Ray 500 Sundancer — By Capt. Bill Pike
— February 2003
A Star is Born
|This express-style beauty's got the panache and pizzazz of a great performer.|
I pinwheeled the Sea Ray 500 Sundancer in a sunny little lagoon, preparing to back the big express cruiser into a concrete-sided slip overhung with a giant, blue TraveLift. A breeze blew straight off the docks of the Sykes Creek Plant in Merritt Island, Florida, the spot where Sea Ray builds most of its larger vessels. It was a mild zephyr, but emphatic enough to lift a flag or two on the numerous other Sea Rays in slips nearby. I figured it would facilitate the process of backing down.
Of course, I was smiling the faint smile of the true boat nut, which is not unlike the faint smile of the Mona Lisa. There's just something mysteriously delightful about maneuvering a big, gutsy, well-mannered boat around a dock, making her do precisely what you want. I shot a glance ahead, through the tall, frameless Taylor Made windshield. With a couple of feet to spare, the Sundancer's bow pulpit was sweeping crisply past the mangroves on the far side of the lagoon. I returned my attention to the stern, which was easily visible from my perch on the flip-up bolster that's part of the adjustable helm seat. The large, hydraulic swim platform back there was clearing an abutment nicely, again with a few feet to spare.
Less is more, when it comes to boathandling. I pulled both 635-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSM11s out of gear, noting with satisfaction that the Teleflex shifters were savvily positioned on the port side of the wheel, where I could easily work them with my right hand while facing astern. Dealing with the throttles on the other side of the wheel was totally unnecessary, by the way, due to the size of the props and the idle-speed torque of the powerplants. The boat continued to pinwheel under the influence of her displacement, gradually assuming a catty-cornered position. I clicked the starboard shifter astern momentarily, which stalled the pinwheel effect, pulled the right-hand corner of the transom slowly back into the slip, and began moving the bow to starboard, toward a fingerpier where we needed to tie up. After a bit, I gave the powerful, 24-volt MaxPower thruster a couple of shots to accelerate the movement of the bow and watched appreciatively as the big cruiser settled into the slip precisely where she needed to be.
A guy in a Sea Ray T-shirt came strolling up, took the outboard stern line, and figure-eighted it on a cleat on the pier. "Good job," he winked, moving forward. The remark pretty much summarized the opinion I'd formed during the past couple of hours of sea-trialing the 500 in the nearby Indian River. Sightlines forward while coming out of the hole were unobstructed--I didn't even need to lift my chin to see clearly over the bow. Turns were smooth and effortless--I found I could spin the wheel at all times with just one finger, thanks to Teleflex SeaStar hydraulics and engine-driven power-assist. And the Sea Ray Navigator, an optional, dashboard-mounted PC plotter with a daylight-viewable touch screen that is truly daylight-viewable, showed its stuff with flair. All I had to do to set a waypoint and automatically steer towards it was gently poke the screen with a finger and then push the little orange button on the autopilot.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.