of our readers think that we knock Sea Ray too hard.
Some ask questions like, "You don't like Sea
Rays very much, do you?" Actually, compared to
the competition, we like them just fine, albeit with
some serious nitpicking.
However, being the
largest selling boat builder in the world, and although
their boats have a reasonably well-deserved reputation
for quality, we've long felt that, for the price,
there was plenty of room for improvement. So while
we're at it, we'll offer some more suggestions for
smaller boats do not carry Bayliner price tags, so
that when we come to evaluate them, we don't expect
to find bargain boat quality in a boat that doesn't
carry that kind of tag. Nor do we expect to find engineering
faux pas that boat builders have been making for decades.
So, with that in mind, let's see how this popular
25 footer stands the test of time and a little nitpicking.
A little background:
This boat was owned by a Palm Beach resident. Not
West Palm, but the beach proper. Meaning that
this one resided all its life within exclusive luxury,
and had received professional care. Yet it still sat
outside on a boat lift 12 months per year getting
a nice sun tan and still hasn't developed melanoma
yet. The bottom is not painted and looks like
new. The caretaker said it had 83 hours on the meter,
which we did not find. Overall, the boat continues
to hold a shine fairly well.
Overall, it looks good.
The cockpit had been kept covered and the upholstery
was in good shape except for the upholstered side
boards which have a plywood backing and, uh . . .
. well, the plywood is sort of disappearing
because these things do get wet. The seat cushion
bases have plastic bottoms, so apparently they haven't
gotten around to eliminating all the plywood yet.
hole cut into frame leads into fuel tank cavity.
Note that plywood is only painted with gel coat.
Duct tape can be seen at upper right.
the problem. The bottom of the fuel tank
is clearly visible and it is corroding.
There has been some
improvement in the hull-to-deck joint where we did
see a wooden backing behind the point where the deck
is simply screwed to the hull. Unlike a Bayliner 2655,
at least the deck is not riveted on with flower petal
rivets! And miracles of miracles, we even saw some
signs of caulking around the deck joint. It has stainless
hollow oval rub rail banding on a formed plastic rail
that has held up well. We'll give three cheers for
There is not much bulkheading
in this boat. What we see on the inside are mainly
partitions, affixed in a manner we could not determine.
It has the usual box beamed hull stringers that have
generally proved workable, except in some of their
larger boats where these compartments have filled
up with water due to holes being drilled into the
top deck part of the beam-cum-stringer. We didn't
see any holes in this one. Though we did see a lot
of staples holding wooden parts together.
The fit and finish
in the cockpit area is nice and there aren't too many
GEICO insurance commercial "We all do dumb things,"
scripting here. We might question the wisdom of putting
a fresh water spigot within a fabric lined stowage
compartment, but beyond that the design looks pretty
The two part engine
hatch -- one large and one narrow section -- makes
opening it a lot easier than the formerly one big
hatch cover that is a real bear to remove. Some kudos
here. And maybe a couple more for an engine space
that is not cluttered, but with a single engine, why
should it be? Add a couple of demerits for steel parts
-- like the power trim motors and steel water heater
-- mounted flat on the large flat deck sections. These
decks flood with water leaks so the steel all turns
brown, flaky and funny looking, these parts to ultimately
end up on the scrap heap. Adding a couple of riser
blocks under these parts would have prevented this.
The boat was reliably
equipped with a single Rule 1000 bilge pump, conveniently
mounted under the engine where it can easily be reached
for servicing. Plenty of pumping capacity, too, in
case of emergencies. 1000 GPH translates to 16.6 gallons
per minute, if you can believe that. Somehow, we have
trouble with that number, but that's what Rule says.
Within the cabin, you'll
find the cabin sole 2" above the bilge. Minor
problem there if the bilge pump stops working.
Unfortunately, we did
find one major fault, one which Sea Ray ought to be
shaking in their boots over. It has to do with the
aluminum fuel tank, which we found to sitting smack
on the bottom of the hull. At best, there was
a 1/4" gap between the bottom of the tank and
the bottom of the space it is resting in. With a lot
of corrosion appearing on the lower, aft edge, we
had no choice but to condemn it. And they're still
using duct tape to around the top of the tank to give
the appearance of sealing it. Come on, folks. Duct
tape? Is that the best they can do? This is
the way you handle a tank full of 71 gallons of gasoline
in a family cruiser? Your family or mine?
Fortunately, it looks
like the tank can be removed fairly easily to make
There is a large cockpit, so the cabin area ends up
painfully small. This is also a trailerable boat with
only an 8'6" beam, which really hurts. When you
compare designs like this to older designs such as
the Chris Craft Catalina 25 express of the 1970's
era (with a 9'9" beam), there's no comparison.
This boat is low and sleek, so you sacrifice interior
space for style. For example, you have to step up
into the head compartment, but when you do, you bash
your head on the overhead. You'd have to be about
5'4" to stand up and pee in there. Attempting
to turn around and sit isn't much better. We also
thought that, for the price, they could do better
than a portapotty type head unit in there, even though
it's plumbed to a mascerator pump.
Overall, the head compartment
is a disappointment. So are the strange steps down
into the cabin where the first step is not full width,
but only half wide. Having spend most of the day on
this boat, I still missed that first step at least
a half-dozen times. It's made like that because
otherwise you'd have trouble crawling into the aft
cave cabin back up under the cockpit.
It has the usual pedestal
table that fits between the vee berths that is as
useless as elephant wings. Put the table up and it
fills most of the space. In discussing lousy ergonomics,
it doesn't get any worse than this. The old Chris
Crafts seem like palaces by comparison.
The internal fit and
finish of the cabin is the usual glued on fabrics
in most places. It's not quite as flimsy as you'll
find in a Bayliner, but things are still stapled together.
You'll find niceties such as stainless steel port
holes and a molded galley unit, whereas in the Bayliner
it's a flimsy wooden structure that threatens to self-destruct.
And usually does. Overall, at least it looks better,
in our view.
The single Mercruiser 5.7 Alpha One produced a top
speed of 32.1 MPH on smooth water. The boat does not
really get up and go until 3000 RPM where it produced
23.5 MPH, whereas at 2500 it was only 12 MPH, once
again proving the inefficiency of stern drives. With
stern drives, you need high engine revs to make a
boat go. There's a huge dead spot between these engine
speeds. Overall handling is good. Not too much propeller
torque and not overly sensitive to trim tab inputs.
I've still never warmed up to power steering that,
in my view, is way too easy; sort of reminds me of
a 1972 Cadillac. But at least if you hold the wheel
straight, the boat will track straight.
As for the Mercruiser
plastic engine controls -- well, we've already said
enough about those. Could you imagine controls like
that on your car? Ralph Nader would become a billionaire
were that the case.
And how about those
Mercruiser exhaust risers? As near as we could tell,
these had been replaced once already, and were leaking
at the gaskets again. The same old story here that
never seems to change.
On the outside, the overall quality is pretty good.
Not much chintzy hardware, and the basic structures
are holding up well. With care, it still looks good.
The rub rails aren't all loose, dented and falling
off, and stress cracking is minimal. As a used boat,
it offers excellent value. As a new boat, they're
still hard to beat quality wise, but the quality margin
over the competition can be a pretty thin line at