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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Cranchi Zaffiro 36

Zaffiro is Italian for sapphire, a gem known for its strength; sapphire ranks 9 out of 10 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness (diamond is a 10). The jewel's strength owes much to its density—there's a lot of material in a compact space. Much like its namesake, the new launch from Cranchi is a tightly packed jewel. But the real feat of the builder is making the boat feel so open.

When I walk up to the Zaffiro 36, tied alongside the dock in Pompano Beach, Florida, it isn't surprising that the first thing I notice is her swim platform. Indeed, it actually comprises 3'5" of her 36'6" LOA. That left the designers just over 32 feet in which to fit two diesel stern drives, alfresco sitting areas, and a helm, galley, saloon, head, VIP, and master stateroom. Not only did they succeed, but the arrangement works well, in part because it was designed from scratch.

The biggest factor in the space-saving design is beneath the C-shape settee, just forward of the swim platform. The entire settee, along with the dining table and a large portion of the deck, lifts on hydraulic rams to reveal twin 300-hp Volvo Penta D4s mounted on Volvo Penta engine mounts that are in turn attached to two transverse stainless steel supports. Tucked away to starboard is a standard compact 4-kW Fisher Panda genset with soundshield, while to port is a galvanic isolator, also standard.

I climb in between the engines and am immediately impressed with the accessibility the big hatch offers. Not only can I reach all major maintenance spots, but I can also put my fingers on some out-of-the-way components such as the back of the trim pumps and steering reservoir, making them relatively easy to work on. A removable StarBoard plank runs across the forward section of the engine compartment, its primary purpose being a step. But it also doubles as a cover for both fuel lines and three batteries.

While the engine hatch does offer great access, the roughly half-inch-wide white groove it forms abutting the rest of the deck when it's closed is not straight. Also, small stowage compartments further interrupt the flow of the teak, and the biaxial alignment of the wood (in order to protect the butt ends) makes the deck look a bit like a patchwork quilt. But for many, including me, the irregular design is a small price to pay for engine access this good.

The helm area, forward and up a small step, contains one of the smarter space-saving tricks aboard: a brushed-aluminum accordion saloon door. It slides up instead of folding out and curves to allow for more headroom in the companionway. The design leaves room for a wet bar to port, complete with 'fridge and sink, as well as a helm station with benchseating for two to starboard.

The position of the molded-in helm seems rather conspicuous—it's halfway between centerline and the starboard side. If you're trying to save space, why not move it all the way over? My answer comes when I go below to the master stateroom. Here, 6'7" feet of headroom to starboard is formed from the hollow underside of the helm station. It's significantly more than the 5'21⁄2" clearance above the C-shape settee that occupies the rest of the space. Pulling out a long slab of mahogany, which sits on two grooves along the edge of either bunk, creates a 78"x671⁄4" berth that can double as an extra lounge in the daytime, yet another way to take full advantage of the space aboard. The system is not as secure as, say, a deep dovetail-style groove, but it does the job and is much more cost effective. Not a bad idea for an item one rarely sees.

As I exit the master suite into the saloon, I notice two features which reveal that my test boat is a prototype. The first is a lack of molding around the entrance to the master; the other is unsealed wood flooring in the saloon. The lack of a coating on the sole means that little scraps of food, like potato chips, will leave oily stains that require cleaning product to remove, instead of just a wipe with a napkin. James Clayton, head of Cranchi USA, assures me that the molding will be taken care of when the Zaffiro reaches full production. The flooring is left bare so customers can choose which sealant they prefer.

In the saloon I begin to appreciate the design team's work in maximizing food-prep and lounging spaces. The galley is to port, and the stairs that lead down from topsides—each step has a compartment in it for stowage—only partially separate the galley from the rest of the saloon. This leaves room for the cook to heat food with either the two-burner Schott Ceran electric cooktop or the Tappan convection oven and microwave. The bulkhead that divides the VIP from the saloon tilts outward toward the bow, increasing the elbow room at the bench-style dinette. It seems to affect only the VIP by utilizing some of its floorspace—a smart trade-off, since there is still plenty of room to stand and dress. What else do you really use that space for, anyway?

But you use your boat for much more, including the pleasures of driving her, so we start the engines to see how she handles. We pull away from the dock and head to a well-protected section of the Intracoastal Waterway to collect our data.

The water here is smooth, and so is the Zaffiro's acceleration. As I push the Volvo Penta throttles past 1200 rpm, I hear a high-pitch whirring, the telltale sign of superchargers (these engines have both superchargers and turbochargers). Clayton tells me to speed up to 2400 rpm, and when I do, the turbos kick in and the sound quickly dissipates. I bring her back down to a comfortable 2000 rpm in order to test her handling. The power-assisted steering is tight and sporty, and I have a fine time leaving big S-wakes to splash against the walls of the canal.

But smooth water play isn't the proper test of a vessel's seakeeping abilities, so I take her through the ebbing tide in Hillsboro Inlet and out into stacking seas. The waves past the breakwater are running a good three to five feet. I keep the engines well shy of their 3600-rpm-WOT rating, cruising along around 2500 rpm (26 mph). We run at the waves at angles, slicing into most of them due to the 25-degree deadrise amidships. We catch a few hard hits, but they come mostly during trim-tab adjustment or when I change headings. I feel safe and in control the entire time, and as I pass a dive boat, the guests onboard snap pictures of us playing in the seas. All the while the Zaffiro was pleasurable to drive and handled herself well in conditions that would challenge many boats in her size range. Her hand-laid-fiberglass structure felt strong and stalwart, with never a rattle or groan. In short, her toughness lived up to her namesake.

She was like a sapphire in another way, too. The finest of these gems are translucent, so even in their density they appear open. The 36 is like that. Her openness is a result of mixing smart design items—such as the engine hatch—with a thoughtful layout. It's not everyday you find a full-beam master, well-laid-out saloon, and a VIP on a 32-foot hull. She's a rare jewel indeed.

For more information on Cranchi Boats, including contact information, click here.

The rattling of a bimini top can drive some boaters up the wall, forcing them to either slow down or hold onto the shade's frame with one hand so that they can continue to enjoy their cruise.

Thankfully Cranchi sought out a better solution: adjustable tensioners on all the top's framework. With a simple twist, you can snug the bimini to the correct pressure given the conditions of the day. We tried it out during our test, and the Zaffiro 36's top never budged.

Taking the bimini down is just as easy: All you need to do is loosen the tensioners and fold the top down.—G.R.

This article originally appeared in the August 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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