Boat Review Date: March 2010
Author: Mike Brown
The Sea Ray Sundancer 285 fits an astonishing amount of liveability into eight or so metres. It’s not a boat the dedicated fisherman would buy, but for the growing number of people who just want to be on the water in a non-threatening size of boat it offers a lot.
Appearance is on the bulky side though sweeping lines make a good job of reducing the effect, and the boat’s sheer capacity justifies the format. There is standing and elbow room wherever you could ask for it, and a great steadiness that is reassuring with a bunch of people on board and moving around.
There are a good many boats of this length that are normally housed on a trailer, but the 285 is unlikely to be one of them. Trailing is possible, with a permit to cover its 2.69m beam, but with a loaded weight approaching four tonnes plus trailer it would need something special to pull it. Rack storage would be ideal.
A range of petrol engines is offered with the 285, but the review boat had a diesel and this is the more popular option. A 315hp Yanmar has all the grunt and top-end for very sporting performance, and it also has the diesel habit of making manoeuvring easy – as well as giving a serious boaty feel to your driving. With a 318L tank and the diesel’s gentle thirst, the cruising grounds can be extensive.
And it would be real cruising rather than aquatic camping. There is a lot of permanent indoor space, and the almost misleadingly named camping cover pretty well doubles it. Misleading because it encloses a lot more luxury than any but the first-class safari camps offer. Zip-out and Velcro-fastened panels remove to adjust ventilation.
The fore cabin has the familiar general layout of this size range, enhanced by greater beam and headroom, and by the beefy bow sections. A dinette forward converts into an extravagant double bed, and aft of it to port is a galley and to starboard a bathroom. Aft again, beneath the cockpit deck, the second double cabin has not even a whiff of the claustrophobia associated with so many mid cabins. It is open to the main cabin, has windows and sitting headroom, and is a welcoming space. All windows and throughout are protected by flyscreens.
The galley is thoroughly equipped, and powered by a choice of 6kW genset and inverter, depending on power demand. There is a cook top as well as a microwave, a useful-sized fridge, a sink of course, and a good expanse of worktop and lockers. The bathroom opposite needs no athletic skill to use, being on the contrary a convenient and spacious compartment.
The cockpit is laid out for sociability rather than energetic activity. The dominant feature is an L-shaped lounge with removable table. The forward end curves up to give a sumptuous position for a ski observer; its rear folds trickily to make a sun bed or, more to WA tastes probably, an aft-facing seat to allow luxurious fishing over the boarding platform. Most of the lounge and a good share of the deck power-tilts to open up the engine space.
Behind the driver’s reversible double seat is a wet bar complete with electric barbecue. I am a great fan of the cockpit or transom barbie, as are most people who have one – downstairs galleys get used far less.
The driving position and windscreen height suit either standing or sitting, helped by the adjustable wheel. Instruments are a nice mix of analogue dials and digital screens. It goes without saying that there are also the controls for the stereo system. The 285 has a top-class set-up piped throughout the boat, and of course a TV lives below.
To maximise cockpit room the 285 has no side decks, access forward being through the opening windscreen. Moulded steps in the dash at exactly the right angle make this easy. There would seldom be an urgent need to go forward: a power windlass handles the anchoring, and there are midship pop-up cleats within easy reach over the side glass.
Under way the sensations are good, giving a one-piece, creak-free feel to the hull. This is even in throwing-about mode, something you feel the need to indulge in with a boat this sporty even if it is a cruiser. Deadrise is 19deg, which once would have been considered sharp indeed, and it soaked up all the lumpiness we found.
But cruising is what this boat is about, and a lot of thought went into creating it. In US-style the design was refined, then almost all the parts became the fruit of scores of individual moulds, for consistency as well as for economic production. All the thought resulted in a boat with masses of storage, clever cable and plumbing runs, and everything in the right place. Sea Ray then topped this off with a long list of desirable equipment. A very complete boat.
Price as reviewed $225,000
Length overall 8.74m
Draught, leg up 0.6m
Dry weight 3,724kg
Fuel capacity 318L
Fresh water 106L