IN THEIR WORDS
The moment could have been scripted by Hollywood. Tony Picciolo of Newport Beach, Calif., was driving with a friend six years ago to make an offer on a Catalina 30 sailboat. His friend had a boating magazine on his lap, and as he rolled down the car window, the breeze blew the magazine onto Picciolo’s lap, pages open. Looking down, Picciolo saw a picture of the boat he’d always secretly longed for.
“I’d wanted a sportfisherman. But I thought the cost was not in my budget, so I really never pursued one,” says Picciolo, who is 43 and in the insurance and property management business in Long Beach, Calif. “Here it was, right in front of me: the boat I’d always dreamed of.”
Picciolo called the broker, went to see the boat, met the owners (and their dog) and, “The rest is a blessing,” as he puts it.
Picciolo’s Bottom Dweller is a 1983 Tollycraft 34 Convertible Sedan, designer Ed Monk’s husky twin-engine sportfisherman. Picciolo paid $65,000 for her in April 1999, and has invested both money and time in the boat since. What he’s gotten in return is priceless.
“My passion is being on the water, so I’m on my boat two or three times a week, going to Catalina Island regularly, fishing and cruising,” says Picciolo, who keeps the boat in AlamitosBay, near his Long Beach home. “The boat has far surpassed my expectations.”
Bottom Dweller has a good-size cockpit, a roomy layout for its size, and is very dry, a testament to Tollycraft and Ed Monk’s design genius, says Picciolo, who boats year-round. Other ports of call include Los Angeles, Marina del Rey, Newport and Huntington.
Buying the used Tollycraft was an easy decision. Picciolo knew the boat’s reputation, and this “Tolly” had had four owners, each of whom took good care of her. “All of the owners showed pride of ownership, and they had all the original documentation and repairs record,” he says. “It was beautifully maintained.”
Bottom Dweller turned out to be comfortable, too. The cockpit is big enough for fishing, the multiuse saloon is open and functional, and the L-shaped couch is a good place to take a nap, Picciolo says. He converted the V-berth to a full berth to make it more comfortable.
Monk was known for designing good-riding boats that could handle rough conditions, and that’s where Bottom Dweller lives up to her reputation, says Picciolo. A few years ago during winter, he ended up having to make a run for the mainland across the unprotected waters from Catalina Island as a squall had come up. “Due to the rough seas, I had to come back at 8 knots,” says Picciolo. “But the boat held up like a champ.”
Power comes from twin 270-hp Crusader gas engines, which deliver a cruising speed of 15 to 18 mph at around 3,100 rpm, according to Picciolo. “One time, with no water in the tanks and low fuel, I was going with the current and wanted to see what she would do,” he says. “I hit a top speed of 27.8 [knots].”
In the last two years Picciolo has done over several systems and managed a little redecorating, too. He’s replaced the exhaust manifolds and risers, impellers, hoses, zincs and filters; installed new water pumps; cleaned all the strainers; changed the belts; and a given the boat a major tuneup. Cost? About $6,500. For a few thousand more, he put in new carpeting and drapes, had a new Bimini top and dinghy cover made, and upgraded the galley with new equipment, including a full-size refrigerator.
The investment’s worth it, says Picciolo. “A new boat with all the bells and whistles like mine would have run today around $325,000,” he says. “If not more.”
And, he adds, it wouldn’t be a Tolly.
The Tollycraft 34 Convertible Sedan was prized by many for its ability as a solid sea boat, one that could run safely through a variety of conditions. It also is comfortable in an understated way, with “a practical interior layout [and] better-than-average finish work,” according to Ed McKnew and Mark Parker, authors of “The Powerboat Guide” (American Marine Publishing, 2004).
The living space centers on a spacious saloon that takes advantage of the boat’s 12-foot, 6-inch beam, ample for a 34-footer. The galley-down layout (just one step) makes the saloon even roomier, and large windows let in plenty of light and fresh air. There’s an L-shaped couch to port, accompanied by hi-low cocktail table and convertible to a queen-size berth. The lower helm station is to starboard, with the step to the galley on the boat’s centerline. The galley is to port, and the U-shaped space includes a stove/oven, refrigerator and room for a microwave or coffee maker. Across the way to starboard is the compact, enclosed head with a separate shower stall.
The convertible has a roomy flybridge and large cockpit with a transom door and a swim platform. Wide side decks aid access to and from the bow. Original power came from 270-hp Crusader gas engines, which gave the boat a top speed of about 28 to 30 mph.
The Tollycraft 34 Convertible Sedan’s original production run was from 1981 to 1986. The Tollycraft 34 Sedan, built from 1972 to 1980, was a predecessor, a family version of the subsequent convertible, with a single-level saloon and accommodations for up to six.
There are plenty of Tollycrafts available. Many are on the West Coast, where the boat originated. Prices for the boats, which in an Internet search varied from 18 to 25 years old, run from around $50,000 to around $90,000. Here’s a sampling:
A 1981 in southern California with twin gas MerCruisers, a double berth forward, new refrigerator/freezer, GPS, two VHF radios, two 24-mile radars, and a generator was listed for $58,500. A 1983 model in Utah (freshwater) with twin Chevrolet gas engines, AC and heat, three-burner propane stove, full refrigerator/freezer, icemaker, and an intercom system was priced at $55,000. A professionally maintained 1984 model in Detroit with twin 270-hp Crusaders, new windows, “good” canvas, electronics and nav gear (including depth sounder, Loran, VHF and a compass) was listed for $63,900. And a 1987 model in Seattle with a pair of 330-hp Crusaders with 1,600 hours, washer/dryer, color television, GPS/plotter, refrigerator/
freezer, generator, rigid flybridge enclosure, cockpit shower and a teak parquet saloon sole priced at $89,500.
LOA: 34 feet
BEAM: 12 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 2 feet, 10 inches
WEIGHT: 17,000 pounds
Hull Type: modified-vee
TANKAGE: 200 gallons fuel,
100 gallons water
original propulsion: twin 250-hp Crusader gas engines
BUILDER: Tollycraft Yachts, Kelso, Wash.
Tollycraft Yachts was founded in 1946 by R.M. “Tolly” Tollefson, considered a pioneer in the development and promotion of the West Coast trawler-style vessel, according to the Tollycraft Boating Club. The company was intended as a small adjunct to Tollefson’s Kelso, Wash., lumberyard, and he was prepared to build wooden cruising and fishing boats mainly for the local Pacific Northwest waters. The lumberyard burned down the same year, but Tollycraft went on to build some 6,000 boats over the next 50-odd years.
The sedans, convertibles and trawler-style boats rooted in the region’s commercial fishing vessels were sturdily built with a utilitarian look, and designed to take on wind and waves in an area known for fickle weather and few safe harbors. Ed Monk was a primary designer, and he drew many of the builder’s most popular models, including the 26 Sedan (Tollycraft’s best-selling boat) and the 48 Cockpit Motoryacht, a West Coast-style bluewater cruiser popular in the late 1980s.
Tollefson sold the company in 1987, when he was 76 years old. Tollycraft Yachts survived a series of owners, as well as a recession, before the last boat was produced in the late 1990s.