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Sea Ray 330

Sea Ray 335 Sundancer and 290SS Bowrider (February 2003)

David Lockwood is struck by Sea Ray’s new 335 Sundancer, a comfortable and stylish take on the sportscruiser concept

When it comes to building boats, experience is the father of wisdom. The experience gained from years of trial and error tells you what works and what doesn’t. Team that with an intimate knowledge of the pleasureboat market and you go some way to explaining why Sea Ray is such a formidable force today.

The new Sea Ray 335 Sundancer is a great example of the archetypal American sportscruiser. But more than that, the 335 is a class leader in some significant ways. Sea Ray doesn’t take to designing new boats like this lightly, and it shows.

Did you know, for example, that 335 was designed around a 6ft 6in computer-generated crash test dummy who walked through a computer simulated model of the boat? This explains why the boat is so comfortable. Hop aboard another 30-footer and you might find yourself tripping over to get to the fridge, sitting with lunch on your lap or striking your noggin on the companionway — but not on the 335.

Loads of living space and generous headroom are particular highlights of this voluminous 30-something sportscruiser. The new 335 also stands out thanks to lots of smart new gear and groovier deck mouldings than I have seen before from Sea Ray. Stylistically, the boat is futuristic.

From experience, I can tell you that Sea Rays tend to ride better than many other high-volume boats. This is not a marketing line, but a function of physiques. The 335 has 21° of deadrise, which is a true deep-vee hull. This means the 30-footer can steam across a windblown bay or head back home in a hurry when the weather turns for the worse.

My years of boating experience also tell me that a sportscruiser like this can do a bit of everything really quite well. The 335 is tailor-made for dayboating, weekending, entertaining and launching private adventures far from the madding crowd.

With twin V8 engines, one can be assured the boat will live up to the first half of its sportscruiser tag. And as a boat to go, well, Sea Ray leaves very little out. The 335 is an ideal conveyance for dab hands as well as those new to big boating.

MACHINED FOR LIFESTYLE

Tried-and-true construction is a hallmark of Sea Ray boats. The mouldings are very fair and intricate and there appears to be more scalloping than I recall in past models. Computer projections, robots, lasers, closed-moulding processes and special milling machines are among the things that help make the latest Sea Rays.

Fashioned from fibreglass, the new 335 is a user-friendly boat. You can plonk a deck chair on the big boarding platform or soak up the rays on the foredeck, even though it doesn’t have a sunpad. Who knows, maybe the optional canopy on this boat, which shades the whole cockpit, suggests Sea Ray is taking a sensible approach and discouraging sun exposure?

The designers have made an effort to improve traffic movement on the 335. To help your passage forward, the cockpit has moulded sidesteps, the wide gunwales are topped with non-skid, and there are neat handrails on the windscreen, moulded toerails and a long bowrail.

DECKED OUT

Deck gear includes a windlass, three big horn cleats and optional new and groovy stainless-steel nav lights. Amidships are cleats for the springlines, while all the deck areas are finished with non-skid.

Cut-aways at transom corners allow the mounting of mooring cleats where they are easy to reach. So, too, the deck fillers and waste outlet.

The boat has a stainless-steel rubbing strip and is backed by a boarding platform that adds to the boat’s overall deck space. The big platform has room to sunbake, lie on your towel, cast a line, dive into the depths or sit on a director’s chair and watch the sun go down. There is a swim ladder and a handy fender locker with a cut-out for the shorepower lead and connections for the marina phone/TV and water.


The balance between indoor and outdoor living areas is about right on the 335. The aft cockpit lounge can seat three people, an aft-facing lounge behind the skipper can seat another two, and in between is provision for the supplied lunch table and infill to create a sunpad.

Storage is a strong point. Both the moulded table and infill are stowed in dedicated slots under the aft lounge, while a big hold is hidden under the aft-facing lounge. I also found a locker to port with the main circuit-breakers and engine battery isolators.

The 335 has courtesy lights, a clip-in carpet that can be washed and a terrific new, but optional, full-length Sunbrella canopy that shades all the seating. With clear covers in place, that cockpit sunpad doubles as a sleep-out.

Of course there is an amenities centre, in keeping with all smart summer boats. Running along the port side with a stainless grabrail, the moulded lifestyle unit includes an optional fridge with a freezer and an icetray, a sink with a pull-out shower-style spray nozzle for rinsing plates, a food prep space, cool stainless-steel drinkholders and a dedicated storage locker with two shelves.

ENGINES, ENGINEERING AND A BETTER DASH

Press a button and a hydraulic strut lifts the cockpit floor to a sufficient height to work on the motors. The twin V8 MerCruiser 5.0 MPIs have plenty of room around their sides. There is also space to mount the optional generator, air-conditioning unit and inverter.

The engineering is impressive for such a high-volume boatbuilder. In the engine room, for example, you will find terrific access to the boat’s colour-coded plumbing lines, which have taps so you can isolate a leak, and simple numbered electrical wiring.

I’ve said it before, but the Americans still do a better dashboard than most European sportscruiser makers. The 335 is a case in point. Backed by a lounge or love seat for two, the smart dash puts all the boat’s functions right at hand.

The star attraction is the new multifunction switch panel layout. Instead of creating a long line of toggles, the switches are clustered together on two panels either side of the wheel. The icons denote the various functions and the panels are 100% waterproof. Hit them with the hose if you like.

Other trick features include a remote control for the Clarion CD player, push-button engine room access (the cockpit sole lifts on a hydraulic strut), an electric vent in the centre of the windscreen, remotes for the optional windlass and searchlight, and groovy chrome-rimmed engines gauges that, along with the switches, are all backlit.

The skipper also gets a handy storage pocket for holding personals, a convenient drinkholder, a tilt-adjustable wheel, and throttles and trim tab controls that fall to hand. The stainless-steel framed windscreen is a luxury in place of a cheaper powder-coated alloy number. Vision is great through the windscreen whether you are seated or standing, thanks to a flip-back padded seat base or bolster.

OPEN-PLAN LIVING

Thanks to the digital crash test dummy, the designers have created a boat that really flows inside. Opening portholes and hatches help with ventilation and lighting, which is boosted by the addition of some trick tubular skylights.

The layout is a lot more open plan than many European and local sportscruisers; in fact the only separate enclosure is the head to port. For whatever reason, this is mounted a lot higher than the saloon floor, which means you step up inside and lose some headroom.

Close to the companionway, the head should cope with entertaining as well as overnighting. There is a big-boat electric loo, sink and vanity. The hot/cold shower is a handheld number, but there is a clip to hold the rose on the wall. There is no extractor fan, but there is an opening porthole, a 240V outlet and storage space for the electric razor, hair dryer and shampoo.

But for the bathroom, the 335 is big on headroom and, with its wide beam, rates as a terrifically voluminous boat. Smart design, like using a compact four-step ladder for access instead of a big moulded staircase, adds to the sense of space.

SLEEPING QUARTERS

The aft cabin is hidden by a bulkhead and reached via a poky entrance to port. Once inside, it’s an open area with surrounding lounges and mirrored walls that flows straight from the main saloon.

You can kick back and read or play cards in the quasi-lounge room, around a table that is otherwise stowed under the forward bed until such time as you need a second double berth. Guests or kiddies sleep behind a privacy curtain and have storage for personals.

However, experience shows that most 30-footers are slept in by a couple, not a crowd. Owners and their partners get an offset double berth in the bow that doesn’t encroach on saloon space like an island bed.

Two steps lead up to the bed, which has a deep foam mattress with a chic blue cover. There are groovy reading lights, a half-sized hanging locker and an optional TV/VCR in a cabinet alongside the galley, which pulls out on rails and swivels back around to the bed or down to the dinette.

Interestingly, Sea Ray offers a Plan B optional layout for the 335 Sundancer. As seen here, there is a crescent-shaped lounge opposite the galley, under which the dinette table is stowed. This arrangement opens the boat out even more than the traditional dinette nook. And the long lounge is a nicer place to kick back in front of the box or with a book.

The finish is elegant without being confronting. The boat has timeless cream upholstery, camel carpet, gold and silver catches around mock cherrywood joinery, blue bedspreads and gold scatter cushions. The boat has been kept light and airy to create a sense of space.

PRAWNS ON DECK

Built in a moulded unit opposite the lounge, with a clever timber print that looks deceptively close to the real thing, is a handy galley. The two-burner alcohol/electric stove (optional) negates the need for an inverter or genset. The microwave oven is good when you have shorepower only.

There were three drawers, a locker, garbage bin, big sink and two cupboards with sliding doors for glasses. A handrail and fridge under the counter are pretty much all you will need for a day or a couple of nights at anchor. Experience says boats like this tend more towards the prawns-on-deck style than formal dining.

A cupboard near the companionway conceals the water gauge — which should really be in the galley — the Clarion CD stacker and drawers for the albums. The boat’s AC/DC control panels are close to the steps back to the helm. A bow thruster is a listed option, though a 30-footer hardly needs one, and the only extras I would consider are the factory-fitted GPS chartplotter and a couple of marine radios.

COASTAL CRUISING

While the 335 Sundancer is bound to spend the majority of its life cruising about on enclosed waterways, swinging on anchor or hitched to a marine or private berth, the boat has got sufficient fuel and water to explore adjoining backyards.

Keyless ignition makes it doubly easy to get under way. Flick the battery switch, hit the blower, push two ignition switches on the dash and cast the lines. Sitting on the top of the fold-back bolster seat gives a commanding view about the marina; once clear, I could assume a more relaxed pose.

At 5200rpm the rev limiter kicks in and the boat touches a fast 41mph on the speedo. Comfortable cruising in the low to mid-20kt area sees the motors purring at 3800-4000rpm. A good trim range lets you button the bow down or run free, whereupon the hull can be banked into graceful turns.

I didn’t hear much in the way of sound reverberation, rattles or bumps, and the deep-vee hull did suggest it was up to the task of crossing open water when I went looking for some boat wake to cross. Thanks to the predictable handling, I really can’t see anyone getting into too much trouble at the helm.

Design-wise the new 335 Sundancer is an exciting boat built from experience. It has a depth of character and some flash new designs. It’s more like a well-made wine than a quaffer. And clearly that appeals — the boat lasted just two days in the showroom before two buyers raced one another to sign their cheques first.

Big-ticket bowrider

Sea Ray 335

A whale of a dayboat, Sea Ray’s largest bowrider is a big-ticket summer conveyance.

This maxi American bowrider subscribes to the theory that bigger is better. The 290SS has the space to carry a party and the necessary waterline length to traverse open water.

If the other side of the bay looks good, no worries, up anchor and head across. At rest and under way, everything that is great about bowriders is even greater on the 290SS.

The seats in the bow are full-length sunlounges where two adults can recline while the boat’s at rest or travelling. Floor space and stability is such that you can stroll from the transom to the bow with a drink in hand.

There are cavernous storage holds under the forward lounges. And instead of a Clayton’s anchor locker, the 290SS has the real thing up front.

The double dashboards harbour two of the most essential items on a good social dayboat: an icebox and a loo. Behind a door ahead of the copilot is the fully moulded head with Vacuflush electric loo and holding tank. It’s linked to a holding tank in an underfloor storage locker that is big enough to hide a stowaway.

The door opposite behind the skipper’s dash leads into a cavernous storage space. There are dedicated mounting spots for the portable cooler, perfect for those foreshore picnics, as well as the boat’s twin cockpit tables. Assembled, the tables mean you can do lunch with up to eight people, split between the bow and cockpit seating areas.

If not in the bow, crew can travel on a big circular aft lounge that converts into a big sunpad. There is a back-to-back copilot seat that also converts into a sunpad. The skipper has his or her own pedestal chair.

To port, behind the skipper, is a cockpit amenities centre with a sink with cold water, an icebox for the bootleg and a 12/240V fridge. Not far away are a wine rack and a shorepower connection, so you can chill the chardy at the marina. Very civilised.

The boat is surrounded by serious big-boat style stainless deck gear, a transom shower and built-in rope and wet lockers for togs. This 290SS also has a Sport Package including groovy graphics, two-tone gelcoat, a moulded sport spoiler (read targa) and stainless-steel skin fittings.

The super-duper dash has the latest Sea Ray multi-function switch panels, race-style controls with separate throttle and gearshift, and a nice spread of chrome-rimmed gauges for the 300hp 350 Magnum MPI motor. Engine access is gained by hitting a switch that lifts the cockpit floor hydraulically.

A Corsa Quick and Quiet exhaust system helps tone down the mumble of the big V8. Hit a switch on the dash to bypass the baffles or muffler and you will pick up a few extra knots at top speed and a lovely throaty sound.

A real flier, the 290SS hit 51kt on the GPS at 5100rpm. A Bravo 3 sterndrive leg ensures you have terrific purchase on the water. You can rip the boat around in tight turns and have it absolutely flying to top speed not long after. The performance is nothing if not sporty.

The prince of bowriders, the 290SS costs $244,620 as tested. That’s a lot of money for a bowrider, but then think of those hot summer days when a boatload of water-loving companions come knocking on your door.

You can waterski or wakeboard behind this boat, fish or cruise, carry the extended family and friends, and get everyone’s eyes watering and adrenalin running. And when the day is done, you only need to pull over the covers and turn the battery off.

The boating equivalent of a big soft-top Merc, Sea Ray’s 290SS would be perfect for parking in a dry stack. The boat isn’t too big to put on a private slipway, either. But I can really see it at the foot of a waterfront home at Sanctuary Cove or Sydney, where it would be called on as a restaurant runner. Way to go.

For more information, contact Andrew Short Marine, Taren Point (NSW), tel (02) 9524 2699.

Highs

Smart design features, above-average finish, terrific mouldings and much improved engineering for such a high-volume boatbuilder.

Full marks for ergonomics, headroom and indoor and outdoor living spaces.

Deep-vee hull is softer rider than some others.

Lows

Why does the bathroom floor need to be so high above the saloon floor? The compartment loses out on headroom.

A sunpad on the foredeck would be a nice touch.

Note that the 335 Sundancer’s title length includes the extended swim platform.

New boat buyers need to make sure they are comparing apples with apples.

Sea Ray 335
Sea Ray 335
Sea Ray 335
Sea Ray 335
Sea Ray 335
Sea Ray 335
Sea Ray 335

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