of the hole like blitzin’ bonito, achieving an average top hop of 48 mph in little more than 25 blistering seconds. And once on plane and in the groove, she turns with such verve she dang near slapped my eyeballs sideways.
“Hang on,” I yelled at one point, just before skewering into an especially outrageous, uproarious, deep-heeled swoop. “We’re hangin’—go for it,” Reece yelled from abaft the leaning post. The 34 blasted through a wake crest, went partially airborne, reentered with the soft thunk that typifies a true deep-V hull, and came carving around with the G-forces of a Tilt-A-Whirl. “Whoeeeeeeeee,” I hollered, “This is…FUN!”
Such exceptional performance is the product of exceptional design. And while the 34’s running surface is essentially simple, with lots of 24-degree, wave-chomping deadrise aft where it counts and a deep, extra-fine bow with enough flare to both satisfy Davis’ aesthetic sensibilities and cut chances of stuffing the bow on down-sea runs, there was one particular subtlety that had to be sweated out laboriously by the naval architect on the 34 project, Darron Roop of Virginia Beach.
For want of a better term, call it balance, the bane of many a fishboat outfitted with today’s comparatively weighty four-stroke outboards. Davis’ gripe with many of these vessels is the poor visibility they offer from the helm, a foible most often attributable to the transom-weighty, bow-high running attitudes they assume while on plane. Davis wanted something different—an altogether conventional center console with reasonable running attitudes, great cruise-speed visibility, and none of the compensatory design tricks (like radically elevated bridge decks, helm seats, or leaning posts) that are sometimes used to achieve it.
Roop came through. Although I discovered visibility over the 34’s bow was obscured momentarily while coming out of the hole with approximately one-quarter tab on, it was excellent once the boat achieved plane, thanks to running attitudes that peaked at 5 degrees and dropped to 2.5 degrees at wide-open throttle. In addition, the sweetly balanced, nose-up virulence with which the boat held these attitudes while plunging through wake-induced troughs was what enabled me to safely drive her the way Raycroft wanted.
“A most stable, safe, exciting experience,” Davis commented when we finally wound up our open-water adventure. Given the wild edginess that had characterized much of it, the observation seemed a tad understated to me, so I added for the sake of completeness, “Yup, almost makes a person feel a little light-headed.”
Which, of course, brings us back to my South Beach Diet breakfast and the horrors it precipitated in West Palm. “Just back her in…but stay in the middle,” Reece advised as I began pivoting the 34 at the mouth of our slip. Reece was obliquely referencing the fact that the mooring lines on the outboard pilings were tied together for some reason and slung under water, presumably at a level well below the skegs of our Verados, at least near or on the centerline of the slip. I didn’t really hear him, though—I was dreaming of Ritz crackers.
WHOMP! I wound our Verados’ props up so tightly with three-strand nylon we had to cut ’em loose with a pocket knife.
An ego bruiser? Oh yeah, but not enough to take the edge off my admiration for the B&D 34 Center Console. She’s a real sweetheart. Even for a guy who’s dealing rather unsuccessfully with the vicissitudes of the South Beach Diet.
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