Steber 34 Start and Support vessel Review

Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club turned to the Steber brand when they needed a specialised race starting and support vessel

While Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club (RPAYC) had some quite specific requirements for their specialised race starting and support vessel, what came with the end result, the Steber 34, was a layout and configuration that would suit a wide range of applications from offshore fishing to general leisure cruising and over-nighting.

This high performance commercial boat is a neat package with slick lines for something with a ‘work boat’ tag. It is available in a flybridge version, but the sedan style chosen by RPAYC was better suited to their tasks at hand. You simply can’t help but appreciate the practicality of this boat’s fit-out.

A tall bowrail with safety wires encompasses the bow and flows right down to the back of the wheelhouse, aiding safe footage when up on the expansive bow. Cabin-top handrails ensure safe access down either side of the cabin. A powder-coated alloy navigation mast and flag hoist is mounted centrally on the cabin roof and accommodates a bicoloured nav light, two radio antennas, GPS module, wind transducer and a flat area for future fitment of a 
radar dome.

The forward cabin is a tidy layout, although relatively sparse for a Steber. However, simple and usable was the order. A flowcoated interior gives way to easy-care marine carpet flooring. Two single starboard side bunks have vinyl upholstered mattresses. 

Opposite these, there is a portside toilet/shower room with electric toilet plumbed to a holding tank. A spacious shelved stowage bench is directly in front of this, below which is a large enclosed locker. This forward cabin is made bright and airy by a skylight-style overhead ventilation hatch. 

A very comfortable KAB helm seat (with all sorts of fancy adjustments and armrests) offers a comfortable perch for the skipper and good viewing of the entire dash and instrumentation. Marine radios are within easy reach, and no doubt they will get a lot of use when communicating race starts and information from ship to shore and boat to boat. Large sliding port and starboard windows allow for good wheelhouse ventilation when opened in conjunction with the rear hinged door.

Directly behind the helm position is an uncluttered galley arrangement with stainless steel sink (hot and cold water), removable two burner spirit stove and inset 55L DC refrigerator. It offers a lengthy laminate bench top with anodised alloy edging and accompanying cupboard, and five sliding drawers.

On the port side directly opposite the galley is a dinette with laminated table top to match the galley and for-and-aft bench seats with stowage under each. Behind the dinette is a four drawer stowage unit. All in all, it’s a low maintenance cabin and wheelhouse arrangement that still offers comfort.


The back of the wheelhouse tucks in on both sides. This allows wide access and therefore a safe walkway via steps to the bow. A slick and unobtrusive moulded fibreglass cockpit awning extends sternward some 2.5m from the wheelhouse, offering exceptional weather protection. Smack bang in the middle of the cockpit is a heavy-duty alloy centre-line tow bollard for the obvious tow work this vessel will do. Also, important to the boat’s job specifics, is a cockpit helm station on the starboard side at the wheelhouse bulkhead. Commercial fishermen would also find this option beneficial.

Another customised item in the cockpit is a stainless steel valve chest offering speedy access to valves for control of plumbing to all bilges, deckwash pump, spare suction line for salvage line connection and a hand pump as back-up. The cockpit is where most activity takes place on any workboat and this cockpit is an absolute ripper. It is expansive and uncluttered with handrails all round. There is a large rudder bilge access hatch and easy maintenance flow coat deck finish. Like all the newer Steber hulls, it also has full-size access hatches to both engines. This makes for ease of servicing and allows re-powering of the vessel later in its life without major structural implications.

The boat is no rocket ship; it has a top speed of just under 25 knots, but cruises at an efficient 15 knots at about 2800rpm. An increase of 400rpm per engine offers another six knots of speed, making it possible to travel faster than 20 knots for extended periods without breaking the bank. We tested the hull in the calm confines of the Hastings River and its ride and handling ability was faultless. Experience tells me this hull is a serious offshore contender and would be more at home out on the ocean blue. Stebers are renowned as long-lived work and leisure boats and these new hull designs have only perfected something that worked well.

This particular hull size is manageable and not cumbersome like boats only a few metres longer. The basic configuration is practical and well suited to a range of applications with only minor fit-out changes or modifications. Commercial trap and line fishermen would revel in the deck space, as would fishing or dive charter operators. Similarly, recreational anglers would be hard pressed to find a 34-footer as well suited to serious game or reef fishing tasks. This is a boat for all seasons.