SEA RAY 400 SEDAN BRIDGE: WHEN POSSESSION BECOMES AN OBSESSION...

A flying bridge increases a boat's living space. It also provides a greater feeling of command while running. You can see what I mean by taking the Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge for a ride. Belowdecks, you'll swear you're in a 50-footer. From the helm, you'll feel your ... ahem! ... chest expand. Modern pharmaceuticals might induce the same effect, but chances are this new cruiser will better impress your friends.

SEA? GEE! For all seagoing vessels -except, of course, for barges and houseboats- ride, handling, and performance determine the where, when, and with what level of confidence you cruise. Climb the stairs -yes, real stairs, not a ladder- and take the controls of the 400 Sedan Bridge. Put the twin 460-bhp Cummins 480C-E diesel inboards in gear and you'll swear you're surfing. The boat lifts, moves forward, and delivers a satisfying sensation of speed- all at once. Getting squashed back into your seat as the digital tachs roll past 1800 is a particularly gratifying experience. Certainly, the electronically controlled Cummins diesel engines, custom Teignbridge props, and the 400 Sedan Bridge's hullform all deserve credit. Sea Ray's design team attributes tank testing, in which scale models of the boat are towed and the results analyzed, for its stellar ability to get up and go. This testing, they say, allowed them to optimize the location of the longitudinal center of gravity, or the pivot point over which the boat seesaws when attaining plane. Simply put: The 400 Sedan Bridge's ride is truly awesome.

Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge Test ResultsOn the cruise, the wheel turns six times lock-to-lock. That's a bit much for a skiboat or go-fast. But unless you like running slalom courses in your cruiser, it's perfect. On long runs, you won't need to make constant adjustments just to stay on your side of the channel. Set a course across the wind. I did on a day when it was blowing 23 mph. The 400 Sedan Bridge doesn't lean excessively to windward- in fact, it hardly leaned at all. Bottom line? I didn't need to rely on the tabs to achieve proper trim-whether I was getting on plane or cruising. When their tabs are up, boats are more efficient and handle more predictably.

Determining a boat's minimum planing speed is a good way to determine how much control you'll have when -and it's always when- you get caught out in steep seas, because let's face it, it happens to everyone eventually. First, deploy the tabs fully. Then from cruise speed, throttle down until the boat falls off plane. I slowed to 11.5 mph in the 400 Sedan Bridge, and even cutting hard turns couldn't shake it off plane. Impressive.

What about docking? Given the gusty breeze, the flying bridge's windage, and a close-passing tug and barge, I would have felt some trepidation in other boats I've tested. But with the torque of twin diesels at my fingertips, the 400 Sedan Bridge backed between the poles neat as a pin. You may order the optional bow thruster-but only as a luxury. It's not a necessity.

NEOCLASSIC. A recent trend in the design of flying bridge cruisers has been toward incorporating raised sidedecks such as those found aboard Carver's 410 Sports Sedan ($471,056 with twin 480-bhp Volvo Penta 75P diesel inboards). The result of these raised walkways is that they allow a builder to increase the interior volume of a boat because the cabin extends beneath the sidedecks. To access the bow on most of these boats, you must first climb the flying bridge stairs, then descend a ramp to the foredeck, which is arguably easier than going forward; alongside the deckhouse.

The 400 Sedan Bridge is constructed similarly to Sealine's F-42/5 ($549,250 powered like our test boat), which means they both retain traditional sidedecks and their macho good looks. These sidedecks parallel the 400 Sedan Bridge's sheer, which rises in a straight line. As a result, it looks like a sprinter at the blocks who's ready, set, and waiting for the gun. Bow access is good, because big steps in the cockpit corners let you gain the sidedecks with ease. The walkways are wide; the rail is sturdy and includes a safety line; and a grabrail is affixed along the deckhouse aft. However, I'd like to see another rail added, along the forward 10' of the house, at the point where there is no grabrail and the bowrail is too low to grab without crouching. Once past the house, the bowrail is high enough.

Open the twin lids of the anchor locker and you'll find room for 800' of rode. So big is this locker that an anchor washdown hose is strapped inside. Stick your head in and see that the back plating for the windlass, rails, and cleats are hefty, as is the massive anchor retention system-a ¼" cable onto which is swaged a huge carabiner. God, I love hardware. Having detailed my share of boats over the years, I appreciate that Sea Ray incorporates nonslip all the way to the windshield boss. Too many boats leave this ramped molding slick, placing the windshield and bridge canvas out of reach with even a long-handled mop.

CLOSE THE BOX. Belowdecks, the 400 Sedan Bridge sleeps six people in two staterooms and the convertible sofa in the salon. The cherry-laminated, galley-down layout is light and bright thanks to large, frameless windows and lots of ports, hatches, and skylights. No support pillars intrude thanks to beams hidden in the headliner. Brushed stainless-steel fixtures and black-sparkle counters give the area a fresh, smart look. The master stateroom, with its innerspring mattress, twin hanging lockers, and private head, is wonderful, though the 110-volt outlet is in the medicine cabinet, which means the mirror has to be open and unusable while blow-drying occurs. You' ll welcome the galley pantry and day head's linen closet. But the big news belowdecks concerns the guest stateroom and the dinette positioned atop it.

No afterthought, the guest stateroom has twin berths that convert to a six-foot-square king. Sheets for both configurations are standard. You can stand at its entrance, where there's a locker and changing stool, and easily sit up and read when under the covers deep inside.

Directly above is the dinette, which seats six in a U-shaped arrangement and is served by a high-gloss, burled-wood table. Seen one, seen 'em all, right? Wrong. This table is articulating. It swivels out and locks into position as a buffet when needed. Also, flip the top in half and you won't have to do the butt slide when leaving the table. Its functionality, beauty, and strength are indicative of the 400 Sedan Bridge on the whole.

Extra Point: The 400 Sedan Bridge's fiberglass cabin headliner. is more than just a fashion statement. It "kisses" the whalebone pillars hidden within the window mullions and is bonded to the flying bridge pan overhead, adding strength and rigidity to the deckhouse.

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

This review/article originally appeared in Boating Magazine, August 2003 and is written by Kevin Falvey. For more great boat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.boatingmag.com/subscribe-to-boating-magazine

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