Ray 540 Cockpit Motor Yacht — By George L. Petrie
— October 2000
Up The Lazy River
|Sea Ray is moving full speed ahead with a new Cockpit Motor Yacht.|
"Honey, why are you going to Knoxville to test the new Sea Ray 540?" my wife asked. "Don’t they build those in Florida?" She was right, of course. Sea Ray’s Merritt Island facility manufacturers all of the company’s large cruisers and sport yachts. But Sea Ray’s corporate headquarters (and production facilities for smaller craft) are in the scenic foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, where the Tennessee River winds its way through the city of Knoxville. And the 540 in question was a prototype Cockpit Motor Yacht that was making her debut at Sea Ray’s annual national dealer open house this summer.
The 540 CMY represents a significant initiative for the world’s largest production boatbuilder. Though Sea Ray dominates many segments of the market, its dealers and customers were frustrated because none of its product lines offered a cockpit motoryacht. Demand for that style–for reasons of space and looks, not fishing–was the genesis of the 540 CMY, the first Sea Ray ever to include both a dedicated pilothouse helm station and a cockpit motoryacht layout. But if my experience aboard our test boat is any indication, it won’t be the last.
I boarded the 540 with a couple of Sea Ray technicians in the hamlet of Tallassee, south of Knoxville, for a 70-mile shakedown cruise that took us down the Little Tennessee River and through Tellico Lake before heading back up the main Tennessee River to Sea Ray’s corporate headquarters. I found testing in this venue was remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, the waterways flowing through the Tennessee foothills are infinitely more scenic than the environs surrounding that mainstay of boat testing, Miami’s famous Government Cut. Second, July temperatures in the Appalachian foothills at the time were vastly more hospitable than those in South Florida.
On the downside, from a boat test point of view, the rivers were as smooth as glass on test day, so there was no way to evaluate the 540’s seakeeping abilities. On this point, the best I can offer is that with a hull form similar to Sea Ray’s 560 Sedan Bridge–a sharply raked stem and convex sections forward that transition into a 15-degree deadrise at the transom–this cockpit motoryacht’s hull should perform as well in rough seas as other boats in the Sea Ray line.
As a matter of course, Sea Ray engineers conduct extensive test programs using quarter-scale models to optimize hull shape and strake placement for each new design. And with precision molds cut on a monstrous five-axis milling machine, there’s little doubt that the hull form rolling off the production floor is the same shape fine-tuned by the design team.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.