As the story goes, Charles Darwin happened upon one of science's most important theories while visiting the Galapagos Islands aboard HMS Beagle. Furthermore, he came up with his treatise on natural selection—the passing on of favorable genetic traits that provides an advantage for survival over other species, especially if that environment changes—long after his return to England. That was in 1858.
One hundred and one years later, another man, C.N. Ray, was poised to create one of the boatbuilding industry's most successful enterprises using a new material called fiberglass. And while in all likelihood Ray did not employ Darwin's concepts as a model, his company's achievements are a nautical spin on Darwin's groundbreaking study: incorporating the most successful characteristics of past models into new launches. These characteristics include well-thought-out use of space, innovative seating and living accommodations, and useful standard amenities.
In the highly competitive world of boatbuilding, this kind of natural selection is a necessity for survival. Take the 420 Sedan Bridge that I took out on the waters of Great South Bay from Surfside 3's marina in Lindenhurst, New York. With her two-stateroom, two-head layout, convertible saloon, and ample stowage, she's a perfect example of how natural selection works afloat. The 420 is a direct descendent of the 400 Sedan Bridge that after six years in the line is being replaced. But her styling is also derived from the 560 Sedan Bridge. The result is a 42-footer that seems a lot bigger.
For starters there's a large, spacious bridge accessed from the cockpit via a wide, molded-in staircase whose two bottom steps are about 3'6" wide. A sturdy rail to starboard and a grabrail to port flank these and the six other steps leading topsides. How large and spacious is the bridge? I measured the "move-around room" here to be just short of 11'0"x9'6". And with the table and six-person, C-shape seating area aft of the centerline helm—there are stowage areas below the cushions—this is definitely the place to be while underway. You can even get an optional sunpad filler cushion for the table.
Having a bridge obviously means better views into the seaway, and even with the full enclosure up, I enjoyed commanding sightlines all around. The centerline helm has the pod-type control panel that has proven to be a winner in the Sea Ray line. The flush-mounted electronics, including my test boat's Sea Ray Navigator PC chartplotter system, are raised to maximize viewing. I'm 5'9", and while seated in the comfortable standard Stidd pedestal helm seat—it and the companion seat to port have flip-up bolsters—I had no trouble reading the electronics, gauges, and optional SmartCraft display.
Perhaps the most striking and successful adaptation on the 420 Sedan Bridge is in the use of interior space. I was surprised to find a number of features on this 42-footer that you'd expect to see only on larger models. Take the opposing UltraLeather couches in the saloon. The port one converts to a double berth, while the starboard one offers a stowage compartment below, and there's a raised dining area amidships and to port that easily seats four adults. Both areas offer excellent views, whether through the three large windows forward, those to either side, or out the aft sliding glass door.
Another spatial feature worth noting is the galley, down and to starboard. While headroom in the saloon measures more than 6'5", down the three steps to the galley it's a whopping 9'6". As with her progenitors, the 420 has a well-equipped galley that features ample stowage in cabinets and drawers, Corian countertops, a Panasonic microwave/convection oven, a two-burner electric stovetop, a three-quarter size Norcold refrigerator and freezer, and the can't-do-without Black & Decker coffee maker in its own cabinet. There is additional stowage beneath a hatch in the galley sole and in a pantry with seven shelves that's just forward in the hallway to starboard. Plenty of space for ship's stores for extended cruising.
The 420's accommodations also benefited from past successes with interior space. Sea Ray took its proven Sundancer midcabin profile and mixed it with its 560 layout, producing a port-side stateroom containing a double berth and an impressive overhead clearance of 6'8" that tapers to just over four feet. A cedar-lined locker is also provided, and the day head is just forward of here. The forepeak master has an en suite head, and its centerline queen island berth has stowage beneath the mattress as well as in two drawers in its base, a pair of cedar-lined lockers, and ample, bulkhead-mounted cabinets.
The 420 Sedan Bridge even inherited spirited performance, courtesy of the MerCruiser-Cummins synergy. My test boat was equipped with a pair of optional 446-shp (480-bhp) 480C-E Cummins diesels, along with with the optional SmartCraft electronic monitoring system. Putting her through her paces on a dead-calm day&mdasah;great for boating but not for a sea trial&mdasah;I posted a 30.1-knot (34.7-mph) WOT speed, and at 2000 rpm I measured a 20.7-knot (23.8-mph) cruising speed. When I nudged her up to 2250 rpm, she clipped along at 25.1 knots (28.9 mph). With 350 gallons of fuel, she should have a 272-NM range at slow cruise and 250-NM range at fast cruise.
Given the conditions I expected nothing less than a smooth, soft ride and true tracking on straight runs, and that's what I got. When putting her into a rather tight slip back at Surfside's marina&mdasah;the place was jammed for an open house&mdasah;I really appreciated her extra-slow idle speed capability and optional Vetus bow thruster.
Sea Ray's spin on natural selection seems to be working, as the 420 Sedan Bridge has all the features and amenities necessary to thrive in the competitive big-boat environment. So what's next? Well, given the company's continual efforts to evolve its boats to suit the ever-changing needs of its buyers, you'll most likely see some of this boat's better attributes in the next generation of Sea Rays.
Lofrans Progress I windlass; cockpit ice maker; 9-kW Onan genset; Raymarine electronics package including RayNav 300 GPS w/WAAS differential sensor, Tridata ST-60 depthfinder, speed log, water temperature, model 230 VHF w/remote speaker; 2/Vacuflush toilets w/42-gal. holding tank; Racor fuel filters on mains and genset; bridge-deck dining table; integral swim platform; Sunbrella softtop w/full enclosure; radar arch
dash cover; ACR remote-control spotlight; cockpit benchseat, table, and refrigerator; convertible sofa in saloon; central vacuum; washer/dryer; electronics upgrade featuring Raymarine RL80CRC radar w/open array, Raypilot ST autopilot, Sea Ray Navigator PC chartplotter; 2/rod holders; Vetus bow thruster; bridge-table sunpad filler
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/446-shp Cummins MerCruiser 480C-E diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF28A-2/1.77:1
- Props: 26"x27" 4-blade w/cup
- Price as Tested: $641,689
This article originally appeared in the December 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.