Tiara's new 3500 Open has eye appealing curves for cruising and plenty of grit for offshore assignments. 

Spend enough time on the water and sooner or later embarrassing things will happen. It was my turn during our recent test of the new Tiara 3500 Open. l was approaching an empty slip at a marina on the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck, Mich. The wind and current were pushing downstream and I knew the instant I brought the boat around to back her into the slip, things were going to happen quickly. As I spend hundreds of hours a season aboard our 36' Delta, Second Chance, I had no qualms about what I should do and what I could do. So I took the easy way and aimed the bow between the pilings. Then I noticed Tiara's delivery skipper, Capt. Joe Acino, standing on the dock motioning me to come in stern first.

I backed out of the slip and pointed the bow into the wind with the port engine in gear and the starboard engine in reverse to kick the stern around to line it up with the slip. The lunch crowd had already gathered and since I was the featured entertainment I wanted to get it right. But I misjudged the combined strengths of the wind and current and aborted my attempt. On my second approach, I aimed the Tiara downstream. With both engines idling in reverse and the 23"x 29" three-blade Nibrals biting plenty of water, the 3500 backed up nicely. When the starboard transom corner was even with what would be my port bow piling, I pulled the starboard engine out of gear. The wash from the port prop began bending the stern toward the opening while the wind and current helped maintain enough distance to clear the port piling. Or so I thought.

Cummins diesels power the 3500 Open to a top speed of 31 knots.

I was looking good until the corner of the extended swim platform, which I had forgotten about and couldn't see from the helm, connected with the piling. If there was a light on the dock that lit up for operator error, mine would have burned brightly even under the midday sun.

The wide polished stainless-steel bang strip did its job, so only my pride was bruised. But the incident made me realize that this 35'6" boat is actually 40'8" with the swim platform and pulpit. Combined with a 13'3" beam, the 3500 Open offers plenty of choices for cruising and fishing.

Dinette converts to a double; the backrest flips up to a pullman berth.

The 6'8" long cockpit provides good fishing room and when equipped with optional flush rod holders, raw-water washdown and flush fishwell, you can bring home dinner like a pro. Twin Cummins diesels aboard our test boat provided a 25 knot cruise at 2400 rpm. According to Tiara, range at this throttle setting is 345 miles. This is more than ample for the northeast canyons, or working your way through the Bahamas.

If you are into cruise mode, order the optional aft lounge ($1,580). The helm and companion seats are grouped to include a wet bar, cooler, stowage compartments and aft-facing jump seats, so the cockpit accommodates seven guests comfortably. An icemaker and L-shape lounge on the helm deck add more versatility.

A separate freezer means a larger refrigerator for fresh foods.

Tiara builds one of the best helm stations in the business. It is not only beautiful to look at, but practical. The console tilts aft for access to mechanical and electrical systems. Gauges are grouped to starboard and easy to scan. Electronics are directly in front of the operator's eyes. Rocker switches atop the dash are waterproof and quick to identify at a glance. The compass is readable sitting and standing. For 1999, the helm has a deep blue gelcoat to reduce eye strain and glare.

Tiara fabricates its own aluminum windshields, which are finished with urethane paint. The pilasters are narrow and doubled up in the corners, which leaves room for a tempered glass panel that eliminates blind spots. Though I prefer centerline helms on express boats I'm satisfied with this one. Three windshield wipers with washers are standard and an actuator opens a center vent to bring fresh air aboard. A polyproplyene cap atop the frame permits a tighter fit for the canvas top to keep out weather and spray, and grab rails welded to the side frame enhance security when going forward.

Raked hull vents mirror the shape of the side windshield frames. 

The machinery lives in a comfortable environment beneath the helm deck, which includes a new engineroom venting system that draws in fresh air while trapping salt spray. Access for daily fluid checks is through a centerline hatch adjacent to the helmseat. An electric hatch lifter raises the deck 3' for other maintenance. Fit and finish here is as noteworthy as the topsides. A ladder takes you over the centerline-mounted genset so you don't have to jump down into the compartment, or crawl out. Bronze through-hulls and raw-water strainers are easily reached and clearly labeled. Electricals are neatly bundled. A diamond plate floorboard on centerline provides convenient access to the Racor 900s on the forward bulkhead. The house and starting batteries are secured in plastic boxes outboard the engines. The workmanship is yacht quality anywhere you look.


A sliding companionway door leads below. It stows in a receiver and the handle serves as a secondary grab rail. But the neat trick is that Tiara also includes a sliding screen door for those days or nights when you'd rather not run the optional ($5,480) reverse-cycle air conditioning. Even with the screen door, three Bomar hatches and six opening portlights, however, I recommend the a/c option. It will reduce cabin humidity and keep the interior cleaner.

Secured in place with an interference fit, the helm tilts for access to service points. 

Accommodations include an island berth forward, convertible dinette and a pullman-style berth. The galley is opposite the dinette. While no new ground is broken with this design, there is no mistaking the sense of space afforded by the beefy beam. One change I would make, though, is to vent the a/c into the portside head to make it more comfortable on hot summer days. I am less committed on the choice of interior joinery. Teak is standard, but the optional ($3,300) honey ash is tempting. Our test boat also had the optional ($2,660) solid teak and holly sole in lieu of the standard carpert. A teak and holly veneer sole is $1,070.

A privacy door separates the stateroom from the cabin.

Having run into a Lake Michigan head sea on the way to Saugatuck, the trip back to the Tiara dock on Lake Macatawa gave me a chance to sample how the 3500 Open handled a short following sea. It was a comfortable ride and I really appreciated the visibility at the helm as we approached the breakwater which had attracted a collection of fishing boats and personal watercraft. Having learned my lesson in Saugatuck, I backed the Tiara 3500 Open into her slip without touching a piling.