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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Sea Ray 450 Sedan Bridge

 

Performance Wizard

 

 

The latest Sea Ray makes magic on the water thanks to careful engineering and Zeus-inspired maneuverability.

 

I first caught sight of the new 450 Sedan Bridge as I strolled down the hill to the marina behind Sea Ray’s Merritt Island facility. Even from afar, one particular aspect of the vessel’s stylish persona stood head and shoulders above the rest: her loftiness. From the 450’s waterline to the crest of the Raymarine radar scanner surmounting her hardtop, I put the distance at roughly 20 feet, an approximation that soon proved fairly accurate in light of the actual 19'4" measurement Sea Ray captain Tom Donnelly pulled from his list of preliminary specifications.

Getting underway took only a few minutes. Except for having to remove a couple of cockpit lounge cushions so I could access the side deck on the port side, I found moving around topside was a total breeze. Up forward, in the vicinity of the 450’s Quick windlass (with stainless steel anchor chute and foot controls), the surface underfoot was perfect for working lines—flat, roomy, paved with grippy nonskid, and protected by both toerails and hip-high bowrails. Side decks port and starboard were similarly constituted and also wide, each being more than 11 inches across at its narrowest point. And, thanks to a transom door at the cockpit’s rear, access to the expansive swim platform was excellent.

The short trip down the Barge Canal to our test venue—the Indian River—was a pleasant one, despite the cold, gloomy weather. My flying bridge was outfitted with a full Gioia enclosure (affording superb, 360-degree visibility from a multi-adjustable Garelick helm seat) and an optional 18,000-Btu Cruisair reverse-cycle air-conditioning unit. The sense of cheery warmth engendered by this combo contrasted starkly with the frosty look of the sky. “Nice ‘n’ warm up here, Tom,” I said before peeling off my coat. “Yes sir,” Donnelly replied with satisfaction as we exited the canal and entered the river’s choppy gray waters.

One reason I continue to enjoy boat testing after all these years is that it occasionally lets me do fun, edgy stuff the average owner would not likely do, all in the hallowed name of science. So, once I’d finished recording the test data shown here (using the standard-issue Raymarine E120W screen on the 450’s dash as a speed reference in lieu of a malfunctioning Stalker radar gun), I proposed a maneuver that would nicely gauge our test boat’s transverse stability underway, a parameter I’d been wondering about since noting the boat’s loftiness. “You figure there’s enough room outside the channel here for a hardover turn at wide-open throttle?” I asked Donnelly.

“Heck,” he replied with a grin, “you should be able to turn this thing around in the channel, Bill. Not necessary goin’ outside. Go for it.”

Giving the 450’s electronically actuated wheel a sporty hardover spin while doing 34.6 mph in the midst of a channel not much wider than a two-lane highway promptly made a believer of me—it was remarkable. The boat came ‘round with complete composure—inboard heel was not in the least excessive or disconcerting, and she maintained not only her velocity and transverse stability throughout, but her athleticism as well. Indeed, as I cranked a tight, full circle and then another, I estimated the 450’s tactical diameter to be two boat lengths—at most.

While zooming back to our Barge Canal marina, Donnelly explained a few of the engineering niceties behind such a performance, starting with Sea Ray’s meticulous approach to the distribution of weights onboard. From the beefy but deceptively light structure supporting the hardtop over our heads to the subtly diminished elevation of the engines, drives, bulkheads, and decks beneath our feet, the 450’s vertical center of gravity had been purposefully kept low, Donnelly said, thereby guaranteeing, among other things, plenty of transverse stability in turns. Moreover, he added, the 450’s vertically oriented, tunnel-ensconced, independently swiveling Zeus pods were also responsible for turning tightness, as well as stability athwartships, thanks to the optimized thrust angles produced by this technology.

Dockside maneuvering put the frosting on the cake. After pivoting the 450 at the mouth of her slip with her Zeus joystick (savvily installed well inboard of the starboard inwale so it could be easily manipulated by right-handers like myself while backing down), I simply stood up, turned slightly aft, put my butt against the inwale, and effortlessly zooped the 450 home by going simultaneously astern and sideways. Control sensitivity hallmarked the operation, and I gratefully experienced no rocking motion of the sort I sometimes notice when joysticking other pod-type vessels.

The 450’s interior provided the day’s final attraction. The configuration of the main living area was both smart and practical. UltraLeather-upholstered, residential-style furniture in the saloon (with locking mechanisms on the feet of the wing chairs), a nifty raised dinette to port (with superb visibility and great access to the galley, down and opposite), and an encompassing array of TaylorMade windows and doors made the space bright, open, and inviting. In addition, the island berth in the forepeak master offered a big (6'9"x5'3") Hickory Springs innerspring mattress, and there was plenty of headroom in the VIP to port—I measured 2'6" of headroom over each of the convertible berths.

But what really knocked the socks off me was the 450’s standard-issue fit and finish. Created from pricey, voidless birch plywood imported from Russia, virtually all cabinetry components had been cut by huge super-precise, computer-controlled machines at Sea Ray’s nearby Cypress facility, then flawlessly stained and varnished with polyurethane via a succession of equally precise machines and processes. The finished product was pure elegance coupled with seeming indestructible solidity.

At day’s end, my take on Sea Ray’s new 450 Sedan Bridge was wholly enthusiastic. Yeah, the boat’s got an exceptionally safe, workable weather deck and a practical, well-crafted interior. But when it comes down to makin’ a mile in open water—in my opinion, this baby’s nothin’ short of a flat-out performance wizard.

Sea Ray Boats
(865) 522-4181
www.searay.com

This article originally appeared in the February 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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