Carver C34By Capt. Richard Thiel
Carver’s new C34 continues the builder’s tradition of creating innovative designs that maximize space and comfort.
Carver has never been afraid to challenge the notions of what a boat should look like. In its quest to provide ever-greater levels of interior volume and comfort for every inch of LOA, the builder has produced a number of models, especially in its Mariner line, that have been the butt of more than a few unkind comments and a lot of scoffing by traditional-minded boaters and, yes, marine journalists.
One of those iconoclastic designs was the 35 Mariner, which I had the use of for a summer about a decade ago. Pulling into the Vineyard or Nantucket, I’d inevitably have to endure sniggers, guffaws, and elevated noses from the chino-and-polo set lounging on their aft decks. At first their comparisons of the boat’s profile to a steam iron or high-top tennis shoe hurt, but after my first weekend aboard, the barbs lost their sting. All I cared about was the amount of interior space and comfort; it was nothing short of phenomenal and on par with boats 8 feet longer. Soon the only concern I had was being constantly pestered by other 35 Mariner owners who wanted to tell me how much they loved their boats.
The 35 was much on my mind as I parked my car at the dock of Seaside 3 Marina in Lindenhurst, New York, the Long Island Carver-Marquis dealer, to test the C34. I foresaw two possibilities: Either the newest Carver would be homely and humongous inside or stylish with a smallish interior. As it turned out, neither was the case. Oh, the C34’s profile is definitely something out of the ordinary—it will stand out at your marina—but it’s also one I found pleasingly reminiscent of an expedition-style vessel, thanks to its unusually high forward freeboard—5 feet 6 inches from the foredeck to the water. That may pose some challenges when it comes time to put lines on a dock or pick up a mooring, but it also yields an unusually expansive forward master with 6 feet 2 inches of headroom. Foot-wide side decks and a high bowrail that extends all the way to the cockpit make accessing that virtually flat-but-sunpad-less area just as safe and easy as accessing the bridge via the molded-in stairway from the cockpit.
But while the look may say expedition yacht, the reality is that the C34 is a coastal cruiser, and a fine one at that. Running across Great South Bay to Fire Island, she handled the short 2-foot chop well—all that forward freeboard makes for a dry ride. There was no hint of tenderness, which you might expect with the lofty profile, and we managed a comfortable and quiet 19 knots at 3800 rpm. (That’s with standard 300-brake-horsepower Mercruiser 5.7 Horizon DTS gasoline inboards; twin 300-metric-horsepower Volvo Penta D4 diesels are optional.) Although not power-assisted, the hydraulic steering was responsive and surprisingly light. Dockside, the C34 is maneuverable, although if you stick with the gasoline engines, I highly recommend the optional bow thruster to compensate for their lack of low-end torque. In any case the electronic MerCruisers make a compelling case in terms of low initial cost and decent fuel efficiency: 16.2 knots and .73 nmpg at 3500 rpm.
Part of that efficiency is due to a moderate displacement of 18,000 pounds (dry), and that can be largely credited to the C34’s construction: She’s the first Carver to be totally infused, which not only reduces weight but also man-hours (and thereby labor costs), and produces an uncommonly rigid structure. While I wasn’t able to launch the C34 off any waves transiting the bay, there was enough of a sea running to give an impression of this boat’s solidity.
Resin infusion is just one reason why time aboard this boat leaves you with the impression that Carver had specific goals in mind when designers put pen to paper, and overarching all of them is the potential buyer. The layout could appeal to either a couple or a family, but either way, it’s clear this boat is intended to woo owners of express boats. The argument is convincing, beginning with that big, airy master and continuing to the starboard guest stateroom whose privacy is ensured not by a curtain but by solid bulkheads. No, the port-side head does not open onto the master, but it is bigger than you’ll find on a comparably sized express and it has a big, tall, fully enclosed shower.
The main deck displays additional advantages. A bright saloon is the most notable one, and a large starboard galley where you can cook and enjoy the view is another. When the two hinged doors leading from the saloon to the 6-foot 10-inch-long cockpit are both open, the two areas blend seamlessly into one. Cockpit seating is optional, as is a lower helm station, forward and to starboard, which reduces the size of the galley by about a quarter. While not on our test boat, it seemed like this steering station would provide good sightlines forward, and better ones aft than those provided by the bridge helm, from which the view to the stern is pretty much blocked by the long cockpit overhang. That overhang shades about two thirds of the cockpit but those bent on bronzing needn’t fret as there’s a 5-foot-long sun space abaft the U-shaped lounge on the flying bridge.
The optional cockpit seating is a bit of an anomaly as the C34 comes pretty well equipped in standard form, a strategy Carver has used over the years to make production more efficient and thereby keep down prices. I’d judge that effort a success, as the base price is $324,950 and list on our very nicely equipped boat came in at $373,665. For that you get good performance, decent range, a quiet cabin, and way more room than any non-aft-cabin boat of this size has a right to. And you’ll definitely get a boat that won’t ever get lost in a crowded marina.
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This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.