I know many people, especially in the boating industry, who long for the "good old days," when life and technology and the very pace at which we lived were simpler. Topaz represents the perfect expression of that sentiment: rock-solid, simple, proven technology and the kind of craftsmanship and luxury that comes to mind when we reminisce. In fact, 20 years ago, a company called Marine Matrix surveyed thousands of boaters and discovered that Topaz delivered the highest rating of owner satisfaction.
The Bertram 31 became the world's most successful pocket sport-fisherman only because this Topaz 32 wasn't around at the time. You'll find it very difficult to come up with any negatives when considering this boat.
Idling out of Townsend's Inlet on the south Jersey coast at 6 mph (650 rpm using 1.7 gph), the trolling-speed wake exhibited two distinct, clear alleys, though all turbulence disappeared by the second wave back. Past the jetties, the Topaz 32 hopped onto plane in four seconds, dramatically faster than the original 32. In fact, Topaz CEO Tom Russell has made so many improvements to this boat that you can hardly compare it with the original. The 420-hp Caterpillar 3126s crank out twice the power that the original 32 could muster. In fact, all the power options, from three different diesel companies and ranging from 350 to 450 hp, supply more muscle than this boat's earlier version offered.
Rather than riding bow high the way the predecessor did, the new 32's flat angle throws spray out amidships. Anytime wind catches the spray, the boat has already passed before spray rises to deck level. Making use of the knife-sharp entry to carve through head seas smoothes the ride, too.
Top speed with the Cats hit 35.9 mph at 2,850 rpm while burning 35.5 gph total -- considerably faster than in days of yore. Cruising speed also improved by throttling back, running comfortably at 31 mph turning 2,400 (21.4 gph) while providing a range of more than 450 miles.
Hard turns, fishing spins and backing down are all exactly what you'd expect from a fine fishing machine. You can't ask for more. Well, I might ask for single-lever controls, but that's all.
LOA 34 ft. 8 in.
Caterpillar 3126 420-hp Diesel
With Mathers MicroCommander electronic controls, these Cats afford this 34-foot inboard the response of a feather-weight fighter.
Notable Standard Equipment
Topaz has quite successfully maximized the available cockpit space by moving the livewell, tackle and rigging modules to the forward end of the cockpit and placing the big, hinged-lid fish box in the deck. Optional items include a bait freezer and fighting chair.
When you choose the optional marlin or tuna tower (and you will), you can stand in the center of the cockpit, surrounded by your choice of 16 rod/reel combinations in rod holders and rocket launchers. The standard-issue coaming pads hit an average-sized person just above the knees. Topaz glasses in a support plate for anyone wishing to mount a fighting chair.
Backing down in relatively calm seas didn't produce prodigious amounts of water in the cockpit even around the tuna door. However, if you back up-sea on a rough day, the amazing scupper system that drains into a central box, then out through the transom, will empty the deck very quickly.
I used to see quite a few 32-foot Topaz boats 100 miles offshore fishing the Northeast canyons. I expect that once word gets around that a new, improved model has come on the market, Topaz loyalists will flock to sign up for it.
Design and Construction
From the rub rail down, Topaz consists of nothing but solid fiberglass. A substantial layer of gelcoat in your choice of color starts the process. Then vinylester resin bonds with Coremat (to prevent print-through) and stitched fiberglass -- nine layers -- resulting in a bottom a full inch thick. Above the rail, the laminate contains balsa coring for weight savings without sacrificing strength. As I said, tried-and-true construction technology.
The bridge deck sits several inches higher than in the old models. This not only affords more work space in the engine compartment, but dramatically increases 360-degree visibility as well. The helm provides more than ample space for flush-mounted electronics, though short people may find it a tad tall when seated.
Topaz still employs some of the best Old-World craftsmen, who assure that every drawer, locker, cabinet, teak-and-holly sole, and hardwood bulkhead fits seamlessly into the hull and that every grain pattern is book-matched. Sure, it takes more effort and money than glassing in a fiberglass liner and then adding wood trim, but that would go against the quality mission Topaz lives by.
Belowdecks, a comfortable L-shaped dinette to starboard can seat three easily, while the galley and head opposite provide the alpha and omega of food processing. A large double berth in the forepeak lets weekending aboard become a reality.
Many express boats suffer from high bridge-deck noise levels. Because the cabin and attendant carpeting don't muffle engine noise, some expresses tire you out just by forcing you to listen to the cacophony all day. Topaz researched noise abatement with some of the top experts in the field and has built one of the quietest-running expresses on the market today.