I was able to spend almost an entire day aboard the new Sea Ray 36 Sedan Bridge, cruising from Miami to Stuart, Fla.- a glorious day with a northwest breeze and a two- to three-foot chop along the coastline. Life on the bridge was sweet. It would have been sweeter still if there had been an angled cushion at the port end of the aft bench, but as is, the U-shaped seats on this bridge are very comfortable. Pedestal and corner tables with inlaid teak make it an inviting alfresco entertaining/ dining area. Of course, the bridge can be entirely enclosed.

Sea Ray's Sedan Bridge series 44 feet, 52 feet and now 36 feet- offers more living space than the boats in its more popular Sundancer series. With the addition of this smaller model, even more families can enjoy the lifestyle such a configuration has to offer. Instead of descending into the cabin as on an express cruiser, the living quarters are on the same level as the cockpit, and the distinction between being inside and outside becomes as clear and simple as a sliding glass door. Outdoor entertaining space is sacrificed for living space, but for many families, this trade-off is a no-brainer-especially when the weather is bad and kids are aboard. Plus, you get the advantages of the extra height and extra seating of the bridge, which enhances visibility for the helmsman, allowing him to better read the water and to better spot floating objects. This "second story" also adds outdoor space, so the sacrifice is less than it might seem.

In a three-foot beam sea off Port Everglades, the 36 handled well at 32 mph (4500 rpm), making tight turns easily and tracking true. When heading directly into the sea, pulling back a bit afforded a more comfortable ride. The most economical cruising speed is in the mid-20s- about 0.8 mpg, affording a 225-mile range. At faster speeds you'll have to fuel up more frequently. At the helm, padding above the electronic displays reduces glare. Convenient glove boxes are built in on both sides of the dash. The companion seat is very comfortable, with good padding in the thigh area, and padding on the dash is kind on the knees. The bridge is reached by safe steps that are easy to negotiate. Molded steps also lead to the sidedecks.

The cockpit has a swing-up transom bench. On the swim platform, accessed through the transom door, a large trunk holds shore cords, throw ring, lines, hoses, fenders, etc. At the transom door are light switches that control cockpit and interior lights. A shower is built in.

Innovation is not in short supply aboard this two-stateroom, split-head boat, because Sea Ray is in the improvement business. Its product development department is unsurpassed at making each new model better than the last. The 36 has three immediately apparent new wrinkles: the unique electronic power distribution system -a real showstopper- an expandable dinette and a clever bench arrangement at the foot of the master berth.

The first is this boat's most extraordinary feature- Sea Ray's Multiplex Power Distribution systeman option that's ahead of its time and prefigures what could well be an industry standard in a few years.

Multiplex is nothing short of amazing. It echoes Sea Ray's Navigator chartplotter system in that it has a touch screen, but its capabilities make Navigator's array of new features seem like a tiny step compared to a giant leap. Imagine your A.C. and D.C. panels, your genset control panels and virtually every switch on the boat combined into a single TV screen with myriad displays, all controllable at the touch of a finger. Say good bye to hundreds of feet and hundreds of pounds of wire. It's mesmerizing. Sensors and modules with overrides communicate with the main control unit in the galley and with the display in the port corner of the salon. Amps, voltage, rank levels and lighting levels (which can be preset) are all viewable. The genset can be turned on from the screen (and even from a remote). It must be seen to be believed .

Another feature worth seeing is the expandable dinette, which adjusts by sliding out the seats to accommodate from two to four people. And at the foot of the forward berth a mattress section unzips to form a bench that incorporates two chests. The split head -toilet and vanity to port and shower to starboard- is both practical and family-friendly, and that's the key phrase for this new 36. The space is there and the living is sweet.

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

This review/article originally appeared in Motorboating Magazine, June 2006 and is written by John Clemans. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.mby.com/subscriptions/motorboat-yachting-subscriptions

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