Author: Capt. Mike Whitehead
When you hear the name ‘sea Ray,” the first picture of a boat that pops into your mind is probably that of an express cruiser.
It’s true that Sea Ray is known for its line of express cruisers — and the company was awarded by J.D. Power and Associates as the express cruiser builder with the highest customer satisfaction rating. However, the company is also becoming known for its larger motoryachts — and the latest versions are nothing short of breathtaking.
While I have long been a fan of Sea Ray’s express cruisers, I have changed my mind about my ‘favorite” boat from this builder: It is now the Sea Ray 560 Sedan Bridge.
Founded back in 1959, Sea Ray Boats was one of the first boat builders to use fiberglass and other high-tech composite materials in its boats. Sea Ray became a division of Brunswick Corp. — the world’s largest producer of marine engines and boats — in 1986, and the company now produces more than 50 models.
Today, Sea Ray is the world’s largest manufacturer of recreational boats from 18 to 68 feet. You can choose from four Sea Ray lines: Sport Boats, Sport Cruisers, Sport Yachts and Yachts. Every Sea Ray boat is designed and initially tested at the company’s 70,000-square-foot product development and engineering facility, which accommodates more than 250 designers, engineers and craftspeople.
A Foggy Day in Newport
We tested the Sea Ray 560 Sedan Bridge with Scott Bruce, yacht sales manager of Newport Boats in Newport Beach, California, who provided our test boat. The seas were calm and there was a light fog layer just outside the jetties after leaving Newport Harbor.
‘The 560 Sedan Bridge is my personal favorite yacht in Sea Ray’s lineup,” Bruce said. That sounded like a sales line to me — however, I find myself aboard midsize and large yachts almost on a daily basis, and I have to admit that I, too, was impressed after stepping aboard this 56-footer.
This boat offers a seemingly endless list of built-in ‘creature comforts” as standard equipment, but it also comes with a full range of practical luxuries and performance equipment that makes it a joy to skipper this luxurious vessel.
Our test boat was equipped with twin 1,036 hp MAN diesels. In open water, we reached a cruising speed of 30.8 mph, at 2,100 rpm — consuming 68 gallons per hour.
The vessel heeled over slightly when we made a sharp turn to hit our own wake — which we sliced through without much notice. We were enjoying a comfortable and smooth ride, so we pushed the throttles all the way.
At wide-open throttle, we reached 34 knots, at 2,300 rpm, burning 112 gallons of fuel per hour. The ride was flawless. During our cruise, we didn’t even have to touch the trim tabs aboard this 50,000-pound yacht.
As we set course to return to the harbor, we cut the throttles, and the boat quickly cruised to stop without throwing us into the helm. When we hit the throttles for a fast start, the boat popped up on plane quickly, with the turbos kicking in at around 1,700 rpm.
As I have experienced with all the Sea Rays, I could feel the solidness of the hull — yet, this boat produces a low wake profile, compared to many other comparable-size yachts.
The large flybridge is well designed, with excellent visibility — plus, on this model the helm is positioned amidships, allowing the skipper to see the swim platform while backing down.
Molded fiberglass stairs leading from the cockpit to the flybridge are not as steep as in many other boats — and the Sea Ray 560 has excellent rail placement, for maximum safety. The flybridge on our test boat had a fiberglass hardtop enclosure with a sunroof, equipped with a solid sliding blackout cover over the skipper. Complete isinglass enclosures let you take full advantage of the heating and air-conditioning system on the bridge.
Two Euro-style helm chairs offer flip-up thigh-rise bolsters, for standing operation. Ample guest seating is provided fore and aft, and standard amenities include a refrigerator and a separate ice-maker concealed forward, under the wet bar.
The helm has an upper storage and electronic cabinet — and it includes both white lights and red lights to maintain night vision.
The helm’s large, easy-to-read gauges offer neon blue backlit numbers and indicators, similar to gauges on luxury automobiles — and the boat’s system monitor offers both audio and visual warning signals.
We navigated through the fog with the help of a Furuno 1942 radar, while steering with a Simrad Robertson AP20 autopilot, interfaced to a Northstar 962 GPS. Our test boat was also equipped with an Icom IC M127 VHF radio, a Vetus bow thruster, a Danforth high-speed compass, trim tabs, a rudder indicator, a mounted spotlight, a Raytheon Tridata display and a Clarion stereo system.
Aft, the boat’s large swim step provides dinghy chocks, so you won’t have to carry an inflatable boat on the bow (where it could block the view through the lower windshield). The only disadvantage is that, if you carry a dinghy aft, the swim ladder would be under the dinghy — making it unusable. The optional hydraulic-lift swim platform, however, makes dinghy launching a breeze.
The cockpit is spacious, with an aft-folding bench seat and a live bait well in the transom. The shore power AC system uses an ISO Boost with two hookup options — one using a 220v, 50 amp cord; and another with a 130v, 50 amp cord for use when visiting a marina not wired for 220v. Both are reeled on a Glendinning Cablemaster automatic cable-handling system.
The engine room is easily accessible from the cockpit. The main engines have extra vibration dampers and a set of engine room gauges, sharing the space with a 20 kw Westerbeke auxiliary generator.
Among the features I discovered on the 560, I noticed a very practical innovation while looking under the amidships floor accesses to the deep bilge storage areas: This boat has a freshwater manifold system for all the hot and cold water lines. In the event of a water line rupture or leak, you can simply turn off that specific water line: You do not have to shut down fresh water to the entire boat.
The main saloon has a warm, inviting feeling, with your choice of Ultrawood-finished cherry or maple wood accents and Ultraleather-upholstered settees on both sides. Cabinets conceal almost everything in the way of accessories and entertainment electronics — which is an especially nice touch. Also, this is one of the few yachts of its size that offers side windows in the saloon that open to provide ample fresh air.
Forward, to starboard, the clean-looking interior theme continues in the galley. The boat’s appliances are concealed behind wood cabinets, so you do not see the coffeemaker and bottle racks. The custom Karadon countertops include covers over the stove and sink, extending the available workspace. There is plenty of cabinet storage in addition to the refrigerator and freezer units.
Across from the galley is a dinette with two bench seats that are raised so that you can see out the windows.
Staterooms are accessible by walking down several steps, forward. Once belowdecks, you’ll find two guest staterooms on either side.
The port stateroom offers bunk berths, with the top bunk folding down when not needed to open up the space. A hanging locker and a washer/dryer are also located here.
The starboard-side stateroom has a single full-size double berth, a hanging locker and a second door to the guest head. The roomy guest head has a VacuFlush toilet, counter space and a shower with an adjustable seat.
A large master stateroom is located forward. It offers a queen-size berth, a private head with a shower, cedar-lined hanging lockers, a sit-down vanity and ample storage.
All the staterooms have air-conditioning/heating controls and televisions.
After we docked and I stepped off the boat, I turned my head to take one more look at the 560 Sedan Bridge. It has especially sleek hull lines that give it a beautiful exterior — along with practical, well-placed rails that make walking from the cockpit to the bow safer and easier.
This boat made such an impression on me that now, when anyone mentions ‘sea Ray,” I will picture a motoryacht — one that is designed with inviting luxury and performance to match.
CONTACT: Sea Ray Boats, Knoxville, TN; (800) SR-BOATS; www.searay.com