The exactness of the 375 Sundancer's build truly impressed the Modern Boating team.
Issue: October 2003
Manufacturer: Sea Ray
Bridgedeck sports cruisers have come a long way since their inception and have gained wide acceptance with the boating public. Throughout their development, Sea Ray has been at the forefront from day dot. It is this experience and how Sea Ray has incorporated it into its boats that make the Sea Ray 375 Sundancer such an interesting vessel. Sea Ray claim to be the largest builder of pleasure boats in the world and now use state-of-the-art three-dimensional modelling software throughout the entire design and planning process.
This is followed by laserguided, computer-controlled robotics to ensure exact control during the manufacture of each boat. In Sea Ray's own words it does not accept any variations in the manufacturing process and boast 100 per cent "repeatability" in every boat it builds. All of which is fine, but we must also remember that any computer is only as good as the people operating it. The exactness of the 375 Sundancer's build truly impressed the Modern Boating team.
Sure it was all shiny and new and her glossy finish withstood our usual pedantic inspection, but we also warmed to the way she felt "comfortable", whether we were simply moving about inspecting her in its berth, or at the helm out on southern Moreton Bay. After boarding a boat for the first time there's normally a getting to know you period, but it was a brief one indeed with the 375 Sundancer. This was where the human element and the formidable experience that Sea Ray put into its boats that enables it to blend eye-catching contemporary style with plain old fashioned commonsense ergonomics ? all built to exemplary standards.
South Moreton Bay is typical of many places in this country where any leaning towards shaftdrives is seriously challenged by sterndrives, because of its shallow depth. No we didn't bottom out during this test, but it's nice to know that if there were a need you could adopt shallow running mode. Hydraulic trim tabs come as standard fitment on the Sea Ray 375 Sundancer, although we found scant use for them in the calm water, or at least scant need to use them instead of the power trim and tilt adjustment of the Bravo III sterndrive legs. With power steering and power assisted throttle/gear shifts the person at the helm need only be mindful of the Sea Ray 375 Sundancer's size among heavy traffic in the confines of the northern Gold Coast.
Once free of the (boating) crush around Sea World and the Spit, we opened the taps and found the engines had more than enough grunt to propel this 11m-plus hull. The performance table at the end of this feature tells the story in plain numbers; however, what they don't reflect is the total lack of fuss when cruising at 4000rpm or even 5000rpm, the tacho readings reflect around 25 and 35 knots respectively. The Sea Ray 375 Sundancer's manners were impeccable, she ran arrow straight at any speed with absolutely none of the side to side wandering common to many hulls with a 21-degree deadrise.
Few boats of this style allow you to relax and enjoy your boating quite like this one does, be you a new chum or an old salt. We found much to like and little to dislike about the 375. And one of negatives was admittedly nothing more than a matter of individual choice. Anything to do with the 375 Sundancer's decor that wasn't timber came in various pale shades of brown and cream. Yes they looked lovely, but the question mark over keeping them clean would lead us to choose other colours.
We may as well deal with the other negative while we are in the mood, dining. We've already pointed out that we found this boat's ergonomics to be very much one of its strengths; however, where do you eat when the weather doesn't favour doing so upstairs on the dinette ?
Below decks the curved settee opposite the galley and a convertible L-lounge set back underneath the bridgedeck, only allows for two couples overnighting, or several more on day trips, to sit with a meal on their knees. To sit at a table and eat means that all and sundry have to dine upstairs. The answer's simple, fit a removable table. Although having said that, to put a table between the galley and settee would compromise an otherwise very liveable downstairs area, but then I did say removable. Who said that things in boating, as in life, always involve compromise ?
When you balance out the open plan living space below deck against the lack of a dining table, it's a compromise the team would be prepared to make. A 4Kw genset in the engine room supports the (optional) reverse cycle climate control (A/C) through an integral vent system as required. The 375 Sundancer is a boat you can move about without bumping into, tripping over, or dodging around anything. The upper deck level is flat and there's no step between the helm area and the aft dinette/lounge area. There is a step down onto the integrally moulded transom platform, although it comes after negotiating the wide transom door.
We also noted that the catch for the transom door is mounted outboard where little hands will find it hard to use. That's another tick in the box for Sea Ray. We could go on endlessly with details here, but would prefer instead to point out that we found everything we expected to find in its appropriate place. Instead of wasting precious space in describing the storage locker in the transom and the wet bar in the corner opposite the upstairs dinette, we'd prefer to draw attention to perhaps less obvious if no less important things. For example going downstairs there are four steps between the bridgedeck and the saloon and we noticed how easy it was to negotiate them.
It's all to do with how the bulkhead curves and is the kind of thing computer-aided design can only get right when an experienced hand is at the keyboard. There's quite a step up getting into the bow berth and sure enough, there are steps each side to change an awkward clamber into an easy step. Hanging and general clothes storage space to starboard between the settee and L-shaped lounge downstairs is one of the largest we've seen in a boat of this size and in many much bigger. The head is OK for those of us who've been around boats for a long time but others may find it a bit cramped. A guest probably won't even notice that the 375 Sundancer's head is what non-nautical types might call "domestic sized", nor that the hatch to vent steam is a bit small, well not until they need to clear the fog anyway.
The test boat was fitted with a pair of TMX6.2L (6.2lt 320hp) MPI MerCruisers driving through Bravo III legs. It was also fitted with an optional bow thruster to make it even easier getting in and out of marina pens. The 320hp MerCruisers are the standard drive package for the 375 Sundancer. Power options include: 268hp Volvo KAD 300 diesels; 375hp T-496 MerCruiser Magnums, both teamed with Bravo III's; MerCruiser 370hp petrol Horizons; or 306hp Yanmar 6LP-STP diesels transmitting their power through V-drives. Australian skippers are only just coming to accept petrol power options in boats like the 375 Sundancer and this set-up with the twin MerCruisers on the test boat is going to further the cause. With a top speed of more than 35 knots, 35.3 knots to be precise, cruising in the region of 20-25 knots had the motors barely ticking over in the 3500-4000rpm ranges.
The power assisted controls and steering, plus sportboat like handling and performance made her a smooth, easy and pleasurable boat to drive. In every way the 375 Sundancer is a boat with wide appeal. Not forgetting either that recent improvements in the position of the Aussie dollar against the US make imported boats like this one a far better proposition than they have been for some time.
Words by Warren Steptoe