Sea Ray 540 Cockpit Motor Yacht Page 2

PMY Boat Test: Sea Ray 540 Cockpit Motor Yacht continued
Sea Ray 540 Cockpit Motor Yacht — By George L. Petrie — October 2000

Up The Lazy River
Part 2: Sea Ray 540 continued
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Another quirk that our test site revealed was the difference between running in fresh water and salt water. All the way to Knoxville, Sea Ray’s technicians kept shaking their heads and muttering that the yacht had been 2 to 3 knots faster in Florida. Her Caterpillar 3196TA diesels are rated to develop 776 hp at 2300 rpm, and during Sea Ray’s own trials in Florida the 540 CMY consistently ran 32 to 33 mph, turning 2280 rpm at WOT. But the most we could coax out of her in Tennessee was a tad over 30 mph at 2230 rpm.

After ruling out a mechanical problem, we pondered the fact that because salt water has higher density than fresh water, it produces more buoyant force at any given draft. (That’s why it’s easier for a swimmer to float in salt water.) Conversely, a hull sinks to a deeper draft in fresh water and so has more wetted surface area, producing higher drag. That could easily explain why the 540’s Caterpillar engines were not developing full-rated rpm and the yacht was not making her expected speed. If you’re planning to run this boat primarily in fresh water, a reduction in propeller pitch would allow the diesels to develop full rpm and probably overcome most of the added drag.

Running our tests in a major inland waterway did provide a great opportunity for assessing maneuverability and visibility from the helm, as we were always on the lookout for floating tree limbs and miscellaneous debris. Forward sightlines were excellent from both the flying bridge and the pilothouse helm station, while large side windows and a sliding door from the saloon to the cockpit gave the lower helm station exceptionally good visibility all around.

Speaking of the cockpit, it’s covered in fiberglass (although it comes with a snap-in carpet liner) and is self-bailing. Although there are two rod holders, there aren’t any other fishing amenities, since as stated earlier Sea Ray’s dealers and customers just liked the design of a cruising cockpit motoryacht. What it does have, however, is stowage in side panels and more stowage below the molded steps leading up to the flying bridge.

The remainder of the 540’s layout is just as well thought out. Just inside the lockable sliding door leading into the saloon is an electronics cabinet with space for a cellphone, stereo, and CD player. Distribution panels for the 120/240-volt a.c. and 24-volt d.c. systems are easily accessible behind cabinet doors on the starboard side. Another nice standard feature was the Iso-boost boosting isolation transformer, which monitors the voltage of incoming shore power, adjusting automatically to compensate for the inevitable voltage dips that occur when your boat is plugged in at the far end of a long pier.

Offering large stowage spaces beneath, the saloon sofa and love seat are both finished in butter-soft Ultraleather, nicely complementing the high-gloss wood finish of a hi-lo dining and cocktail table. The saloon and adjoining galley are designed to permit panoramic views from the pilothouse, which is situated up two steps forward. No bulkheads obstruct the driver’s view, and stowage spaces and appliances in the galley and saloon are kept below the level of the large side windows to further enhance visibility.

The pilothouse itself offers a centerline helm station with a single helm seat and large settee on the starboard side, both covered in Ultraleather. Gauges are mounted for easy viewing without having to look down, and switches are all within easy reach. The feature I really liked was a hatchway beneath the dash that opened into a large space behind the console, big enough to offer comfortable sitting headroom while accessing the backside of all the electronics and with room left over to stow a mountain of gear.

Almost as impressive was the below-decks layout. Stairs alongside the helm station led down the port side to the accommodation spaces. Directly beneath the pilothouse is the master stateroom, with a queen-size berth angled on the port side to allow easy walkaround access. Beneath the stairway there’s a compact washer-dryer unit, and tucked into the aft bulkhead behind a cabinet door, a complete water system manifold, allowing you to shut down any individual line in the water system if a problem arises. The starboard side is occupied by separate compartments for the head and shower, with a sink between. Pocket doors allow the vanity area to be closed off from the stateroom for complete privacy.

The guest staterooms down here are well suited for a large family or a pair of couples with children. The forward stateroom offers a queen-size centerline berth with cavernous stowage beneath, while the third stateroom has over and under berths. The guest head is accessible from both the forward stateroom and the hallway.

Comfortable amenities aren’t limited to the 540’s interior. A stylish, fixed fiberglass hardtop shades the majority of the flying bridge. Skylight hatches let light in above the helm area. Side curtains and a powerful air conditioner aided the hardtop in keeping our test boat’s flying bridge cool and comfortable. The double helm seat offers power adjustment as a standard feature, with a sink, wetbar, and a freezer with icemaker close by. Just aft on the port side are a fore-and-aft facing double seat and dinette. Aft of that, another fore-and-aft facing seat electrically folds out into a large sunpad.

That sunpad would be a great place to lay back and relax. But Sea Ray is doing just the opposite. Not content with simply being the biggest in the industry, it’s made a bold departure in response to what its customers have said they want. Even though those customers probably won’t be reeling in fish over the transom, they’ll be pursuing their favorite kind of boating just as aggressively as Sea Ray is pursuing this new niche.

Sea Ray Boats Phone: (800) 772-6287. Fax: (800) 648-7702.

George L. Petrie is a professor of naval architecture at the University of New Orleans and provides maritime consulting services. His Web site is

Next page > Sea Ray 540 Specs > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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