Captain's ReportBy BoatTEST.com staffWhat is the Mediterranean famous for? Outside of the marinas and portside towns that speckle its coasts, it's sun and clear water. And with rare exception, small and midsize boats from the region are designed to take full advantage of those attributes. Mediterranean boats generally dedicate a large portion of their on-deck spaces to suntanning, and swim platforms are oversized. But by and large these boats tend to be fair-weather cruisers. A notable exception is the new Smeraldo 9-meter from Italian-builder Aprea Mare.In stark contrast to the sleek, open boats we usually see from Italy, this 30-footer is a masterful blend of traditional lines and old-world craftsmanship. Yet she's very much of '90s construction, combining the latest FRP components in her stout 17-layer hull with a mixture of weight-saving cores (Airex, Kledgecell, end-grain balsa) in her decks and cabin top. Her high freeboard, stainless steel-framed windshield, and rounded transom all indicate a rugged sea boat, one that appears more at home in the North Sea than the Adriatic. And indeed, after a quick exterior inspection, you may conclude her ruggedness will come at the expense of good performance. But that, I discovered, would be a mistake.The Smeraldo 9 is full of surprises, not the least of which is in performance. At wide-open throttle in two-foot seas, the Smeraldo 9 recorded an eye-popping 34.4 mph, belying her classic appearance. I actually saw other boaters crane their necks in amazement as we blew by them in this traditional-looking craft. Acceleration was gradual, not sluggish, throughout the rpm range, and thanks to her Vetus hydraulic steering system and oversized rudders, she cuts tight circles at speed with very little pressure on the wheel. Single-lever Morse controls make her a breeze to maneuver around the docks, and bowrise and forward visibility remain unobstructed at all times, thanks in part to the components of her powertrain.The Smeraldo 9 has an interesting propulsion system--a pair of high-speed VM Motori in-line six turbo-diesels (220-hp each @ 3600 rpm) turn 19"x23" Radice four-blade bronze props through a Hurth V-drive transmission. It is this V-drive that keeps the shaft angle low for nearly horizontal propeller thrust, and thus, minimal bowrise. The engines, meanwhile, are built in Italy, but fear not since VM Motori is now part of our own Detroit Diesel Corporation. Hence, they are backed by the 'round-the-corner service available to all DDC customers. And their application in this boat is highly appropriate. Since they're inline engines they're exceptionally narrow, and as such they fit easily in this engine-room space, located just below the teak-covered cockpit sole. A flip of a dashboard switch activates an electric ram that lifts the sole hatch, and it's an easy step down to the centerline diamond-plate floor between the two engines. A remarkably wide 20-inches separates the powerplants, so it's easy to move around them. Though the engines are identical--meaning the dipsticks and fuel filters are to starboard on both--they're narrow enough so you can reach the outboard sides while standing on the centerline walkway. You can also reach the optional 5-kW genset from here (it's located amidships just forward of the engines), or through a hatch in the bridgedeck sole. Other mechanical bonuses here include fresh water- and fuel tanks of stainless steel, and the fuel tanks have both sight gauges and manual crossover manifolds. And in consideration of your guests, the holding tank vent has an activated charcoal filter inline to purify vapors, a sweet idea.The other big surprise about the Smeraldo 9 is her inherent stability. While she looks like a double-end hullform from the bootstripe up, it's a different story below the waterline. This hull is actually a modified-V, not a round bottom as you might think, and so her hard chines and nearly flat 12-degree deadrise aft provide stability, while a sharp entry forward provides good wave-parting abilities. In addition, her rounded transom is misleading to the eye, because beneath the waterline the stern is actually square, not round. As a result, triangular-shaped horizontal "pods" extend outward on either side of the transom, and these pods act like flopper-stoppers in taming a seaway. At one point I sat idle in the troughs of four-foot seas, and her roll dampening was remarkably quick, much faster than other boats of a similar size and even wider beams.Performance and stability aside, it is the quality of her workmanship that keeps dock walkers gawking and owners proud. Her topside is rimmed with mahogany, and caprails all-around are of varnished mahogany as well. Aluminum is nowhere to be found, as all railings and deck hardware (salty-looking bollards and hawsepipes, no less!) are stainless steel. The high-gloss finish of these components is offset nicely by teak decks all around the boat's exterior. Those items, combined with the molded-in slat-like surface of the hull, create a traditional yet contemporary, high-end look.As a long-distance cruiser, the Smeraldo 9 is well laid-out for two couples or a family with two children. Her cockpit is full beam and features a rounded, teak-covered bench seat (with cushions) for four or five. Inset into the seat are nozzles for both a raw-water washdown and freshwater shower, and swimmers will appreciate the six-step stainless steel ladder that drops down from the teak-grate swim platform. While there's no stowage on the platform itself, snorkeling/diving gear will fit easily in a large lazarrette in the cockpit. A cockpit table is optional, and I'd strongly recommend it for outdoor dining and card playing at night.Moving forward, a fore-and-aft lounge (with icebox below) sits across from the helm to starboard. This helm is a simple, uncluttered affair, boasting a mahogany wheel, VDO instruments with a rudder-angle indicator, and a unique alarm that warns you if the cooling-water level inside the engines gets low. The reach to the controls is good, and though there's almost no room to flush-mount electronics at the helm, there is sufficient space forward of the dash to install several units in bracket mounts.As far as seating is concerned, the two-person fixed helm seat is extra-high for superior visibility all-around. While it has a hinged bolster under the knees that flips up for standup driving, getting into this seat requires a step box, so Aprea Mare supplies one in teak, along with a teak footrest. The back of the helm seat features a flip-down wicker table and a large, handmade teak locker to stow plates, cutlery, and other entertaining supplies.It's two-steps down through the companionway to the cabin, which features stainless steel oval ports, American cherrywood panels, and a cherry/holly sole throughout. This lends a shippy, almost cruising-sailboat feel to the interior. A stand-up head/shower is immediately to port, and though it boasts 5'11" headroom and an electric toilet, one must be careful to draw the shower curtains to protect the woodwork. Across to starboard is a U-shaped lounge for six, and the high/low table drops to support fill cushions for a double berth. The inline galley to port, meanwhile, is simple yet functional, with a two-burner electric stove, stainless steel sink, and d.c.-only under-counter refrigerator. But the best part of this interior is the owner's stateroom. Not hidden by a curtain as in some other small cruisers, this stateroom is just forward of a full cherry bulkhead with closing door for full privacy. It features a cedar hanging locker, two more ports, an overhead hatch, and angled double berth atop a pedestal with three pullout drawers. For a boat that's less than 30 feet, this represents a lot of features, and a lot of privacy, in a little space.While none can question the quality of the craftsmanship here, it all comes at a price. At $204,000, this 30-footer is not cheap--she's targeted at the upscale buyer looking for a distinct seaboat that's yet very functional and easy to operate. The buyer will also need some spare time to keep this boat's extensive woodwork in tip-top condition. But that's okay. Because when a boat starts out this good, any owner worth his salt will want to keep her looking--and running--that way.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Apreamare Smeraldo 9 is 34.4 mph (55.4 kph), burning 35.2 gallons per hour (gph) or 133.23 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Apreamare Smeraldo 9 is 11.0 mph (17.7 kph), and the boat gets 2.12 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.9 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 324 miles (521.43 kilometers).
- Tested power is 2 x 220-hp Detroit Diesel DDA/MTU inboards.
Standard and Optional Features
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