Talk about getting an advance peek at a new boat. The Sea Ray 225 Weekender is so new that it isn't even listed on Sea Ray's slick Internet website (www.searay.com), making me wonder if the afternoon I spent running the 225 in front of Sea Ray's World Headquarters in Knoxville was just a figment of my imagination. Was the boat a nautical version of those Mission Impossible messages that self-destructed 10 seconds after I climbed onto the dock?
No, the good news is that, while it may be new, it's also quite real, and you'll see them at your local Sea Ray dealer by the time you read this. The even better news is that this is a completely likable boat that combines all the best features of a mini-cruiser with the cockpit space of a runabout.
Sea Ray used its successful 215 hull as a springboard to launch this new design, which stretches the length to 22 feet or a healthy 24 feet if you choose the optional extended swim platform (which I would).
Sea Ray has so much experience in the express cruiser field that it has pretty much perfected this powerboat form. Cleanly styled, well built and comfortable to the point of luxurious — the 225 Weekender is all of these. But if you're looking for a revelation in the 225, you won't find it.
The real "newness" of the 225 is in the details and, once again, Sea Ray has spent a lot of time (and money) to find out what you, the buyer, want and what you dislike. Every year, they go through extensive surveys and interviews with prospective buyers, current owners and their dealers to find out how to improve the next year's product. As a result, they've gotten it down to a science, and the beauty is, as they say, in the details.
Take the helm seat on the 225 Weekender, for example. I think it's near perfect. That's speaking for my rear, of course — yours may be different. But the seat is just wide enough for two people to snuggle up together, yet it's very comfortable if you're not feeling friendly. Too many double helm seats leave the lone skipper without any side support, and that isn't the case here.
Besides, the front part of the seat flips up to become a thigh bolster or leaning post when you want to steer standing up. If you're maneuvering at the dock, the flip-up bolster gives you plenty of room to move. If you're running fast and free with the wind in your hair and enough of a sea to make sitting a bit bumpy, the bolster gives you just the right amount of bracing without being irritating. The entire seat is mounted solidly on a fiberglass base that is an immense storage space for all that stuff that usually ends up lying on the cockpit sole. All in all, this is a great seat.
But it's not the only good seat in the house. The standard seating plan puts another double bench seat on the companion side, although it doesn't have the flip-up bolster. It's the ideal height for the wrap-around and walk-through tempered glass windshield to send the breeze above your head, yet you've got a great view of the passing waterway.
Aft, jump seats flank the engine box and can be easily removed so you can walk through the transom door to port. In place, they join the padded engine box to form a reasonably comfortable and secure sunpad if you're not too lanky. Otherwise, you'll hang over the sides of the boat like a big anchovy on a Caesar salad.
Want more details? Sea Ray has tucked a removable ice chest behind the helm seat, so you don't have to move far to get another cold drink. There are storage areas for water skis in the sides of the cockpit, plus a big storage locker in the floor with a lift-out bin to keep things tidy and accessible. To reach the foredeck, you close the cabin door to use the steps molded into it. Once on deck, there's good non-slip texture all the way to the bow anchor well, as well as the security of a welded stainless-steel grab rail completely surrounding the foredeck. If you're not feeling athletic, just dive into the cabin and resurface through the hatch in the foredeck like a prairie dog.
I've already raved about the helm seat, but the helm itself is the essence of simplicity. There's the usual burled dash panel with all the engine gauges, and as usual, some are obscured by the sporty tilt steering wheel with the faux burled wood accents. Our test boat had the new MerCruiser 4000 throttle/shifter with the trim switch on the handle, and it was at a comfortable height. I was pleased to see that Sea Ray includes a Lowrance 3500 depthfinder as well as audible alarms for both oil and water. There's a molded footrest that makes the helm seat even more comfortable, and between that and the dash, a blank panel can be used to flush-mount a VHF radio or GPS. Or you can simply put your feet a notch higher if you don't want any electronics.
Down below, you'll find all the comforts of home in miniature. There's a full wrap-around settee that does double-duty as a V-berth when you retrieve the filler cushion from its dedicated storage area. Otherwise, there's a dinette table between the settees. Sea Ray has realized that when you are using the filler cushion, you'll need a place to stow the dinette table, so there's another dedicated storage rack for the big table. That table can also be taken into the cockpit where a bracket is waiting in the cockpit sole.
There's full sitting headroom for most people under 6 feet, a portable toilet is tucked to starboard behind a curtain, and the galley counter has a built-in ice chest, sink and storage bin. The expected Clarion AM/FM/digital cassette stereo has interior and cockpit speakers and includes a cockpit remote control.
The standard power is a 220-horsepower MerCruiser 5.0-liter with Alpha I stern drive, but our test boat had the optional 260-horsepower 5.7-liter EFI, which makes for a quicker boat that also starts flawlessly. Several other engine options include a Bravo Three dual-propeller drive and MerCruiser or Volvo Penta diesel power.
Access is good, even though this is a big engine in a small compartment, and you'll have to install the spark plugs by Braille. You won't want to change them when the engine is hot, but that's the case with most big V-8s shoehorned into the back of boats this size. Sea Ray gets points for putting a removable panel above the fuel tank so it can not only be inspected regularly, but it can be replaced without major surgery by future owners.
My test boat was a prototype, and one quirk I found resulted from the high transom platform. It's high enough that your toes just touch the water when sitting, and the swim ladder just didn't go deep enough. Standing on the bottom rung, you felt as though someone had lowered the river on you. I'm assured that a deeper ladder will be on production boats.
Underway, the 225 was everything you'd expect. It delivered enough punch to lift skiers from deepwater starts, was quick to level off onto a plane and held a level attitude at low speeds.
I did all the usual foolishness that boat testers are supposed to do, such as spinning donuts and circling back to leap across my own wake, and just couldn't make the 225 stumble. Spray shot out nicely to the sides rather than onto the windshield, the 19-degree deadrise slices through waves cleanly, and the top speed is more than most people will need.
This is one very-well-mannered boat that is going to find its way into a lot of hearts (and a lot of driveways) across America. The 225 does so much, so well.
|Length w/extended platform||24'|
|Hull warranty||5 years|
|Top speed||44.2 mph|
|Acceleration||0-36 mph in 7.2 seconds|
For more information
Sea Ray Boats Inc.
2600 Sea Ray Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37915