Brochures show them slicing across still waters with bikini-clad girls lying seductively on sunlounges – accordingly there is a perception that mass-produced American cruisers are “fair weather” boats, not suited to Australian offshore conditions. Even the importers have been slow to dispel this myth because the runabouts and smaller sportscruisers were still selling in prolific numbers. But with an increasing number of so-called Sedan Bridge or Command Bridge passage makers reaching our shores lately, buyers are looking to go further afield.
Consequently, when Gold Coast-based Sea Ray Boats offered us a test of their 400 and 480 Sedan Bridge models, and the weather turned sour beforehand, I jumped at the opportunity to put these latest imports up against our rugged seas.
Despite the boats having price tags each side of the $1million mark, the dealer didn’t hold back, so nor did I. Tackling the seas that were running around 4-5 metres ahead of a freshening southerly storm, both craft were at times pushed to over 20 knots. The big hulls would almost clear the water each time they crested a swell. This was extreme punishment that no self-respecting owner would mete out on his boat, but it did prove that the Sea Rays will handle the rough stuff while at the same time showing a great deal of comfort and strength.
I must say they handled the situation extremely well. Running with, and across, the seas, both boats showed no sign of broaching or tracking off line. The only things shaken were the magazines and brochures that we had left on the benches. Our photographer, too, had hell’s own trouble staying on two feet while his hands were fumbling with the camera.
The trim angle of both boats was excellent and there was never the slightest hint of the bow wanting to bury. Trim tabs are standard equipment and these are only really needed to get the bow down to suit sea conditions. Both boats had plenty of power, planing almost effortlessly and running top speeds at a shade under 30 knots at 2300rpm. The 480 was an outstanding performer, with its twin big Cats planing the boat at a very easy 1300rpm and cruising easily offshore at 1800 to 2000rpm.
Befitting the price tags, the interiors are exceptionally well equipped and beautifully appointed. Remember, these are not sports convertibles or sportsfishing boats – they are pure cruising and entertaining craft.
There is every conceivable option and extra; too numerous to fully list. They include a bow thruster (an absolute delight), Raytheon Raypilot 650, engine synchronisers, generator, macerator, hydraulic lift swim platform and, of course, fully-ducted reverse cycle air conditioning. And one must not forget the central vacuuming system or the electric converting lounge.
The styling and finish follows similar lines, however the layout formats for the 480 and 400 are significantly different. With the 400 there’s the choice of two or three cabins. The lower helm station is not available with the three-cabin layout, so in my opinion the twin cabin layout is a far better configuration for cruising. The lower station doesn’t really cramp the saloon, although it does do away with the separate dinette. However, the U-shaped lounge and its low table will do almost as well for serving of meals.
The 480 sticks to the a three-cabin layout that includes two generous double berth cabins. The owner’s stateroom for’ard has an extremely spacious ensuite, while the third cabin could squeeze in three people. Flybridge arrangements are optional but all place emphasis on use of space and accommodation. The 400 has a great entertainers’ layout with three pedestal seats installed along the helm console.
Aft on the bridgedeck the U-lounge wraps around a table (which converts to an enormous sunlounge). The helm console is low compared to what the Australian market is used to. It’s well set out, though, and fully optioned. The pedestal seats with the folding swabs for the skipper give safe, secure support.
So don’t let anyone try to tell you that the imports are just pretty boy’s show boats! The Sea Ray 400 and 480 Sedan Bridge have proven they are practical and rugged in every respect.