By Roger Mcafee
It isn’t often a writer, having tested a new boat, gets an opportunity to examine the same vessel model a couple of years down the road. We were lucky enough to have that opportunity with the Corvette 340, affectionately known as the “Baby Fleming” by many. It gets the name because its builder is owned by a couple of Fleming’s managers and it’s built in the same plant as the traditionally-styled Fleming line of cruising boats—the 55, 58, 65, 68 and 75. The 340 is also promoted by Corvette Marine as “The world’s biggest little yacht.”
Corvettes were originally designed by English naval architect Terry Compton in 1974 and built in the U.K. until 2008 when production ceased. Two of Fleming’s top managers purchased the tooling in 2009 and moved it, with two of Corvette’s managers, to the same Taiwan yard that builds the Fleming 55, 58, 65, 68 and 75.
Design and Construction The Corvette was originally designed as a 32-foot traditional tri-cabin family cruiser and the new 340 carries that traditional styling through to today. It’s a twin stateroom vessel, with each stateroom having its own head/shower. One stateroom is in the forepeak, while the master is in the stern.
Corvette hulls are solid glass with vinylester resin used for outer laminations to reduce the likelihood of wicking. Five epoxy barrier coats and two coats of antifouling paint are applied below the waterline. Stringers, frames, engine beds and the forward engine room bulkhead, collectively referred to by Corvette as an “internal frame,” are molded as a separate single unit and dropped into the hull.
The deck and superstructure are molded glass with a Corecell M foam core and North American manufactured Cook gel coat. All stainless used is marine grade and all welds are ground flush and polished. Stainless is used as trim around roofs and on the rub rail. It is also used to protect the glasswork from chaffing lines. This attention to detail is not often found on such small vessels.
The exterior glasswork on our test boat was fair and without haze or print through. This was expected since Fleming glasswork has always been noted for its excellence.
On Deck Access to the vessel is via port and starboard rail gates just forward of the steps up to the aft deck. One can also get aboard off the swim step up a ladder to the aft deck, but if a dinghy is stowed on that step easy access is not possible. Moving forward to the bow, from either rail gate is quick, safe and easy because of ample side deck width and good, solid, well-secured handrails.
Substantial rails and an anchor pulpit rail make working on the foredeck safe, and a teak deck overlay provides good footing, even when wet. The trunk cabin roof is glass with a molded-in, non-skid finish. The chain locker is accessed through a locking deck hatch. It is huge and divided into three separate compartments allowing for substantial additional storage. Deck drains are plumbed to drain overboard at the boot stripe reducing the likelihood of hull streaking.
Moving to the after deck, which is really the roof of the master cabin, presents no problems and the teak step treads provide good footing. The aft deck, also teak covered, is large and secured by substantial railings. Optional seating for four, with storage under, and a table, makes the area ideal for fair weather entertaining.
The command bridge, forward and up two teak-treaded steps from the aft deck, offers excellent all around visibility and plenty of seating.
The teak decking is fixed to the fibreglass decks with resin and vacuum bagged. This method of construction means there are no bolts or screws required to secure the decking. Screwing any deck covering to any glass deck inevitably leads to leaks through those screw holes. Corvette’s deck overlay method avoids that problem.
Interior The deck house is entered through a sliding door starboard and just aft of the helm station. It is not a full height door so one has to take care when entering. It is also the only door in and out of the deckhouse. The helm station is straight across from the deckhouse entry, hard against the port side of the cabin. Visibility forward and along each side deck is excellent. Visibility directly aft is blocked by the stair structure leading up to the command bridge, but aft deckhouse windows to the port and starboard of that structure allow the skipper to see what’s happening on most of the aft deck.
Forward and down is the guest cabin and it’s laid out differently than in most modern vessels. The head/shower is located furthest forward, hard against the crash bulkhead. Two bunks, one to port and one to starboard, complete the cabin. There is plenty of storage both under and above the berths. Low voltage overhead lights and berth reading lights make the stateroom comfortable and inviting. While this guest cabin layout is a bit unusual there are a
number of different boats with this layout, and it seems to work well.
Aft of the entry, to starboard is the galley and across from that is an L-shaped dinette, complete with table. A horizontal stainless grab rail along the galley cabinet is a good touch. Corian counter tops make for easy cleanup and wear well. The stainless sink, gas cook top and under counter fridge complete the galley. An aft window swings up and acts as a pass through to the aft deck.
The aft, full beam stateroom is large and comfortable. A tapered queen walk around berth, complete with port and starboard nightstands and twin reading lights, highlight the space. A carpeted sole makes walking to and from the head safe and comfortable. Side windows and top hinged opening aft windows allow plenty of natural light and fresh air.
The aft head, complete with separate shower stall features a large bowl electric fresh water toilet, corian counter tops with porcelain hand basin, plenty of storage and low voltage lighting. The shower stall features a teak grate and an opening port.
Under Way The vessel owner fired up the twin Yanmar 315 horsepower diesels and we eased away from the dock. These six cylinder, 254 cubic inch turbocharged and intercooled engines idled along nicely at 750 rpm. At those revs we made 4.4 knots and our noise meter gave us 72 dB. A normal conversation is about 70 dB.
At 1,000 rpm we moved along at 5.9 knots. When we upped the engine speed to 1,500 revs we made 7.4 knots. At 2,000 rpm we were doing 9.3 knots and were burning a total of about six gallons of diesel per hour. We made 12 knots at 2,500 rpm and burned about 11 gph. At 3,000 rpm we were burning about 17 gph and making about 17 knots. Wide open throttle, about 3,780 rpm we made 24.2 knots and burned about 30 gallons per hour.
All speeds were measured with an independent GPS and the fuel consumption figures have been calculated from Yanmar’s published technical information.
As we moved through our speed tests the vessel handled well and felt very solid and surefooted on the water. There was very little bow lift as speed increased and the vessel handled normal turns without skipping or skidding. It tracked well and handled wake crossing solidly, without pounding, even at higher speeds. In fact the 340 handled like a much larger, heavier boat.
Conclusions There is no question that the Corvette 340 is a solidly-built vessel. It should be, considering it’s pedigree. The excellent glasswork, solid woodwork with fit and finish as good as any and first class fittings make it a cut above many other vessels in the Corvette’s size range. The vessel has enough window glass to be bright and cheerful inside, even in dull, dreary weather.
The full-width aft master stateroom is an excellent space for such a small boat and a cruising couple would be very happy with this boat, even for extended periods. In fact there are many liveaboard couples with larger boats that don’t have the effective space of this vessel.
Since the original introduction of the Corvette, engines other than the Yanmars on our test boat are now available.
The Corvette 340 continues to be good value for money with a fully-loaded base price of $520,000. It has been well accepted in the market place and continues to receive solid support from reputable and experienced dealers.