Automotively speaking, I’m just a tad different. My way of getting to a specific address in a town or city in a car, for example, continues to hew closely to one I glommed onto years ago in Tokyo, where addresses are not sequential—I simply go to the general area and drive around until I find what I’m looking for. Not the most efficient way to get places, of course, but enjoyable. And sometimes surprising.
Take my recent trip to Bradenton, Florida. The test boat I was hunting at the time was a beauty, with a practical, one-stateroom, one-head layout: Mainship’s 34 Trawler. She was reportedly docked in a slip at Twin Dolphin Marina, home of Bayside Yacht Sales, the local Mainship dealer. The car I was driving was groovy, too—a rented Mustang ragtop. And the weather was gorgeous, with blue skies in the offing. I’d just started exploring yet another shady street bordering the Manatee River when a veritable vision snapped my head sideways. There, to starboard, winsomely framed by palm fronds, was the prettiest midrange cruiser I’d seen in years.
I slowed to a stop. While a guy behind me began laying on the horn, I attempted to read the logo on the deckhouse. Yup: Mainship Trawler. I U-turned and zipped past the guy (who shot me a peeved look) toward the nearest parking lot.
I was standing at the stern of the test boat within minutes, test gear in hand. The profile was reminiscent of Mainship’s old 34 Sedan Trawler, a popular, comparatively narrow, fuel-efficient vessel that hit the marine scene in the 1970’s, went through some model changes, and then faded out in 1988. I followed the new 34’s broken sheer with an appreciative eye and admired her jaunty bow. For weather protection the flying-bridge cowling overhung the wide side decks, which were bordered by safety-enhancing bulwarks and stainless steel rails. Topside, an after deck extended gracefully over the cockpit, creating an attractive, porch-like ambiance in the cockpit.
I introduced myself to the Bayside rep onboard, Bob Misztak, who helped me heft my stuff into the cockpit and then proudly opened the engine-room hatch, a sound-insulated fiberglass molding that in the closed position doubles as a stairway to the flying bridge. A number of details caught my fancy right off. The coaming around the entryway was high, reaching almost halfway to my knee—no worries about sea water inundating this engine room in a blow. A rugged, removable, two-step aluminum ladder (with wide, industrial-strength diamond-plate treads) led down into machinery spaces—the footing looked secure and comfortable, even for barefoot skippers. And construction seemed solid, a general observation I subsequently confirmed with specifics, among them a hull-to-deck joint secured with mechanical fasteners and 3M 5200; an above-the-waterline coring regime featuring end-grain Baltek balsa and Nidacore; and an assemblage of plywood stringers and transversals encapsulated with plenty of glass.
Getting the test equipment below and forward to our single 370-hp Yanmar was a bit of a chore. To lessen engine-generated noise in the saloon and topside, Mainship’s done away with sound-leaking engine-room access hatches inside the boat and added a wrist-thick, Nidacore-filled fiberglass liner that stretches from bow to cockpit. On the up side, the liner puts the lid on sound levels and also adds strength. On the downside, it makes crawling several feet on your hands and knees the only way to routinely access the engine.
The crawl’s a scenic one, though. Mainship’s done an excellent job of logically and conveniently laying out ancillaries on both sides of the crawlway. Sea strainers on our test boat (for the main as well as our optional genset and air conditioning) were aligned on the port side, along with an optional X-Change-R oil-changing unit and Racor fuel-water separators for the main and genset. Batteries (one 8D starter, one 8D house, and one Group 27 unit for the genset) were aligned on the starboard side, along with color-coded poly tubing for fluids.
In the engine room proper, I was pleased to discover two additional noise-reducing features: a thick blanketing of sound-attenuating insulation and a two-stage water-lift muffler for the main—it’s quieter than a one-stager, Mainship says. The presence of a sight glass on the forward firewall (for keeping tabs on the single athwartship welded-aluminum fuel tank) pleased me as well, and so did the 360-degree access to the main engine itself—I simply sat down on a stringer and wielded my wrenches while enjoying four inches of clearance overhead.
We sea trialed the 34 on a near-flat Manatee River. Average top speed was 19.9 mph, although I found I could boost that figure to about 21 mph by deploying the Bennett trim tabs halfway, which reduced running angle by one degree. Visibility at both the upper and optional lower helm was excellent all around. Tracking was good, too, whether going slow or fast. And when turning sharply, the boat tended to list faintly outboard, presumably due to a modest keel with a protective sand shoe for the prop, which is ensconced in a tunnel to reduce draft.
Docking was easy. To return the 34 to her berth, I had to first pivot the boat to starboard, ease the bow into a slip across the narrow fairway, and then back down using short bursts from the bow thruster to steer. The only problem arose when Misztak took over the thruster momentarily to demonstrate its robust nature. The darn thing blew a fuse and quit, a development I dealt with by simply shifting to neutral and using the rudder to steer. Maybe Mainship should install a larger thruster for true thruster mavens.
We toured the interior after tying up. It mostly replicates the old 34 Sedan’s comfy, sea-savvy layout, meaning it offers expansive living arrangements for a cruising couple, with a zzzzzz-friendly innerspring queen and a couple of hanging lockers in the forward stateroom, fully equipped, U-shape galley abaft the stateroom, large, shower stall-equipped head opposite, and broad saloon all the way aft, with opening windows and doors from Aluminum 2000 and a sofa with a hide-a-bed option. Finish on the cherry joinery was serviceable, but the quality of some of the hardware was uneven. Our test boat’s Lewmar opening ports were top-shelf, for example, but the chromed plastic push-button knobs on cabinet doors and drawers looked insubstantial. This last glitch is a minor one, however, at least in light of the overall success the Mainship 34 Trawler achieves in terms of styling, construction, and design. Despite a few modest shortcomings, she’s dee-lightful, and maybe even a little inspiring.
Why else would I put the Mustang’s top down and blare the radio the whole circuitous way back to the airport after the test?
Bomar foredeck hatch w/Oceanair screen w/shade; Faria instrumentation; Aluminum 2000 sliding saloon door, side door, and windshield w/opening center panel; Pioneer AM/FM stereo/CD player; 15" Sole flat-panel TV; Corian countertops; Nova Kool undercounter refrigerator; Delta faucets; GE microwave oven; Seaward Princess electric stove; ITT Jabsco electric MSD w/holding tank; queen berth w/innerspring mattress; 6-gal. Attwood water heater; Racor 500MA main-engine fuel-water separator; Sea-Fire 1301 auto. fire-extinguishing system; Bennett trim tabs
Lewmar windlass; 2-burner Seaward Princess propane stove; 8-kW Kohler genset; lower helm station; swim platform; SidePower electric bow thruster; 16,000-Btu Marine Air A/C; VacuFlush MSD; Tides Marine dripless shaftlog; X-Change-R oil-change system
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 1/370-hp Yanmar 6LYAM-STP diesel inboard
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 800 A/2.5:1
- Props: 26x20 5-blade bronze
- Price as Tested: $270,287
This article originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.