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February 02, 2010

Midnight Express 34 Open Fish

I understand why spooks, G-men and other counter-intelligence agents love running Midnight Expresses. Drive this one fast in rough water, and you will too!

Near as I can tell, Midnight Express represents the hull of choice for Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration and now even the U.S. Coast Guard. And those are just the American agencies.

Performance
As we all know or at least suspect, those government agents run these boats hard and fast, and I'm sure the G-men appreciate that they run smooth and dry at high speeds through pretty rough waters. The company calls this configuration its 34 Open Fish. Though our vessel sported triple 350 hp Yamaha V-8s, standard power is twin 300 Mercury Verados. However, if you really feel the need for speed, this is the only 34 on the market rated for quad 350 hp outboards.

With or without tabs, the Midnight Express exhibited considerable bow rise when I pressed the throttles forward. But admittedly, it carried a full load of fuel. The factory claims that with half a load of fuel, this boat pops up on plane instantly with virtually no bow rise.

Uncannily, throughout the entire Midnight Express model line, 40 miles an hour seems to be the optimum speed for the best fuel economy. At 4,400 rpm in the 34, we ran along at 47.8 mph, pumping 52.4 gph through the triple 350s. The 34 runs beautifully flat, even fully loaded; we used 83.5 gph at about 64 mph, turning 5,200 rpm. That's pretty economical, especially when you consider that it will get better as you use fuel.

In a hard turn at 40 mph, the 34 bled speed quickly and carved a tight arc.

The 34's design incorporates a lot of bow flare, which combined with a truly innovative chine design forward - dubbed the Integrated Spray Reduction System (ISR) - does an incredible job of knocking down spray.

Drifting in some three- to four-foot, unnaturally close-together seas, this 34 had a significant roll moment but with very gentle transitions. Thankfully, its wider-than-average beam kept the roll moment from being much longer.

Our boat sported a pair of 12-inch Garmin GPSMAP 4212 chart plotter/sounders along with the other instrumentation, though the console can easily handle twin 17-inch displays.

Overall, on every point, I can honestly give this boat my highest form of praise: It does virtually everything well and nothing unexpected.

Fishing
You'll find a pair of 7-foot fish boxes under the deck on either side of the cockpit. And in a wise move, the company empties the boxes with diaphragm pumps rather than in macerators, which represent the single greatest warranty item in the marine industry.

In the relatively low transom, you'll find two livewells - one 40-gallon, one 20-gallon - in addition to a huge, optional under-deck 80-gallon livewell forward of the console.

At 712 miles an hour with all three engines running, I witnessed an exceptionally clean wake. At that trolling speed, you'll never worry about turbulence hiding your lures.

Design and Construction
The optional stern seat mounts on a fiberglass hatch that rises straight up on rams, at the press of a button, for access to the lazarette. All metalwork is either highly polished stainless steel or beautifully powder-coated aluminum. And you won't find a single bolt securing any of the hardware, just clean, flush-mounted fixtures.

Midnight Express supplies only LED lighting (above and below the waterline) in your choice of colors. Our boat also sported a misting system over the helm to cool the passengers. Midnight Express can be considered a custom boatbuilder. As long as you can fit all of your desires within the parameters of this hull size, you can pretty much have anything you want.

The Midnight Express 34 consists of 1-inch-thick solid fiberglass on the bottom, Nida-Core and Mantex composite coring in the topsides and decks, and a 5-inch-thick transom with a half-inch aluminum plate laminated within.

Needless to say, Midnight Express doesn't build its boats to be the lightest on the market. But they run impeccably in heavy seas at high speeds and don't fall apart. I even know of one that ran up on a reef at more than 50 mph. It broke off two of the lower units and cracked the hull - but not all the way through, and it was able to make it home on its own power.


SPECIFICATIONS

LOA......34 ft.
BEAM......11 ft.
HULL DRAFT......1 ft. 8 in.
DEADRISE......22 deg.
WEIGHT......13,000 lb.
FUEL......300 gal.
MAX POWER......Quad 350 hp OB
MSRP......$134,500 (w/ twin 300 hp OB)

Midnight Express / Hollywood, Florida / 954-745-8284 / www.midnightboats.com