Zodiac’s n-ZO cabin RIB

An approach to family ribbing with overnight capabilities and a real onboard ‘loo’.

When the largest builder of RIBs in the world decided to introduce its first cabin RIB to the main markets in Europe and North America, we were able to take a good look at it at a press day in Amsterdam organised by Marine Trading International (MTI), the Dutch Zodiac and Avon importer.

The Zodiac n-ZO has unmistakable styling penned by Italian designer Vittorio Garroni, who has been involved in the styling of a variety of craft from sailing yachts to large vessels, but most notably Jeanneau’s Cap Camarat range. The result with the n-ZO is that it is a refreshing and dramatic new ‘look’ for Zodiac but makes plenty of sense for a family oriented towards ribbing.

At just under 7m long, it’s wide for its length at 3.2m, and this makes lots of deck space for family and friends to sit in the lounge-shaped cockpit area aft of the driving position. There is a removable table assembly that makes a cozy ‘al fresco’ area when the weather is right. There is a 12V icebox, small stove and sink, contained in the driver’s bolster, that provide the means for civilised eating and drinking in this elegant atmosphere. The use of teak-coloured non-skid on the decks, and modern upholstery colours, all add to the atmosphere.

The foredeck and cabin roof area provide a great place for relaxation and suntanning when the boat is anchored or idling, with good access to it via the side decking and handrails for safety.

In the enclosed cabin there is a ‘walk in’ space for a marine toilet. Our test boat was fitted with an electrically operated type that is connected to a holding tank. Whilst I did not test the plumbing, I was able to walk in and out of the toilet compartment rather than crawl, as one does on many micro cruisers.

The cabin itself is light and airy and not at all claustrophobic, due to the large sliding perspex door, cabin hatch, portholes, mirrors and the use of the same light-tan upholstery and woodwork. There are two berths with plenty of storage under, and I stretched out my six-foot frame on the smallest of them without any problem. Having slept on many small boats, I could definitely get a good sleep aboard the n-ZO. I imagine families that are used to camping can do so overnight aboard, as the dinette arrangement in the cockpit can be made for sleeping the youngsters under the stars, so to speak.

On the performance side, the test boat was equipped with 2 x 150hp Yamaha 4-strokes, which gave the test boat a top speed of 86kph with the two of us aboard, and a light fuel load in the 400-litre tank. Plenty of power – almost too much, to my mind, as this is a family-oriented RIB that is not going to go slamming into large waves at full tilt. However, I was reminded by my host, Joris Gebuis, who is a part-owner and manager of MTI, that having the power and speed to combine hard-core ribbing with friends and slower-speed cruising with the family is what, to him, the n-ZO is all about.

The driving position was adequate for the intended use; the driver can sit or lean on the bolster. There is a fixed footrest for those, like myself, who do not have very long legs. The dashboard is big enough and the test boat was equipped with a chart plotter screen and Yamaha combination engine gauges. Visibility from the driving position was good but I could not see the end of the bow, as it drops off a further 50cm from your line of sight. Additionally, there is the protrusion of the anchor, so extra care has to be exercised when approaching the dock or other boats. The control lever position is comfortable enough off to starboard but is exposed to accidental shifting by the driver or passengers getting out of the helm area on to the side deck in a hurry. The use of the engine safety lanyard is a real must here as always.

There is an absence of handholds for the passenger alongside the driver and hardly any for the passengers in the aft seating area, so this needs to be addressed, in my opinion.

Our test was carried out on the IJsselmeer, which is Amsterdam’s watersports playground and which was pretty flat calm. The hull is brand new with a 22° V at the transom and a large, deep forefoot reinforced by plenty of spray rails. It seemed a very dry and comfortable ride when we slammed the boat into our own wake. The Neoprene/Hypalon inflatable tubes (removable) have a large diameter and a good overhang to keep the spray down and out of the boat, and, of course, the raised cabin roof and windshield do a pretty good job of making the boat comfortable at speed.

Our boat was fitted with the optional GRP bimini top which, according to Joris, is in the process of being redesigned by Zodiac, as it seems too heavy and causes the entire structure to flex and rattle. There were some other rattles and noises, too, in the driving area, which indicated that there are not yet enough test hours carried out to ensure these annoyances are found and corrected.

Zodiac is marketing the boat with three different levels of equipment according to a family’s budget and intended use. The Premium pack is the top of the line that includes the bimini top and all the equipment on our test boat. The Base and the Optimum packs have fewer bells and whistles and subsequently give the buyer different price points.

The n-ZO is certainly well thought out and there is a genuine attempt to provide a lot of cruising equipment in its 7m length. The installation of the dual batteries and switches are in the aft lazarette with the transfer tank for the marine toilet. The gas bottle for the stove, and the freshwater tank for the shower and sinks (cabin and cockpit) and the icebox, all provide plenty of challenges for routing the wires, cables and plumbing, but they seemed to be well executed. I really liked the anchor stowage position recessed in the stem with the rode contained in the bow chain locker where the electric windlass and hand-held remote control are situated. The quality of the hardware is nice: pop-up cleats, stainless rails, and when looking in all the storage lockers there is no unfinished fibreglass.

Access to the aft boarding area is good, with a walkway provided to the port side of the aft bench seat with a removable ‘gate’. However, when I backed the boat down, too much water rushed in up the cockpit deck for my liking. It drained out again easily enough, but you can get your feet pretty wet. If the boat is stationary in a large following sea, the ‘gate’ needs to be firmly closed to prevent this. The folding stainless-steel boarding ladder is great for getting in and out of the water for skiers and swimmers. The freshwater shower is handy, just nearby. I would certainly take my family and friends out for the day on this boat: there is plenty of room to walk, sit and lie around either by yourself or socialising with others; plenty of amenities, too, for serving food and drinks, and a private environmentally friendly ‘loo’ that the ladies aboard will really appreciate. There is also lots of dry storage in the cabin – so everyone’s on-board baggage does not get soaked – and a comfortable ride back to home port when the day is done.

Tim Fleming

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