1994, June; Sydney Middle Harbour: Refined design and quality are the essence of Sea Ray, and the 230 Sundancer complies completely. It is the smallest in a series of Sundancer models that go up to 13+ metre luxury cruisers. All are sportingly styled with comfortable accommodations for family cruising, plus the performance and versatility to handle water skiing and fishing along the way.
It all started with a boat built by C. N. Ray in his Detroit garage in 1959. Today Sea Ray, along with MerCruiser, is part of the Brunswick Corporation which, founded in 1845, is America’s seventh oldest company and is the world’s largest producer of boats and marine engines. Collectively, that’s a powerful heritage.
The Sundancers have sleek lines with balanced and pleasing integration of hull, deck and superstructure. Keeping the appearance streamlined for the smallest member of the family is tough where the height and beam to length ratios are greatest, but Sea Ray designers have done a great job with the 230. Clever use of colour trim and mould lines visually lengthens the boat, and the effect is enhanced with a smoothly rounded foredeck that flows up to the curved safety glass screen.
It is the accommodations that have been designed into the 230 that are so remarkable. Here is a boat of just over 7 metres with a legally trailerable beam of 2.43 metres that has standing headroom in its cabin, a separate toilet compartment, seating in the cockpit for seven or eight, and sleeping accommodation for four adults.
The cabin has a dinette that seats four around a removable table. The seating becomes a vee berth, or a double with infill cushions, for overnighting. A small galley to port features pressure (cold) water into a sink as well as containing an icebox, a single burner stove, and several stowage areas. Opposite the galley is a head compartment that is (just) large enough in which to stand, and that has a Sanipottie toilet. Cleverly tucked back under the cockpit is another full sized double berth with a privacy curtain and a sliding, screened porthole for ventilation.
Four steps lead up to the cockpit; with detail typical of Sea Ray, the top one has a lip and is self-draining to help prevent water dripping down into the cabin. A double seat with stowage beneath is at the helm position, and has another double behind it for very comfortable seating facing aft. Across the back of the cockpit is a full width lounge that takes three or four people; it can be easily removed for more space on, say, a fishing trip. A second demountable table locates in the centre of the cockpit.
Across the transom is an integral boarding platform with a stainless steel drop-down ladder for climbing out of the water. The back of the aft lounge has a gap to facilitate moving into the cockpit from the boarding platform; a safety chain protects the gap when the boat is under way.
The cockpit carpet clips out and rolls away to reveal a large hatch that gives access to the engine compartment and bilges. Neatly and strongly mounted are the twin batteries and their master switch, the bilge pump and blower, and an automatic fire extinguisher system.
The helm position is comfortable with excellent 360-degree vision. The throttle and gearshift are on a single lever mounted to the cockpit side that has a good relationship with the wheel. The latter is relatively low, so that knees need to go to either side, and I would have preferred a little more footroom. The instrument binnacle is stylish and sets out all but the trim gauge in excellent line of sight over the wheel rim. A compass is mounted further forward, and a VHF radio had been located under the dash to starboard of the wheel.
There are several power options of MerCruiser petrol or diesel engines; this 230 had a 5.0LX MerCruiser Alpha 1 Sterndrive - a 5 litre V8 petrol engine that develops 205 horsepower to be a mid-range unit for the boat.
Power steering keeps effort on the wheel light, and the hull is nicely responsive to directional and trim controls. With a new engine to be respected, the throttle was used carefully but a top speed of between 65 and 75 kph is likely. Cruising at 3,000 rpm was most pleasant and the 166-litre fuel tank would allow a reasonable range.
Accelerating from rest resulted in little bow rise, but it was necessary to have the Alpha 1 leg trimmed right in to avoid prop ventilation. The same was true for turning where the best (and quite usual) technique was to trim in the leg just before turning the wheel, and to then trim it back out as soon as the 230 was steady on its new course.
Running the 230 Sundancer out toward Sydney Heads encountered quite large swells topped by some wind induced chop. The hull handled the conditions admirably, landing softly and displaying plenty of forward buoyancy when sweeping down the face of the rollers. The chines pushed displaced waters away from the boat, and only an occasional spot of spray was caught by the wind to splatter the screen. The tabs were useful to keep the boat laterally balanced, although the 230 needs less trimming than most to stay level.
Back at the marina, the comparatively high helm seating with its unobstructed vision made it easier to position the boat whilst reversing into the Sundancer’s home berth. Directional control when going astern was good.
The hull undersides are conventional with a deadrise of 17 degrees on a sharp vee keel, devoid of any planing pad, and two planing strakes each side. The boarding platform projects out from the transom to partially conceal the Alpha 1 drive leg below.
The level of inclusions is high and provides good value in the pricing which starts from around $65,000 depending on power and options. The 230 is a versatile boat that would suit experienced boaters seeking a refined quality craft as well as first time buyers looking to try different aspects of having fun afloat. The accommodations allow six to eight people to enjoy the cockpit, and the two sleeping areas do mean that four adults could comfortably overnight on board. Extended trips or holidays for a couple or a family of four would be delightful with economical performance, relaxed cruising and easy handling.
Length: 7.06 metres
Beam: 2.43 metres
Draft: 0.84 metres
Weight (dry): 1,950 kilograms
Fuel: 166 litres
Water: 41 litres
Power: MerCruiser V8 205 hp
Top Speed: 75 kph (estimated)
Pricing: from $65,000