By Toby Haws
Majority of boats that leave marinas all around the Arabian Gulf's waters are off for one thing: to fish.
No matter how much the yacht broker may rave that the Gulf will be the next big cruising destination market, there's no avoiding the fact that the majority of boats that leave the marinas and slips all the way round the warm Arabian Gulf's waters are off for one thing: to fish. Not the pottering, European view of fishing, but more the US and Australian approach to fishing; with high-powered, high speed, open fishing boats to take the sportfisher well offshore to where the grounds are good and then bring them back in time to cook them over an open fire.
Crossing the realms between racing boat and fishing launch, the modern Gulf fisherman wants to play hard and fish hard, with no compromise to hanging around. While many manufacturers claim they offer the best of all worlds, very few can quote a successful fishing pedigree with the kind of fast ‘poker run' performance like US manufacturer Donzi.
Brought to the Middle East by Kuwait-based Alshaya Marine, and given pride of place at the Kuwait Boat Show, the Donzi 35ZF is no soggy muffin with its hand laid bi- and triaxial webbing and full polyester resin construction; the deck being cored with Divinycell, extra end-grain balsa cored hull sides and for extra strength, the transom is also vacuum bagged.
With high topsides and twin steps dug aggressively into the hull, the sheerline curves round to a narrow pointy stem angled to ensure the bow rides high through any head sea, a good sea keeping design for ploughing into weather at speed. Straked back from the stem, chunky, aggressive chines are styled in a no-compromise fashion to scoop air under the hull to the amidship steps when planing, or helping to keep a tight grip when digging in for a tight turn. Keeping the decks as clear as possible for users and their equipment, forward navigation lights are integrated into the hull, while a protruding anchor roller enables anchor launch and retrieval well forward of damaging the stem.
Maximising deck space for fishing or seating while underway, a bimini-covered centre console design houses the helm and navigation station, and through a bi-fold door to starboard, a WC compartment with standing headroom, freshwater shower and gelcoat finish to allow for quick hose-down clean-up.
In front of the centre console windshield, a two person forward-facing bench hides an isolated cool chest under the cushioned bench, while filling the rest of the forepeak area, a large cushioned sunpad with lockers underneath leads forward to the anchor locker set on the bow to keep all mooring lines clear underway. The use of pop-up cleats also ensures a minimal chance of the line fisher snagging on anything while engrossed in their sport, while moving around in any weather conditions is made easy by the superfluity of secure handholds.
Facing the well-equipped helm console, two mechanical dropout vinyl-covered bolster seats are comfortable resting places for longer cruising or piltage, and can also be adjusted to serve as leaning posts when speeding through heavier seas.
Though such performance seats are not usually specified on fishing boats, Donzi's racing experience adds the knowledge that all owners require a comfortable and sociable place to rest during longer journeys, whether standing or seated. A clear-lidded storage locker dominates the centre of the helm console, with a red navigation light within to aid night time navigation, above which a combination chartplotter and fishfinder illuminates direction of travel and what lies beneath.
All breakers and switches are positioned out of the way under a safety panel so as not to be triggered by a misplaced hand or accidentally knocked in a heavier sea. Large Gaffrig tachometers, speedo and Mercury Smartcraft gauges with digital inlays relay all engine information, from trim to fuel level and water pressure for the triple 250hp Mercury Verado outboard configuration, further indicating Donzi's delivery of racing performance.
Unleashing this power, the Mercury Racing Zero Effort throttles fall instantly to the right hand, urging the pilot to push the capabilities of both hull and engines. Overhead in the bimini, more lockable storage is contained to ensure documents or valued equipment is kept safe from sight.
With good handholds provided by the bimini frame, it is easy to negotiate around the centre console and its ample provision of fishing tackle boxes and rod storage built in to the superstructure.
The fish boxes on either side drain to a macerator that grind down any fish scales and ice, so there is not a slick of detritus left when it is pumped overboard. Looking past the plentiful drinks holders and stereo speakers that help hours on the water pass by quickly, we find more fish lockers under the cockpit sole, with equally good access to the battery bank and internal electrics and mechanical systems.
With further rod holders on the bimini and bulwarks, no-one could have an excuse for not bringing their favourite rod, while the aft transom bench covers a further massive ice box storage for either catch or beverage, depending in the topic of the outing.
Provision behind the centre console is also made for scuba diving tanks, while access to the water for the tank-laden diver is made easy through the wide transom gate to port.
A further baitwell and sink with fresh and raw water washdown is also to be found on the transom, with a cutting board lid covering the compartment. Much thought has been given to the ergonomics of those aboard a moving boat, with the provision of handholds and by padding the bulwarks inside to provide a good thigh-bracing position for those with or without a reel to fight with.
But as previously mentioned, Donzi prides itself on the delivery of its boats, not just their provision. With the chines scooping air under the hull to the 22-degree deadrise, the 35ZF was impressive in its uptake, hitting the plane in only 4.5 seconds, with 42 knots reached in a respectable 15 secs. Top speeds, even in the warm Gulf waters are around the 52-knot range, depending on the boat's loading.
The Gulf's small chop was easily breached by the Donzi's ten-metre hull stretching the wavelength, while the handling and sea keeping abilities were, as expected, solid and unpronounced.