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January 07, 2011

Brooks 34 Express

This Brooks 34 Express will turn everyone's head as you pull into a slip, and will turn your head when you experience its ride.

This relatively new company has an impressive built-in history. Founder Roger Brooks comes from a family of watermen and has borne the passion since childhood. Since his teenage years, he has worked for some of the finest boatbuilders in the country - each time learning more of his trade. Companies such as Sea Ox, Sea Ray Boats, Fountain Powerboats and Albemarle Boats taught him valuable enough skills that today he builds molds and tooling for other major builders in addition to his own custom boats. I was able to run his newest custom hull, the Brooks 34 Express, just after the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show.

Performance
Hundreds of boats from 16- to 250-footers poured out of Bahia Mar's in-water boat-show venue like water through a burst levee. Wakes hit the seawalls and jetties and bounced back. Add to that the wind-against tide condition in the inlet and seas of 4 to 6 feet came at us from every direction at about a nanosecond apart. What chaos! The Brooks headed into the maelstrom at 25 mph with impunity. When I saw what we were about to encounter, I hesitated. But it all turned out to be a non-event.

The Brooks bore 135 gallons of fuel and 40 gallons of water for our test. The cored hull is resin infused, so it's fairly light, but it rides like a much heavier boat.
 
Outside in the relative calm of a 20-knot easterly breeze, we drifted beam to the seas, and while the Brooks exhibited a distinct chine noise, the short roll moment combined with gentle transitions made the motion very comfortable. Surprisingly, the boat exhibited virtually no bow rise at all when I jammed the throttles forward on the twin Yamaha 4.2-liter, 300-horsepower outboards. When I brought the rpm up slowly, there was none at all.
 
Brooks had world-renowned naval architect Ward Setzler design the running surface. The bottom sports wide chines carried well aft, and wide strakes for awesome tracking and a very soft ride. The Brooks 34 tracks beautifully down sea, and the high bow keeps it totally dry. About the only handling change that I would make personally (remember, this IS a custom boat) is that I would put power-assist steering rather than just hydraulic.

Lure-trolling speed showed minor surface and moderate subsurface turbulence, while I saw nothing but clear Atlantic behind the transom at live-bait speeds.

Speaking of speeds, top end hit 50 mph burning 51.7 gph at 6,000 rpm (0.98 mpg). The most efficient cruise proved to be at 3,300 rpm, using a mere 13.6 gph for 1.82 mpg. However, today, most people don't have the patience for that speed. So, we agreed that the most reasonable speed was just over 31 mph at 4,000 rpm and used 19.4 gph (1.6 mpg). Following our testing, Brooks planned some tweaking of props, etc., so expect all these numbers to improve somewhat.

Fishing
Obviously, you can set your fishing layout to meet any personal requirements from coaming pads to rounded teak cap rails; fighting chair to sailfish pod; livewells, ice makers, freezers, grill, rod holders, rocket launchers, power points for kites and downriggers, style of outriggers, you name it. Anything is possible.

Our test boat boasted a lift-out fish box on centerline in the cockpit with a wise choice of a diaphragm pump instead of a macerator. (They can pass a whole ballyhoo without packing up!) Belowdecks, Brooks included a 7-foot-long rod storage portside. I appreciate that the hand-built custom hardtop comes standard.

Design and Construction
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more advanced construction method used on any boat of its kind. As I stated earlier, Brooks uses a resin-infusion process for exceptionally lightweight strength. Vinylester resin in the skin out helps prevent any osmotic blistering problems years down the line. He also offers an option for a layer of Kevlar in the bottom. Keeping with the advanced, lightweight construction, this 34 is fully Core-Cell and Divinycell cored, except on the chines and keel. Wherever you find a thru-hull, seacock, etc., you'll also find solid fiberglass with knitted bias-ply and zero/90 fabrics.

Interestingly, the deck is not infused and bonds to the hull with methacrylate glue and traditional fasteners. But all hatches and small parts are vacuum-assist molded, so they are finished inside and out. Interior and aft cabin liners are also infused and constitute an integral part of the structure.

Belowdecks, a roomy dinette/V-berth with a high-low table is both elegantly handsome and utilitarian. The V-berth with its insert converts to a spacious 7-by-7-foot bed. A midship berth with loads of storage doubles the sleeping accommodations, and throughout Brooks does an exceptional job on the beautiful joinerwork. I even found the head to be of reasonable size, even for my bulk.

Layout and decor don't even begin to describe the other custom options you can enjoy. The Brooks 34 comes with your choice of outboard, traditional inboard or Volvo IPS pod propulsion.

SPECIFICATIONS

LOA ......34 ft.
Beam......11 ft. 6 in.
Draft......1 ft. 10 in.
Weight......10,280 lb. (dry)
Deadrise......20 deg.
Fuel......335 gal.
Water......40 gal.
Max Power......Twin 300 hp OB
MSRP......Price on request

Brooks Boatworks / Washington, North Carolina / 252-974-1005  / www.brooksboatworks.com