Sea Ray 44 SundancerBy Andy Adams

One look will tell you that the 2006 Sea Ray 44 Sundancer has smart and sexy lines for a distinctive look in the water. But, when we began our test report with the crew from Skyline Marine in Ontario, the boat was on a huge hydraulic trailer. This afforded us a rare opportunity to look at the smart and sexy underwater lines to better understand how Sea Ray dials in such great performance on such a big yacht.

The Sundancer series stretches back decades now, and if any boat manufacturer could claim to have developed a thoroughbred line, this is it. The concept has been to emphasize above deck accommodation combining that with great performance while still providing luxurious cabins for nighttime use by placing the vee-drive engines under the cockpit floor. This is a more “outdoorsy” style of yacht than a sedan or flying bridge and the perennially strong Sundancer sales numbers reinforce the fact that the public really likes this type of boat.

But with a dry weight well over 10 tons, how well could it perform? In fact, what power would it take to make a 19° dead rise hull get up on plane?

The answer is twin T-VD Cummins MerCruiser SC500 diesels rated at 478 hp a side. Going back to the morning of our boat test, as the Skyline Marine trucks pulled the 44 Sundancer up to the launch ramp, we stopped to install the 22” x 27” four-blade Nibral propellers.

Sea Ray 44 Sundancer - RunningThe boat was supplied with a thick coat of black antifouling paint, massive zincs, sport boat type rudders and deep prop pockets to reduce the boats draft and the shaft angle too.

Streamlined underwater exhaust outlets helped to silence the big Cummins engines.

With the props installed, we carefully backed the 44 Sundancer into Lake Ontario. It carried a half tank of fuel but no other passengers, no water and no waste. The standard equipment Vetus Bowthruster and twin engines made maneuvering away from the pier a simple matter. We cleared the harbour at a slow idle of 575 rpm doing 6.4 mph and as we gently moved up the rpm range, the Sea Ray moved ahead in an authoritative fashion with very little bow rise as it made an almost imperceptible transition to a planing attitude.

The 19° dead rise hull represents decades of refinement by Sea Ray designers and when you match it up with the Cummins diesels, you wind up with a boat that's pretty quick from A to B. At a cruising speed of 2,200 rpm, the Sea Ray was blasting along at 28.6 mph in a very efficient speed range from a fuel consumption perspective. We recorded a top speed of 33.7 mph at 2,650 rpm and at any speed at all, the boat delivered a smooth ride and impressive handling.

Sea Ray’s prop pocket design works beautifully with no evidence of propeller cavitation or ventilation even under extreme maneuvers. At wide open throttle we discovered that the Sundancer's wheel could be palmed over to full lock and the boat would simply respond by leaning hard into the turn and carving right around, almost without regard to the 2 or 3 foot random chop we were running in.

Sea Ray 44 Sundancer - HelmPerformance is definitely a big part of the Sea Ray's appeal. It is a driver's boat.

The lucky captain on the 44 Sundancer lives a comfortable life. Our test boat had a stylish hard top that rests between a foot and 18 inches above the level of the huge curved glass windshield. Zip-out clear panels protect you in the rain but otherwise, you'll want that area open to the breeze. The center section of the windshield also opens but not the sides. In high humidity, you may need to zip out a side panel or start up the standard equipment air-conditioning on the bridge to take out some of the humidity.

As expected, the helm seat is plush with a flip up bolster, fore and aft adjustment and a suitably handsome wooden steering wheel that tilts through a wide range to accommodate standing or sitting operation. The helm features an impressive row of lit switches, a full set of analog instruments for each engine as well as the MerCruiser SmartCraft instrumentation and our test boat had a Raymarine VHF radio, the Sea Ray navigation system and more.

The double companion seat has storage in the base as well as room for a subwoofer if you wish to install one.

Standard equipment includes an AM/FM/CD player, six disc changer and eight speakers with a digital cockpit remote control.

Surrounding the helm area is the cockpit that is like a plush family room on the water. Our test boat had a refreshment center with ‘fridge and freezer, stainless steel sink and a massive U-shaped seating area, with storage underneath. A removable table sits in the center making a huge dining area under the stars. Several footlights and overhead lights mounted in the hardtop will make entertaining in the evenings particularly nice.

Sea Ray 44 Sundancer - Refreshments areaEven though the Sundancer design emphasizes the above decks spaces, the cabin areas get the luxury treatment.

You enter the salon through a massive locking hatch door that slides away, and down five cherry wood steps with footlights.

Immediately to port is the electrical panel and ahead, four overhead lockers, port lights with blinds and a big settee with a high/low table for relaxing or dining indoors. The reverse cycle heating and air-conditioning system means that even off-season, you'll be comfortable onboard this boat. The seat pulls out to make a double berth and there are two movable seats as well, again with storage underneath.

Opposite, is the galley with a Corian counter that looks just like granite, a two-burner Kenyon stove, lockers with built-in glasses racks, trash locker in the countertop, a Panasonic convection microwave, separate refrigerator/freezer, three drawers, four lockers and a liquor cabinet. A large flat screen TV is also located there for viewing while you are seated on the settee. We thought the sink was oddly shaped but otherwise it's a handsome galley with fair counter space and carpet that runs to the baseboard.

We would prefer a section of easy-to-clean flooring there. Also in the cabin are CO monitors; a feature we think is very worthwhile.

The forward master stateroom features a full-size pedestal bed with innerspring mattress, pillows, sheets and a coordinated bed spread. The hanging lockers include lights and there's small item storage space around the sides. Above the bed is an excellent hatch but because of the very rakish lines of the bow, we found the bed was mounted fairly high and you'll want to check the sitting headroom to make sure you're comfortable. The master stateroom also includes a DVD player, flat screen TV and, of course, air conditioning outlets to keep you comfortable.

Sea Ray 44 Sundancer - GalleyThe master head is divided port and starboard which we feel is a smart use of space. To port is the head that includes a sink in a vanity, porthole, air-conditioning outlets, power, three-way mirrors and an MSD. Across the companionway on the starboard side, is a separate shower with a porthole, door curtains, air-conditioning vents and a fold-down seat for those who would prefer to shower without standing.

The aft cabin enjoys a separate head with opening porthole, MSD, shower and a seat. This is well appointed but rather small compared to the master head. The aft cabin has another flat screen television and DVD player to make it a cozy den and that may be its most popular use for most owners.

When guests arrive, the seat base pulls out and it becomes a queen size birth. The central vacuum system is also located in here as is adequate storage for your children or your visitors.
Other features we felt were very good included the spacious swim platform that features a pullout boarding ladder and a transom bin for storage of fenders, lines and the shore power cords. A handheld shower is also included: a must for those who want to swim in the salt water. We felt the diamond pattern non-skid on the side decks was very good. The bow railing was sturdy, high and included life lines. The bow also had an excellent ground tackle arrangement. It seems clear that Sea Ray expects you to take your 44 Sundancer well off the beaten path and into those secluded little bays and coves that make owning a yacht like this such an exciting and romantic pleasure.

Sea Ray 44 Sundancer - SetteeOriginally published in Canadian Yachting’s February 2006 issue.

Specifications
Model: 2006 Sea Ray 44 Sundancer
Engines: Twin T-VD- Cummins MerCruiser
QSC 500, 478 hp, six cylinder turbo diesel.
8.3 litres / 504.5 ci, electronic fuel injection
Propeller: 22 x 27 four blade Nibral
Length OA incl. Swim platform: 45’, 13.72 m
Maximum Beam: 14’, 4.27 m
Dry Weight: 22,500, 10,205 kg
Hull dead rise in degrees at transom, 19º
Fuel: 335 US gal, 12,268 l
Water: 100 US gal, 378 l,
Holding tank: 42 US gal, 159 l

Speeds:
RPM speed GPS
Idle 575 rpm 6.4 mph
1000 rpm 10.1
1250 11.5
1500 14.4
1750 18.9
2000 24.8
2250 29.2
2650 max 33.7
Test boat provided by:
Skyline Marina
Price as tested quoted by:
SeaRay Boats. www.searay.com – base
including freight and options, $584,808 USD (2006 Price)
with Cummins MerCruiser diesel engines.
Speed testing by: Garmin GPS

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 – With the propellers removed, you get a better view of the prop pockets, the overall 19 degree Vee in the hull and to the right, the streamlined underwater exhaust outlet.
Photo 2 - Searays and props
Photo 3 - The Helm
Photo 4 – The refreshments area
Photo 5 - The galley includes a convection microwave and granite looking Corian countertop. The ceiling panel over the sink conceals a swing-down flat screen TV.
Photo 6 – A nice-sized settee.

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