Gulf Craft Ambassador 32


With a seafaring history going back thousands of years, it’s unsurprising that the United Arab Emirates is home to one of the world’s most prolific boatbuilders – Gulf Craft Inc. The company’s new Ambassador 32, writes Gary Lovell, will sit easily with our market.

Gulf Craft Ambassador 32
Gulf Craft Ambassador 32
This boat is easy on the eye: just a nice, solid-looking, stylish but practical shape. And
despite attempts by the local agent (Gulf Craft New Zealand Ltd) to ‘dress’ the boat for fishing (rocket launcher, game poles and bait board), for me this Ambassador is the kind of boat I’d throw the kids in for a weekend away and not have to worry too much about them.
Perhaps if I were a keen fisher my view of the boat would be different – and I can’t argue that the large cockpit and wide platform are certainly a practical platform for casting a line and retrieving those 20kg kingfish other people seem to catch. But for me, the portofino boarding platform is an ideal place for launching and retrieving kids.

Gulf Craft Inc. produces fibreglass launches ranging from 31 to 85 feet, all certified to US Coastguard safety standards. The company’s proximity to the large, wealthy European and Mediterranean markets, coupled with a tax-free environment and access to a large, labour pool enables it to produce very price-competitive vessels.
This Ambassador 32 – the first in the country – is destined for the Dreamboats charter fleet in Tauranga, and will give clients another, very comfortable boating option.

Styling

It has a moulded look with no real foredeck: the cabin top rises gently from the prow back to the wheelhouse. A gentle lateral curve makes this a reasonably stable platform and the slight indentations to both sides of the cabin top are great spots for sun worshippers.

The saloon/wheelhouse starts about 3.3m back from the bow and the curved windscreen is topped with a high bullnose leading edge, enhancing the boat’s no-nonsense looks. The top itself is reasonably flat, with two large moon hatches (they lift slightly or slide right back). It runs back to an arch at the rear, which leaves just enough room on the trailing edge for the rocket launcher.

A spacious cockpit (2.87m by 2.53m) has enough height to the coamings to leave you at ease while the kids play. Access to the boarding platform is a walkthrough with a clear acrylic, swinging gate. Cockpit sides are smooth (no shelves) so the area can be cleaned with a brush and a hose in a couple of minutes.

Set into a recess in the transom is a well-padded, comfortable fold-down seat with solid, tubular legs. Under a large hatch towards the rear of the cockpit sits Volvo D6-310 diesel engine (driving a DPH duoprop sterndrive). Gulf Craft Inc also offers an optional layout – twin 200hp outboard engines.

There’s allows plenty of room around the engine and the wide hatch gives good access to both sides. The forward cockpit hatch offers large storage potential and, because the two compartments are separated by a removable panel rather than a fixed bulkhead, the forward end of the engine is accessible through this hatch.


Saloon

Stepping through the sliding glass door into the saloon takes you into a world of comfort bordering on luxury, with well-padded leatherette seats surrounding a cherrywood table that offers dining space for four adults (five at a pinch).

It’s a roomy area, with plenty of light from the surround windows and two sliding hatches in the roof. A large storage bin (under the aft end of the bench seat), could be used for a freezer unit. The practical teak and holly veneer floor adds to the sense of luxury, as does the cherry wood fascia above the windows extending right around the saloon.

Opposite the seating is a Corian benchtop, fitted with an upstand on three sides. It contains a single-ring, electric ceramic cooktop, a good-sized sink and a reasonable preparation area. A 12 volt, front-opening fridge, a bank of three drawers and a storage locker sit below the benchtop.

Storage in the galley is a little disappointing and could be improved with the addition of shelving above the bench for mugs and other upright containers. I can also see many New Zealand owners replacing the electric cooktop with a two-burner gas unit. The inverter powers any other electric appliances.

Just forward of the galley is the helm position with a large, comfortable, adjustable seat, upholstered to match the saloon seating. The dash is laid out in a no-nonsense way with plenty of room for additional instruments.


Accommodation

Forward and two steps down from the saloon, you arrive in a short passageway. Ahead is the main cabin, to starboard is the head and shower, and to port is the entrance to the second double cabin.

The main cabin’s berth – large and oriented diagonally – creates just under two metres of sleeping length and a ton of width. The cabin is provided with one hanging locker and two smaller lockers, while under the berth two drawers offer enough clothing storage for an extended cruise.

Shelves line each side of the cabin’s forward section. The attractive, cherry wood finish is enhanced by the daylight coming through portholes (one each side) and an oval skylight in the roof.

A double berth in the second cabin extends under the saloon floor. Headroom above the berth is increased at the head end by utilising the space afforded by the saloon seat above. An ante room in this cabin gives full height for dressing, and storage is provided by shelves above the head of the bed, two lockers in the forward bulkhead and a bench seat.
The head is reasonably roomy for a 32-footer and the teak grating under the shower is a nice touch. Box-like container shelves behind the vanity give really practical storage for the accessories women like to have in the bathroom.


Performance

Out on the water the Ambassador 32 feels solid and comfortable. The Volvo D310 reacts effortlessly to more throttle and the boat gets up on to the plane quickly. With the sliding cabin door open the engine noise makes conversation difficult, but slide it shut and the noise level drops dramatically, allow normal conversation.

In flat water the engine hummed along at WOT (3500 rpm), producing just over 34 knots on the chart plotter. Dropping down to a more fuel efficient 3000 rpm, the speed eased to 29 knots. Figures produced by Coastline Marine show that 2800 – 3000 rpm gives the most economical operation, burning about 1.6 litres of fuel per nautical mile (between 40 and 47 litres per hour).

Seated on the upholstered helm seat, the boat feels smooth – a sense underscored by the mahogany steering wheel and the silky electronic throttle which elicits immediate response from the engine. Turns are comfortable and precise and the boat behaves well in chop. Good freeboard and a deep reverse chine kept the boat dry. In the rougher water there is some noticeable banging down in the cabin area, but it didn’t intrude on the enjoyment of the ride.
Cruising back to the marina found us in a strong current-against-wind chop, and in the interests of comfort we eased the throttle back. A glance at the chartplotter caused a double take – we were still doing 16 knots even if it did felt like eight or nine.

The Ambassador 32 feels larger than its 9.88m and provides good space in all areas – cockpit, saloon, and cabins. For family cruising I can’t say I’ve been in a launch that I like better, and it will make a nice fishing platform – but don’t dare get the upholstery grubby.
For cruising and partying in style this is the boat we should all own, and at $285,000 it is terrific value for money – even if you don’t own an oil well or two.

Specifications Ambassador 32 (Price as tested $285,000)

LOA 9.88m
LWL 8.05
Beam 3.25m
Deadrise (transom) 20o
Displacement 5300 kg
Engine Volvo D6-310
Fuel capacity 560 litres
Water 200 litres

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