Reviewed by Bob Eaton
My first observation approaching this Sea Ray is the sheer size of the beam, almost filling a 15’ slip, and the huge swim platform. Stepping aboard, directly behind the helm puts you in the midst of a very generous L-shaped lounge, complete with a pedestal table for serving snacks or beverages. Two floor receptacles allow a choice for table positioning. Portside is a wet bar, BBQ cook top, icemaker, refrigerator and flat-screen TV. Forward of the bar is a U-shaped lounge with recliner sun-pad facing aft. The helm seat has two positions and the helm itself is a maze of electronics, which we will discuss more in-depth, during the sea trial. This hardtop boat is equipped with two sliding sunroof panels.
Four steps down and you’re in the salon, with a galley unlikely to be surpassed in any home: stainless steel appliances, microwave, coffee maker and abundant storage for all the chef’s supplies. Opposite the galley is a leather L-shaped lounge. All quite elegant!
The aft cabin has twin beds, opening portholes for natural light and ventilation and it’s own head/shower/stainless basin. The forward cabin has a double bed, four portholes and a hatch, for more ventilation and/or light.
Back at the helm, we soon see what the new Cummins/Mercruiser/Zeus drive package is really all about. One digital display reveals everything there is to know about engine performance and navigation. For the traditionalist, Sea Ray includes what appears to be analog, but are really electronic engine monitoring gauges across the top of the instrument panel. There are traditional, fully operational throttle and shift controls in the normal position, but a single, inconspicuous joystick is mounted slightly behind. For those not familiar with the Zeus drive, very simply it consists of rotating steerable “pods” similar to sterndrives, mounted in protected tunnels under the hull slightly more forward than conventional direct drives.
One “Smart Start” button starts and shuts down the engines, which are quiet and smoke-free. Leaving the slip, there is only 3” clearance between the boat and pilings, a 30-knot wind and tidal current. With a Zeus engineer operating the joystick, we easily exit the slip, swim platform still intact, and set off for our sea trial. Once clear of the harbour, the boat is turned over to myself and the other media person on board.
With instruction from our tutors, the capabilities of this propulsion system became quickly apparent. Move the stick to either side, and the boat moves directly sideways. If you turn your head and pick a landmark, you can direct the boat sideways to it, with simple movements of the stick. Rotating the top of the joystick in either direction, rotates the boat around its axis, in it’s own length. A touch of the “skyhook” control button and the boat maintains position and heading, no matter what the wind or current is attempting to do to you. This is controlled by the GPS, compass and other readings electronically taken. One maneuver that immediately came to mind for this feature was the many occasions waiting for boat traffic to get sorted while entering a lock station or marine railway: set the skyhook, wait for everyone else to enter the lock, move the joystick forward, then sideways, and you’re in. Ease the stick forward or back and the boat follows suit and pushing full forward advances the speed accordingly. Once in open water, you can continue operation with the joystick or revert to conventional throttles. A single button heading control maintains heading, and two differing touches modifies direction in either 1 or 10 degree increments.
Handling Like a 20 Footer
Accelerating to cruise is made easier by auto trim mode, which controls bow rise which can be manually overridden to offset uneven load or exceptionally rough sea conditions. 3400-RPM results in 42 MPH with a fuel burn of 52 GPH. If you want the speed you must feed the horses. 3000 RPM still gives 32 MPH at 28.7 GPH. At the direction of the engineers on board, at 32 MPH on Biscayne Bay’s waterway, with a simple turn of the wheel, this 47’ X 14’ beam boat turned 180 degrees in little more than it’s own length. I’m not sure where or why you would ever need to do that, but if I hadn’t been onboard I would not have believed that it would turn like a runabout.
Returning to the dock with 3” piling clearance, the joystick allowed us to put this 47 footer into its space with ease. This system will allow someone with a couple of hours experience to handle and maneuver a boat that would formerly take an experienced captain many hours of practice to attain.
It’s a whole lot of boat and the Cummins/Mercruiser/Zeus joystick system brings a whole new meaning to handling this 47’ Sundancer.
Sea Ray 470 Sundancer Specifications:
|Length:||47' 3"||14.4 M|
|Dry weight:||28,500 lbs||12,928 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||350 US gals||1325 L|
|Engine:||Twin Cummins Mercruiser QSB 5.9, 480HP Diesels|
|Price as tested:||$910,980|