It was five years ago. Severe weather rolled through the harbor at Clinton, Connecticut, on Long Island Sound’s north shore. A sailboat broke free of its mooring and drifted onto a 1991 Pursuit 3400 Offshore, holing the boat’s side and smashing a portion of its upper works. Repair estimates totaled her.
That didn’t bother Skip Swift; it was just what he’d been looking for: an express-style fishing boat with a large cockpit and all the comforts and amenities. “She was sitting on the hard with no motors and a hole in her side,” says the 57-year-old owner of Seconn Automation, an automated welding systems and engineering firm in nearby Waterford. “When I looked at her, I knew there would be some serious obstacles to overcome to complete the project, so I started with the toughest one first.”
Swift bought a bottle of wine, cleaned up the interior of the boat and hooked up a battery for the house electrics. With Marvin Gaye on the stereo and a few shots of air freshener, the boat was ready to show to Swift’s wife, Deanna. “I set the table and went and got [her],” he says. “It was pretty easy from there, especially when I told her it was too big to bring to the house.”
The deal was made, with the 34-footer costing $5,000. Swift, a lifelong boater, was no stranger to used boats and the work they often require. “I had my first boat at age 15, a trihull with an old Chrysler outboard,” he says. “I was heavy into barefoot skiing.” Other boats included a 30-foot wooden Luhrs, Grady-White and Trophy walkarounds, a 32-foot Trojan and a 19-foot Aquasport — all bought used. “The only new boat I ever bought was a 19-foot Starcraft with a 200-hp Mercury outboard. I traded that for a baby girl,” Swift says.
Just as those boats all needed some work, the Pursuit was going to be a project. Swift had grown up working on boats, since his family owned a marine fabrication company. “I’ve always been the kind of guy who wanted to know every nut, bolt and wire on any boat I had owned,” he says. “Most every boat I’ve had I bought used, and they have all needed something major. Whether it be glass repair or mechanical [work] through the years, I’ve been forced to take a bite of most boatbuilding skill sets. If you can do it yourself and you like doing it, it’s the best way to get a boat that’s safe, reliable and good-looking for a very low cost.”
He stripped the Pursuit’s interior to get inside the damaged hull and repair the hole. He rewired the boat, upgraded the A/C and water systems, refinished the cabin soles and got the VacuFlush head in order. “Like all boaters, I love working on my boat as much as using it,” he says.
The Pursuit needed engines, and Swift discovered a matched pair of them in another derelict. “I found a boat that had caught fire,” Swift says. “I took out the engines, redesigned the Pursuit’s engine mounts and installed them.” He also added new gauges and electronics. The twin Marine Power 7.4-liter, fuel-injected engines deliver 330 horses. The boat cruises at 21 to 22 mph at 3,300 rpm, burning about 25 gph. Top speed is around 30 mph at 4,400 rpm.
Swift estimates he has spent an additional $20,000 on power and electronics, which include twin Raymarine eSeries multifunction touch-screen displays, an autopilot and radar. With its plentiful fuel supply and creature comforts, the rejuvenated Pursuit has proved a versatile boat with a wide cruising range. “We spend a lot of time on the boat,” Swift says. “She runs strong, and we use her both for fishing and cruising [to] Block [Island], Montauk, Three Mile Harbor, Greenport, Mattituck, Mystic [and the] Thimble Islands. She sees water mid-April and doesn’t go on the hard until right after blackfish season [Dec. 6].”
Swift keeps the boat at Riverside Basin Marina in Clinton, which has become more than just the place where he docks. “I’ve been there for years,” he says. “It’s a marina mostly populated by local town and shoreline people and a lot of fishermen.” As such, it’s a storehouse of boating knowledge acquired by experience, Swift says. “The people at this marina — meaning customers, too — have the best cumulative boat knowledge. I couldn’t have done this project without them.”
The Pursuit 3400 Offshore has an express-style layout with a large cockpit, raised bridge deck, wraparound aluminum windshield and cabin. It rides a modified-vee hull (18-degree transom deadrise) with a tall bow and ample freeboard. The cockpit (with transom door) can be laid out for serious fishing with a fishbox, live well and tackle/stowage boxes, along with rod holders in the gunwales and on the aluminum radar arch.
The helm station, with pedestal and companion seats, is set to starboard with an aluminum wheel and a molded dash for gauges and electronics. The twin engines are accessed beneath the bridge deck.
Below there’s a dinette (convertible to a berth) to port with the galley across the way. It’s equipped with a microwave, an under-counter refrigerator, and pressure hot and cold water. The head compartment has a marine head, sink and wand shower, and there’s a forward berth for two. Spiffy touches include wood trim on the counters and shelves, and a teak-and-holly cabin sole.
There were several incarnations of Pursuit's 34-foot express over the years. The original 3400 Offshore from the early 1990s got a makeover later in the decade. The centerline helm was changed to an offset one and more gear was added to expand the cockpit. An island berth replaced the V-berth and the galley, dinetter and head compartment were updated and reconfigured. Pursuit's current express models include the Offshore 385, 355 and 325.
LOA: 33 feet, 9 inches
BEAM: 12 feet, 9 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 2 inches
WEIGHT: 14,000 pounds
HULL TYPE: modified-vee
PROPULSION: twin 370-hp diesels
TANKAGE: 350 gallons fuel, 30 gallons water
BUILDER: Pursuit Boats, Fort Pierce, Florida, (772) 465-6006. pursuitboats.com
This article originally appeared in the December 2016 issue.