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Sea Ray 320 Sundancer Page 2

PMY Boat Test: Sea Ray 320 Sundancer continued
Sea Ray 320 Sundancer — By George L. Petrie — October 2002

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Sea Ray also revamped the bridge-deck and cockpit layouts. The helm station is all new and slick, with touchpad switches controlling such functions as the bilge pumps, blowers, lights, and trim tabs. Large, easy-to-read, backlit gauges are mounted on a handsome burl instrument panel in front of the wood-accented tilt wheel. To the inboard side of the helm, there's a good-size panel for mounting additional electronics and a VHF.

The walk-through between the bridge and cockpit is slightly to port of centerline on the 320, directly in line with the entry to the saloon stairway. This setup allows for a better traffic flow than the 310 did, which placed the walk-through along the port side and required you to jog around the helm seat to enter the saloon steps. The layout on the 320 also allows for a larger wet bar and ice chest to port, along with a seat that allows one of your guests to face both the helm and cockpit seating areas.

At the helm, McCloud pressed the touchpad controls to levitate the forward end of the cockpit deck a couple of feet, revealing a pair of 300-hp MerCruiser Magnum MPI inboards that flanked the centerline. Scanning the engine compartment, I was pleased to see that critical access points (batteries, dipsticks, oil filters, strainers, and engine oil fills) were all within easy reach. Hooking up the fuel-flow gear was a no-sweat operation, even in the hot Miami sun. It was time to lower the cockpit, cast off, and put some wind across the deck.

Though the 320 is only slightly larger than her predecessor, at 13,200 pounds she is heavier by about ten percent. Given that she has the same engine options, I wanted to see how the added weight would affect her performance. As McCloud eased the Morse controls to full throttle, my radar gun showed a two-way average speed of just over 36 mph and our trim gauge indicated a well-balanced 31⁄2-degree running angle with the tabs fully retracted. The 320 took the one-foot chop right in stride and was well-behaved through three- and four-foot wakes. However, around 3000 rpm, bow rise momentarily blocked my forward sightlines as we came up on plane. At higher (or lower) speeds she trimmed out nicely, without help from the trim tabs.

Since such performance is related to the new hull form, I spoke with Sea Ray's vice president of product development, Mark Owens, to find out how it differs from that of the 310. He told me that bow sections on the 320 hull have a finer entry and more deadrise for a smoother ride in rough seas, while deadrise aft is has been reduced from 23 to 21 degrees to improve balance, by developing more lift at the stern.

Owens also shared some construction details. The 320 uses solid fiberglass laminate in the hull, with a vinylester skin coat to resist blistering. Balsa core is used in areas like the foredeck walkway and cockpit soles, but penetrations are back-filled with composite to eliminate water migration.

Never content with the status quo, Sea Ray already has some changes planned for 2003 models, like upgraded electronics, an optional transom-mounted stereo remote control, and a choice of vinyl or (as some say) more comfortable Sunbrella material for the forward sunpads. Not any bigger this time around, just a little better.

Sea Ray Boats Phone: (800) SR-BOATS. Fax: (865) 546-2872. www.searay.com.

George L. Petrie is a professor of naval architecture at Webb Institute and provides maritime consulting services. His Web site is www.maritimeanalysis.com.

Next page > Sea Ray 310 Specs > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

This article originally appeared in the December 2002 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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