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Maine builder Back Cove planning its first outboard-powered boat, a 34O, with twin 300-hp Yamahas

by Peter A. Janssen 18 Apr 2018 14:18 UTC
Back Cove 34O © Peter A. Janssen

There's big news this week from Back Cove, the Maine company that's been building single-engine, diesel-powered cruising boats since 2003: It is now working on the Back Cove 34O, and the O stands for outboard power, as in two 300-hp Yamahas. The boat will be ready for sea trials in August and will make an appearance at the fall shows.

This is a big change for Back Cove, which is part of Sabre, and an acknowledgement that the market, even for Downeast-styled cruising boats, is tilting toward outboard power. "It's very exciting for us," Bentley Collins, the Back Cove and Sabre VP for marketing and sales, told me. "We feel we have a unique proposition in that we have a great cruising interior and sheltered helm deck with the convenience and performance of the outboard drive line." Younger buyers want the Back Cove styling but they also want more speed, he said.

Kevin Burns, the builder's VP of design and product development, drew a completely new hull for the 34O, but the deck and interior are the same as the Back Cove 32 that was introduced in August, 2016. He needed to change the hull shape of the 32 to maximize the outboard performance.

The Yamaha 300s will be the standard power, with Yamaha 350s or Suzuki 350s as options. Collins says the cruising speed should be in the 30-35 knot range, with a top speed of 35-40 knots. To reach those speeds, Collins said, they "put the boat on a diet." The new topsides will be cored instead of solid fiberglass, for example. Another benefit of the new outboards, he said, will be increased storage capacity. The engine hatch for the original inboard 32 will still be on a hinge so owners of the 34O will have room for bikes or paddle boards or other water toys.

I spent a beautiful day on the original Back Cove 32 just after it was launched in Rockland, in time for the Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors show there, cruising down to Portland. That boat had an optional 435-hp Volvo D6 diesel, and topped out at 28 knots. It had a range of about 260 nm at an easy 15.8-knot cruising speed. The boat was named Best New Powerboat Under 35' at the Newport International Boat Show a month later.

The 32 is a comfortable couple's cruising boat, with classic Downeast lines and a long sheer. There's a convertible U-shaped settee on the bridge deck to port (protected by the optional hardtop) and a cruising galley to starboard. Below, a generous island berth is forward; the head compartment is to port and a separate shower stall is to starboard. Interior highlights are in American cherry.

Back Cove is the latest among Downeast builders moving to outboard power. MJM just announced that it will launch a flagship 53Z with four 350-hp Mercury Verados in the summer of 2019 (it already has a 35Z with twin 300-hp Verados and a 43Z with triple 350-hp Verados). Hinckley is starting a new 42-foot line powered by three 300-hp Verados, and Hunt is building a 40 with three 300-hp Verados. Back Cove itself could move up to outboard power for its larger models, depending on the success of the 34O.

Freedonia Group, an industry research firm, just published a study predicting that recreational boat sales will increase 5.3 percent annually through 2022, with the main growth coming from outboard-powered boats.

Specs. for the new 34O:

  • LOA: 38'11"
  • Beam: 11'10"
  • Draft: NA
  • Disp.: 17,000 lbs.
  • Fuel: 250 gals.
  • Water: 60 gals.
  • Power: 2×300-hp Yamaha outboards

This article has been provided by the courtesy of the Cruising Odyssey.

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