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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Regulator 34 SS

The Mid-Atlantic states tend to get a little frosty in late December. In fact, when I pulled into Bluewater Yachting Center in Hampton, Virginia, and parked my car behind the prototype Regulator 34 SS (Side Seating) I was gonna sea trial that morning, the dashboard readout on the ol’ rental car marked the ambience outside at 39˚F. And what’s more, the tops of the trees ‘round about were swaying energetically in the wind. Not the grooviest of conditions for blasting across the Chesapeake in a side-console fishboat, I told myself while examining the low, snowy-looking sky.

After going aboard I noted one cheery detail, however. In addition to a large, tempered-glass Console Curve windshield from Taylor Made Systems—a stout piece of work but primarily suited to warm weather travels—the 34 sported an enormous spray enclosure installed just forward of the windshield. Stretching from one gunwale to the other with a zippered forward-access door to port and solid isinglass to starboard (in way of a sideways console extension that supports wraparound seating at the rear of the bow cockpit), the darn thing looked so weatherproofed with Velcro, twist-stud fasteners, and slotted tracks that it’d keep a guy dry and comparatively warm in the midst of an equinoctial gale.

The 34 was docked starboard-side-to in a rather challenging spot, as luck would have it. Just a few feet abaft her two bracket mounted 350-hp Yamaha four-strokes was the stem of another brand new Regulator. And just a few feet forward of her bow was the sparkling hull side of another newbie. But once I’d fired up the Yamahas and let ‘em warm, squeezing free without slamming the dock with the stern or otherwise doing any damage was plenty easy for one major reason: the smooth, lightning-speed of the 34’s steering system. Besides twin standard-issue power-assisted Teleflex Sea-Star hydraulic rams that rapidly ratchet her hulking 800-pound outboards back and forth, the 34 has a standard-issue Edson ComfortGrip steering wheel with a big, fat PowerKnob.

And what a combo! I simply spun the Yammys toward the dock and bumped my digital-electronic sticks ahead momentarily to kick the stern out of harm’s way. Then, using the PowerKnob again, I quickly centered the outboards as the stern swung off and twin-screwed a slow rotation of the bow to port, with the starboard engine going ahead and the port engine going astern with a tad more oomph. In a heartbeat, we were on the trail. Driving the 34 upon the rough-and-ready confluence of the James River and the lower reaches of the Chesapeake Bay constituted a brush with performance perfection. Seas in the storied stretch between Fort Monroe and Fort Wool were confused and cresting at a height of three feet or so. Did the 34 zoom across ‘em like a pickup truck hammering a rutted gravel road? Heck no! She veritably flew, with her Lou Codega-designed, highly warped, deep-V running surface (with a 24-degree transom deadrise) slicing ‘em like a razor blade, even at an average top hop of 58.1 mph. “Some like it hot,” I yelled enthusiastically while tearing past the Naval Air Station.

The first high-speed turn put an ear-to-ear grin on my face and made every sensation associated with the deplorable weather conditions disappear. The 34 charged into and out of tight turns with her nose up and every horse thundering, thanks to the virtual absence of rpm lag while cornering and the absence of prop blowout. Visibility through the double mediums of the Console Curve and the enclosure was noticeably crisp, acceleration was robust, and out-of-the-hole running attitudes did not even come close to interfering with sightlines over the bow. And then there was the measurable parameter that dang well blew my hat into the creek.

While loping back to Bluewater with the sea trial nearly complete, I decided to see how the 34 would comport herself on one engine—I mean, there’s always the possibility of the temporary loss of one engine on a twin-engine rig, right? So, without deploying the Lenco electric tabs, I slowly and steadily poured the coal to first the starboard engine alone, and then the port engine alone. The result? Top speed in both cases was just under 33 mph! Hey, did Codega get the 34’s LCG (Longitudinal Center of Gravity) placement perfect or what? And how about the torque in the one-and-only engine option for the 34: those big Yammys?

While I had about as much trouble shoehorning the 34 back into her slip as I had squeezing ‘er out, I must admit to hitting the optional Vetus thruster a couple of times to keep the bow snugly alongside while a Regulator rep secured bow and spring lines. There’s no shame in indulging a little thruster action on a cold, windy day is there? Especially when your fingers are semi-frostbitten and gloomy gray clouds threaten.

Two vexations cropped up while I examined the vessel dockside with a note book and tape measure. The first was, in a sense, invisible. Shortly after stepping down into the console cuddy, which by the way, offers 6'4" headroom as well as a small sink with shower/faucet, a Corian countertop, a standard VacuFlush MSD, and a doublewide crawlspace forward outfitted with foam cushions for sleeping, I discovered evidence of both a Marvair air-conditioning system and a Charles Industries battery charger onboard. This was groovy, of course—I love cool air and electricity. But unfortunately, I also discovered it was impossible to get at either of these two ancillaries without removing the optional Indel refrigerator that was flush-mounted into the starboard bulkhead. I feel it’s never a good idea to cover one piece of equipment with another on a boat—it hinders maintenance.

The second vexation struck while I helped the Regulator rep fasten the cushions in the forward cockpit. The darn things proved so thick and stiff that it was wickedly difficult to apply enough pressure to get the button of each snap to lock into the socket underneath (especially with those frigid fingers). Not a big deal, you say? Hmm. Regulator should add snap-accoutered flaps or tabs to its cushions to facilitate fastening.

The rep and I beat feet to the nearby Surf Rider Restaurant after finishing with the cushions. And I was soon synopsizing my impressions of the 34 over a superheated bowl of Maryland crab chowder.

“She’s got lots of fishfighting essentials on the standards list, a decent price, and a console cuddy with creature comforts,” I concluded. “But the greatest thing is the way the darn boat runs — I’ll tell ya, she’s hotter ‘n this bowl of chowder! And buddy, that’s sayin’ somethin’!”

Noteworthy: Hull-To-Deck Joint

While Lou Codega’s slippery running surface is critical to the performance of the 34 SS, there’s another important factor: construction. And while I could go into grillage systems or laminate schedules and other fiberglass techniques Regulator employs, I instead want to look at one the most revealing aspects of how the boat’s put together: her hull-to-deck joint.

While Regulator goes with the basic shoebox type for the 34, there’s a twist. Instead of securing just the deck and hull together with bolts and urethane adhesive (Regulator uses Bostik 920, shown in yellow in our drawing), the company extends the inner liner up the hull side and adds it to the joint. This is a savvy and (as far as I know) unique measure. It adds solidity to the hull deck construct and reduces liner-related noise and vibration. A smooth unibody ride results, and some fairly low dB-A readings, too.


Regulator Marine (252) 482-3837.

This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.