Donzi's new 29 ZF is available in two versions: a center-console configuration and the cuddy model we recently put through its paces off Duck Key, Florida. Whether you're running for deep water in the Gulf, targeting the canyons for tuna, or fishing far and wide on a tournament day anywhere along the coast, the advantages of the cuddy design may well be the perfect complement to your fishing strategy. The 29 ZF expresses Donzi's recognition of the importance of speed in combination with a layout dedicated to serous fishing. It's also the approach that has given Donzi a solid standing in the Southern Kingfish Association circuit.
And then there is simply the ability of a Donzi to handle the ocean, which was a big comfort as we headed out the channel, opened up the twin 225-hp Mercury OptiMax outboards and pointed the bow toward the Gulf Stream. The green water inshore was a riot of chop coming from all directions, with a 20-knot wind out of the northeast. It was not a day you'd choose to go fool around on the water, but it was perfect for a boat test.
Both models of the 29 ZF are based on the same stepped-hull design, which is built for speed. The relatively narrow beam-to-length of the 29 makes it hesitate a bit more than a wider boat as it gets up on plane, but that's pretty academic once the hull is up and doing what it knows how to do - run fast! The length allowed us to bridge the chop, and the hull's ability to cut the wavetops kept us level and comfortable when loping along at 4000 rpm. The hull stuck to the water and, when it didn't, landed softly. Given the conditions, the ride was surprisingly comfortable and secure.
The high-density foam in the helm seat/leaning post is great. The design allows passengers to choose between a racing-style bolster and a conventional seat with the flip of a lever. Behind this convertible arrangement is a four-rod rocket launcher, and there's room beneath for a 96-quart cooler. The 29 knocked down the spray very effectively; however, spray is inevitable, and the configuration of the T-top, radio box and half-height windshield demands some modification if you plan on running in tough conditions. The windshield eliminates direct spray, but the drip-back off the overhead radio compartment into the helm station is annoying. The problem could be easily solved with a full front curtain or windshield that runs to the T-top.
Cruising at 30 to 35 mph across and down-sea, the boat responded nicely to the challenging conditions. Tab response was quick and sure. When we nudged the Zero Effort throttles forward and kicked the speed up to 45 mph, the 29 came into its own and quite simply dominated the conditions. Pushing the speed past the comfort level, we were able to pull 54 mph at 5200 rpm. The hull maintained control and maneuverability, but it's not a ride you'd like to make unless you absolutely had to. Still, the 29 proved it could take it if the passengers could.
Tight-in maneuverability is excellent. The hull backs nicely to both sides and spins easily and instantly with very little throttle when the engines are reversed. The response and accuracy promise excellent handling when you have to move quickly to keep a cantankerous fish within gaffing or release range.
That wasn't a problem on our test day, but we did spend some time dragging baits along the edge of the reef. From the small transom live well to the main live well beneath the transom seat (total capacity is 50 gallons) to the flush-mount rod holders in the covering boards, everything is right where you need it to be.
The 29 features twin, four-foot-long macerated fishboxes in the deck, and the cockpit layout illustrates Donzi's knowledge of fishing. The washdown bib is handy in the port corner. To starboard, the transom door leads to a step-up for easy platform access. Beneath each gunwale are racks for four rods, so you can carry eight outfits, ready to go. Top-hinged access at the front of the console leads to additional storage and room for a head.
The cuddy is roomy, with more than six feet of stretch-out space. There's additional storage below the sleeping platform and handy cargo-net storage areas along the hullsides. With a deck-level step-through and twin step-ups onto the bow deck in each forward corner, the cabin nestles into the bow unobtrusively, and adds very little weight to the forward portion of the boat. It's not a consideration, given the center-console configuration, in terms of performance. Donzi Marine, Sarasota, FL; (941) 727-0622;