Marine Trader 34 Double Cabin
At the time of the fuel crisis of the 1970s trawler yachts enjoyed a brief period of increased popularity when fast powerboats, with fuel-guzzling engines, fell out of favor among powerboat owners. But, as boaters became more and more used to paying higher prices for fuel and the relative cost of fuel dropped, fewer people seemed to find these slow, plodding vessels attractive and their popularity waned.
However, driven by aging sailors searching for less demanding vessels and retires in search of a slower paced boating lifestyle, the last several years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of this type of vessel to the point that market demand has outstripped the supply of some models.
This style vessel is what is commonly referred to as a trawler yacht due to its resemblance, in appearance, to a commercial fishing trawler. The Marine Trader 34 Double Cabin is 33’-6" in length overall with a 30’-3" waterline length a maximum beam of 11’-9" and draft of 3’-6". The hull has a V-shaped bottom with a sharp entry forward that flattens considerably at the stern. There is an integral keel that runs nearly the entire length of the vessel. The keel fairs into the bottom near the bow and drops more than two feet below the bottom near the stern affording protection for the propeller and rudder.
The 34 is imported by Marine Trading International of Toms River, NJ, is built by CHB Marine in Taiwan and was introduced in 1974. The model remains in production 27 years after her introduction and is unquestionably the most popular trawler-styled yacht of this size ever sold in the U.S.
Marine Trader 34 hulls are built of a solid composite which consists primarily of chopped-strand fiberglass mat and resin. Longitudinal support is provided by wood stringers and athwart ship support provided by plywood bulkheads both of which are attached with or encased in resin and chopped-strand mat. This is far from what might be considered "high tech" boat building. In fact, there is little, if any, use of stitched or woven fiberglass fabrics that are generally considered to be significantly stronger than the materials used. However, in spite of the lack of well-engineered fiberglass composites and a propensity for osmotic blistering, the hulls of these vessels have held up reasonably well over the years. One must keep in mind though that these boats travel less than 10 miles per hour, seldom venture offshore out of the sight of land and are stressed very little.
Since the introduction of the 1985 model, the 34’s have been constructed with a molded, single piece fiberglass deck and deckhouse with balsa and plywood used for reinforcing. Post 1985 models have had their share of window and hardware leaks, however they have been significantly less problematic than their predecessors. Models built prior to 1985 were built with teak planked decks fastened through fiberglass into a plywood sub-deck. Teak decks were an option after 1985. Models built prior to 1975 also were built with plywood cabin houses sheathed in fiberglass cloth. The quality of workmanship, the integrity of joiner work and bedding of joints was very poor on these earlier models and, nearly without exception, has resulted in significant damage to decks and cabins as a result of water migration.
Restricted to a length of just under 34’, the designers have done an excellent job laying out an efficient deck area while, at the same time, maximizing interior space and accommodations. This is undoubtedly a primary reasons for the continued popularity of this model.
The side decks are quite wide and allow an adult to pass from bow to stern safely and comfortably. There is a substantial bulwark surrounding the deck and an added handrail for a safe, secure feeling. The foredeck and aft deck are necessarily small although there is space on the aft deck for a couple of folding deck chairs. The flybridge is accessed by ladders from the aft deck and atop the aft cabin and encompasses the entire main saloon cabin top. The bridge area can accommodate six adults comfortably although I would suggest such a load, over a period of time, will seriously stress the structure of the cabin top and owners should attempt to limit the loads to 800 lbs or less. There is access to the cabin from the aft deck through a sailboat-like sliding hatch and companionway and along the starboard side to the main saloon through a fore and aft sliding door.
The 34 is rigged with a mast and boom for carrying a steadying sail although, in most cases, the mast is used only for mounting radar and radio antennas or raising flags.
The main drawback to the deck layout is that there is no convenient location for carrying a dinghy on deck without seriously limiting access.
Whether going away for a weekend or an extended cruise the Marine Trader 34 Double Cabin is a very livable boat which offers completely separate and private accommodations for two adult couples, plus plenty of room for stores and belongings. Headroom is well over 6’ throughout and interior furnishings are recognizably Taiwanese with teak everywhere except for cushions, deckhead liners and some counter tops. Even with all the dark finishes, there are plenty of windows and ports to keep the interior from appearing dark.
The forward cabin has port and starboard berths arranged in a "V" configuration that are large enough to be comfortable for an adult. The cabin also has a large hanging locker opposite a head with integral shower. The side on which the head and hanging locker are arranged may differ with the year of the boat.
The main saloon area is mid-ship and features a galley forward along the port side with a small settee aft. To starboard, there is an L-shaped dinette aft and a lower helm forward. Access to the engine room is through the main saloon cabin sole.
In the aft cabin there is a double berth along the starboard side along with a second head with integral shower. Along the port side there is a single berth (usually used for extra storage) and a large hanging locker.
The standard engine offered on the Marine Trader 34, since its introduction, has been a single, six cylinder, Ford Lehman marine diesel. Early on this engine was rated at 120 hp and later models increase in rated horsepower to 135. Over the years there have been several larger engines as well as twin engine options offered although I think its safe to say the majority of 34s were fit with the very dependable, standard Ford Lehman engine.
Powered with the standard engine the 34 is not a fast boat however, she is extremely efficient when operating at displacement hull speed. At 8.5-mph she sips a mere 2.2 gallons of fuel per hour and will cover a range of more than 900 miles between fuel stops on her 300-gallon fuel supply. This efficiency disappears rapidly however when pushed to the limit and, at a maximum speed of about 10-mph, [a 19% increase] fuel consumption jumps to a whopping 7.3-gph [a 230% increase] and range is more than cut in half. Similar small increases in speed at the cost of fuel consumption can be expected with larger engine options. For example, the optional 210-hp Cummins diesel will increase the maximum speed to around 14-mph, consume more than 12-gph and reduce effective range to under 300 miles.
Steering controls are either mechanical or hydraulic depending on the year of manufacture and both tend to be a little sluggish. Generally speaking, handling is what is expected for size and style of boat and acceptable once one gets used to the less responsive feel of the helm.
It is not uncommon for older model Marine trader 34s to need significant repairs. The most expensive and common problems are badly deteriorated teak overlaid decks and rusted leaking fuel tanks. Deck repairs can range from $5,000 to more than $20,000 depending on the seriousness of the problem. Although I have seen a number of steel fuel tanks successfully patched, repaired tanks are more prone to spring a leak somewhere else and the best course of action is replacement. The engine must be moved or removed to replace the tanks so, on top of the cost of about $1,500 each for fuel tanks, the installation is likely to cost another $2,500 to $3,000.
Even newer model vessels may have problems in need of attention. For example, the builder does not strictly adhere to the voluntary standards of the American Boat and Yacht Council that have become the bible for most American boat builders. This may only be the nuisance of having every positive DC electrical wire aboard colored red and no wiring diagram to sort them out, or could be as serious as not having the AC electrical system properly grounded. Cost to upgrade these systems to ABYC standards can cost from several hundred to thousands of dollars.
More Marine Trader 34s have been built than any other vessel of this size and type and, for this reason, there is seldom any difficulty locating used boats offered for sale. Due to variations in age and extreme variation in condition, most anyone interested can find a boat to fit their budget. In researching this article I quickly found 14 boats offered for sale. They ranged from a 1974 model in Connecticut offered at $12,000 to a 1991 model on Lake Ontario offered at $96,000. If you’re inclined to new rather than used, a new boat can be ordered from Marine Trading International with a base price of about $140,000.
For support there is the Marine Trader Owners Association (MTOA) which is one of the most active owners associations there is. The association offers social functions, cruises, rendezvous, a newsletter and great support for other Marine Trader owners.
The Marine trader 34 Double Cabin is a very comfortable coastal cruiser that generally offers excellent value and an outstanding owners association/support group. As you will find if you search, there are some dirt cheap 34s on the market which only offer excellent value if you are a very handy person with enough patience, time and money to restore one of these problem-laden models. If not, look for a model that may be less of a bargain price but in considerably better condition. Be aware that a competent and diligent marine surveyor is likely going to make suggestions for maintenance or upgrading of electrical and fuel systems. It is quite possible your insurance company will insist on these recommended upgrades prior to insuring the vessel so it is wise to get estimates for any recommended work and plan for the cost of these upgrades when considering the purchase.
Jack Hornor, NA is the principal surveyor and senior designer for the Annapolis-based Marine Survey & Design Co.
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