Reviewed by Bob Eaton
This 350 Sundancer falls into a very popular size range, and there are many manufacturers competing for the business. Sea Ray has been building these since the 80’s so they’ve had lots of experience at getting it right. We did our review and sea trial on Biscayne Bay on an unusually cold February day during the Miami Boat Show.
A quick look at dockside reveals some interesting features, some of which are options. Right in front of the swim platform is a new rear facing lounge chair that folds away into the transom when not in use. Immediately through the cockpit door portside is a wet bar, built-in BBQ cooktop, and a flat screen TV. Portside, immediately behind the doublewide helm seat is a very large U-shaped seating arrangement.
Most mid-cabin boats like this one have little or no walk-around side decks to give access to the forward deck. This really enlarges the cabin space, but often requires crawling through the forward hatch to get forward. Not much fun for the first mate when docking! Sea Ray solved the problem on this boat by building four steps into the sliding cabin door making it very easy to walk through the centre opening windshield forward. The deck on this one had a very comfortable looking padded lounger complete with backrest.
Bright Open Cabin
Four steps into the cabin portside, is an enclosed head/shower behind a well-equipped galley. Forward is a pedestal bed with storage under and dual hanging lockers. There is an overhead hatch and with four portholes, makes the cabin very open and bright. Adding to the expansive feeling is the open, free floating step arrangement, allowing viewing both into and out of the mid-cabin. Great idea and it really makes the cabin feel bigger! The starboard side has a long white leather lounge and dining table and abundant storage cabinets. The U-shaped seating aft converts to sleeping if required and this model had another TV in each of the cabin areas for a total of 3. The floors are contrasting wood finish for a rich look.
The instruments as usual in 2010 consists of flat glass panels that give the captain all the information needed and much more. This one monitors the 375 HP 8.1’s and all the operational and navigation features. The helm station has the normal throttle and shift controls and the boat can be operated totally with these, but an additional “Joy Stick” controls the “Axius” part of the operating system. In the past many traditional boaters preferred direct drive inboard power for vessels over 30’ because it was believed they were capable of better slow speed maneuverability than sterndrives, even though sterndrives were proven to be faster and more fuel efficient. I was one of those, and I qualify for old, and traditional.
The axius controller operates throttle, shift and steering at the slightest touch, and for anyone who thinks that sterndrives can’t maneuver a 35 footer they have to try one of these. Whatever input you put into the stick, is exactly the motion delivered by the boat. Leaving the dock, pull the stick back and the slightest side movement or twisting of the stick corrects for any wind or current deviation from intended course. Shifting and steering is electronically controlled for you. My grandson would no doubt adapt more quickly, but it didn’t take long to master the soft touch required. Directly sideways, rotating on its own axis, skyhook - remaining in place, all accomplished with the lightest touch. Words can’t adequately describe the way it works so if you really want to know, you’ll have to experience it for yourself.
Using the controller to accelerate to cruise speed with no loss of forward vision from bow-rise was equally simple or, once away from the dock you can revert to shift, throttle and steering wheel if that makes you more comfortable. The 496 MAG’s and Bravo 111 drives are well matched and move this 8-ton boat effortlessly, and deliver all the speed and performance you’ll ever need. Back at the dock in a 20-knot wind and running current, I backed this 35 footer into its slip and axius made me look like a pro. An hour earlier in the same conditions, I didn’t look very professional trying to dock a 26-footer with a single sterndrive.
Our test model was standard white with black canvas, but the two pages of optional equipment includes such items as coloured hulls and greywater holding tanks. There are enough option choices to customize one as you wish to suit your needs and personal preferences. Build one for yourself from the Sea Ray website and then get it on order.
Sea Ray 350 Sundancer Specifications:
|Length:||35' 6"||10.82 M|
|Draft:||3' 7""||109 cm|
|Dry weight:||15,400 lbs||6985 kg|
|Fuel Capacity:||225 US gals||851 L|
|Engine:||2x Seacore 496 MAG, 375HP|
|Drive(s):||Bravo III, MPI DTX w/Axius|
|Price as tested:||$332,426|
Engine: Twin 8.1 MAG (375hp)
Drive & Ratio: Bravo THREE X 2.0 ;1
Propeller: Bravo 3/3 24" (Front 3B 15.5" X 24" Rear 3B 14.25" X 24")
Fuel Level: Full, 225 gallons
Payload & # of People: Heavy load (Generator, Gear) with 3 adults
Air Temp: 65º f
Sea Conditions: light chop
0~20MPH: 8.4 Seconds