Captain's ReportBy Capt. Rob SmithTo me, the 34 Express is the perfect size for a fishing boat. She fits into many municipal slips easily. She is maneuverable within confined areas, even without joystick drives. She can sleep up to six, or a crew of four for an offshore tournament. For the family, the interior will give them the comforts of the den at home. I had some fun with this test as Rampage had two of the 34s there. One was complete with hardtop, CAT power and ZF drives. The other was fascinating, but was a test bed without an interior. I didn’t mind that because it was powered with Volvo Penta IPS gas joystick systems with a special feature I had not seen before. This turned out to be a real “play day.”
Notable Construction Features
The Rampage 34 Express modified V-hull with keel and prop pockets has a sharp forward entry and Carolina flare to slice the waves, smooth the ride and help to minimize spray aboard. Stringers are foam encapsulated in biaxial fiberglass and resins, then coated with a high-solids compound to resist water. Rampage wraps the cabin with 3M Thinsulate, the same thing as in your toasty winter ski jacket, for temperature and sound insulation. Thinsulate is quite effective and we are beginning to see it used more and more in the higher-quality boats.The hull is solid fiberglass below the waterline and cored above the waterline. The core is relieved around thru-hulls to prevent wicking water into it. Above the waterline, thru-hulls are 316 stainless steel, and bronze below. The hull carries a five-year transferable structural warranty and a three-year warranty against gel coat blisters below the water line.
The Business End
The 12” wide gunwales have six rod holders. Dock lines run fair through hawse holes to large cleats under the gunwales. The cockpit measures 70 square feet of fish fighting room with a ½” aluminum plate encased in the sole to anchor a fighting chair. A five foot removable fish box is across the sole at the stern and has a macerator.
Rampage considers flexibility important for serious fishing. The first thing is the stern itself. You can have a fold-away bench seat, which is nice if you do a lot of family trips, or a livewell/baitwell. You still need to be able to run with the fish at the stern. I have seen a lack of toe kick here on other fishing boats, but Rampage thoughtfully has it on the 34 Express. Bolsters around the cockpit are removable for cleaning and storage.The transom door is really heavy duty. It has a top gate that flips back onto the stern covering boards and a gasketed door that swings out so you can go swimming, snorkeling or haul that trophy fish onboard. We did some aggressive backing down and there was never a leak around this door. Any water that made its way in through the scuppers was quickly drained away by them.Modular designUsing modules, Rampage can set up the deck the way you like to fish. If you need to have extra bait or several types of live bait or simply want to use the stern well as a fish locker and have a separate baitwell, you can add that module. If you want a tackle center, you can have that. I think you get the picture. Just tell them what you want and whether you want it on the port or starboard side and it is done. The one I tested had the extra baitwell on the starboard side. On port, it had a Frigid Rigid box with pad for an aft facing seat on top. I probably would have two Frigid Rigid systems for the extra ice and family seating space. Up on the bridge deck was a sink with an icemaker below in another module.
Power to fish
Hit the switch and the entire helm deck opens wide for access to the engines below. Rampage does a good job labeling everything well and organizing the lines, wires and connections. You can get around the engines for routine maintenance, especially with the added room Volvo IPS leaves. The outboard sides of the CAT engines were a bit tighter, but still manageable. Power options are twin gas Crusader 8.1 HO MPI, twin CAT C7 ACERT diesels or twin Volvo Penta IPS 600G (gas).I liked the fact that Rampage gives so many engine options as it allows everyone to get the boat they want with whatever power and docking assistance they need.
On the bow you'll find an integrated pulpit and 1 ¼” 316 stainless steel bow rail. Having been forward on rolling and pitching boats, I think this is possibly a real life saver. The polished stainless steel anchor roller assembly is standard, but I would opt up to a Maxwell RC 800 windlass with 300’ (91.4 m) of anchor line and 25’(7.6 m) of chain, at least. The windshield has an anodized aluminum frame with three wipers and washer system as well as a powered center vent.
Take the helmOn the bridge deck, I really appreciated the space around the helm seat. It makes it easy for the navigator/companion to get by without the helmsman having to get out of his seat. This is a little thing, but it can be annoying if not done right and it shows you the kind of attention to detail Rampage has invested in this boat.To port, the L-bench seat has a cooler tub below and a swivel chair at the forward end so it can face the helm or face forward. To starboard there's another module with sink and icemaker below. It’s nice to have a wet bar topside for the crew and family. The helm seat is a ladder back seat with room to stand and drive or sit and troll. The helm itself is hinged so you can get to the electrical connections when you add electronics to the 34” x 13” electronics areaThe optional hardtop allows you to add a tuna tower or an upper control station, or just get out of the sun. This also gives you room to add rod holders, outriggers and other gear. Beneath the top is a handy grab rail.
Sportfish modeThe fascinating fun was on the test bed powered with Volvo Penta IPS 600G joystick drives. Rampage has developed and proven a system that with a push of a button sets the throttle/shifters so that the captain can chase down a fish deftly, changing the drives from forward to reverse smoothly and without tearing the drive apart. It was amazing. We backed down at about 5 or 6 mph, spun to port, then just as quickly to starboard and then into a full spin all in seconds and with no hesitation from the power train. Fish need to be scared!It is not talked about much, but when you have a truly big fish on, you need to keep the stern of the boat facing the action and keep the angler fighting astern rather than over a stern quarter, or worse, to the side. The latter is a good way to lose fish. The helmsman has to be as agile as a ballet dancer at the Met, and with this boat he can turn, spin, back down, gun her forward and do whatever it takes to keep the line taught, the rod bent, and the fish on the defensive.
Down BelowThe fiberglass enclosed head has a solid cherry door, cherry veneer cabinetry with solid surface countertop and stainless steel sink. The toilet is a SeaLand model with macerator. It has a hand held shower wand and there are four vertical rod racks for your best gear. Headroom in the compartment measures around 75” (1.9 meters).
Meal timeThe galley also has cherry laminate cabinetry and solid surface counter tops. Rampage pays attention to the grain of the wood and matching the doors up in good alignment. The solid surface counter top has a molded in matching fiddle to keep things from sliding off in rolling seas but no rail to lash the cook in if it gets too rough. I guess it is better to go topside and forget about eating when it is that bad anyway. Appliances include a microwave oven, two burner ceramic cooktop, and refrigerator/freezer.R&RThe salon is well laid out for the crew to sit back and relax. The optional aft sofa converts to Pullman style berths. Forward is an optional island berth with privacy curtain. Standard arrangement has a forward dinette that converts to the same four Pullman berth systems. Rod racks are above the sofa for gear up to 75” (1.9 meters). Headroom in the salon measured 77” (1.96 meters) and at the foot of the island bed it was 65” (1.65 meters). Entertainment in the salon is an optional 15” LCD TV and DVD player but the Sony AM/FM/CD stereo and four speakers are standard.SpecificationsThe Rampage 34 Express measures 35’6” (10.85 m) in length with integrated pulpit and has a beam of 13’ (3.96 m). Her approximate weight is 17,200 lbs. (7,800 kg) with diesel engines and 16,200 lbs. (7,348 kg). Draft is 29” (.74 meters) and deadrise is 18 degrees at the stern. She carries 367 gallons (1389 L) of fuel and 60 gallons (227 L) of fresh water.This comfortable sofa makes into Pullman berths for fishing buddies, or a nice double.
Test resultsLake Michigan was calm during testing, so I can’t speak to the boat's rough water ability, but handling was good with both the CAT powered and the Volvo Penta IPS powered models. Rampage weighted the test bed to match closely to the distributed weight of a finished model for test purposes. She was on plane in 5.8 seconds and passed 30 mph in 8.5 with the Volvo Penta IPS engines. Her top speed was 41.5 mph at 3600 rpm. Her most economical speed was 24.2 mph at 2500 rpm for a range of 434 miles (698.5 kilometers) with a burn rate of 18.4 gph (69.6 lph).RecommendationThe Rampage 34 Express is a solid fishing machine but also makes a good coastal cruising boat. You can set up the deck the way you like with options and you can also option the interior to fit your needs. You want a queen bed forward, Rampage will do it for you. 34’ is a popular size for express fishboats and there are many on the market. Many of them are built to a price point, and that is where corners often get cut. Spend a lot of time on these boats as we do and you’ll begin to see the little things that separate the men from the boys, but unfortunately it is often not so easy to do with a quick walk-through at a boat show. We have spent a lot of time with this boat in all stages of construction and we can attest that she is built ruggedly and her finish work is something you can be proud of. If you are in the market for this size and type of boat, you need to see the Rampage 34 before making a decision.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Rampage 34 Express (2009-2010) is 41.5 mph (66.8 kph), burning 41.6 gallons per hour (gph) or 157.46 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Rampage 34 Express (2009-2010) is 24.2 mph (38.9 kph), and the boat gets 1.32 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.56 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 434 miles (698.46 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 370-hp Volvo Penta IPS500 - Diesel.
Standard and Optional Features
|Washdown: Fresh Water||Standard|
|Washdown: Raw Water||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
|Oil Change System||Optional|
Five-year transferable structural warranty