OK, here we go again. Same drill: find a new boat dealer willing to lend us a million dollars of new boats that we can use for a day, grab one of Yachtsman's top photographers, take the new boats out and put them through their paces on San Francisco Bay. This time we had two brand new Sea Ray's provided by Sun Country: the 410 Sundancer Sport Yacht with Cummins diesels and Zeus pod drives, and a new Sea Ray 350 Sundancer Sport Cruiser with the Mercruiser 8.2L DTS with AXIUS drives. My review of the 350 will be in a future edition; this month is my review of the 410 Sport Yacht.
Prior to my arrival at Jack London Square, Ed Bancroft, the manager of the Sun Country Northern California office, had already moved the 410 Sport Yacht to the docks in front of Scotts Seafood Restaurant and has her secured port side to. As Ty Mellott and I approach, the large aft sun lounger stands out and looks very inviting. Getting closer, and with a view of the profile, she looks like a European sport yacht with the curved hardtop, sweeping lines and blue hull. Stepping onto the swim step we see that the transom backrests fold open to reveal an even larger lounge area and the sun pad lifts open to a storage space large enough to swallow four large fenders, lines, hoses and power cords.
Opening the starboard stainless steel boarding gate and entering into the cockpit, and with the backrests folded closed, to starboard there is more cockpit seating completing a U-shaped area with more storage under. Open the backrests and you have opposing sun lounger with backrests. This is a well thought out and unique transom design.
To port and just forward is the cockpit entertainment center with a solid surface countertop, an electric BBQ, ice maker, stainless steel sink, and a slide out cooler. Everything needed for cockpit entertaining is in one efficient workspace.
Forward of the U-seating on the starboard side is the helm seating that is a true double wide seat with arm rests between the seats, flip up bolsters, and levers on the side to adjust to your liking. The very comfortable helm seats have adjusters to position them for just about any skipper and navigator.
Our 410 has a large Raymarine e125 touch screen multi-function display (MFD) with HD RADAR, Chartplotter, and depth sounder installed to the left of the skipper and directly in front of the navigator, right where it belongs. The SmartCraft Vessel View display and control panel is to the right of the MFD and an array of traditional analog gauges are positioned across the top of the dash. The leather-wrapped tilt wheel is perfectly posed as are the throttle and transmission control levers mounted next to the seat. The joystick is just forward of the throttle levers giving this control arrangement a natural feel and your hands simply fall where they belong.
To the left of the helm on the port side is another seating area that can be used as an aft facing lounge or seating for two facing the skipper. Sea Ray smartly designed a well-placed footrest if seated.
Slide open the cabin access door and find four floating wood steps down to the combination saloon and galley. The galley is to port and is complete with a stainless steel refrigerator, separate freezer, two-burner cooktop, convection microwave, solid surface countertop and stainless steel sink. There is also a built-in trash receptacle to complete this elegant galley.
Sea Ray has designed a rather unique sliding cabinet that creates easy access to those hard-to-get-to areas that are usually wasted space. Just pull out the cabinet for storage of those larger galley items.
Just aft of the galley is a wet head with shower, solid surface countertops and sink. The location is ideal for use as the day head or for guests using the mid-cabin.
The saloon is on the starboard side with a settee that converts to a guest berth and has provisions for a removable table.
Forward is the master stateroom with a full-size island berth, six drawers of storage underneath, storage cabinets at the gunwhales, and hanging lockers both port and starboard. The port lights to both port and starboard along with an overhead hatch let in light and fresh air. The bi-fold door provides privacy.
Forward and to port is the private head with separate shower, solid surface countertop with sink, mirrored medicine cabinet, and an opening port to let in fresh air. The wood accents have the look of elegance for the owners.
Aft of the stairs is the mid-cabin that on our boat is configured as a cozy conversation pit with a fold-down dining table. This will convert to a double berth by folding up the table and using the filler cushions that masquerade as ottomans. To starboard, there is a hanging locker and storage cabinet as well as a privacy curtain for the guests.
Getting to the foredeck is easy with the wide walk arounds on both port and starboard and with the hand rails along the hardtop for safety.
Up front we find two sun loungers with pop-up backrests, the requisite beverage holders, and the usual ground tackle. Sea Ray recognizes that the little touches mean a lot, and we find a highly polished Delta plow anchor that looks to be slightly oversized for the boat. Kudos to Sea Ray.
After completing my tour of the below decks and fore deck it's time to make our engine room check and then get our eager sport yacht underway. With the push of a button at the helm, the entire cockpit sole lifts to expose an expansive gel-coated engine room. Here we find easy access to both of the Cummins QSB's, Zeus drives, and the propulsion essentials; fluid checks are very easy.
Standing between the powerplants access is easy with plenty of room and with the hatch opened nearly 90 degrees there is no danger of bumping your head into something hard. Forward on the bulkhead are the easy-to-service RACOR primary fuel filters, batteries in spill-proof containers, and 40 amp battery charger. The 9.0 KW generator is outboard of the starboard engine and within reach for fluid checks. All the way aft is the fixed fire extinguishing system and two large bilge pumps with easy-to-check float switches.
Having been all through the 410 with Ed and Ty, it was time for them to go get the 350 and leave me to take the 410 off the dock and out of the harbor. Today we were a person short and I would be running the boats alone while Ed and Ty try to keep up and take a few photos.
Having spent a little time with both the Zeus-powered boats and Volvo IPS-powered boats, I am familiar with the pod drive systems. The Sea Ray 410 felt right at home from the helm, and the controls and instruments were exactly where you would expect them.
It is my belief that the basic control systems should be intuitive and one should not need a lot of specialized instruction in order to operate the vessel. Our 410 was no surprise here. Startup and operation was just as you would expect, and to Cummins credit, the Zeus system is as automatic as it can get. Put the throttles in forward or reverse and the propulsion and steering operate just like any boat. However, reach for the joystick with the transmissions in neutral and the Zeus system automatically engages the stick, no buttons to push or delays.
In addition, as I quickly found out, push the "Skyhook" button on the SmartCraft control and the computer takes over and maintains the vessel's position and heading by rotating the pods independent of each other and applying power as necessary.
Off the dock and underway while Ed and Ty were over getting the 350 started up, I had 15 minutes to experiment with the controls on the 410. First I came away from the dock the traditional way using transmissions and steering, twisted around 180 degrees and put her back on the dock starboard side to. Then I did the same only this time with the joystick. Again, control was very intuitive and just as one would expect.
Maneuvering away from Scotts dock and into the Estuary, I stopped 50 feet in front of Kincaid's and engaged the Skyhook. The computer took control and maintained position within 30 feet even with a 10-knot westerly wind and a half knot flood current. A pretty impressive and easy-to-operate system.
While waiting for the 350 to get into the Estuary I let the Skyhook hold position while I wandered around the vessel and pulled fenders and lines, stowed all the loose items, and "adjusted" the SmartCraft computer and navigation system to my liking. This is one tool that is on my must have list as it adds to safety and usability when operating a vessel alone.
I also note the backup alarm sound from a horn at the starboard stern and a rotating LED light on the port quarter to indicate that the drives are engaged and to be aware. This is a good safety feature as the engines rev up and down, the pods move forward and astern seemingly randomly.
Finally underway, we make our way past the minimum wake areas and into the anchorage. Our plan is to head over to AT&T Stadium and trade boats in McCovey Cove. On the 3 mile run from Estuary light 8 to China basin, I will have the opportunity to put the 410 through the paces while making circles around Ty trying to take photos. All in a day's fun.
Coming around light 8 I hold back while Ed takes the 350 a few thousand feet away from the Oakland bar channel. After I think they have enough of a head start, I apply ample throttle and the Cummins come alive. She pops up on plane almost immediately, and within 15 seconds I am cruising at 2400 RPM making 22 knots. A spirited cruise burning less than 30 gallons per hour of Ed's diesel.
With Ty perched on the foredeck of the 350, I make a high-speed pass across the bow just a few dozen feet from the camera lens and then put her into a hard left turn intent on coming around full circle while allowing the camera boat time to settle down from my wake before trying to get more shots.
I was a little surprised at how quick this boat turns; carving a tight and stable 360 degree turn at 22 knots in less than two boat lengths. I head down farther into the anchorage to get more familiar with the boat's handling characteristics and to gain more confidence, come around on a wide sweeping turn and bring the throttles wide open. Approaching the 350 at 30 knots I pass her bow and put the 410 into a hard right turn and heeled so far over that it felt as though I could put my hand into the water. Sport Yacht, yes it is. And still burning less than 40 gallons per hour.
As I approach the port quarter of the 350 and slow to a more pedestrian 16 knots, I set up and ease the helm over hard right and carve a 75-foot radius arc and detect no slide or instability, just a nice hard turn 50 feet off the bow of the 350! Searay got this boat right.
Performance By The Numbers
I could do this all day, but we need to collect a little hard performance data. Besides, I still have to experience the 350 before the afternoon winds pick up.
1000 RPM 6.8 knots 4.0 GPH 1.70 MPG
1500 RPM 9.2 knots 7.5 GPH 1.22 MPG
2000 RPM 14.1 knots 22.9 GPH 0.65 MPG
2200 RPM 16.5 knots 27.0 GPH 0.61 MPG
2400 RPM 19.1 knots 29.3 GPH 0.65 MPG
2600 RPM 20.9 knots 30.8 GPH 0.68 MPG
2800 RPM 25.5 knots 38.3 GPH 0.66 MPG
3000 RPM 30.1 knots 46.3 GPH 0.65 MPG
Based on my data, the miles per gallon is almost the same from 14 knots to 30 knots with the most efficient cruise RPM at 2600 making 21 knots.
According to Cummins, these powerplants have a maximum RPM of 3085, running no more than one hour out of every eight at this speed, and continuous operation at 2700 RPM. As "tuned" this boat will run all day at 21-plus knots with the occasional sprint to 30. This is a sport yacht current Sea Ray owners will find familiar with the design, quality of the fit and finish and with the performance they have come to expect. New Sea Ray owners will find the 410 to be a quality Sport Yacht with European flair, spirited performance, and flexible accommodations for a day, a weekend, or longer.
After another day running new boats around San Francisco Bay, it is time for me to kick back and enjoy a glass of port and a fine cigar. I have my eye on the large aft lounger on the 410 but as we are wiping down the boats, Ed comes walking down the dock with a perspective buyer that has many questions. The port and cigar are going to have to wait.
2014 Sea Ray 410 Sundancer
LOA 41' 06"
Beam 13' 0"
Draft 4' 1"
Air clearance 12' 0"
Displacement 26,000 lbs
Fuel 255 gallons
Water 60 gallons
Waste 42 gallons
Generator 9.0 KW
Power - Test boat: Twin Cummins QSB 380H.O. Diesel with Zeus drives (364HP)
Standard: Twin Cummins QSB 425 Diesel with V-Drives (407HP)
If you want to see more of the Sea Ray 410 Sundancer or any of the other new Sea Ray or Meridian Yachts, contact Ed Bancroft at the Sun Country Marine office located at Jack London Square in Oakland. Sun Country Marine is the new Northern California Meridian Yachts and Sea Ray Yacht and Sport Cruiser dealer.