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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Cranchi 33 Endurance

The Cranchi 33 Endurance, a sleek, blue-hulled express cruiser, generated some talk among attendees at last fall’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show for her streamlined profile, artistic centerline radar mast with arrow-shape top, and centerline helm station. Truly a different-looking boat, she was also reported to dart across the water like a flyingfish. So when I got the call to test her, I high-tailed it from New York to Fort Lauderdale to meet up with Cranchi’s U.S. representative James Clayton.

Prior to setting out for the test, Clayton took out a special plug-in tool that interfaced his laptop to one of the standard 300-hp Volvo Penta KAD300 electronic (EDC) stern drive diesels, which would allow us to record our boat’s fuel-flow data. To access the engines, Clayton flicked a switch next to the aft sunpad, and a hydraulic ram lifted it to reveal the powerplants. Even with the sunpad up, I found twisting and contorting necessary to get into the engine compartment. However, once I was in there, all regular maintenance items were accessible.

Clayton took his position at the helm station, which is fitted with a burlwood dash; analog gauges that show fuel levels, trim position, engine and oil temperature; and a standard Raymarine Raychart 530 Plus with seven-inch display. I made my way forward to release the bow line and found the side decks were tight for my 101?2-size feet. I’d have been better served accessing the foredeck from underneath, via the hatch in the middle of the foredeck.

Clayton started the engines, which were coupled to Volvo Penta’s own Duoprop drives (aka DP-Gs), eased the optional ($2,761) Volvo Penta bow thruster to starboard, and pushed the Volvo Penta single-lever electronic controls forward. As we motored towards the ocean, Clayton handed me the wheel, and I felt the 33’s Teleflex responsive power-assisted hydraulic steering (I’d later find out it was just as good operating at high speeds) and the Volvo Penta controls comfortably under my right palm. The centerline helm made it easy to determine the boat’s position in relation to nearby bulkheads and other boats, which made close-quarter handling a breeze.

Clayton took back the wheel as I readied my own test gear. The sea was tabletop flat, so he firewalled the diesels, and we took off with exhilarating force. The 33’s Volvo Penta Duoprop stern-drive propulsion offered superb directional thrust, making all turns immediate and purposeful.

I was gaining confidence in the 33’s abilities as we prepared to check her speed, and Clayton wanted to demonstrate her outstanding turning abilities. I’d estimate our boat speed at around 30-plus mph as Clayton turned the wheel hard-over to port. The turn was sharp, and it felt like I was on a roller coaster at Disney World. She handled it brilliantly. That turn was so much fun, it was criminal.

Everything was going according to plan, until I asked Clayton if the boat could make that turn at WOT. Although as a boat tester I’m always looking to find a boat’s strengths and limits, sometimes the envelope gets pushed too hard. The two of us discussed the maneuver and braced ourselves—at least we thought we did. Clayton pushed the Volvo Penta electronic controls full forward, and as the boat reached 47 mph, he put the wheel hard-over to port, and suddenly the 33 heaved to starboard and snapped back to port. I had a what-were-we-thinking moment and vowed to not repeat that turn again.

Clayton and I wondered where our “great” idea went wrong. First, we never should’ve done that maneuver. Even though the boat could make the turn, we weren’t prepared for it. Clayton told me after the test, “I don’t think these [stern-drive-powered] boats are designed for that amount of wheel at full speed. The Duoprop has an enormous grip on the water.” He added that he believes any stern-drive-powered boat asked to do that turn would have produced the same result. I concur. So don’t try hard-over, WOT turns at home. Got that?

We were fortunate not to roll, especially with the 33’s deep-V hull form and her heavy-duty but lightweight build. Her hull is a combination of hand-laid fiberglass and Kevlar, which Clayton says Cranchi uses to achieve maximum strength with minimum weight. The 33 comes in around 14,000 pounds (dry weight).

Also of interest is the fact that a lot of Cranchi’s construction is done by robots. Yep, you heard me right. Traditional labor is necessary for tasks like laying up fiberglass, but work such as gelcoating, precutting fiberglass, taking out rough edges on fiberglass, and cutting wood and Starboard are left to the machines. Clayton explained that use of this technology reduces labor costs and allows the 33 Endurance to have a reasonable base price of $199,900. Cranchi also uses Resin Transfer Molding (RTM) to construct the cockpit wet bar as well as many other parts. RTM is a closed-mold system (unlike laying up fiberglass in an open mold). Fiberglass or other reinforcement material is placed into the mold, after which the mold is closed and resin is injected and saturates the material. The result is that less finish work is necessary in comparison to a traditionally hand-laid fiberglass part—i.e. no sanding and fairing.

Our roller-coaster ride was over, and as a stiff northwester barreled in to turn our tabletop sea into a steep chop, it was time to get in those test runs. With the diesels hitting 3800 rpm, the 33 managed a smooth-riding top speed of 46.6 mph across the white-tipped water. And a quiet 46.6 mph, too: My decibel meter only hit 87 dB-A at WOT (normal conversation is 65 dB-A). At her top end, the 33 has a 198-NM range on 166 gallons of fuel. Take her down to 34.2 mph at 3000 rpm, and you can add about another 30 NM onto her range.

Although she’s high-performance, the 33 is also exceptionally finished as evidenced in the high-gloss American cherry below decks. Cherrywood is the only wood option, which again helps Cranchi keep the price down. The grain was well-matched and reflected light from the saloon’s six overhead lights as well as the natural light coming in from the two overhead hatches. This was a welcome change from some express boats I’ve been on, where the below-decks area was so dark it made me feel sensory-deprived.

The saloon, which offers 6’3” headroom, has a U-shape Alcantara lounge forward. This area, with a centerline dinette table, is a great place for lunch on the hook, or drop the table and it’s siesta time for two, while an aft berth accommodates another couple. Everyone shares the lone head with shower, aft of the lounge to starboard. The 33’s accommodations are adequate for a long weekend (longer if there are only two people onboard).

Stowage is at a premium onboard the 33, yet her galley cabinets have enough room for a weekend’s worth of stores. The galley is also standard with a one-burner Kenyon electric/alcohol stove, which I suspect would be used more for reheating than cooking.

One place where room is not an issue is the teak-accented cockpit, an eye-friendly departure from many of the blinding-white cockpits I’ve experienced. The benchseat aft is a comfy place to sit, and that RTM-built wet bar to port reduces trips below decks for beverages.

Cranchi Florida
(954) 784-7833

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.