Sea Ray 290 Sun Sport

It's tough not to enjoy the Sea Ray 290 Sun Sport.

Recently, I stopped by my boat after work, dinner in hand, looking to soak in the last remains of a perfect summer evening. Sitting on my transom, I noticed the near absence of traffic. Three boats headed out the river to Long Island Sound for a sunset cruise. Remarkably, each was a Sea Ray.

This was not an organized event, just a few people doing the same thing I was on a Monday evening. They meandered through the river, enjoying the evening and their boats. One came close to my stern: a new Sea Ray 290 with a smiling owner aboard.

It's tough not to enjoy the Sea Ray 290 Sun Sport. She has classic good looks, good performance and accommodations, and an extensive standard equipment list, making her a great weekend or evening cruiser.

One of the most noticeable exterior features is the optional forward-sloping radar arch. Unusual on a boat shorter than 30 feet, the arch can carry electronics, as well as take the snaps for the cockpit enclosure. Sea Ray did a good job designing an arch that is not overbearing, a common trait among smaller boats with the feature.

The cockpit includes a burled dash with full instrumentation, waterproof soft-touch switch panels and a compass. Everything is within sight and easy to reach. A hatch in the cockpit sole lifts up, supported by a gas-assisted hinge, to reveal a lighted stowage area with enough room for skis, knee boards and other water toys. Additional stowage is in the cockpit side panels, beneath the settee and under the sunpad. A flush-mounted ski-tow eye and a wide swim platform with concealed ladder should make using the water toys easy.

Seating and lounging areas on the 290 are well designed. Two bucket seats are at the helm, and a curved settee is abaft. Swiveling the bucket seats aft creates a natural conversation pit. Abaft the settee is a sunpad for two, bordered by drink holders and a stainless-steel rail. The wet bar should make entertaining easy and, on a boat like this, will probably see more use than the galley. The bar has a sink, bottle rack and trash receptacle. A Clarion stereo with CD player, amplifier, six speakers and cockpit remote control should wake up the neighbors.

A lockable sliding door with integral fiberglass steps allows quick access to the foredeck. The 290's interior makes good use of space and incorporates clever details. A wide V-berth will work as a settee or a good place to plop down for a nap after a long day in the sun. There is dedicated stowage for the table, which accepts a filler cushion when stowed. The galley includes an easy-to-clean granite-colored fiberglass countertop, a sink and a dual-voltage refrigerator. The cabinets are made with cherry wood Formica. A pullout shower sprayer and a VacuFlush MSD are standard in the enclosed head.

The 290 also has some get up and go tucked under her hood. The standard engine package is a 320 hp MerCruiser MX 6.2L Bravo III MPI sterndrive with Corsa exhaust. A variety of engine packages is offered, including twin gas sterndrives and twin diesel sterndrives.

In addition to the standard equipment list, Sea Ray offers an extensive list of optional equipment, including air conditioning, a microwave, a windlass and a gray-water system.

Sea Ray Boats Inc., (800) SRBoats; fax (865) 213-7878; www.searay.com.