Donzi 38 ZFX Open

Has the skillz to deliver the thrillz.

September 2, 2008

You have a busy weekend planned. Ducking out of work early Friday, you plan to take the kids fishing. Then on Saturday, it’s time to try your luck in the local poker run. Sunday means family time and a lazy day beached at the local cove.

It sounds as if you’ll need three boats to cram it all in, but the Donzi 38 ZFX Open is here to serve your every whim. This boat is a gamer — it has many talents, and you can make great use of each and every one of them.

Step into the 38 ZFX Open’s cockpit through the full transom gate, and you’ll spot five rodholders across the stern. There’s a small sink for cleaning up after prepping bait as well as a line locker. Four inspection hatches make it easy to maintain the steering system and rigging, and the batteries, bilge pumps, and through-hulls are accessible in under-deck lockers. On each side are 6’2″-by-1’7″-by-1’4″ macerated fishboxes with plenty of stowage for whatever monster the kids haul in. Rodracks run up the sides of the cockpit with one dedicated slot for a gaff to starboard.


Ace of the Chase

When the time comes for the poker run on Saturday, you and your three buddies will ride in style in twin standup bolsters with power-activated dropout bottom cushions and an aft leaning post. Everyone is protected behind the wide center console with an extra tall windshield.

Located ahead of the port forward bolster, the helm is set up for offshore running. The instrument panel is a study in understatement with three SmartCraft tachometers that provide scroll-through data on the motors. Proving that the 38 ZFX Open is also a high-performance boat, my test model featured mechanical trim indicators. To starboard of the controls, beneath a splash-resistant panel, all the accessory switches are within easy reach. Above, the electronics box has space for all the latest gear and is set up for easy installation with bus bars. You can stash PFDs in zippered overhead compartments.


Of course, you wouldn’t go near a poker run in a boat that can’t handle the heat. No problem here. With the triple 275-hp Verado outboards, the 38 ZFX Open ran 69.3 mph at 6200 rpm, courtesy of the 22-degree Z-Tech twin-stepped bottom design. That top end is more than enough to pass some pure go-fasts during the contest. Back off to 5000 rpm and the boat cruises at a comfortable 57.2 mph. It also turns in any direction with predictable results, and when the time comes to back into a slip at the end of the day, its triple outboards take you wherever you point it.

Looking for similar performance from an all-around-style center console? Check out the Spectre 34 SC. With triple 275-hp Verados, it runs speeds similar to the 38 ZFX Open ($231,712) and has an open layout that rivals the 38 ZFX Open’s. Taking a slightly different approach to an open deck plan, Italy’s Sessa Marine offers the Open 36, which has full open seating abaft the two-person center console and in the open bow area for $438,000 with triple Yamaha 350-hp outboards. With the Sessa you also get a full cabin belowdecks, with sleeping space for four people in the amidships master stateroom and in the bow cabin.

Suck It Up


Many manufacturers in the go-fast world love to tout their boats’ vacuum-bagged construction. A large bag is placed in the hull after the core is laid on top of the laminate. Then the bag is filled with air to force the resin into the core for better saturation and less weight.

It’s the extra step that Donzi takes on the 38 ZFX Open that sets it apart. Donzi technicians spray on a material called Corebond, a high-intensity adhesive with a putty-like consistency. It’s laid down in a 1⁄8″-thick bead upon which a Corecell closed-cell high-density foam core is placed. This makes the bottom of the hull 1¼” thick. The piece is then vacuum-bagged, sucking the Corebond adhesive through the foam to ensure complete saturation.

Once the core is in place, the balance of the laminate consists of multidirectional fiberglass. Stringers are molded fiberglass and the hull-to-deck joint is bonded with methacrylate adhesive and fiberglass tabbing.


The solid construction is complemented by clean rigging for the triple 275-hp Verado outboards. Four inspection plates provide great access to the steering, cables, and wiring across the transom.

**Quality Time

But wait, you still have family day planned. When nature calls for mom or the kids, there’s the private head in the helm console. As you enter, there’s a 2½’ step down to improve headroom. The backside of the tacklebox is inside the head, which works well because you can lean up against it when you’re sitting on the commode.

As you move forward, you see a truly unique aspect of the 38 ZFX Open. Instead of the cabin that you’d find on most boats this size, there’s a large open bow.

Donzi was smart to put small entertainment-center-style pods at the aft ends of the bowrider. To port beneath a hinged hatch is a wetbar with a sink, three-hole cupholder, and refrigerator. Opposite to starboard is a sink with a pull-up faucet so you can rinse off after a dip in the salty brine, along with an extra-large 2’4″-by-2′-by-2′ locker. The stowage capacity throughout the boat is outstanding.

I could sit facing forward comfortably in the bow lounges. I was in up to my armpits and the bowrails were perfectly placed. Stowage lockers in the decking are a little tricky to get to because you need to pick up the rear of the two hatches before you can hoist the forward one. Once it’s up, the forward locker alone measures 3’6″-by-2′-by-2′.

Normally, I would have scoffed at having seven other people onboard for my test, but the extra crew helped prove this boat’s versatile mission. No matter what you want to do in the 38 ZXF Open, this boat can handle it.


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