Sea Ray 260 Sundancer Review

Issue: October 1999
Manufacturer: Sea Ray

Sea Ray’s American-built boats have been continually flowing into this country and improving the lifestyle of Australian boat owners for almost three decades.

They’ve been purchased by well known identities, entertainers and public figures. They’ve influenced Australian builders … and they’ve been flop moulded ! All of this says that Sea Ray have been accepted as a part of our boating life … making boats that reflect our boating lifestyle.

The Sea Ray Sundancer series is traditionally the style of boat by which the industry has come to associate and accept the American invasion. This is a narrow-beamed, low-profile sports cruiser that emphasises the outdoor lifestyle that boating invokes, yet incorporates the intimacy, luxury and comfort that overnighting and weekending have to offer for a couple, a young family – or perhaps two couples!

While the looks and finish of the Sea Rays are quite different today from those first introduced to Australia by Reeson Marine Sydney in the early ’70s, Sea Ray have always remained as leaders in development, styling and finish. The Sea Ray Sundancer 260 is a boat that I find ideal as a way of entertaining a few friends for a day on the water, or for my wife and me to get away for the weekend and just escape the Monday to Friday hustle.

For a day out with friends, there’s plenty of seating in the cockpit, much of which converts to sun lounges, a wet bar and removable drinks/food cooler, The offset transom door and wide boarding platform are ideal for access at the jetty, marina, or to and from the water. The fully moulded cockpit liner is well fitted. Because it’s self draining, the boat can easily be cleaned after a day’s outing with a good hose-down.

It is quite a spacious and well-appointed cockpit for a sports cruiser that is just under 8 metres overall, and this is perhaps the most pleasing feature of the boat. Bow access has been very cleverly handled, with the sliding cabin door moulded to the shape of the stairs, making it easy to step up (when the cabin door is closed) and through the opening centre panel of the screen, and out onto the foredeck.

Below decks, it’s a very compact yet workable layout that can accommodate up to four people for something like an extended weekend cruise. Pushed well into the bow, the U-shaped bow lounge wraps round the dinette table which drops down to convert to a double-berth sleeper. The midship berth tucks back in, under the raised forward half of the cockpit. Although it is a little tight squeezing between the end of the galley bench and the cockpit access steps to get in and out of this berth, it is a cosy and comfortable double berth nonetheless.

Both the galley and bathroom are surprisingly well appointed and fitted for a boat of this size. The bathroom incorporates a full liner moulding, making this an easy room to keep clean and sparkling. A shower curtain is included, but you can still expect that there will need to be a lot of wiping down and drying of the other facilities after showering. The galley is generous, with plenty of storage and preparation facilities, and includes a single-bowl sink, dual-voltage refrigerator, single-burner stove, rubbish container and microwave option – just about everything necessary for those long weekends away.

This boat is easy to handle and very manoeuvrable despite its single-engine fitup. There isn’t too much bulk for the hull to be affected too much by wind and it’s not too hard to manoeuvre the boat by engine and/or by hand into some of the more awkward berthing spots. It’s not an expert’s boat and therefore it’s not going to turn the pleasures of boating into despair when it comes to berthing or laying up overnight.

There’s a number of engine options available for the 260, and I’ve no doubt the agility and manoeuvrability will be somewhat influenced by some of those options. The boat we tested used a middle of the option range 5.7-litre 260hp V8 MerCruiser which turned out to be nicely matched to the boat, and was aided by the use of the larger Bravo III leg. This unit, with its larger diameter propeller, bulkier foot and larger cavitation plate helps plane the boat more easily, smoothly and quickly, and enormously assists the manoeuvrability of the single-engined boat.

During this test, I felt that the 260hp option is about the smallest engine I would consider. Although it planed the boat without much effort at 2600rpm and with four adults on board was capable of holding the plane and a level trim, much of our test time was spent cruising in the higher 3500 to 4000rpm range. At 24 to 29 knots, the hull seemed to be riding at its best, and a smaller engine – particularly the standard 220hp 5-litre V8 – would probably be revving near its limit to hold these speeds over a substantial period. Mid- or upper-range engine options will add to the base cost of the 260 Sundancer, but that extra power is well worth the money. While our test site of Broadwater wasn’t exactly rough, the ride in the Sundancer was extremely pleasant and comfortable. Even at the faster cruising speeds, noise levels were way down and the seating in the cockpit was reasonably sheltered from the breeze and certainly didn’t attract any spray.

Story by David Toyer.