Sea Ray 38 Sundancer — By Elizabeth Ginns Britten
— January 2006
The newest Sundancer is just as fast and comfortable as she looks.
It was a picture-perfect Sunshine State day, the mid-September morning I arrived in Melbourne to test the Sea Ray 38 Sundancer. Bright blue sky, puffy white clouds, sun beating down—the kind of day Florida is famous for, the kind of day that makes you want to slow down, take a deep breath, and relax. My flight from New York City had landed early, there was nobody in line at the rental car agency, and I was en route to the company’s Merritt Island facility way ahead of schedule. It was about the best Monday morning I’d had at work in weeks.
Then something on the radio caught my attention: “Governor Jeb Bush has ordered a mandatory evacuation of the Florida Keys, and the mayor of Key West said Tropical Storm Rita could potentially be a category 2 or 3 storm when she makes landfall on Tuesday.”
What? This was the first I’d heard of Rita, and she’s slated to be a major hurricane aimed right at the area I’ve just flown to? I immediately rescheduled my flight out for that night instead of the following morning. I’d be spared the wrath of Rita, but I had a lot of business to take care of in one afternoon. So much for my relaxing day in Florida.
In retrospect, my frenzied attitude was perfectly fitting for a boat that says get up and go, right down to her exterior styling. The 38 I tested had sleek lines and a low profile, plus a hull finished in the optional metallic pewter. She had plenty of places above and below to relax and, as I learned later, plenty of performance to match.
I met up with Sea Ray rep Gary McCloud, and we quickly got to work. The first order of the day was inspecting the 38’s full-beam (12'6") engine room, located under the hydraulically raised cockpit sole. Inside I found a pair of standard 370-hp 8.1S MerCruiser gasoline V-drives with all routine service points accessible, despite the fact that there was only about 16 inches between the powerplants.
McCloud piloted the 38 out of the slip while I inspected her exterior. Her standard fiberglass hardtop has a three-foot Sunbrella sunshade attached to its after end, but what I really liked was the hatch in the middle of it that allows a breeze to flow through while keeping spray out.
But it was the 38’s cockpit that I found most inviting. Seating abounds, especially aft, where there’s U-shape seating for two to port and an L-shape settee to starboard with room for at least four more, both with stowage below. There’s a wet bar on the port side of the cockpit, with a Corian countertop plus a trash receptacle and cooler beneath it, a detail that eliminates a lot of trips below. Touches like these, plus stainless steel drink holders and four stereo speakers spread around the cockpit (handy, since a six-month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio also comes standard), make the 38 a top-notch choice for anyone who entertains aboard. If it hadn’t been for the impending hurricane, I could’ve happily spent the rest of the day right there.
The helm, forward of the cockpit seating areas and to starboard, is almost as nice. It’s accented in high-gloss cherry with stainless steel gauges neatly in a row, a single helm seat with a comfortable flip-up bolster, and a molded-in fiberglass companion seat for two to port.
Once we were out in the ICW, I ran numbers on the 38, which reinforced her sporty appearance. With her standard power, she planed quickly and reached her top speed of 37.5 mph in only about 25 seconds. With the numbers complete, I took the helm, and since the ICW was flat, I wasn’t able to evaluate the 38’s seakeeping. But I can tell you that she’s responsive, thanks to her Sea Star hydraulic power-assisted steering, and that she made hard-over, full-speed turns in about two boat lengths, with a barely discernible drop in rpm. Sightlines all around were excellent, even for me, and I’m 5'1".
This article originally appeared in the December 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.