Pursuit 3400 Express Review

"One thing we heard some people wish for was a windshield and more speed. Well, the new 34 has a windshield and it's faster."

Just over two years ago, Pursuit introduced its biggest fishing hull, the 3000 Express Fisherman. It was "an out-of-the-park home run," in the words of Jay Check, a research and development specialist with Pursuit. It continues to be a hot seller, but, "One thing we heard some people wish for was a windshield and more speed. Well, the new 34 has a windshield and it's faster."

Performance
Our 3400 test boat ran out of the jetties to head northeast into a light easterly sea. With the Pursuit's twin 370B Cummins diesels, I couldn't accuse our test boat of being underpowered. The diesels rivaled gas engines for responsiveness and pushed the heavy hull onto plane in four to five seconds with very little bow rise - and that with tabs in the up position.

Although this hull has achieved nearly 40 mph with the tower, full fuel and a crew, figure on close to 35 mph top speed depending upon conditions and sea direction. At a comfortable 2,400 rpm, the 3400 cruises at about 30 mph. The 350-gallon fuel capacity offers a range of 500 miles when cruising at 25 mph.

The 3400's 16,000 pounds doesn't make her a particularly heavy hull for her class, but that's plenty of weight for a solid feel, as you might reasonably expect. But I felt something else difficult to put my finger on. "Busy" might best describe the ride on a light chop. A surprising description for 8 tons of boat, yet the taut suspension of a sports car came to mind. Somehow, without discomfort or hard banging, the hull at cruise seemed to translate even small nuances of motion to the helmsman.

In turns, the boat handled decisively. Again, I have to return to the sports car analogy since I couldn't sense even a slight steering lag: Just as soon as I'd start to spin the wheel, the boat started its turn with the immediacy of a 20-foot outboard. But once in the turn, her mass became evident as she heeled over hard.

Fishing
About 12 1/2 feet of beam, providing 9 full feet of width, coaming to coaming across the cockpit, and 7 feet from transom to bridge should make even multiple hookups manageable. Though we didn't hook them up simultaneously, we did raise some sails during our test day. High gunwales (28 inches - mid-thigh for tall adults) and super-heavy nonskid helped us during the fight and leadering/ release - and should keep anglers upright even in heavy seas. Channels about 2.5 inches deep around cockpit hatches keep the deck dry. The transom door is generous enough for a big bluefin.

Beneath the hinged lid of a large bait prep station between cockpit and bridge on the port side, you'll find a deep sink with both fresh water (faucet) and raw water (sprayer), and beneath the large cutting board, space for the optional, deep bait freezer. Beneath that, several built-in drawers hold tackle. Under the lid of a matching station to the starboard is the 36-gallon oval, insulated live well. The top of this offers still more working surface area, but it also provides a natural spot for setting things down - and because of that, it could use a lip to keep those things from sliding off. About the only thing the cockpit could use more of: rod holders. Two standard gunwale-mounted holders on each side offer the only secure places to put rods in the cockpit; rocket launchers on the optional tower hold six more rods. But some under-gunwale horizontal holders would be welcome.

This is a skipper's boat; on the 3400, the captain's helm is certainly his castle. With no seating or obstructions behind the tall, pedestal pilot seat located centrally on the raised bridge (15 inches above the cockpit deck), the 3400's 360-degree visibility proves better than most in her class. High bench seats, thickly padded and exceptionally comfortable, form an L around each stern corner of the bridge. However, when seated, passengers leave little walk space between their knees and the pilot seat. That becomes particularly noticeable when anyone needs to move through the bridge - such as from the molded-in chart table to the left of the helm or the cabin companionway to the right - in a hurry.

The 3400 trolls easily. At less than 7 knots, she kicks up very little white water; once over 7 knots, clear alleys between white water become more well defined. When called upon to back down, yet again she proves more responsive than her size would seem to dictate. And turned hard, the hull swivels tightly around either stern corner.

Construction
Pursuit has worked hard to keep its 3400 relatively light but strong. Toward that end, the plant in Holland, Michigan, which constructs larger Pursuits and Tiara Yachts, makes extensive use of balsa coring. For the stringers, that means Deco-Lite, sheets of balsa with a thin fiberglass face.

"The beauty of this is that the fiberglass face becomes part of the stringer structure," says Dan Springer, director of engineering R&D; in Michigan.

In addition, virtually all hull and deck surfaces above waterline have been balsa cored. This approach costs more, but saves further weight while maintaining stiffness and strength.

Pursuit's provided access to the 3400's engines via a day hatch in the bridge deck for routine maintenance or a quick visual check. But for serious access to the engine room, dual electric lifts raise the entire bridge deck. However, with the generator between engines, don't look for much space to work in. If you can't do without a generator, consider Power Technology's 5-KW engine-mounted A/C generating unit which takes up virtually no space.

The cabin is meticulously finished. You'll discover storage everywhere - beneath each of the three hinged steps, in lots of cabinets ( with rod space above), in under-berth compartments and a tall hanging wet locker. The V-berth's 6.5 feet make it deceptively long - deceptive perhaps because it's so wide.

As a dealer add-on, the optional tower will vary in design, but the tower on our test boat, made by Hi-Seas in Stuart, Florida, was a pleasure, easier to climb and descend than many I've been in and particularly comfortable to cruise in. I can't imagine ordering this 3400 without a tower.