Adding the outboard bracket to your boat's length is like measuring your wife's height while she's wearing high heels: The end result sounds good, but you got what you got. Proof is Regulator's 34SS, which has cockpit space rivaling that aboard boats marketed as 35-, 36-, and 38-footers. The bolt-on Armstrong bracket's length isn't added into the 34SS's LOA (if it were that measurement would be 38'6"), as are the integrally molded motor brackets of other boats. Plus, the bracket gives the boat stronger lines, allowing it to retain a real transom. The bracket is also said to enhance performance.
Am I biased? You bet. I've been a fan of brackets for a long time, and testing the 34SS served to further solidify my opinion. That said, I can't call this new Regulator perfect: A curtain is needed in the console if one is to use the shower without wetting the berth. But balanced against the poise, control, and softness with which the 34SS trod Gulf Stream rollers, and the fine-finished execution of its other features, Regulator's biggest boat yet pleased this discriminating angler.
You can buy cushy center consoles these days. Sessa Marine's Key Largo 36 ($438,000 with triple 350-hp Yamaha F350 outboards), sports a raised helm deck, double cabin, a full galley in the cockpit, and a bowpad softer than a bed at the Ritz. The 34SS isn't in this category. It's a fishing boat first and foremost, though fitted with enough amenities to serve pleasure boat duty without the need for deck chairs, folding tables, sleeping bags, or showering in the cockpit. Other variations of this style include Intrepid's 350 Center Console and SeaVee's 390b LE ($235,000 and $266,500, respectively, powered like my boat), and offer stern seats, bow lounges, and other amenities along with livewells, tackle stowage, and rodholders that have long been hallmarks of the style. Regulator's amenity infusion includes a slick foldaway transom bench, wraparound bow seating, and a console concealing a double berth, head, shower, and micro-galley.
The bowlounge wraps around the starboard side of the bow; hence, the SS model designation. This means you can't walk forward along the starboard side, as you can aboard the Intrepid, with its V-shaped forward seating. The Sea Vee 390b LE's bow layout is similar to the Regulator's.
The seats are deep, the cushions plush. And with coaming bolsters serving as backrests, 10 people can lounge comfortably. Affixed by snaps, the cushions are easily removed for fishing, which made for a stable and secure place to stand. It's a great spot from which to cast live bait to tailing sailfish or mahi-mahi holding under flotsam. The seats also make it easy to step out of the boat and onto the dock at the marina. There's plenty of cockpit sole between the seats for more strenuous fishing.
You have to remove the cushions to get at the stowage. Sections cut to fit the hatch lids so the lids could open with cushions affixed would be more convenient. Still, I was tickled when I inspected these stowage boxes.
The lids are finished on both sides and fastened by through-bolted full-length hinges. Deep gutters ensure gear stays dry. The port and starboard boxes drain overboard. These are illuminated, locking, and fitted with rodracks. The forward box drains to the bilge; reserve it for buckets, cleaning supplies, and safety equipment.
In the transom, the 340-quart fishbox drains overboard and can be refrigerated (a $1,395 upgrade). The transom door is hefty and latches closed. Its exterior matches the hull. A rugged seat flips out of the transom bulkhead to provide secure seating without needing to pull pins or install supports. The livewell, bait sink, and cutting board are incorporated into the aft side of the leaning post -- really a pair of seats around which a rigging station and tackle tray stowage are built. The entertainment center, which resides in a cabinet between the starboard side of the console and the gunwale, houses another sink and two deep drawers. The sink is under a lid. Closed, this provides a flat surface to serve snacks, make rigs, whatever.
Pull open the hatch in the sole to get a view of true serviceability. There's room for two guys to work shoulder-to-shoulder. All pumps are wired to plugs to make service easy. The bilge itself is smooth, bright white, and gel coated, which makes it easy to see and keep clean.
Step into the console. There's 6'4" of headroom at the base of the steps, and enough height above the 7'-long double berth to recline and read. Rodracks, though not a factory option, could be installed over the berth, making it a huge tackle room. There's sink with faux-stone vanity and a vacuum-flush head. The refrigerator and microwave are optional ($1,795), as is air-conditioning ($3,895). Batteries are easily serviced by removing the steps.
Run and Gun
The 34SS is set up for twin engines, unlike other boats this size that can be rigged with trips or quads. The sacrifice in top end speed is balanced by less complex, less-expensive rigging. The 34SS I tested got better than 1 mpg at speeds between 28 and 45 mph. If you still think twins don't offer enough power, consider that this boat gets up and planes with just one engine.
Regulators are heralded for their ride and performance, and this newest edition didn't disappoint. It scoffed at my 25-mph head sea speed, refusing to balk until I topped 40 mph in 4' to 5' wind-drive rollers. Running down sea, even when I put the waves on the quarters, didn't affect it ability to track straight or keep down spray. Plunging isn't in its repertoire. On the troll the 34SS is stable and easy to steer. Swordfisherman will appreciate the ability to use its full LOA to present baits as the 34SS naturally drifts beam-to. In short, the 34SS provides a top ride, competing against top boats. Schedule your own test and see for yourself.
MSRP: Standard power - $229,995 Test power - $229,995
Contact: 252.482.3837 www.regulatormarine.com