Review: Hinckley T34 – Quimby's Cruising Guide

Review: Hinckley T34

If there’s one model that focused the world’s attention on the beautiful lines of a classic Downeast-style craft, it was the first Hinckley Picnic Boat. That jet-powered day cruiser from a reputable yard in Maine showcased the loveliest lines this side of Southwest Harbor. Its drop-dead gorgeous looks and top-notch fit and finish drew global fans and spawned a line of powerboats that now ranges from 29 to 55 feet. Recently, Hinckley added a brand-new model to its stable: the T34.

The T34 is designed to be an all-around craft for a long and satisfying day on the water. In the morning, throw fishing lines over that tumblehome at the stern, drag a couple of squealing children on a tube in the afternoon, and at sunset, invite a few friends aboard for a mellow harbor cruise. With just 22 inches of draft, this 34 can take your crew almost anywhere, and because the boat has a swift pace, it can cover some ground.

This new 34 gets its power from a pair of 260-hp Yanmar engines coupled to Hamilton jet drives, which can push the boat to a top-end speed close to 33 knots. Hinckley’s patented Jetstick is at the helm. This joystick makes maneuvering much easier, even when backing into a tight slip with a hat-stealing breeze blowing. Another nice thing about the Jetstick is it removes the wandering that jet boats sometimes do at slow speeds when under wheel steering.

If there’s one key factor in the 34’s performance, it’s the fact that the hull was designed around the propulsion, a characteristic that distinguishes Hinckley’s jet-powered yachts from many of its competitors and imitators. You can’t just drop a pair of jet drives into a hull that was originally set up for conventional power and expect comparable performance. To build a superior boat, the running bottom must be tailored specifically for the propulsion. This is a more difficult and challenging way to manufacture a boat, but it’s what you would expect from a builder of this caliber.

Like other Hinckley powerboats, the 34 is designed with a single-level deck that extends from the main bulkhead at the windscreen all the way to the transom. The layout brings everyone together and encourages an easy traffic flow. Some would argue that a few small steps in the cockpit hardly make a difference, but they do, as they keep guests more segregated. On the 34, the bridge deck — protected by a full hardtop — has plenty of seating for passengers. From the bridge deck, passengers can access the cabin, where there’s a V-berth for two, an enclosed head and a galley with major appliances.

If there’s one thing that distinguishes this Hinckley from others, it’s the simpler level of detailing, right down to less teak trim. That’s because the idea for this 34 was conceived a few years ago, as the sagging economy was prompting even the most avid cruisers to cancel or delay plans to order a new boat. Thus, the starting price of the T34 is attractive at just over half a million dollars. Jim McManus, CEO of Hinckley, said that the company did a fair amount of market research when it started to design the T34. The boaters polled by Hinckley, he said, “overwhelmingly expressed an interest in a simpler boat, one without too many of the things that often go unused or require a lot of maintenance.”

That’s not to say the T34 is a pared-down design. This is still a Hinckley, and as such the boat features all the fine craftsmanship and modern systems you would expect to see on a boat produced by one of this country’s premier builders of both power and sailboats. Then, of course, there are those lines. Like its siblings, the T34 has the signature curve from the rooftop to the cockpit coaming, the tender tumblehome and the rounded teak toe rail that gracefully accents one of the prettiest sheerlines on the water.

Length Overall: 34 feet, 3 inches
Beam: 11 feet
Draft: 1 foot, 10 inches
Dry Weight: 14,000 pounds
Fuel Capacity: 160 gallons
Water Capacity: 35 gallons
Power: (2) 260-hp Yanmar diesels
Base Price: $535,000

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