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BOATS

BOAT TESTS

Sea Ray 47 SB

After hiding my mouth under a respirator and slipping on protective eyewear, I entered the Sea Ray plant in Palm Coast, Florida, where workers were grinding away on a column of vessels that stretched the length of the massive building. I was there to test a 47 Sedan Bridge (SB), a boat that had just made it less than a hundred yards from that very building to a small, murky inlet off the ICW.

Designed to fill the space between the 44 SB and the 52 SB, the 47 is 5'3" longer and five inches beamier than the 44, but what else made her different? My factory tour completed, I removed the stifling coverings from my face and headed out to the dock to find out what distinguished her from the other Sea Ray models in the adjacent slips, especially the 44 SB and the 52 SB.

Entering the saloons of both the 44 and 52, the first thing you encounter is a sitting area—couches set back against both walls of the saloon. Forward, both boats have a raised L-shape dinette to port and a galley to starboard. The major layout difference between the two is that on the 44 the galley is down while on the 52 it's up. But there are major differences between the saloons of these two models and the 47's.

Instead of the sitting area being aft, the 47's galley is there. Couple this feature with the optional flip-up window and magnetically fastening cockpit door, and whoever is preparing food can stay in the center of the action, whether the action is in the cockpit or in the saloon. And unlike the 44 and the 52, the 47's cook also has a full-beam workspace with counterspace to port and to starboard.

Forward, the 47's dinette is also a major departure from the 44 and the 52. For starters, it's C-shape instead of L-shape. Second, it's not just the sole under the dinette that's raised. A full-beam step—shaped roughly like the capital letter A—supports both the dinette (to port) and a loveseat (to starboard). This step is the focal point of the saloon, and its design has two effects: The dinette and loveseat become the new sitting room, and it raises the overhead of the master suite below.

Yet another feature that separates the 47 from the 44 and 52—and indeed a first for any boat built at the Palm Coast plant—is the retractable TV. The plant installs the 26-inch Sharp Aquos flat-panel in the starboard-side countertop just aft of the loveseat, where it can be raised and lowered with one click of a remote, unlike some other vessels I've seen with this technology that require you to hold the button down. Better yet, the TV swivels to face the dinette and is angled so it can also be visible from the loveseat.

My 47 had the two-suite layout, a forward VIP and master midcabin; the alternative three-suite layout, not available on the other two boats, splits the midcabin suite into two smaller staterooms. Our midcabin has a tiered ceiling (made possible by the aforementioned full-beam step in the saloon). The overhead-to-sole heights vary dramatically here, from a comfortable 6'8" to 5'3". The headroom over the queen berth gets as low as 4'1"; not bad if you're sleeping, and it'll keep the kids from bouncing on the innerspring mattress. The tiered overhead fans out from the corner over the berth like a scallop shell and is quite pleasing to the eye, but being 5'10", I had to pay care not to bump my head here. Still, I didn't feel cramped here or in the engine space under the cockpit, although I did have to crouch there as well. There was plenty of room for two people to freely move around without bumping into each other. Sea Ray ensured that major maintenance items like oil filters, dipsticks, and fuel-water separators were easy to get to, as were many out-of-the-way components like the engine mount bolts, which could be accessed by the way of ports in the stringers.

Two more Palm Coast firsts for the 47 are a 17-kW Onan genset and standard twin 574-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC 600 V-drives. Since these features are larger than what Sea Ray typically offers in this size vessel (i.e. the 48 Sundancer has a 9-kW Onan genset and a pair of 517-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSC 8.3-540 diesel V-drives standard), I began to ponder the question of weight distribution. Unlike the 52 SB, with its 640-hp Cummins MerCruiser QSM-11 straight inboards, the close-coupled V-drives on the 47 put the weight well aft. And compared to the V-driven 44 SB with the Cummins MerCruiser 500 QSCs, the 47 has bigger struts and larger-diameter shafts. Looking around the engine room, I noted the black-water tank was back there as well. With all these hefty components aft, I couldn't help but wonder how they would affect her running angles.

I didn't have to wait long to find out. We were soon out of the slip and onto the sleepy, smooth waters of the ICW. Cautious not to wake the aluminum skiffs fishing in the reeds, we kept our speed under 6 mph with both engines engaged. Once clear, we shoved the throttles forward and made the repeated north and south runs necessary to get our performance data. The 47's running angles never exceeded 61/2 degrees, and visibility from the helm was never obscured.

Unable to perform much rigorous maneuvering in this thin cut of the ICW—I did make some S-turns and pirouettes using the optional thrusters—we returned her to the dock and easily backed her into her slip (sans thrusters) despite the fact that the helmsman has a blind spot in the aft-port quarter. Sightlines are fine on all other points.

Putting the 47 back into her slip among all the other Sea Rays made me think again about how she fits between the 44 and 52 and how really different she is from them. All three have similar equipment and standard features, but new thinking about the saloon traffic flow and upgrades in engines and other gear have created a model that maintains continuity with the rest of the line yet fills a niche—and fills it well.

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Opening outward into the cockpit, the optional swinging stainless steel door and flip-up window create a wide-open entrance into the saloon. The window has pneumatic struts that slowly open it so it can function as a pass-through from the aft galley. But the real benefit is the openness it creates between the cockpit and the saloon, creating what is essentially a nautical great room. Open the saloon's sliding window amidships, and you take full advantage of any passing breezes. For those summer nights when someone's laboring in the galley but still wants to keep chatting with those on the aft deck, mosquito-blocking screens are also included.—G.R.

This article originally appeared in the February 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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