words - David Lockwood
Italian boatbuilder Cranchi has blended chic appeal and function with its Zaffiro 34, as David Lockwood discovered

The last time I drove a Cranchi sportscruiser was many moons ago; however, the Italian boatbuilder has been around for many more moons before that. In fact, this family-owned company has been trotting out boats since 1870.

Not that you'd know it by casting an eye over the Zaffiro 34 - a chic conveyance made in the finest of Italian traditions.

Like many Italian flights of fancy, the Zaffiro 34 bows to fashion, finish and go-fast performance. But unlike a lot of Italian boats, this 34-footer also works from a practical perspective. In Italy, that's rare.

The hull of this sexy 34ft sportscruiser is reinforced with Kevlar. It's very smooth running and economical, with twin 230hp KAD 43 Volvo diesels with sterndrives and Duoprops. That could be said of a lot of sportscruisers. But what is rare is the inventory - it far and away exceeds what you will find on most production boats.

Among the optional goodies were air-con, a 4kVa Kohler generator, forward sunpads on the bow; hey, even a bowthruster. The city-savvy boat might covet attention from those living on canal estates who are confronted by low-slung bridges, as it has a hinged moulded radar arch.

But with such a big inventory, the Zaffiro 34 isn't just a sportscruiser - it's also a sports weekender and fast getaway boat. This opinion came about after a boat test that took me offshore during the height of the whale-watching season in Sydney.

As my partner had just acquired her boating licence, I put her behind the wheel. This way, I could enjoy the comforts from a guest's perspective, too. The boat has a lot of comfortable lounges above and below decks. That and the finish wowed us both.

In no particular order, I noticed lovely sisal outdoor carpet that provided relief from the usual marine-grade stuff; a master cabin in the bow with a comfortable island double bed; lovely natural cherrywood joinery and modern manmade suede upholstery; groovy hotel-like reading lights and door handles; perfectly applied wall and ceiling liners; and fully lined oversized hanging lockers.

Among the other nice touches were oval doors into the cabins, full headroom throughout the interior, non-rattling door catches, cross-flow ventilation via hatches with privacy screens and opening portlights, and beautifully moulded fibreglass sections that were curved and therefore bump free.

Aside from the owner's cabin up front, accommodation includes an aft cabin with good-sized twin single berths that convert to a double bed. The aft cabin gains privacy behind a door and boasts a big hanging locker, built-in seat and dresser, and headroom and floor space at the foot of the bed for pulling on your clobber.

The boat's starboard-side bathroom doesn't skimp on space, style or luxury. The moulded liner incorporates a nice round sink, round teak grate and shower curtain for its handheld H/C shower - plus lockers for personals and an electric loo. The 190lt of water should suffice for weekends.

Between the two cabins is the boat's broad but not necessarily long saloon. It comes dressed with a sumptuous curved leather lounge, which is upholstered in Alcantara. There is room to seat four for dinner around the adjustable cherrywood table.

An opening port beside the dinette and at the galley helps keep the air flowing when you're not using air-con. In any case, the galley is equipped with an extractor fan. The two-burner gas stove had a pot holder - another sign that this boat has been designed to be used and not just admired. 

The boat comes with a 65lt fridge, microwave oven, stainless-steel sink big enough to stack plates, a water gauge, waste disposal, lots of drawers and cupboards and, best of all, room to stow an espresso machine and foccacia press.

Outdoors is no less impressive. The stainless-steel deck gear is stylish and robust, with trendy (optional) fender baskets and an intermediate wire on the bowrail. The split bowrail lets you take on guests or set down crew over the bow. The non-skid on the foredeck is effective but subtle.

The twin optional sunpads on the foredeck are easily accessed through the walkthrough windscreen, which has a wiper and step-up dash. The Zaffiro 34's windscreen is the one item of the boat that ostensibly bows to fashion rather than function. It's tinted, which isn't so good when you are wearing sunnies, and it's perhaps a tad too low profile.

Having said that, its design wouldn't affect my purchasing decision. And the boat's two-tiered dash with optional trim tabs, sexy spread of gauges and controls was just excellent.

I thought this was an agreeable dayboat as well as a wonderful weekender down below. Seamless curves arc about the lounges outdoors, making for an easy boat to move about when you are not supine.

The L-shaped co-pilot lounge, which could do with an extra grabrail, can seat two to three people opposite the skipper - who has a single adjustable seat with good lumbar support. Small detail, but the bolster on the helm seat was hard to keep in an upright position when you wanted to create more room to drive on your feet.

Both these beautifully upholstered seats are on the bridgedeck, over which a canopy can be extended for shade. The canopy's struts are held in dedicated clips in underfloor lockers, along with the supplied boathook. Lots of storage space remains underfloor.

Back aft is a second U-shaped lounge to port around a lunch table in the cockpit proper. I was surprised but not disappointed to find a great big moulded icebox under the lounge - big enough to stow a couple of cases of Peroni, at least.

Opposite is an amenities centre with sink, gas-bottle locker, fridge and handy storage space. The grabrails and drinkholder let you fetch a drink while underway. Decant from the sub-lounge icebox and restock the fridge as you need to.

All up, I thought the sculptured outdoor lounges could comfortably accommodate 10 pleasure-seekers. With such a complement and the boat's facilities, you should find an instant party afloat. 

At anchor, the boat's big boarding platform, concealed swim ladder and handheld H/C shower will usher in the swimmers. The central fender basket and big cleats come in handy for berthing, as will the handy shorepower connection.

Insulation was a feature of the engine room. The Cranchi dealer quoted noise levels of 79dba in the cockpit when cruising. I didn't have a sound meter, but I have to agree that this is a quiet boat.

I decamped this boat from the marina very easily using the bowthruster and went hunting for a whale of a time. Hair flailing, eyes watering, we bound out the heads in search of Willy.

Each towering blue swell carried us further afield, and the twin 230hp Volvo diesels made for an expeditious boat. Besides being well groomed, smart and having a first-class finish, the Cranchi offers a consular ride.

Offshore, the boat wasn't phased by some hefty 1.5-2m ocean swells. Trim tabs could be used in crosswinds to help keep the deep-vee hull on an even keel. And acceleration was brisk.

The 34-footer jumped to 18kt at 2500rpm, maintained a comfortable ride at 23kt at 2800rpm, and hit a 34-35kt top speed. The controls fall intuitively to hand at the helm.

The boat turned heads when we pulled into Rushcutters Bay, but driving provided the most fun. My partner thrilled to the whale chase outside the heads, where she and the boat felt comfortable. The Cranchi has the moves and the looks, she said. To which I will add the legs and the luxury to go serious sportscruising.

In short, it's an impressive boat whose quality reflects the pricetag.

PRICE AS TESTED About $399,000 w/ Volvo KAD 43P diesel motors and options
Bowthruster, air-con, generator, sunpads and fender baskets on bow, cockpit fridge, hydraulic trim tabs
PRICED FROM $330,000 w/ 5.0 GXi 270hp Volvo petrol motors
Material: GRP fibreglass
Type: Deep-vee planing hull
Length overall: 11.21m
Hull length: 10.35m
Beam: 3.49m
Draft: About 1.00m (max)
Deadrise: n/a
Weight: Around 6100kg (dry w/ standard engine)
Berths: Four
Fuel: 570 lt
Water: 190 lt
Make/model: Volvo KAD 43P/DP-E
Type: Six-cylinder diesel w/ turbocharging
Rated hp: 230 @ 3900rpm
Displacement: 3.6lt
Weight: About 570kg
Gearboxes (make/ratio): Aquamatic sterndrive
Props: Duoprop
SUPPLIED BY Sydney Boat Sales, Gladesville Bridge Marina, tel (02) 9819 7811 or visit

Published : Friday, 1 October 2004

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.

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