By Bob Senter
Sea Ray 510 Sundancer
Sea Ray's 510 Sundancer is exquisitely engineered
Sea Ray’s 510 Sundancer 2000 model leaves an indelible impression that the manufacturer knows sport boats the same way Porsche knows cars. From their introduction, Sundancer models established Sea Ray’s gold standard in flush foredeck sport cruisers. Few, if any, boats enjoy more recognition. The 510 Sundancer’s quality and first-rate engineering are apparent everywhere, so much so that you find yourself subconsciously wondering if this boat really is made in the U.S. In fact, all seven Sea Ray plants are ISO 9002 certified.
A roomy and stable sport yacht, the 510′s 15-feet-6-inch beam is nearly one third of its 50-feet-6-inch length. Plenty of planing surface and optional 640-horsepower Caterpillar 3196 electronically controlled diesels hot rod it to plane in eight seconds and to a top speed of 38 mph. The 510′s 18-degree deadrise deep-V bottom carries on the Sea Ray tradition of comfortably and effortlessly punching through really miserable seas. Untraditional, though, is the 510′s relatively level planing attitude and fuel economy. Sea Ray claims only 31 gallons per hour fuel consumption at top speed and 21 gallons per hour at its 27 mph cruise. Compared to similar sized planing boats, those numbers are comparatively economical: over one mile per gallon, where half a mile per gallon is common. Credit new engine technology, athletic design and a dry weight of only 38,500 pounds.
Style is crucial in this breed of yacht. Owners appreciate acres of prime, padded sun-worshipping real estate, unrestricted visibility from the raised helm, easy access to the cockpit, swim step and water toys, convenient wet bars and an integrated hardtop to provide occasional shade. In fact, Sea Ray expects Sundancer owners to be inside only 30 percent of the time. The 510 Sundancer gives the impression that every need is anticipated and answered with surgically precise quality and detail. Noteworthy: the subdued mat-finished areas under the windshield, beautiful sculpted and polished heavy stainless-steel windshield moldings, a power opening bottom center windshield vent section, a powered retractable cockpit sunpad and a hydraulically operated swim step for effortless launching and retrieval of water toys or a husky 11- foot Boston Whaler. It goes without saying that the beautifully executed helm includes all top quality navigation electronics, including a KVH TracVision satellite TV antenna. The radar arch flows seamlessly into the hardtop, which is, depending on your esthetic sensibilities, one of the boat’s best or worst styling features.
Style also dictates what may be the only deficiency of the 510: secure deck access. The deck side and bow rails are simply too low to do anyone any good, and the problem is multiplied by a lack of handholds or handrails. As you exit the cockpit moving forward on deck, there are no grab rails and only a low side rail. If you make it forward of the windshield, you might catch the sunpad grab rail. When cruising, the only “easy” access to the foredeck is by climbing onto the master bed and exiting through the bow hatch on hands and knees: The rail is too low to prevent you from being pitched overboard. Retrieving a muddy anchor and chain could be interesting and memorable experience in bad weather. Also, the three relatively small deck cleats on each gunwale have no chafe protection where mooring lines must pass over fiberglass, which is worth noting on a 20-ton yacht.
Handling should be relatively easy, thanks to excellent ergonomics, helm design and controls. A Vetus bow thruster is standard, as are silky Morse Hynautic hydraulic shift and throttle controls and an adjustable tilt wheel power steering. Low-speed maneuvering is aided by transmission trolling valves and “slow vessel switches” that enable temporary idle speed reduction programs in the engine control computers. (Consider that simply engaging both 640-horsepower CAT’s transmissions at normal idle speed would cause the boat to immediately exceed 5 mph “no-wake” speed limits, requiring pulling them in and out of gear or running with one engine in neutral.)
A large gas strut-assisted cockpit hatch provides easy engine access, via a ladder centered in standing headroom between the big Cats. Twin Disc V-drive transmissions and propeller pockets in the hull allows all machinery to be placed aft, reducing noise and increasing interior space. Underwater exhaust exits further reduce noise and fumes. A 10.5-kW Westerbeke genset located near the transom runs almost silently in its enclosure. The entire engine room space is a textbook example of proper design, with superb plumbing, aircraft-quality wiring and thoughtful service access. Both engines are set up for inboard service sides and equipped with an electric oil drain pump and manifold, making routine service, oil and filter changes simple. Bilge areas are finished and gel coated, with white diamond tread deck plates covering all walk surfaces.
After spending an hour in the engine room, the only issue worth mention was a large breaker panel mounted astern of the port engine on the hull side. These panels are usually more conveniently located outside the engine room and much further from the bilge. On the other hand, important fuel tank switching valve manifolds are often located in the engine room, but Sea Ray provides an easily accessed fuel valve panel concealed behind a cockpit seat cushion, something other boat builders would do well to copy. In this price class, a very high level of equipment quality and design is expected — and even where you can’t see it, Sea Ray cut no corners.
Well thought out engineering typifies every system on the 510. Air conditioning vents are integrated into the cabin headliner, rather than through noisy, drafty vent grills. All gray water from sinks and showers drains into an easily accessed common center sump/pump unit. You’ll also find the two parallel freshwater pumps, which operate redundantly, in case one fails. Even the plumbing is done beautifully, as though it were designed to be on display, rather than forever hidden under the sole.
Though the exterior style is evolutionary, the 510′s interior design is unique and modern, but unpretentious. A two or three stateroom layout is available, although locker and drawer storage clearly favors long weekend cruises over extended voyages. Experienced boat owners will appreciate the breathtaking, but low maintenance joinery and upholstery materials. Maple or cherry interiors combined with creamy tan UltraLeather upholstery are surprisingly bright and warm, considering the relatively small amount of natural light from the elliptical port lights. Abundant interior lighting, both direct and indirect with dimmers, washes the smooth headliner, seating areas and Berber carpets. Sculpted fiddle moldings finish the light stone pattern Corian® galley countertop and saloon table. The flawless gloss wood surfaces are not wood, but Nevamar, a proprietary high-pressure laminate, which is nearly indestructible and maintenance free. All other wood trim is satin finished, an attractive but subtle contrast. The buttery soft UltraLeather fooled me; I had to go back and forth between my car and the boat to compare.
Perhaps the most striking feature about the interior is its modular construction; literally no fasteners of any kind are visible. The interior seems to flow together as if molded in one unit. Sea Ray accomplishes this by prefinishing entire sections like the galley, which are then fit directly into the hull as one unit. This process has become an industry standard for automobile manufacturers, who discovered that modular design produces higher overall quality with substantially less labor.
Down the entry steps to the cabin, on the port side you’ll see curved galley sections blending into a bar that extends at the push of a button, into a breakfast bar for two. At the forward end of the galley, a three-burner electric cooktop is concealed, along with a microwave oven in a cabinet. The large Norcold two-door refrigerator is hidden in plain sight, masquerading as two large cupboards next to the stove. Opposite the galley are the large salon and a rounded triangular table.
In the two-stateroom layout, the aft section of the sofa moves forward and folds back, converting into a double bed, again, with the push of a button. If you opt for three staterooms, the large L-shaped settee is replaced with a U-shaped dinette and a third small stateroom with two beds positioned athwartship. The second cabin, located starboard, includes a double lower berth, a single upper berth and a miniscule hanging locker. A large, irregularly shaped island berth fills the master stateroom, plus a vanity, two hanging lockers and two drawers under the bed. Both heads are similarly sized and beautifully trimmed in tile, marble and Corian, although the master head sports a rather art-deco clear acrylic semi-circular shower door. Interior amenities, materials, fit and finish are nothing short of astonishing.
It’s hard to imagine a better example of a modest sized luxury sport yacht than SeaRay’s 510 Sundancer. If for no other reason than to gain an appreciation of truly impressive quality and engineering in an American-built production boat, this yacht is worth a visit.
For more information
Sea Ray Boats Inc.
2600 Sea Ray Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37914
|With opt. swim platform||55′|
|Dry Weight||38,500 pounds|
|Fuel capacity||600 gallons|
|Water capacity||150 gallons|
|Holding Tank||68 gallons|
|Standard engines||Caterpillar 3176 (582 hp)|
|Optional engines||Caterpillar 3196 (540 hp)|
|List price (with options)||$1,059,385|