Issue: January 2005
Stand at the helm station of the Gulf Craft Ambassador 36 and look for’ard. The bow stretches out in front of you, now turn around, and there is even more boat behind you. For a 36-footer the Ambassador 36 is a lot of boat and looks and feels like a bigger boat. Western Australians first saw the Gulf Craft Ambassador 36 about 18 months ago, but it was not until this week that the first Ambassador appeared on the Gold Coast. The boats are being marketed on the East Coast by Black Watch Sales at Runaway Bay Marina. Gulf Craft has been in business since 1982, and operates out of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
The factory builds boats from 18 feet up to 125 feet and has an output of about 600 a year. The Ambassador 36 is not a flashy boat; it is a simple, practical boat that has much to offer for the price. The boat is brought into Australia in a basic configuration and then a few things are added to suit local conditions. Things like the bimini with an extension over the aft cockpit; the camper cover kit with a zip-out clear that provides a view over the top of the windscreen; the extra lounge section across the transom; the flat screen TV; that the owner can select personally and the cockpit fridge. Included in the package is a small electric fridge that sits next to the driver. It will hold half-a-dozen softies, or something stronger for the crew.
A small round table is mounted in the aft cockpit, or if there are a few people sitting down to lunch, a larger table fits in. The whole aft cockpit floor and the helm station deck is teak laid. There are two day-hatches giving access to the engine compartment that houses two Volvo Penta 5lt GXI 270hp engines with DuoProp legs. The whole floor can be easily taken out if work needs to be done on the engines. There is a tonne of room in the engine bay with plenty of room to slot in a genset. The helm station has a very angular workman-like look about it. All the gauges are there and a handy switch panel is located on the right hand side of the wheel. A VHF radio and Furuno G2 1650 Chartplotter/ sounder with C-Map are standard.
The view from the helm seat is good allround, standing up there is also a good view over the top of the windscreen. The main deck over the cabin is very flat and is a good spot to sunbake. It is also easy to get to with a 205mm walkway along each side and a step up with a handhold from the aft cockpit. Down below the main cabin is more akin to a yacht layout and not the open plan we have become used to on similar boats. The forward stateroom is separated from the saloon by a main bulkhead. There is the usual settee and dining table and the liberal use of light-colour beech wood makes the cabin look bigger. The small galley has a two-burner cooktop, microwave, fridge and an extractor fan.
There are a couple of cupboards for storage, one very deep one, but there is no separate draw for cutlery. The large bunk in the main stateroom is angled across the boat, with a small standing area in the entrance. There is a hanging locker and storage caves beside the bunk, again similar to those yacht designers favour. An air-conditioning unit can also be installed under the bunk and considering the interior layout of the boat it would not be a bad option. The head is small, but doesn’t forget that this is only a 36-footer and the designers have built a lot into the hull, which tends to be more slab-sided than similar sports cruisers.
Then there is the aft cabin that runs longitudinally under the bridge deck. There are two bunks in here with a two-draw chest of draws between them and storage caves above the starboard side bunk. On the water the variable deadrise, which is fine at the bow and runs to 22 degrees at the transom, keeps the hull running true. There are no trim tabs, it doesn’t need them. At idle the boat will glide along at 800rpm and 2 knots, best cruising speed is a round 3200rpm and 20 knots and in full song the GPS wound up to 35.7 knots at 4800rpm against the tide and after some adjustment of the leg trim.
At first we had the trim too far out, but after bringing it in a little the speed increased. Handling with the hydraulic steering is good. With full lock on and one engine going ahead and the other astern the boat spun in its own length. As we have come to expect with other boats fitted with Volvo Penta DuoProps, manoeuvring is positive and by using the props independently the boat can be held straight against a crosswind. This a big advantage when docking, especially in some of the marinas on the Gold Coast that have sorted even the best skippers out from time-to-time.
Turn it hard into a corner and the boat sits in without any vices. Probably the big feature of the Ambassador is the extended teak-laid swim platform, which is an extra, but one well worth investing in. Mark Hall at Black Watch Sales has plans to mount a Sovereign barbecue on the transom and perhaps fit some rails on the back of the platform. The 1.3m swim platform would then become another entertainment centre. The Gulf Craft Ambassador 36 may not be the prettiest sports boat on the market, but at $269,00, the price of the test boat, it has a lot to offer and is a very solid, practical boat.
Words by Kevan Wolfe