Foxy looks, sound engineering, and a voluminous interior make this 39-footer a truly smart cruiser.

I arrived at Sea Ray’s Sykes Creek facility just about the time the new 390 Motoryacht did a twin-screw pirouette in the little mangrove-fringed turning basin there and eased back alongside a nearby finger pier. Zzzzzzzzzzzttt! Zzzzzzzzzzzttt! went the optional 6.4-hp Vetus bow thruster, succinctly positioning the nose of the newest Sea Ray so company representative Gary McCloud, standing at the bow in khaki shorts and a Sea Ray T-shirt, could throw a line around a piling. I dealt with a forward spring in the meantime, working from the finger pier, and then secured another line off the aft cleat on the port side.

“Good job, Pike,” grinned McCloud, a guy I’ve known for a decade or so. “Ain’t exactly your first rodeo, is it, pa’dner.”

McCloud was right, of course. The day’s events would hardly constitute my first boat test or even my first test of a Sea Ray. Over the years I’ve driven, examined, and/or trailered literally dozens of Sundancers, Sun Sports, Amberjacks, Lagunas, and Sun Decks, the majority of which shared a strong family resemblance. But there was something vaguely different about the 390, despite the fact that the boat was, for all intents and purposes, a scaled-down version of another, larger aft-cabin-type cruiser that debuted in PMY last June, the 480 Motoryacht.

The answer came soon enough. John Hopkins, another Sea Ray rep, came down to the starboard walkway from his spot on the flying bridge with such ease that I immediately saw how perfectly the boat’s topside configuration fits its size. The ensuing transfer of test gear aboard only served to confirm the impression: From the standpoint of practical cruising and all the little tasks and disciplines that go with it, the shapes, dimensions, and clearances that make up the 390’s on-deck layout are absolutely, almost poetically right.

The flying bridge is the best example of this. As soon as I entered its confines (air-conditioned, incidentally) via a Sunbrella aft-deck enclosure, I was struck by the remarkable visibility the huge, virtually unobstructed windshield offers. And once I’d gotten the helm seat nicely adjusted to my personal physiognomy, the view to either side was excellent as well, mostly because the bridge deck is as lofty as profile aesthetics will allow. Moreover, upon shifting the outboard engine into dead-idle-ahead about the same time I kicked the bow away from the finger pier with the thruster (a maneuvering technique that’ll squeeze most any twin-screw boat slowly ahead while walking her safely off a dock), I realized sightlines aft were pretty darn spiffy, too, thanks to the helm seat’s proximity to the stern.

Entering the basin, I began twin-screwing the boat to achieve a proper lineup for Sykes Creek, another bit of basic boathandling technique that promptly gave rise to my only two criticisms of the 390. The first’s a pet peeve: gasoline (as opposed to diesel) power in a midrange cruiser with a fair amount of sail area. Although Sea Ray offers diesel packages from Cummins and Caterpillar for the 390, our test boat was equipped with MerCruiser Horizons. While these engines are arguably some of the finest gasoline inboards afloat, like most other members of the genre, they simply don’t have the low-end torque, and therefore the slow-bell maneuvering clout, of diesel power. While our test boat was more responsive than most gasoline-powered inboards I’ve handled, her comparatively deep gear ratio (2.68:1) and gutsy props (23"x22") were still no match for the torquey capabilities of a comparable diesel propulsion package.

I offer my second criticism as a question. Why? Why? Why for the sacred love of salt water do boat handlers continue to show allegiance to so-called split engine controls, with throttles on one side of the steering wheel and shifts way-to-hell-and-gone on the other? I mean, guys! Can’t we all just move along to infinitely simpler-to-use, single-lever controls? With shift and throttle functions efficiently combined in one stick? Like on workboats, crewboats, and other commercial vessels?

“Not everybody likes the same stuff you do, Pike,” said McCloud, having duly noted the grumbles that accompanied my bout with the split Teleflex controls on our test boat. “Some of our customers want split controls, and you know our motto: ‘Thoughtful design as a direct result of the voice of the customer.’”

The man had a point, although it pains me to admit such a thing. At any rate, engine controls prejudices were the last thing on my mind when I sea-trialed the 390 on the Intracoastal Waterway near Merritt Island in a slick-calm sea state. The boat performed with the agility and cohesive integrity of a born-to-cruise cruiser, swooping through hard-over, wide-open-throttle turns like a fast-freight on rails, holding an arrow-straight course at displacement as well as planing speeds and coming out of the hole with grace and alacrity. Combining such characteristics with a dashboard that featured an optional Sea Ray Navigator, the touchscreen that offers a uniquely intuitive take on Maptech electronic cartography and navigation, produced a driving experience that was pure fun.

Docking the 390 after the sea trial went smoothly enough, although my split-control technique was relatively coarse in comparison with what I’d seen Hopkins do earlier. Once we’d properly tied up again, Hopkins went back to his regular job while McCloud and I went below to visit the engine room via removable panels in the saloon sole. A host of noteworthy engineering specifics awaited us, among them a couple of Rule 2,000-gph bilge pumps (instead of just one) and a SeaLand holding-tank vent filter to nix errant odors.

The 390’s interior, which sports a standard aft-cabin-type layout with master aft, guest forward, and everything else in between, is both voluminous and trick. For example, via a solid (and solidly engineered) aluminum-track mechanism, the starboard side of the V-berth in the guest cabin slides toward centerline and converts to a double. Sea Ray adds the space this saves (versus a conventional island berth) to the lofty, near-full-beam saloon. The galley, which is down and to starboard, benefits not only from opening ports but from natural light that streams down from the windshield, as well as from a tinted window flush-molded into the trunk-cabin top.

The master’s a wide-beam beauty, with stowage galore—I counted a total of 17 cabinets, drawers, and bins in this big stateroom—and separate MSD and shower compartments on the starboard side, a savvy carry-over from the 480. The stairway between galley and saloon lifts to reveal an optional Splendide washer/dryer unit, a couple of top-shelf battery chargers behind a protective clear-acrylic shield, and a Sea Tech water-manifold system that offers an instant shut-down of individual plumbing fixtures.

Test day came to a close in the usual manner. While saying goodbye to McCloud, I grabbed a parting glimpse of the Sea Ray 390 Motoryacht over his shoulder. I liked the boat a lot, partly because of her looks, partly because of her roomy interior and great engine-room access, but mostly because of the perfect synergy between her topside configuration and her length. It’s the basis for about the sweetest flying bridge I’ve come across on a 39-footer in quite some time.

Base price: $399,835 with 2/370-hp MerCruiser 8.1S Horizon gasoline inboards
Optional power: 2/340-hp Caterpillar 3126TA or 2/460-hp Cummins 480C-E diesel inboards 
Standard equipment: 10-kW Kohler genset; 30,000-Btu Cruisair A/C; Lofrans windlass w/ dash and foot switches; hardtop; Sunbrella canvas (aft-deck enclosure, dash cover, and windshield shade); cockpit wet bar w/sink and U-Line ice maker; Smart Craft System View; Raymarine RayNav 300 GPS w/WAAS sensor, Tridata ST-60, and Ray 230 VHF; Clarion stereo w/6-disc CD changer, amplifier, subwoofer, and 8 speakers; Kenyon 2-burner cooktop

SPECIFICATIONS
LOA: 41'9"
Beam: 14'3"
Draft: 3'0"
Weight: 26,000 lbs. 
Fuel capacity: 300 gal.
Water capacity: 100 gal.
Test engines: 2/370-hp MerCruiser 8.1S Horizon gasoline inboards 
Transmissions/ratio: ZF Hurth HSW 630 A-1-2/2.68:1
Props: 23x22 4-blade Nibral (light cup)
Steering: Teleflex SeaStar hydraulic
Controls: Teleflex mechanical
Optional equipment on test boat: 6.4-hp Vetus bow thruster; Sea Ray Navigator; Splendide washer/dryer; saloon table and 2 ottomans; 16,000-Btu Cruisair cockpit A/C
Price as tested: not available

CLICK HERE TO SEE SEA RAY YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Power & Motoryacht Magazine, July 2002 and is written by Captain Bill Pike. For more great powerboat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/uncategorized/subscribe-power-motoryacht

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