By Capt. Richard Thiel
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. Carver’s iconoclastic 35 Mariner was much on my mind as I prepared 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. But while the look may say expedition yacht, the reality is that the C34 is a coastal cruiser, and a fine one at that.
The main deck displays several 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 C34’s unusually high forward freeboard—5 feet 6 inches from the foredeck to the water, 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.
The vessels’ 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 C34 has a moderate displacement of 18,000 pounds (dry), and that can be largely credited to the vessel’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 during the day of our test, there was enough of a sea running to give a favorable impression of this boat’s solidity.
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.
Carver Yachts, 920-822-3214; www.carveryachts.com
: 18,000 lb.
: 250 gal.
: 90 gal.
: 2/300-bhp MerCruiser 5.7 Horizon DTS gasoline inboards
: 7.5-kilowatt Kohler (gas)
: 2/300-mhp Volvo Penta D4 diesel inboards
: ZF 63, 2.5:1 gear ratio
: 20 x 21, 3-blade nibral
Air temperature: 75°F; humidity: 85%; wind: 10 mph; seas: 2-3'; load: 125 gal. fuel, 90 gal. water, 4 people, 50 lb. gear. Range based on 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Decibels measured at the upper helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.