Approaching the Sea Ray 450 Sundancer, I could see that the junction of transom and topsides formed a crisp, right-angle corner. This made possible a credit-card-tight seam between the hydraulic swim platform and the transom. Other cruisers round this corner instead, resulting in a wider gap — they do it because tight corners are more difficult to release from a mold. But we’ve found that the wide gap often causes water to spout through the seam at speed.The 450 Sundancer’s precision tolerances eliminate this flaw. This was to be a precursor to the excellence I discovered aboard this new express, including a layout that knocked my Top-Siders off.
I began pulling hatches, noting the throughbolted hinges and chromed stainless hardware. The utilities locker revealed dual 30-amp lines and breakers installed within close reach per ABYC, along with TV, phone and water inlets. There’s room in this locker to stow your cords, pigtails, etc. It’s one thing to have stowage aboard. It’s entirely another to have all that you need right where you need it. Galvanic isolators protect the shorepower system from bringing corrosion aboard. The only enhancement I can envision would be a cord retractor, such as the Glendenning system standard aboard Formula’s 45 Yacht ($968,150 with twin 435 hp Volvo Penta IPS 600 pods). But then, Formula’s single 50a system requires a cable heavier than either of the two 30a cords aboard the Sea Ray.
I gained the side deck and felt secure because the rail hit my leg two inches above the knee. A closer look revealed a landing spot, or flat, for the stanchion bases, providing precise positioning — the rails of many boats are skewed — and better purchase for the stainless fasteners securing them. Mounting flats are molded in everywhere hardware is installed.
Two big hatches provide access to the anchor locker, ensuring ease of untangling a snarl. With two feet between windlass and the rode pile, the 450 Sundancer’s deep anchor locker inhibits the tangles caused by shallower lockers during free drop. I also discovered that wires passing the forward bulkhead were chafe-protected. I’ve tested many boats in which this “unseen” precaution wasn’t taken, undermining long-term reliability.
Back in the cockpit, I raised the electric hatch to inspect the twin 364 hp Cummins-MerCruiser Zeus diesels. Access is great, thanks to wide rungs on the stainless-steel ladder, though I have to give Regal’s 4400 Sport Coupe ($499,000 with twin 352 hp IPS 500 pods) top honors for engine access in this class because it allows walk-in access from the swim platform. On the 450 Sundancer I easily laid hands on all service points, except for the starboard engine’s coolant bottle.
Under way, the Zeus pods and joystick docking control allowed me to turn this big boat on a dime at idle and while cruising. They lend a smaller boat’s lighter feel to a burly cruiser. Because efficiency approaches 1 mpg between 24 mph and wide open throttle, you can run it as fast as conditions allow without a fuel penalty. Zeus also boasts Smartcraft systems management with high-visibility helm displays that keep you informed. Other benefits include automatic trim-tab control, autopilot and the stationholding Skyhook. Having waited for innumerable bridges, I’m sure those who ply the ICW will appreciate Skyhook.
The 450 Sundancer’s accommodations earned equal applause. If your boating mission includes having the crowd aboard for the day before escaping for the weekend with just you and your mate, this is the boat for you. Sea Ray acknowledged that point with a unique plan and high style.
Topside, the climate controlled, three-sided hardtop combines with what I’ll call a cockpit galley — “wet bar” doesn’t describe the functionality of the refrigerator, sink, icebox, grill and TV this module incorporates, though I do wish its faux granite top had a fiddle rail — to create an al fresco salon. Belowdecks, a TV disappears seamlessly into the salon headliner, and an expansive galley, with sink and stove under lids, provides space to really cook a meal or to serve a game-day buffet. Inspecting cabinet and door edges, I confirmed the cabinetry to be solid timber, rather than scratch-prone veneer.
The keystone is the aft media room. Its bulkheads rung with colored, indirect lighting and served by a broad settee with cool, convertible ottomans, it boasts a 37-inch flat-screen piped to a home theater system that includes DSS satellite and gaming in addition to de riguer DVD, CD and MP3 sources. Combined, these three spaces — the cockpit, the salon and the media room — allow three distinct groups of guests to be aboard, yet in their “own little world.” Think kids in the media room, ladies in the salon and the guys topside.
For cruising crowds, the media room sleeps two, with a curtain providing privacy. And the ultraleather salon sofa converts to a berth. Best would be to wave goodbye and retreat to the master stateroom. There, with light pouring softly through the opaque-paneled Japanese Shoji door, and using the remote to adjust the angle of the reclining berth, you will know why you chose this boat.
Contact: 800-772-6287, www.searay.com