The scene at Harbour Towne Marina was reminiscent of a Discovery Channel special on worker bees, and this was an active hive. In every direction that I looked I saw both large and small vessels on the hard and in various states of refit and repair. The air was full of the sound of wheels grinding away and hi-los moving about as a wickedly sunny, hot, early south Florida morning unfolded. In the neatly arranged slips that outline this massive Dania Beach, Florida, facility, a cadre of new boats waited like beauty queens longing to hear their names called. With so many choices for my eyes to see and my brain to register, I was bordering on a blissful state of boat-watching overload. But then one craft caught my full attention, the Cranchi M40 ST.
Her profile — at once striking and refined — sports a raked forward windshield, which provides this Italian-import express cruiser with a sense of motion even when she’s idle. That forward window’s expanse, which is just momentarily interrupted by supporting mullions at the corners of the fiberglass superstructure, offers the helmsman an unimpeded view forward while getting on plane and motoring along at all speeds. Equally clean vistas can be found through the side windows. (I later discovered a brief inboard sight-line loss during some hard-over turns made at speed, which is the result of this deep-V vessel’s moderate inside heel. The takeaway here is to look to your inboard and outboard sides before making these types of maneuvers because the M40 is so much fun to drive you’ll want to slalom her across the sea like a skier cutting through gates.)
This cruiser’s nimble nature can be attributed, in part, to her sterndrive power-plant configuration; my test vessel was outfitted with optional Volvo Penta 330-horsepower D6 six-cylinder diesels (300 hp Volvo Penta D6s are standard) matched up to DP Duoprop drives. During my wheel time, I noted that these motors spooled up in rapid fashion, getting the M40 over the hump and on plane seemingly instantaneously, and a moment later she was off to the races.
At wide-open throttle (3,250 rpm per her analog gauges), she hit a watch-the-hat-on-your-head top average speed of 33.2 knots while the motors burned a total of 30 gph. Considering her standard 264-gallon fuel capacity and accounting for a 10 percent reserve, the M40 can cruise for about 263 nautical miles (or 1.11 nmpg) at this velocity. If the ocean conditions were calmer (four-plus-footers greeted us outside the inlet), I’d have been tempted to shoot across the Gulf Stream for a grouper sandwich in Bimini. After all, it would’ve taken me only about 90 minutes to get there. (Editors note: The M40’s Volvos are rated at 3,500 rpm but sea conditions precluded our crew from running speed trials in open water. Because we had limited real estate to operate the performance part of the test, the builder reported that she couldn’t be fully trimmed out and her motors’ rated rpm and top speed realized. Cranchi says her WOT speed should be 37 knots.)
This boat runs most efficiently while the motors are turning 2,250 rpm. Here she sports a comfortable 23-knot cruise speed with those diesels sipping 18 gallons per hour for 1.28 nmpg and a range of 304 nautical miles.
The power plants are readily serviced via the tender garage, which is comprised of Kevlar and carbon fiber, contributing to this vessel’s lightweight strength. (Her hull is fabricated from fiberglass that is reinforced with Kevlar.) Daily checks can be accomplished via an access hatch in the teak-covered cockpit sole.
My test vessel was also equipped with a joystick control system, which is standard on the M40. I’ve had the opportunity to handle a variety of pod-type and jet-drive-stick systems over the years and noted that this sterndrive one is quite robust.
There are two settings for the sterndrive, each one with a particular rpm limit set at the touch of a button on the base of the stick. In my past experiences, I preferred to go with the higher setting more times than not because I like knowing I can really lean into it when I want it or need it to counter wind and/or current. I started off on the M40 with the system settled in at the higher rpm position out of habit, but I soon found myself overcompensating on input. (See “Trying Too Hard” in the July issue.) I decided to bring it back to the lower rpm setting, which reduced my initial monkey moves.
One thing that falls into place without any adjustment is the M40’s layout, both on the bridge deck and belowdecks. With her starboard-side U-shape cockpit seating area for six to eight guests within reach of the wet bar, two more seating areas a step away and the helm forward all within earshot, this is an alfresco setup for days and nights on the hook with friends (and maybe some rum too). Pull back that retractable soft top (the ST in M40 ST), and everyone can work on a tan while under way.
The same effective use of space is found belowdecks. Those sterndrives are set far enough aft to enable Cranchi to fit in a full-beam (13-foot-3-inch) stateroom under the helm/cockpit area. My test boat’s space was equipped with three single berths, which makes it an ideal spot for the kids. Her forepeak master stateroom is outfitted with a step-up queen-size berth. Add the two en suite heads to these sleep areas, and a family of five can cruise comfortably for weekends or longer. A cozy galley here allows for simple meals, and a lounge across from it looks a like a good place for rainy-day reading. Thanks to that large overhead windshield, natural light floods in from above and eliminates any cavelike feeling.
For years Cranchi has been able to take advantage of every inch of onboard space because its quality control is strong. This is partly attributed to the robots. Yes, the builder uses robots to build a good portion of its boats, which ensures that every screw, cut and the like are done the same way every time. It’s an exacting process that results in a solidly constructed vessel.
I discovered this when my test M40 was running at cruise speed over, across and through the rolling sea with nary a creak or a groan coming from anywhere on board. (See a video of my sea trial here.)
If you’re looking for a sporty performer that can run in a seaway, the M40 will make you grin like a Cheshire cat. If you’re seeking a family weekender, this cruiser offers room for everyone, literally. She’s also a solid on-the-water party platform that can strike a head-turning pose. In addition, her price tag is relatively reasonable. That’s a lot of pros for potential buyers. The only con may be finding all the time you want to spend on board.
Yacht Works: 877-391-2941; yachtworks.net