By all appearances, the designers of the 343 placed their emphasis on improvements in boathandling and accommodations, rather than making dramatic changes in hull, sailplan, or appendages. Compared with the performance-oriented Beneteau Fast line, this boat is designed for casual daysailing, coastal cruising, or overnighting in comfort.
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Like most Beneteau sailboats, spaces belowdecks have been conceived to provide owners and crew with well-appointed, spacious quarters. This 34-footer has a traditional appearance; nicely finished hull sides and bulkheads are fitted with Douma veneers (a member of the mahogany family). The distance between the foot of the companionway ladder and forward bulkhead is 11' so, coupled with an 11' 5" beam, crew will have room to lounge comfortably. And wooden grabrails running the length of the saloon on either side are spaced far enough from the hull to provide crewmembers with a secure handhold when heeled. On the flip side, the fiddles on the bookshelves that flank the saloon would benefit from a large dose of vitamins. Overhead, a white liner fitted with wood battens brightens the space, which offers 6' 5" headroom. The galley is to port, nav station to starboard, skipper's quarters aft, crew quarters and head forward.
In a boat this size there are few places in which to hide a table, so that item is the centerpiece of the saloon, providing a home for the mast compression post, and housing hinged leaves that allow dining from settees on either side. The table measures 43" long with a 9"-wide center section, to which the 13"-wide leaves are attached, so the total dining space is 43" x 35" when rigged
The galley is an L-shaped affair with generous 6' 6" of headroom. It is fitted with an Eno two-burner propane stove-oven combo located aft along the hull next to a single stainless steel sink. The working countertop is oriented athwartships, and covers a dry storage bin; a 4.5-cubic-foot, front-opening refrigerator is below. Countertops are laminated, a plus compared to heavier alternatives, and are fitted with wooden fiddles that will easily keep small items in place.
Cabinets are located outboard and enclosed by wood doors. A microwave (hidden in an appliance cabinet) adds a nice, if power-hungry tool to the chef's arsenal. Storage under the sink on our test boat was cluttered by air hoses for an optional air conditioning unit that would be unnecessary in cooler climes; absent those hoses, this space provides room for cleaning supplies and the like. One cosmetic plus is that cabinet backs are lined with wood rather than gelcoat, and ventilation slots are cut in the cabinetry on U.S.-built boats. This galley has sufficient stowage space to be suitable for a week-long cruise, and its overall size is proportional to the boat.
The nav station adds a chart table measuring 26" x 20" that has an uncovered tray outboard for the storage of sunglasses, nav tools, etc. Space on the bulkhead is 23" wide x 16" tall, large enough for the instruments displays that might be used for coastal cruising, and a radio/CD player that is connected to two speakers mounted in the saloon.
The electrical panel is 20" wide x 18" high. Like most manufacturers, Beneteau produces a hinged electrical panel that allows easy access to wiring. That's a plus, until an enthusiastic owner decides to show off the wiring runs and, in the process, inadvertently disconnects an appliance. Even that is a small matter, since the wires are all nicely bundled and identified.
The skipper's quarters—the aft stateroom—boasts 6' 6" of headroom, and an athwartships double berth measuring 6' 7" by 7' 1". The area is furnished with a hanging locker, open shelving along the hull, and is well lit by two reading lights and a ceiling lamp.
24 Sand Island Access Road
Honolulu, HI 96819