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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Sea Ray 330 Sundancer

The Sea Ray 330 Sundancer replaces the Sea Ray 320 Sundancer, a six-year veteran to which it bears striking similarities in both design and appearance. Both boats can be ordered with stern drives or V-drives, in either case yielding a roomy interior comprised of forward and midcabin staterooms (the latter under the raised helm); each can be separated from the saloon by curtains. The midship dinette seat slides out to convert to a third berth so that theoretically, if not practically, six adults can sleep aboard. The galleys are both simple and efficient, and both Sundancers go like scalded cats, the subject of this test topping out at 40 mph with standard gasoline power. On both boats the comfort level is high, the fitments are nice, and the handling is predictable. So what's the difference?

It's the details, which in the 330 seem to have been inspired by a sharpened sense of how these boats are used—mostly on day or possibly weekend trips with friends and family, especially family and especially kids. So not surprising, this is the most youth-oriented Sundancer I've been aboard. For starters, you can order her with four TVs. That's one TV for about every eight feet, a ratio that if translated to, say, the flagship 60-foot Sundancer, would yield enough video output to rival your local Circuit City.

Two things about this televisional multiplication are worth noting. One, there's a flip-down, spin-around, 17-inch West Coast Custom unit with integral CD player over the V-berth that when lowered blocks an otherwise perfect view of the 26-inch hi-def L&G that resides on the aft bulkhead. Doesn't that make one of them superfluous? Not if you can imagine yourself drawing the curtain so you don't have to watch Barney for the 12th time, and not if you consider that the L&G has outputs for video gaming. Of course, so does the 15-inch L&G in the midcabin, which makes this space the perfect choice for kids when Mom and Dad want to reserve the larger, better picture on the 26-incher for themselves. And then, since this is a Sundancer, who wants to be stuck below watching video on a nice day anyway? That explains the 15-inch L&G over the cockpit wet bar.

As every parent knows, kids not only require nearly constant visual stimulation, but also hate to be confined—ya' gotta give ‘em space to roam when you're at anchor. On the 330 they can do that safely and in spades, thanks to a walk-through windshield that's easy to access because the sliding saloon door has big, safe steps molded into it. Up there they can chill on the nifty flip-up chaise lounge/sunpad. Or maybe they'll prefer the flip-down transom seat (first seen on the 310 Sundancer), since back there there's not only water and a wide swim platform but also tunes in the form of speakers (two of eight) and a remote control for the stereo at their feet. (Sea Ray is working on speakers for the foredeck sunpad.)

Yes, kids of all ages will love the 330, but let's remember, this is a powerboat—a rather powerful one at that—and as such, attention must be paid to practical matters as well. One of those is helmsman ergonomics. A double helm seat and the raised helm combine to provide excellent sightlines all around, and the redesigned helm panel puts everything of importance right at your fingertips. I especially like the way Sea Ray clusters electrical switches into attractive subpanels, a more aesthetically pleasing and utile alternative to the conventional and definitely not attractive row of rocker switches.

The excellent helm makes driving the 330 downright fun. On-plane comes swiftly, thanks to the fact that the MerCruiser 8.1 Horizons gasoline V-8s not only spool up a lot more quickly than comparable diesels but are farther aft than would be the case with straight inboards. That placement (about the same in the stern-drive version) also produces a lot of midrange bow rise, demanding attention to trim tab adjustment. I found that not to be a big problem, but I was distressed by the 330's manual hydraulic steering, which not only required considerable muscle (not a problem on stern drives where power steering is standard), but also resulted in a wide turning radius—I'd guess around eight boat lengths at cruising speed. If sports-car handling is your fort, opt for the I/Os.

The beefy V-drive V-8s leave considerable space forward—definitely enough to accommodate the optional in-line six-cylinder Yanmars—and surprisingly, you can even reach the spark plugs. MerCruiser thoughtfully clusters the coolant reservoir and oil dipstick at the front of the engine, but alas, these being V-drives, the fronts are at the rear, and to reach them you'll pretty much have to lie on top of each engine shroud, all the more reason to do your checks when the motors are cold. The Horizons also have integral fuel filters, but I was never able to find them, much less touch them. You'll also need to lie on the engines to check on the optional aft-mounted 5-kW Kohler genset. Chalk up another plus for the I/Os.

Overall, our engine room was well done, except for the fact that someone had forgotten to actually screw the electric ram that lifts the cockpit deck to expose the engines into anything and the hose for the cockpit drain that just kind of dangled there. I believe it's supposed to empty into the bilge—a design that has obvious drawbacks—but when you raise the deck, it has the disconcerting habit of dumping water onto the genset.

Yet such considerations seem trivial on a boat that is so single-mindedly young at heart. The 330 is all about fun, particularly family fun. Yes, if you're a young couple, you'll like this boat. But if you're a young couple with a couple of young kids who love the water, owning a Sea Ray 330 Sundancer is like a having a season pass to a water park. Minus the slide.

For more information on Sea Ray, including contact information, click here.

Nothing's better than lying in bed with a book or video at anchor—as long as you take along enough pillows to prop yourself up. Well, on the 330, you can leave the pillows at home. Just push the "up" arrow on the remote control, and the forward third of the mattress tilts up to afford you the perfect posture, whether your fort is War and Peace or My Cousin Vinny. And it's standard!—R.T.

This article originally appeared in the October 2007 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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