There’s a saying in sports: Sometimes, the best trade is the one you don’t make. It works for boats, too.
Unable to get an acceptable offer trading in their 1989 Silverton 34 Convertible as part of a deal for a new trawler, Nyla and Paul Deputy decided to keep the boat and upgrade it. That was in 1996, and after spending some $90,000 on alterations and new gear, including a repower, the couple has a boat that’s virtually custom and perfectly suited to their East Coast cruising lifestyle.
“We liked the 34,” says Nyla Deputy, a retiree who’s chairman of the Silverton Owners Club (www.silvertonclub.com). (Paul is a 58-year-old retiree of Daimler-Chrysler.) “It had a nice layout, with a big bridge, a roomy galley and a spacious stateroom. It had big [lockers], a separate shower and more storage than some larger boats we’d seen.”
They decided to turn the supposedly “worth nothing” boat into the kind of vessel they’d hoped to trade for.
The Deputys listed their priorities: Replace the original gas engines with diesels, refurbish the interior, add up-to-date appliances and equipment, and upgrade the boat’s systems. In short, make the boat a comfortable and self-sufficient cruiser that could take them from the west coast of Florida, where the Deputys call Fort Myers their home port, to New England.
At the heart of the redone Silverton 34 is a pair of 220-hp Cummins diesels, which give the boat the desired 15- to 17-mph cruising speed. “With the [gas engines] our top speed was about 35 mph,” Deputy says. “But how often did we go that fast? Never. So what did we need it for?”
Fuel burn with the diesels is about 8 or 9 gallons an hour, versus 20 gallons for the gas engines, Deputy says.
Engine room upgrades included an oil-changing system, a fuel filter system, a 5-kW generator, and a 5,000-watt inverter that runs the television, icemaker and other 110-volt appliances. They also set up the plumbing on the engines so that each can be used as an emergency bilge pump.
On deck, the Deputys added gear to make working the boat safe and easy, including an automatic windlass (on a reinforced deck), a reinforced bow pulpit, and chocks for their tender and its 5-hp outboard.
The Silverton 34’s spacious flybridge, with a 7-foot lounge seat and twin captain’s chairs — the command and social center of the boat — got a lot of attention, too. The Deputys added a soft-top half-tower with an overhead electronics box and welded plates for the radar and radio antennae. It helps protect the helm station, with its dash-mounted laptop navigation computer connected to a GPS, “so we can see our progress across the screen,” says Deputy. With a new canvas enclosure, protection from the weather is “excellent even in the worst rainstorms,” says Deputy.
They also upgraded the galley with a three-burner stove-oven combination and an icemaker, and they added storage by opening up a previously inaccessible space below the galley sole. They put down a custom teak sole, added a new custom dinette with a silverware drawer, and found room for a linen locker and a television.
Although the Deputys admittedly spared no expense in their project, they saved money by taking on such tasks as choosing, buying and installing a 7,000 BTU air conditioner. “There are a lot of ways to save expenses if you take the time to find the best products for the money and do some of the work yourself,” says Deputy.
“When I say we have a total renovation, it is a complete renovation,” says Deputy. “It is a beautiful, well-equipped, small, economical cruising boat.”
The Silverton 34 Convertible stayed popular, in part, by changing with the times. The interior layout of the original model, produced from 1978 through 1988, was altered more than once during its production run. These changes culminated in an entirely new look both on deck and below in the version the Deputys own, which came out in 1989.
It retained the signature galley-down layout, with a single large master stateroom and island berth forward replacing the single port-side berth or V-berth. The adjacent head had a separate stall shower. The galley was moved to the starboard side and came with a sink, stove and refrigerator, and plenty of counter and shelf space to accommodate other small appliances, such as a coffee maker. The convertible dinette was moved to port, and the bench seats were replaced with a more up-to-date L-shaped lounge.
The latter-day 34 Convertible had a larger superstructure than the original, which, combined with the elimination of the standard lower helm station, made for a more spacious saloon in the 1989 model. And although some cockpit space was sacrificed, the new design allowed a larger flybridge with more seating and more room for electronics.
The newly designed saloon included a couch to port (convertible to a berth) and was well-lit by the wraparound windows. Coach roof ports brought light to the galley-dinette area.
The Silverton 34’s 1989 look was more streamlined than the earlier version, with a clipper-like bow, swept-back windscreen and flybridge profile. It still retained the original’s easily recognized sharply broken sheer aft. There’s a little more “vee” in the Michael Peters-designed modified-vee hull of the 1989 boat, too, and with standard 350-hp gas engines, it was known for its ride and performance, boasting a top speed of more than 30 mph.
Because of the large numbers of boats sold over the years, the Silverton 34 Convertible, in its various permutations, can be readily found in boating classified listings and on the Internet. Prices range from $30,000 to around $80,000. Here are a few samples we found in the pages of Soundings. A 1992 with an unusual two-stateroom interior and dinette/galley-up layout in “excellent condition” was selling for $79,900 in North Carolina. A professionally maintained 1981 model, repowered with 350-hp diesels in 1996 and a new generator in ’97, was listed at $49,900 in Rhode Island. And one of the old double-helm-station models, vintage 1979, with twin Crusader 270 gas engines installed in 2000, a new generator and upgraded electronics was priced at $31,000 in Connecticut.
LOA: 34 feet, 6 inches
BEAM: 12 feet, 7 inches
DRAFT: 3 feet, 2 inches
hull type: modified-vee
original propulsion: twin 350-hp gas engines
WEIGHT: 13,500 pounds
TANKAGE: 300 gallons fuel, 40 gallons water
ORIGINAL BUILDER: Silverton Marine, Millville, N.J. Phone: (856) 825-4117. www.silverton.com
Luhrs Sea Skiffs, founded in the 1930s by then New York boatbuilder Henry Luhrs, grew from small shop to a company producing 1,000 boats a year by the late 1960s. After growing up in the wooden boatbuilding business, Luhrs’ sons, John and Warren, started off on their own. They bought out a small New Jersey skiff builder, renamed the company Silverton Marine, and through the 1970s grew it into one of the nation’s best-known builders, producing a series of fiberglass express boats, convertibles and cabin boats.
The Silverton 34 Convertible, which debuted in 1978 and was redesigned in 1989, is one of the company’s most successful boats, with more than 1,200 sold in a 16-year production run. Silverton today is part of the Luhrs Marine Group, which also builds Mainship and Luhrs powerboats and Hunter sailboats. The latest incarnation of the venerable 34 Convertible was designed by Donald Blount, with about 100 sold in less than a half-year, again making it one of Silverton’s best-selling models.