SEA RAY

words - David Lockwood
The Sea Ray 215 Weekender can be just about anything you want it to be: a cruiser, entertainer, or craft for watersports, writes David Lockwood
Sea Ray’s new 215 Weekender says a lot about the current state of play in the trailerboat market. For a start, it’s another imported American boat – something of a trend and, as far as I can tell, the multinational marine giants aren’t backing up.

The 215 goes against the summer fashion. It’s clearly not a bowrider. Rather, it’s a refreshing take on the cabin cruiser, featuring a decent cockpit and a bed and head below decks. That’s a change for a Yankee trailerboat, but going on local boatbuilder Whittley’s success, cabin cruisers are the go in Australia.

Third, this is a wide-beamed trailerboat for which you need a permit to tow on the open road. But, no worries, many of us have maxi four-wheel drives and are choosing to go down that route these days. The inconveniences – displaying a wide-load sticker and avoiding a few select roads at night, for example – pale when compared to the gains once you are afloat.

If not on the trailer, then the wide 2.59m beam was certainly discernable when the boat was in the water. I stepped aboard and moved from gunwale to gunwale and it barely rocked. So, by any measure, it’s a big platform for seriously comfortable cruising, entertaining, watersports and, should you be so inclined, spending Saturday night aboard. Now try doing all that on a bowrider!

DESIGN LINES
Given the boat’s volume and the slick Sea Ray finish, the 215 Weekender costs a bit more than your typical bowrider: $83,000 on trailer with optional (no, mandatory) gas barbecue at the transom. For this you get a supremely comfortable boat and one that, in the choppy bay test conditions, I stepped off of in amazement. Could the hull be made into an offshore fishing boat? It was that good.

But it didn’t take long before I formed the opinion that there’s a lot more you could do to make the 215 Weekender a better, well, weekender: there’s no sink, water, holding tank, or extended boarding platform. Then the realisation hit me: all these things are packed aboard Sea Ray’s 225 Weekender, which is based on the same hull. The 215 is about saving bucks.

 Costing $10,000 less than the 225 Weekender, which has a boatload of goodies, the 215 sistership is still a lot of boat without the larger price tag. I could buy a lot of bottled water and would happily wash my hands in a bucket, to save $10,000.

The imported demo boat had some options. Besides the gas barbie there were hydraulic trim tabs to compensate for uneven crew loads, so you don’t have to ask your mother-in-law to move to the centreline, a dual-axle trailer with electric brakes, a stylish two-tone hull with full camper covers that, with the aft lounge, can be used to create a sleepout, clip-in cockpit carpet, a stainless steel bowroller, back-to-back passenger seat/sunlounge, and a fire-suppression system for added peace of mind.

The standard 260hp 5lt MPI petrol inboard with Alpha One sterndrive leg powered the demo 215. A Bravo III drive with counter-rotating prop is an option, as is a Volvo 160hp D3 diesel inboard motor. But, given the performance that I experienced, don’t change anything. This is a well-matched package. Though hot water from a heat exchanger and a transom shower would be nice... but there I go again.

While talking engines, let’s get the checks out of the way. Lifting the engine hatch, which folds forward on gas struts, I found all-too-rare sound insulation, and clear access to all the servicing items. I also noted twin batteries and double-hose clips on the skin fittings, plus a seacock for the overboard discharge of the Sanipottie, which is not allowed in most state waters. An unusual inclusion.

ONBOARD LIVING
Although the 215 Weekender doesn’t have an extended boarding platform, it does have a shorter integral boarding platform that offers enough room to dangle the toes from, pull on a ski, cast a line from, or soak up the rays after a swim. The requisite swim ladder, ski hook, aft grab and cleats are all there. The transom was fitted at dealer level with a rodholder and to take the Magma spigot-mount gas barbie. Another rodholder would be nice. Australians like to fish.

The self-draining cockpit, covered with clip-in, rubber-backed carpet, is especially accommodating. I came aboard by way of the internal sidesteps, noting that there’s head room when standing under the extended canopy that shades the seating. The stability was amazing and unlike your routine trailerable 21-footer.

The full-length rear lounge for three has lift-out quarter seat swabs to create more room for fishing or for access through the transom door when in swimming mode.

Two other crew members can ride on the back-to-back co-pilot seat, and there’s room for a couple to squeeze behind the helm on the one-and-a-half seater (up to low cruising speeds). A flip bolster creates more leg room when driving in tight places and driving back on the trailer.

 By my reckoning, six to seven could pack aboard the 215 Weekender. Sea Ray says eight, but I think the boat will work best with four to six. That way, at rest, the aft lounge could be used as a sunpad and the back-to-back lounge converted to a daybed. Kids could sleep on the aft lounge with the full camper covers in place, too.

At the pointy end, meanwhile, there was no windlass but the walkthrough dash offered good access up the moulded steps in the cabin door, through the opening windscreen pane, to the anchor locker and stainless steel bowsprit. The flat foredeck can be used as a sundeck because there’s room to unfurl a towel.

All the deck gear is saltwater standard, solid stainless steel and through-bolted, and the upholstery rates in my book as being five-star. The canopy frame is sturdy, using snap-in stainless steel fittings, while storage ranges from big side pockets, with drinkholders, that have space for paddles or fishing rods to an underfloor icebox with bi-fold lid.

Furthermore, there’s a small storage hatch under the helm seat and there are drinkholders here and there, as well as a stainless grabrail and sound system ahead of the co-pilot. The wraparound five-piece windscreen was well supported with stainless steel struts and the dash sported a tilt wheel, Faria gauges, stereo remote, trim tabs and throttle with sterndrive leg trim. No surprises there.

CABIN CAPERS
With a lock-up cabin you can swan by a marina or boat club, cafe or restaurant, safe in the knowledge that personal effects are at least out of sight and locked away. With the sliding door open, vinyl-topped steps lead into the cabin; a garbage bin is concealed beneath the bottom step.

The immediate impression you get when you look around is that it’s a big cabin. The portside cabinet is intended for dry storage and has a small plastic icebox with an overboard drain. The laminated top could be used for food prep or perhaps putting on the makeup before heading out. On the well kitted-out 225 Weekender, this space includes a sink. The marine stereo was flush-mounted above.

Across to starboard, there is a small cubicle with the Sanipottie, toilet roll holder, light, and a privacy curtain.

Light comes via two portlights and the overhead escape hatch. The cabin is fully lined and the upholstery is typically Sea Ray, meaning it’s quite upmarket. Storage exists under the vee berth, where I stumbled across a pedestal leg and tabletop. Time to play!

 Once assembled, the small table provides a comfortable place for playing a hand of cards, eating a quick meal, or reading the paper in inclement weather. Then, with the pedestal removed and the table top used as an infill with the seat backrest cushions you create a bigger double bed in case you want to camp over.

A resourceful young couple accustomed to camping could hunker down comfortably on the 215 Weekender, though the concept is probably more appealing than the reality. Chances are the cabin will be used mostly as a day retreat and storage area.

BAY CRUISING
I was extremely happy with the performance of this boat to the point that I was loath to relinquish the wheel. The helm seat, vision, protection from the windscreen and bimini top, low engine noise and lack of pounding deliver plenty of passenger and driving pleasure. I think you could cruise the harbour, bay, or river with friends and family and everyone would be at ease, left to enjoy the views from this boat.

With trim tabs and the Alpha One leg trimmed in the boat held a low and level speed of 13.5kts at 2500rpm, which means very little given that conditions shouldn’t ever be so terrible on enclosed waters. But with no tabs and nominal trim I noted a carefree low-speed cruise of 21kts at 3000rpm.

Fast cruising was clocked at 3600rpm and 29.5kts and still the boat was quiet, smooth and very agreeable. Such sentiments are similar at 4000rpm and 32kts and maximum continuous revs of 4500rpm and 36kts. Top speed on the way home was 39.8kts at 5000rpm, which is plenty fast enough for a weekender.

By my yardstick, the 215 Weekender is a real cabin cruiser with a decent cockpit for kicking back and cabin for laying low. The shower can wait, the aftermarket barbie is all you need, plus an esky. The ride is a highlight and, on the road, you won’t be alone towing the oversized boating rig.

A big boat all round and a great family chariot.

HIGHS

  • Great finish and attention to detail
  • Excellent floor space, big cockpit, and good stability
  • All the essentials for overnighting
  • Real cruising comfort and driving pleasure
  • Established brand, offering great resale and dealer support
LOWS

  • Premium product commands a commensurate price
  • Lacks hot water, sink and fridge found in a true weekender
  • Overboard discharge can’t be used in enclosed waters
  • Big boat on trailer, requiring a large 4WD to tow


SEA RAY 215 WEEKENDER
 
HOW MUCH?
Price as tested: $83,000 w/ MerCruiser 5lt MPI inboard, dual-axle trailer, options, safety gear and registrations
Options fitted: Barbecue, hydraulic trim tabs, dual-axle trailer with electric brakes, two-tone hull with full camper covers, cockpit carpet, stainless steel bowroller, back-to-back passenger seat/sunlounge, and fire suppression system
 
GENERAL
Material: GRP with fully moulded cockpit liner
Length overall: 6.7m
Beam: 2.59m
Deadrise: 19 degrees
Weight: Approx 2167kg dry hull with MerCruiser 5lt MPI inboard; 2662kg dry on trailer
 
CAPACITIES
Berths: 2+2
Fuel capacity: 189lt
Passengers: 8 adults/817kg
Rec/max HP: 260hp w/Bravo III sterndrive
 
ENGINE
Make/model: MerCruiser 5lt MPI petrol inboard
Type: Injected four-stroke petrol V8 inboard motor
Weight: 433kg
Rated HP: 260hp
Displacement: 5lt
Drive: Sterndrive Alpha One
Propeller: 17-inch stainless steel
 
SUPPLIED BY:
Andrew Short Marine
1 Box Road, Taren Point, NSW, 2229
Phone: (02) 9524 2699
Website: www.searay.com for your nearest dealer





Published : Sunday, 1 October 2006

Prices and specifications supplied are for the market in Australia only and were correct at time of first publication. boatsales.com.au makes no warranty as to the accuracy of specifications or prices. Please check with manufacturer or local dealer for current pricing and specifications.

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