Ray 550 Sedan Bridge — By Richard Thiel —
|Part 2: Sea Ray’s designers craftily placed the queen-size berth athwartships and its head and built-in nightstands on the starboard side.|
A single step up brings you to the level of the galley, which is aligned along the starboard side. Like those on all Sea Ray Sport Yachts, this one has the amenities you’d want, starting with the Panasonic microwave built into the aft athwartships leg. Moving forward you find a single sink, then two Sub-Zero refrigerator drawers and a Kenyon cooktop, which surprisingly has only two burners. The counter widens as you continue forward, creating a surplus of counter space and room below it for a cabinet-style Sub-Zero freezer. The waist-high grabrail is a nice touch, although it blocks access to the lock on the top refrigerator drawer. I noted the lack of a built-in coffee maker, a traditional Sea Ray touch, and on first glance I had the impression that there is less stowage here than in other Sea Ray galleys, probably due to the lack of overhead cabinets. However, after I found the drawers in the table base, I concluded that stowage was about the same.
I also concluded that the design of the midcabin master is a success once I stepped down the circular stairway to starboard, turned left at the landing, and took two stairs down and aft into it. Sea Ray’s designers craftily placed the queen-size berth athwartships and its head and built-in nightstands on the starboard side. That’s right under the galley, where there’s only about five feet of headroom—plenty for over a berth. The extra headroom from the elevated dinette is to port, the main walking area, where there’s also built-in stowage and a 20-inch Zenith flat-panel TV. The aft (engine-room) bulkhead is mirrored, and there’s plenty of light, so the space doesn’t feel cramped. The head is forward and up two steps at hallway level, along the port side. It has a roomy stall shower and Sealand MSD.
Forward from the saloon steps on the starboard side is a guest stateroom with right-angle bunks and yet another TV, making it well suited to kids. Unfortunately, the light switch for this space is behind the door, so to turn on the lights you must walk inside and close the door.
Between here and the forward VIP stateroom on the starboard side, there’s a floor-level closet for an optional Splendide 2000 washer/dryer and, farther forward, a five-shelf cabinet, which, although shallow, would make a good linen closet. To port is a head with no shower but with a second door to the VIP. A starboard door in the VIP opens onto a large, separate shower compartment. Our boat had a fourth TV in this stateroom, the obligatory pedestal queen-size berth, and a good variety of stowage compartments, including an odd cabinet on either side barely three inches deep.
There is yet another place aboard the 550 where Sea Ray resorted to a proven design: the flying bridge. Although the helm is well aft, it provides fine sightlines forward and creates enough room for ten people to sit around a table, albeit a too-small one. (There’s more seating on a benchseat aft of the helm.) The trick is that the tachometers, MAN engine monitors, and Sea Ray systems monitor are overhead, in a pod on the hardtop. Combined with the multitasking abilities of the Sea Ray Navigator display, there’s a surfeit of space for electronics, and the instrument panel is one of the cleanest and most uncluttered I’ve come across in a long time.
One feature I haven’t seen on other Sea Rays is found at the aft end of the ten-foot-long cockpit. Abaft the standard eight-foot-wide transom seat was an optional davit concealed in the transom beneath two lids, making it easy to launch a tender or PWC from the 4'2"-deep swim platform. A second compartment below places the connections for shorepower, water, and cable TV within easy reach. Engine room access is via a hatch in the cockpit sole (the saloon’s sole can be removed for major engine work), and most major maintenance points inside are aft for easy access. Despite the V-8 blocks, there’s still 1'3" between them. The batteries are in molded boxes with proper trays, but reaching the 220-volt shorepower breakers on the inside of the transom requires some serious belly-crawling.
After a day aboard the 550, I could see how owners of smaller Sea Rays will be attracted to her. I could also see why Sea Ray relies so much on established design tactics. Each is a proven success, and that takes a lot of the gamble out of boatbuilding and boat buying.
Sea Ray Boats Phone: (800) SRBOATS. www.searay.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.