We Test the New, Prize-Winning Back Cove 34O: A Fast, Fun and Game-Changing Couple’s Cruiser
By Peter A. Janssen
I nailed it. As I jammed the throttles all the way forward, I realized this isn’t your father’s Back Cove. Actually, it isn’t like any other Back Cove ever, and I’ve driven every new model since Back Cove introduced its first one, a 29, in 2003. Back then, Sabre Yachts created Back Cove as a single-diesel, low-maintenance, user-friendly Down East cruising boat.
But now, on this brand-new Back Cove 34O, all that was ancient history. Powered by twin 300-hp Yamaha outboards, the Back Cove simply took off. As the props dug in, there was a bit of bow rise and then the new cruiser leveled off and sped ahead. In a matter of about ten seconds, the Yamaha engine gauge hovered at 36 knots, then briefly hit 37 knots, as we sped from Long Island Sound into the western entrance to Norwalk Harbor in Connecticut. This was fun!
It also was game-changing, both for Back Cove and for legitimate cruising boats. Sure, lots of dual console or center console boats go faster than 37 knots, but, as Bentley Collins, the VP of Back Cove and Sabre for sales and marketing who was on the boat with me, pointed out, “Above all, this remains a cruising boat. It goes fast, but it also is a comfortable cruising boat. It has the accommodations below of a cruising boat, and it has all the amenities of a cruising boat.”
But it doesn’t drive like a traditional cruising boat. The third person on the boat that Friday morning in September was Bob Petzold, of Petzold’s Marine Center in Portland, Connecticut. As he drove the boat in a two-to-three-foot chop and 12-knot wind on Long Island Sound, he smiled and said, “It’s like a sport boat.” Indeed.
The Back Cove 34O (the “O” is for outboards) is on the crest of a trend toward outboard power, even on traditional made-in-Maine or Down-East-style boats. Hinckley, for example, just introduced a 40-foot sport boat with three 350-hp Mercury Verado outboards. And MJM launched its 35z, with twin 300 Mercury Verados, a year ago. George Day, my Cruising Odyssey colleague, and I tested that boat last year on Narragansett Bay with MJM founder Bob Johnstone and it topped out at 38.6 knots in an unfriendly chop. Read more: