FRESH OUT OF THE BOX. Like many of you, I prefer a galley-down floor plan, such as the one on Sea Ray's 36 Sedan Bridge. Why? It clearly separates the dining, socializing, and food preparation areas. It creates privacy while retaining that together feeling. In a larger boat, galley-up may be the better choice, but in boats less than 45' long I believe having the galley down makes for a more dynamic and energetic social environment. And why else do you buy a bridge boat if not to better accommodate a crowd?

The 36 Sedan Bridge's decor is so fresh, it kicks. It boasts an electrical system I usually see only on large yachts. And like other new sedans, it delivers performance rivaling that of some express cruisers. It's not flawless, as anyone who tries to top off the engine coolant in the 6" of space between the fill and the underside of the deck will tell you. But this boat's attributes far outweigh its other issues.

Sea Ray 36 Sedan Bridge Fuel ConsumptionANATOMY OF A GENIUS. Before cursing that tight coolant fill, consider that Sea Ray protects the engines by installing internal, basket sea strainers on the raw-water intakes. These take up a lot of space, making them hard to engineer into a boat this size. But they provide better protection and easier service than the less expensive and less effective external hull grates most builders install. Service access otherwise is excellent, both through the main hatch in the salon sole and through the cockpit hatch that provides access to the rudder posts and genset, which also has an internal sea strainer.

In the salon, open the main electrical distribution panel, or MDP. Instead of a confusing array of breakers, lockouts, and gauges, you'll find a video touchscreen. Old salts may snipe, but many modern boaters would rather let software prompt them through the process of switching from shore power to generator than have to "know" what to do. What's more, this software allows the captain to send anyone who can operate a microwave to turn on the genny. The actual breakers are hidden behind the touchscreen. If a breaker blows, the touchscreen blinks.

I interviewed Jim Habuda, an engineer at Airpax, the company that worked with Sea Ray to devise this system. Habuda revealed the system's hidden genius: multiplexing. All the devices in the boat are wired in a loop; branches for each run off a single twisted pair cable. Doing so eliminates the typical battery-panel-switch-device routing of wires. It cuts down on rigging time, makes troubleshooting easier, and makes the boat considerably lighter (copper is heavy). You control lights and other devices with touchpads instead of switches. Very cool.

UNDERWATER EXHAUST MAKES THIS SEDAN AS QUIET AS IT IS HANDSOME. TOP END: 33.3MPH

Sea Ray asked its other production departments to reach as high as its electrical engineers did. For example, the carpenters were busy making things such as the push-and-deploy blanket box that's integrated into the foot of the master berth. Not only does it provide a place to sit, it also makes it easier to access stowed items- you no longer have to lift the entire mattress. An array of wood squares seems to float overhead, softening the slick look of the glossy, gel coated headliner. Grouped geometrically, each square has a hi-hat light installed.

An ingenious dinette features a table that appears to seat three, then flips open to seat five. This table and its accompanying bench slide so you can get in and out without crawling over your neighbor's lap. All of this proves that complex engineering can make life simple for the end user when it's well thought out. Aboard too many boats, technical muscle flexing seems nothing more than self-indulgent.

This amenable galley-down layout features a split head arrangement- you can access the commode and sink from the passageway as well as from the master stateroom. The shower can be accessed only from the stateroom. You may think this strange as guests seeking an early shower might tiptoe past you and your snoring mate. The alternative, however, aboard competing boats is to have the head and shower combined. In that scenario, as aboard Carver's 36 Sport Sedan ($350,000 with twin 375-hp Crusader 6.0 MPI gasoline inboards), there's a door on the passageway and one in the stateroom, which allows you to lock out any shower seekers. But keep in mind that if you lock the door, anyone needing a potty break while you're showering will be out of luck.

RUN, RUN, RUN. The twin 370-hp MerCruiser 8.1S Horizon V-8 gasoline inboards proved plenty powerful for the 11-ton 36 Sedan Bridge. From my swiveling, bolstered helm seat, I felt a crisp response to throttle, even in the midrange, which would prove valuable in a following sea. Set the speed at 28 mph, or 4000 rpm, and you'll find it's been dialed in to deliver a good feel, a good ride, and a good balance of realistic speed and range. My only complaints from the helm were that the corner of the swim platform is hard to see while docking and I prefer dual-bulb (red/white) lights in the arch top to preserve my night vision.

There's much more to like on the flying bridge. Access is via stairs, not a ladder. Guest seating is a plushly upholstered "L" complimented by a woodgrain table. And the keeper rails on the helm console, such as those circling the two-burner galley stove, are just another excellent example of how the 36 Sedan Bridge does a great job of mixing what you'll like with what you'll need.

EXTRA POINT: Surge tubes are incorporated into the exhaust system to prevent backflooding the engines. Many cruisers lack this essential safety feature.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OTHER SEA RAY YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Boating Magazine, January 2001 and is written by Kevin Falvey. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: http://subscriptions.boatingmag.com

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