NEED FOR SPEED

THE BACK COVE 34O—THE BUILDER’S FIRST OUT­BOARD-POW­ERED CRUISER—TAKES MAN­HAT­TAN BY STORM

Soundings - - Contents - BY PIM VAN HEM­MEN

Pim Van Hem­men runs Back Cove’s 34O from one side of New York City to the other, rem­i­nisc­ing about the route he used to sail as a young man.

I n the early 1980s, my brother and I would make an an­nual round-trip be­tween Key­port, New Jer­sey, and Newport, Rhode Is­land, aboard his 24-foot Pear­son Lark sloop Froet­jers. Whether we were com­ing or go­ing, we would al­ways “go in­side”—mean­ing in­side Long Is­land, via the East River. There was a rea­son for that. Go­ing out­side would have meant an overnight sail into the At­lantic. While that ap­pealed to my brother, our fa­ther put the ki­bosh on it. A for­mer mer­chant mariner, he was con­cerned that an ocean­go­ing ship wouldn’t see our cheap radar re­flec­tor and run us over. So, we’d run in­side and con­sume the bet­ter part of day­light—12 hours or more—get­ting the Lark from one side of New York City to the other. We’d al­ways pore over the Eldridge Tide and Pi­lot Book to work out our de­par­ture time, be­cause the tidal cur­rent in the East River could run 5 knots. If we caught a foul tide, the Lark’s 5 knots of speed—cour­tesy of a 9.9-hp Chrysler Marine out­board—could turn our ground speed to zero.

To­day, run­ning from Long Is­land Sound to Rar­i­tan Bay still in­volves care­ful plan­ning, but as I’m dis­cov­er­ing on the Back Cove 34O, it won’t take a whole day. We’re en route to Sea Bright, New Jer­sey, on a de­liv­ery run from Glen Cove, New York. It’s cloudy and the wa­ter is a bit con­fused, but with the Back Cove 34O mov­ing at 30plus knots, the shore­line is pass­ing like a blur. This Back Cove is that quick.

Un­til now, Back Cove built only sin­gle-en­gine in­board boats. The 34O (the O stands for out­board) is its first out­board-pow­ered model, and it’s the com­pany’s fastest boat yet. The 34O we’re de­liv­er­ing has twin 300-hp Yama­has that pro­vide a 30-knot cruise and a top speed of 37 knots. With op­tional Suzuki 350s, this 34O can achieve 40 knots, ac­cord­ing to the builder. That’s a big boost from the 29-knot, top-end speed of an in­board­pow­ered Back Cove.

Our cruise be­gins at DiMillo’s Yacht Sales in Glen Cove, on Long Is­land’s North Shore. (I drove there by car with Kevin Gal­lina and Drew Ber­gin of Sandy Hook Yacht Sales in Sea Bright.) Af­ter a quick ori­en­ta­tion, we leave just be­fore noon. There are 1- to 2-foot waves out­side the har­bor as we take the shark-col­ored 34O up to 34 knots. Even at that speed, she is quiet and com­fort­able. With Gal­lina at the helm, Ber­gin hangs out in the pi­lot­house while I take pho­tos. The twin Yama­has hum, mak­ing it easy for us to have a con­ver­sa­tion. I’ve al­ways liked the throb of an in­board en­gine, but the sound of the out­boards at high speed is not un­pleas­ant.

The 34O has a sin­gle-level deck that ex­tends from the tran­som for­ward to the helm. Where an in­board en­gine would or­di­nar­ily re­side, there’s stowage be­neath the sole for fish­ing rods and other gear. Also on the helm deck are a gal­ley and a U-shaped set­tee that con­verts from a dinette to an aft-fac­ing seat. In the cock­pit, a tran­som door leads to the swim plat­form that wraps around the twin en­gines and pro­vides enough room for crew to ac­cess the dock or the wa­ter. The 34O can be used as a day-trip­per or for week­ends aboard. In the cabin is an is­land berth for two, a head to port and a shower to star­board.

In­side, the lay­out is based on the in­board-pow­ered Back Cove 32, but the 34O’s hull, which was de­signed in-house, is new. “Out­board hulls are dif­fer­ent,” said Kevin Burns, vice pres­i­dent for de­sign and prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. “They plane at 12 knots and need to be sta­ble at more than 40 knots. Hull pres­sures at 40 knots are sig­nif­i­cantly greater than at 30. The big deal is aft, where a cen­ter­line flat sur­face we call Trelis, for Trail­ing Edge Lift Sur­face, takes the place of the deep-V. This sur­face gets the hull on plane faster than a typ­i­cal V-hull and uses less horse­power to do so.”

Gal­lina, Ber­gin and I stop in the mid­dle of Long Is­land Sound to put the hull to the test. From a dead stop, with a full load, the 34O hits 37 knots in 17 sec­onds. (Back Cove says the 34O gets on plane in 4.5 sec­onds and pow­ers up to 26 knots in 9.8 sec­onds). We slow to 29 knots as City Is­land ap­pears to star­board and the U.S. Mer­chant Marine Academy at Kings Point comes into view to port. The wa­ter is get­ting lumpy, but 25 min­utes af­ter leav­ing Glen Cove, we pass be­neath the Throgs Neck Bridge. Hell Gate is next.

Drew Ber­gin takes in the view as the 34O zips un­der the Ver­razano-Nar­rows Bridge.

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