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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Buzzards Bay 34

Wild Cat

Lean on the throttles a little and you get economy. Lean on ‘em a lot and you get a ride you won’t believe.

While the Buzzards Bay 34’s ride was no doubt explainable in terms of naval architecture, it retained a certain ineffability nevertheless. I mean, here we were—Buzzards Bay honcho Russell Hunt and yours truly—slicing blithely through a half-crazy mishmash of slab-sided Chesapeake Bay four-footers at 30 mph and experiencing a level of comfort that was closer to lounging in a La-Z-Boy than test driving a hi-tech New England-built powercat. “Mind if I take ‘er up to top speed for a bit?” I asked, as Hunt addressed the Lewmar hatch overhead, thereby securing the pilothouse/galley/saloon against a giant squall.

“Go for it, Bill,” he replied.

I flipped the wiper switches, nudged the throttles, and listened appreciatively as the pitch of our two 300-hp Suzuki DF300 outboards began to rise. Within seconds we were zooming along at an average top speed of 41.9 mph (measured on the 34’s optional Garmin GPSmap 5212 because serious rain renders PMY’s radar guns unworkable) and enjoying much the same level of mellifluous comfort we’d been enjoying before.

Wow! No pounding. No slamming. Not a single bone-jarring whomp like you’d feel in planing monohulls under similar conditions. Visibility was excellent all the way around thanks to the profusion of Diamond Sea-Glaze windows and doors that grace the 34’s superstructure, as well as the up-and-down adjustability of her helm seats, two optional Stidds. Running attitude was optimum—about four degrees—and noise levels were low, thanks to all the Whisper Walls interior acoustic panels and the effect of foam-filled double bottoms in each hull.

And the explanation? Thanks to design parameters that borrow from both displacement and planing realms, Hunt stated, this boat is seriously different from other cruisers, particularly those of the straight, planing variety. While most monohulls (and even some multihulls) generate sizable bow waves while achieving plane, the narrower, finer hulls of the 34 (deadrise at the stems approximates 80 degrees) simply slice the sea like a hot knife through butter, abjure the bow wave (for the most part), and generate hardly a ripple. Moreover, boosting horsepower merely boosts speed without seriously affecting ride quality, at least up to a point.

My test data substantiated this. While the Buzzards Bay 34 provided a superior level of comfort throughout the rpm register, she also ran with noteworthy economy at displacement speeds (well over 2 mpg at about 8 mph), accelerated smoothly from idle to top speed in an average of 7.5 seconds, exceeded displacement speeds without pulling much of a wake or undergoing any periodic slamming or “sneezing” of seas against the underside of her lofty web, and proved she could average 20 mph or thereabouts on one engine!

There was one minor hang-up, however. Although cranking our test boat’s Edson wheel hardover at top end was a rather unrealistic procedure—there’s little chance an owner would do such a thing during normal, day-to-day operations—I did it nevertheless, and the result was a tad educational, at least to a guy like me who’s used to planing monohulls that cut inboard-leaning corners. My turn started with the 34 nearly upright but she shortly morphed into an outboard-leaner, most likely due to inboard-directed transverse pressures exerted on her hulls below the waterline. Pulling back on the throttles reduced the effect, of course, but not before I experienced a brief case of the heebie-jeebies.

Backing the 34 into a slip at Inner Harbor Marina in Baltimore was quite reassuring by comparison. Because our test boat sported a widely spaced (and therefore highly maneuverable) propulsion package, Hunt suggested I simply center her wheel and proceed as if I were docking an inboard twin. The dnouement was a happy one despite a brisk cross-wind, the lack of low-end torque that bedevils even large outboards, and the cramped area I had to work with. As it was, a couple of quick shots of mid-range throttle proved way more effective than the clutch-in-clutch-out approach I favor when maneuvering diesel inboards.

My tour of our 34’s interior (consisting of the aforementioned pilothouse/galley/saloon, a head with separate shower stall in the port hull, and a stateroom with a queen-size berth in the starboard hull) spotlighted one final performance-related feature. In addition to the shape of the 34’s hulls, her half-load weight of just 11,000 pounds also contributes to her sea-slicing style, primarily by obviating the need for flat, load-bearing after sections that generate lift but also tend to slam and pound.

Advanced composite construction is the key to this sprightliness. Highlights include a pricey mlange of Airex coring, knitted quad-axial E-glass, and vinylester resin in a fully infused hull, a deck vacuum-bagged with balsa, and the absence of interior liners, a significant detail that adds labor cost and finishing time but also trims performance-reducing fat quite nicely.

There’s one last attribute worth mentioning. While examining the 34’s ancillary installations, I discovered that virtually all brands represented were top-shelfers. From the Mastervolt batteries and electrics below decks to the Princess propane stove in the galley to the memory-foam mattress in the stateroom, the standards onboard were crme de la crme all the way.

“So whataya think?” Hunt asked as the two of us schlepped test gear to my rental car at day’s end. Given the way the Buzzards Bay 34 had handled herself out on the bay that morning and what I’d seen of her construction and outfitting afterwards, I had an immediate response.

“She’s a wild cat,” I replied with a grin. “And I do mean wild.”

Multihull Developments (508) 759-4111.

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.