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