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A bold venture yields brilliant results

It’s September 15th and I’m in Knoxville, TN at Sea Ray World Headquarters on what the local guys call the “Island.” Sea Ray owners from across North America have been invited to join the big event and I’ve met several people from Canada — including a couple who came all the way from Vernon, BC and who, by coincidence, happened to be Sea Ray 370 Sundancer owners. I look to them for their reaction to the new 2013 Sea Ray 370 Venture which is being introduced at this event. It is a bold venture, but our impression is that it will yield brilliant results.

The biggest difference? The 370 Venture comes equipped with twin Mercury Verado outboard engines producing 300 hp each...but you can’t see them!

As Sea Ray buyers would expect in this size of boat, it has a large swim platform, a transom sun lounge, centre walk-through into the cockpit and the other features buyers look for today. The transom is your dock, or patio on the water. Product development manager, Dan Robinson, explained to us on videotape how important it is to maintain easy access to the swim platform and water.

So, where are the outboard engines? The photos clearly show the stern of the boat has the customary big aft swim platform, centre walk-through with aft-facing seats. By the way, one of the cool features is that the seatbacks can swing wide open at the anchorage, then swing in to enclose the cockpit when you’re under way.

In the centre of the walk-through is a hatch that lifts to reveal access to fresh water engine flushing connections. You can flush the engines without even looking at them. Also, there is a special low speed side exhaust for each engine when idling. Above 2,000 rpm the exhaust exits through the propeller hub. The side exhaust ensures that there is no risk of CO2 near people.

That’s because both stern seats tilt up to reveal a large space with a 300 hp Verado engine hiding inside. Even with the seats fully enclosing the engines, you can still tilt the motors up almost completely out of the water; a great feauture for saltwater boaters.

There are a host of advantages to outboards. One that most people won’t readily think of is safety. Compared to conventional inboard engines that each need raw water intakes and through hull fittings below the waterline, the cooling intake is built into the outboard engine’s lower unit, so your only through hull is for the cooling water intake for your generator.

The outboard engines are fully self-contained, lightweight and compact. The Verados have always been impressively quiet engines but in this application, covered by fiberglass hoods and seats, they’re virtually silent. You need to check the gauges to know the engines are running. The sound of the generator totally drowns out any engine sound until you’re moving at fairly high speeds.

If you can’t see them and you can’t hear them, what’s the advantage? For most owners it is the enormous amount of cockpit space the outboards make possible. Sea Ray has taken full of advantage of this by moving the main galley up to the cockpit level and leaving what we will call a snack galley below in the cabin.

The cockpit galley is on the starboard side and our test boat had an Isotherm refrigerator, Kenyon electric grill, Kenyon Silken induction cooktop, a sink and storage as well.

There is abundant seating throughout the cockpit, a handsome teak table folds out for dining and there is storage under most seating.

A hatch in the centre of the floor gives access to the onboard systems and the generator, but with the Verados you won’t be visiting the engine room very often!

Up front and on the same floor level is a companion side seat with reclining backrest and an off-centre front deck walk-through to the sunpads which feature reclining backrests.

The helm features a lovely, thick rim wooden steering wheel, a full array of analog instruments, Mercury SmartCraft controls (our favourites) and the test boat had both engine trim and Bennett trim tabs. Our observation when driving the boat was that it was not sensitive to the trim position at all. The boat just gets up and runs easily with little attention from the captain.

With four of us on board, we just shoved the throttles open and the 370 Venture accelerated as well or better than a stern drive equipped model would; the specs show a bit faster time to plane.

The water conditions were very calm but crossing our own wake revealed the typically solid Sea Ray construction and very sporty and precise handling. Not only does the boat respond well to helm, it heels over in a turn and can come about on plane in a very tight circle. For such a large and accommodating boat, it’s very easy and satisfying to drive and a 40 mph top speed is very impressive.

Outward vision is outstanding all-around and the double wide helm seat has flip-up bolsters, so that you can sit, stand, or lean depending on whatever is most comfortable. The huge curved glass windshield offers protection but we bet that most of the time, people will be standing up and enjoying the pleasure of driving this boat.

With computerized engine controls, electronic fuel injection, dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and an engine driven supercharger as well, the Verados have a very high level of mechanical sophistication — they spring to life instantly, run silently and deliver an impressive amount of torque.

Going places in this boat will be one of the most rewarding parts of ownership!

We were impressed with the design philosophy behind the new 370 Venture. The twin Verados open up “packaging” opportunities that more conventional power plants don’t allow. In this case, with the engines back at the transom, a lot of interior space is opened up.

As you enter the forward cabin, the first thing that strikes you is that the vee berth area makes a very large dinette, easily able to accommodate six to eight at the table and with portholes and storage cabinets at the gunwhale level.

It does make down into a berth but it’s an impressively big and comfortable dinette for a boat of the size.

A flatscreen on the bulkhead and entertainment system will be appreciated and there are lockers for storage.

To port is the lower galley. It boasts a convection microwave, another refrigerator, and a large, round, stainless steel sink with a clever swing-up cover. Plus, there is a reasonable amount of storage for provisions and pots and there is also a trash locker.

Opposite to starboard is a comfortably large head with enclosed shower, glass vessel sink, mirrors well positioned for morning routines and there is a mirrored door too.

We have saved the best for the last; a full-beam aft master stateroom with an oversized shaped queen berth, port and starboard seating, big sections of hull-side glass to bring in lots of daylight and there is abundant storage too. It is just stunning to find a cabin like this on a 37-footer!

For a couple with occasional guests or children, this boat really delivers amazing cockpit accommodations and a grand cabin for the owners!

We think Sea Ray’s bold new Venture will pay off big time!

SPECIFICATIONS

Test boat engines: Twin Mercury Verado 300 hp outboards, inline six-cylinder, 24-valve direct acting double overhead cam (DOHC), 2.6 L / 158 ci, Supercharged with charge air cooling and electronic boost pressure control and Sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection (EFI). Stainless steel props.



ENGINE RPM    SPEED MPH
Idle 2.2
1,000 3.4
1,500 6.1
2,000 7.6
2,500 8.6
3,000 9.0
3,500 10.3
4,000 11.1
4,500 12.8
5,000 31.9
5,500 36.6
6,000 40.7
Max 41.8

CRUISING SPEED rpm / mph
5,000 / 31.9

SPECIFICATIONS:
LENGTH O.A.: 37ʹ 2″ / 11.3 m
BEAM: 11ʹ 3″    / 3.43 m
WEIGHT DRY: 15,432 lbs / 7,000 kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 200 gal / 757 L
WATER CAPACITY: 35 gal / 132 L
WASTE CAPACITY: 28 gal / 106 L
PRICE: Base $403,315 USD


Test boat and performance data provided by and price quoted by: Sea Ray Boats www.searay.com.

By Andy Adams