Donzi 28 ZF Review

"Whether the seas are dead on the bow, slightly off, abeam or following, the Donzi 28 ZF runs hot, straight and true on all points."

October 26, 2001

Most people don’t realize how difficult it is to successfully blend a high-performance boat with a top-flight fishing machine. Think of creating a big, sport-utility truck that can handle any terrain with the performance of a Ferrari Testarossa. Several companies try and – according to their backgrounds – succeed at one half or the other but don’t achieve the balance truly needed. Donzi, a name revered among ocean racers, has advanced its new 28 ZF to an unbelievable level of balance and function.

Granted, seas on the day we ran the 28 ZF maxed out at 2 feet. But I still ran the boat at wide-open throttle in those conditions, which I’d hesitate to do on many boats. This boat, rated for twin 250-hp outboards, ran a pair of carbureted Mercury 2.5-liter 200s. So while I was able to eke out only 56.8 mph at 5,600 rpm with full fuel and four people, I have no doubt that with twin 250s this boat runs well over 60 mph.
You’ll find running into a head sea in this boat a real treat. Cross a wave and you see
but hardly feel it much. Launch off a wave and the boat lands relatively flat and level in very smooth and cushioned fashion. Overall, whether the seas are dead on the bow, slightly off, abeam or following, the Donzi 28 ZF runs hot, straight and true on all points.
In one way, the 28 can even protect you from yourself. For example, in a sharp, high-speed turn, the 28 will bleed off speed rapidly, reducing the chance of anyone from being thrown to the side.
The Donzi fishing models all have stepped hulls. The steps are the notches you sometimes see along the chines of performance boats. The function of the hull steps is to aerate the bottom, giving better lift, higher speed, less drag and improved stability. In other words, the boat runs better and more smoothly in a chop than on calm water.
All this extraordinary success doesn’t come without compromise. As is the case with all performance boats, the engines are mounted fairly high on the transom. While this enhances high-speed running, don’t expect gut-wrenching hole-shots. You’ll need to come up on plane more gradually to avoid over-revving. Once on plane, throttle response is instantaneous.

Historically, performance boats have sacrificed stability when trolling or drifting, especially in a beam sea. The narrow beam and deep-V bottom conspire to provide a short, steep roll moment. Donzi’s two-step hull and substantial trim-tab pockets greatly improve this slow-running performance over its competitors. Since I fish live baits quite frequently, I particularly appreciate the 28 ZF’s drifting abilities. It can either sit steadily beam-to the wind or, if you set the boat stern-to the seas, you can easily steer downwind without power by simply turning the engines.
There’s really no excuse for any fishing boat today to have a cluttered, line-snagging deck. Donzi provides an exceptionally clean deck with all pop-up cleats, an optional low-profile bow rail and outriggers mounted on the T-top rather than in the gunwales.
Of course, fish boxes that drain into macerators, a more than adequate livewell and a very well-designed, roomy cockpit (over 83 square feet) all add to the superior fishability of the Donzi 28 ZF. The fact that the fishing aspects of this boat have been meticulously tended to by champion SKA anglers shows through.


Design and Construction
This Donzi has the most advanced composite construction the company has ever offered. All-hand-laid fiberglass with vinylester resin (not just a skin coat) assures the greatest possible osmotic blistering protection possible. Polyester gelcoat and Diamont paint (the same stuff Mercedes and Porsche use) will keep the finish gleaming even under a hot tropical sun. Divinycell coring makes the boat light but strong enough for the mind-boggling forces an offshore-capable performance boat undergoes.
But the little things are what really impress me. For example, one of the nicest features is the cushioned bolster at knee level on the console. Not only does the angled footrest allow you to brace yourself well, the knee cushion allows you (and your companion) to adjust to a different braced position and still be comfortable.
Again, you’ll find some small compromise in the console interior. Many 31-footers today offer a stand-up head, shower, berth and heaven knows what else in the center console. Due to the step-hull design and the placement of long-range offshore fuel tanks, the console interior is – well, just the size of a normal, standard console. Remember that kingfish anglers designed much of the fishing aspect of this boat. These folks think nothing of running 100 miles here and 100 miles there to find fish. This boat’s fuel capacity accommodates that fishing style.
You’ll find many more features leading to performance and fishing benefits aboard the Donzi 28 ZF – certainly too many to mention here. If Don Aronow (the originator of Donzi) were alive today, he’d certainly be proud of how far these boats have come.


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