When I first got a call to operate this Sea Ray three years ago I was skeptical. At the time I was privileged and had spent most of my sailing days on brand new Sunseekers and Vandutchs. Images of salt water corroded mercruiser engines and flexing fiberglass filled my mind. But I was wrong. When I arrived to pilot this boat the tainted stories of a mass produced vessel faded fast because with this model, Sea Ray had figured it out.
Sea Ray was founded in Michigan in 1959 and in the late 80s was bought by the Brunswick Corporation. At this time the purchase made Brunswick the largest pleasure boat manufacturer in the world. They built many name brand boats like Bayliner and Meridian through the years. With the help of Brunswick, Sea Ray was able to produce 20 boats a week. It was this mass production of vessels that lead many sailors to question Sea Ray's build quality. And for those of you have been to sea you know that nothing is more important than your vessels construction.
So here we are with the modern Sea Ray 510 Sundancer. "Sundancer" a term that many in the boating industry have come to love and adore is the flagship line from Sea Ray. And at the time in the mid 2010's, it was slapped onto their new sport yacht line of larger vessels.
Worthy of the name Sundancer this 51 foot express cruising yacht changes the tide of Sea Ray's past and points it towards the future of design and quality. It trades out the old mercruiser gas engines for twin 600hp Cummins Diesels connected to Mercruiser's Zues drive technology. This power supply moves the 20 ton vessel to a top speed of 30kts. With the Zues technology at the helm you are offered Skyhook gps position holding as well as a joystick for tight maneuvering. With this technology the vessel is offered without a bow or stern thruster. A trend becoming more common in the industry.
Inside the vessel you will find 2 state rooms (a master the full beam of the vessel and a forward V birth) able to accommodate 4 guests with an additional couch/bed wombo combo in the lower salon. The 510 also has two heads complete with a shower. One off of the master state room and one forward of the lower salon with access both from the V birth and the salon itself. There is also a galley with stuff that you would expect from a galley.
None of this is overly exciting however. What is exciting about this vessel is its two level salon system and what connects it. When you enter the Sea Ray from its stern cockpit doors you see a table to the port, a wet bar and helm station on the starboard, and then nothing. Just windows. The boat drops off.
As you approach the bow of the vessel it comes clear that the salon continues on the floor below. Down a short stair case centered in the boat you enter the lower salon. But there is no ceiling here. Instead Sea Ray designed this vessel in a way where the windshield doubles as a sort of cathedral skylight for the salon down below. It creates a massive amount of open space considering the size and lets in an abundance of light throughout the entire boat. This feature makes the entire vessel. Without it the boat would feel divided and cramped.
The Skylight does admittedly make it very difficult to see at night when the lights below reflect off the windshield and into the pilot's eyes. However, small price to pay for design and space in my opinion. Seeing at night is over rated. (Disclaimer! It isn't actually that difficult to see and it is easy to turn off the lights below. Plus there is a radar.)
Moving past that feature the vessel really is just an all around good boat. It has everything you need. Shade awning over the stern cockpit, adjustable sun pad seats on the bow, a large hydraulic swim step. This boat just has everything you need. I am going to repeat myself because it is so well outfitted it is boring to describe. There is nothing more you could ask for. Which might be its fatal flaw. Its just simply too good at being what it is. Decent design but not flashy, accommodating but not a floating hotel. If you looked up boat in the dictionary there would be a photo of a Sea Ray 510. It is exactly what everyone expects it to be.
But if I do have to think of a couple gripes with the vessel I would say I am not a huge fan of the Zues joystick. It isn't as well tuned as the Volvo Pod joystick but I like Cummins engines better so I wouldn't change that. Maybe move the a/c unit at the helm away from the captain's feet so they don't freeze off. Thats a big one. Ohh and there is one more thing...
MAKE THESE BOATS AGAIN! This Sea Ray 510 isn't available anymore. In fact, none of their sport yachts are. As of 2018 Brunswick shifted their focus away from larger vessels and back down to the under 40' category. Which is a real shame because right when they figured out how to make a great yacht... they took them away from us.