The cockpit is just as passenger-friendly. A little more than five feet deep, it has stylish rounded aft corners, a design that takes up some usable space but also yields safe, molded-in steps to the bridge and side decks. The complex molding here intrigued me: The deck of the standard swim platform (with standard transom door) and cockpit are one piece, eliminating leaks and squeaks. I also liked the stowage/shore-power hookup/compartment in the transom, a feature borrowed from larger Sea Rays.
And I liked the saloon. Its facing two-person settees, aft entertainment module with standard 20-inch LCD TV and 12-volt Clarion stereo system, and glass all around make for a convivial space. Because the L-shape dinette forward is elevated to make room for the two-berth stateroom below, the view while dining is excellent on all points. (The 36 is available with a lower station in place of the dinette.) Neither the dinette nor either settee converts to a berth, no big deal since the boat has two cabins.
Within arm’s reach of the dinette, the galley is efficient and well-outfitted, with side-by-side, dual-voltage, below-counter refrigerator and freezer, lots of stowage, and, like the dinette, an attractive cherrywood sole, which is unfortunately not available in the rest of the boat. (It would sure make those fluid checks a lot easier.) There’s also an in-sole stowage compartment—nicely gelcoated—that’s perfect for canned goods and another smaller space under the steps that on my boat was mostly occupied by the optional central vac. Directly to starboard, the guest stateroom, roomy for a 36-footer, is available with an LCD TV. Somehow, Sea Ray also managed to fit in a separate head (port) and shower (starboard) and a large, comfortable forward master with island berth. Nice space planning.
But the 36’s real sleight of hand is handling. She may look a bit top-heavy, but she sure doesn’t feel that way—and that’s with the lighter gasoline powerplants. Stability and helm response are top-notch. I can’t say anything of her rough-water abilities, as there was barely chop on our test waters.
Handling calls to mind one other gasoline-diesel issue: docking. Gasoline engines lack diesels’ low-end torque and so swing smaller props. So when you put a gasoline boat in gear, not much happens unless you add throttle, which is difficult to do with split throttles and shifts like the 36’s. Fortunately, both bow and stern thrusters are available, and on this boat the two can be controlled by a nifty, intuitive, boat-shape control. But when I went to back the 36 into her slip in a mild cross wind, I failed miserably. I did much better with the tiny props and split controls. That’s no criticism of the boat but rather an old dog revealing a new trick he couldn’t master.
Yet this old dog was charmed by the 36. She’s an affordable, well-equipped, well-designed cruiser. As for whether to order yours with gasoline engines or diesel—well, as I write this, not yet a week after my test, crude just hit $74 a barrel, so as the ol’ pirates used to say, pick yer poison, matey.
Sea Ray Boats (800) SR-BOATS. www.searay.com.
Spotlight on | E-Plex Electrical Control Panel
When Sea Ray introduced the 36 at this year’s Miami International Boat Show, the big buzz was not as much about the boat as about the electrical control panel inside the boat. Manufactured by Airpax of Oviedo, Florida, the panel, which Airpax calls the E-Plex, virtually eliminates circuit breakers and switches. In their place is a ten-inch color LCD display into which is programmed four “pages” that let you control virtually every electrical function onboard, from starting the genset to switching to shore power to activating individual electrical devices. The screen is not only easy to read, it’s eminently logical. I found there was absolutely no learning curve to it. The minute I began to use it, I understood how to navigate to exactly where I wanted to go. And perhaps best of all, the E-Plex uses a bus system that eliminates about 200 pounds of wiring harness. The E-Plex is standard on the 36, but look for Sea Ray to make it standard on larger models.
Airpax (800) 909-3354. www.airpax.net.
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