During a recent vacation in South Florida I found myself immersed in a conversation with a knowledgeable yachtsman. He had recently sold a 55-foot convertible, and still owned a 35-foot express yacht and a 28-foot sportfisherman. Like anybody with the yachting bug, he was already contemplating his next purchase. What was at top on his list? Another Sea Ray. He had owned several during his yachting career and had had the most fun on his fleet of Sea Rays ranging from 31 to 40 feet. In his opinion, they offered great volume and creature comforts, and the company's commitment to customer care stood out among the pool of boatbuilders.
If he is still in the market, I would urge him to take a look at Sea Ray's 390 Motor Yacht. The cruiser builds on the company's venerable reputation for solid family cruisers backed by first-class service. Her big sister, the 480 Motor Yacht, introduced the 390's profile to the yachting public. With these two motoryachts, Sea Ray has fine-tuned design elements first put to paper four decades ago by builders such as Chris-Craft and Hatteras.
One of her most notable features is the helm deck area. While cruising along the Tennessee River near Knoxville, Tennessee, in the boiling summer heat, we found ourselves cooled by the optional 16,000 BTU air conditioning system on the helm deck. This area is a sensible hybrid between an express boat with an open helm area that puts guests and driver together, and a flying bridge model that offers good visibility and shelter. Furthermore, if you cruise with young children, closing off the side decks with acrylic doors keeps everybody close and eliminates some of the hassle of lifting smaller kids to the bridge and constantly keeping an eye on the hatch as they scramble around.
The wet bar with a trash receptacle and ice maker (an optional refrigerator can take its place) is abaft the helm seat. Be sure to order the optional aft bench seat and table. Our party found this the perfect perch to sit back and enjoy the cruise while staying hydrated. The position also makes an ideal spot for outdoor dining.
The helm is outfitted to the level you would expect from Sea Ray and is an obvious result of the company's massive research and development program. Both throttle and gear controls are angled for ease of use. The gauges satisfy a pet peeve of mine and are placed appropriately in the line of sight for a helmsman moving at 20-plus knots. Sea Ray also offers a standard Raymarine electronics package and builds the dash to accommodate it. The well-planned area is accented with a handsome burl. Also, docking and close-quarters maneuvering is a breeze thanks to the expansive aluminum windshield and a properly placed transom door, which allows the helmsman to see the swim platform. Five wide steps lead from the helm deck to the swim platform.
Our test boat was equipped with twin 370 hp MerCruiser 8.1 gas engines turning a set of four-blade 23-by-22-inch props. If you're looking to do a little more extended cruising, Sea Ray offers twin Cummins 480CEs. With the gas package, expect a peppy performance. We achieved a top speed of 25 knots and a cruising speed of around 20 knots. Best of all, the 390 is quiet, especially on the helm deck. The highest decibel reading we got was 79 at wide open throttle. Bearing in mind the level for normal conversation is about 65 decibels, this reading is very respectable.
Our inland testing ground didn't allow for any worthwhile sea-state challenges. But the 390 should easily satisfy her role as a comfortable coastal cruiser. Without a bridge, she has a low center of gravity, decreasing roll. Her sharp entry and 15-degree deadrise aft creates an easily driven hull form that is quick to plane and agile, especially considering all the creature comforts. While maneuvering through tight quarters on the river, she felt solid and surefooted.
Her comfort side is immediately noticeable when entering the saloon. Port and starboard settees offer a sensible seating pattern and benefit from large side windows. You can sit at either settee and see out. Better yet, Sea Ray incorporated a forward windshield that benefits both the saloon and forward galley area. The interior is tastefully outfitted with Ultraleather and cherry. A natural maple interior is also offered.
The well-equipped galley is placed out of the saloon. I'm a fan of this type of arrangement, since it keeps the mess often associated with a little onboard cooking away from the "living area. Sea Ray's designers did a nice job of ensuring the breakfast bar is low, so the cook is still part of the saloon conversation. A bonus area is the utility room under the steps that can easily absorb the optional combination washer/dryer. Sea Ray ensures every corner of space is utilized for stowage, resulting in a galley that rivals those aboard many 50-foot yachts.
The forward head is accessible from the passageway and forward cabin. This seems so basic, but recently I've noticed that more and more boats, larger than the 390, funnel their weary-eyed, matted-hair guests through the main cabin each morning as they make their way to the guest head.
The guest stateroom layout also works well, accommodating a small family or a boatload of weekend guests. The starboard berth converts to a full berth, and a twin berth is to port. Again, stowage is everywhere, and touches such as a full-length hanging locker and optional TV/VCR/stereo combination create a comfortable place to steal away. An overhead hatch provides light and a fresh breeze.
The master stateroom enjoys a nice separation from the forward accommodations and can be sealed off from the saloon with a door. The queen berth rivals many shoreside beds with an innerspring mattress and plenty of stowage below accessed via gas-assisted actuators. The MSD compartment and shower are separated by a vanity. This makes the best use of the space. An escape hatch abaft the berth and four opening ports bring in light. Both captain and mate will have plenty of room to hang clothes, thanks to two hanging lockers.
The engineroom has easy-to-service systems and neat and tidy workmanship. Wiring runs are clean and benefit from color-coded labeling. The engines and generator have a dedicated starting battery, and there are two house batteries also in place.
After making a long inspection of the 390, it's easy to see why so many yachting enthusiasts flock to the Sea Ray family, and why those who head out on their own often look to return. Perhaps they hope to recapture the good old days of yachting that drew them to the sport in the first place.
Contact: Sea Ray Boats, (800) SR-BOATS;