Captain's Report by Capt. Steve Larivee--
The mission of the 280 Sundancer is to create an attractive transitional cruiser that will not only permit a small family to experience overnights onboard, but will also provide an easy step-up from smaller bowriders to a real cruising boat.
The Sea Ray 280 Sundancer has a LOA of 28'8" (8.74 m), a beam of 8'10" (2.69 m), and a draft of 41”(104 cm). With an empty weight of 8211 pounds (3724 kg), 21 gallons (79.5 L) of fuel and two people on board we had a test weight of 8757 pounds (3972 kg).With the 300-hp 350 MAG turning a Bravo III outdrive we reached a top speed at 5260 rpm of 41.5 mph. At that speed fuel burn was 23.4 gph giving us a range of 134 miles. Best cruise came in at 3500 rpm and 23.6 mph. At that speed fuel burn was 9.7 gph, which the 280 Sundancer could keep up for seven hours and 48 minutes and 184 miles, while still maintaining a 10% reserve. Time to plane was 4.8 seconds, we reached 20 mph in 8.3 seconds, 30 in 14.2 seconds and accelerated through 40 mph in 21.9 seconds.
When accelerating the 280 Sundancer exhibits a 12-degree bow rise which has no impact on forward visibility. Once she settles onto plane she cruises at a 5 degree bow high attitude. At cruising speed in a hard turn I noticed just a little bit of ventilation out of the propeller, so before starting any maneuvers operators will want to make sure to drop the drive back down. While up on plane it only took a couple of shots of up-trim to bring the bow up to that 5-degree attitude. At that point, the spray moves from the helm back to the quarter and a boost in speed is felt. Go any further and the propeller tends to ventilate rather than generate oscillation of the bow.
When putting the 280 Sundancer into a turn at cruise speed, she rolls into the turn 18-degrees, which I find comfortable. When taking power off she settles back into the water stern first which, again, brings the bow up but still keeps a clear view of the horizon for the skipper.
Low speed maneuvering is comfortable. With the 280 at idle she comes around a full 360-degrees in her own length. I found that by adding a little stern way on, then turning the helm before shifting into forward, she will rotate in her own length with the pivot point being right at the helm. By jockeying the shift forward aft and reversing the steering back and forth I find the 280 walks sideways quite well, and I was able to bring her sideways into the dock without any bow thruster.
Radar Arch is Standard.
Sea Ray calls it a "sport spoiler" because it will probably be used for towing and for supporting the optional Bimini, rather than a radar in this size boat. Nevertheless, it is an unusual item on the standards list.
Large Centerline Sky Light.
Rarely have we seen a sky light so big on such a small boat. It keeps the cabin from being a cave.
Standard VacuFlush Toilet.
Thank goodness, no portable head.
A Bimini is not standard, nor is "cruising canvas" but the 280 does come with canvas that has front, side and aft curtains.
The 280 Sundancer comes standard with two safety lights on the helm dash -- one is activated by a micro switch on the back seat to alert the skipper if a passenger has lowered the seat back into a sun pad configuration and thereby risk falling off the boat. The other light monitors the fire suppression system in the engine room.
Swivel Helm Seat.
This seat swivels 30 degrees and the seat back swings forward so the skipper can face the cockpit at anchor.
4-Step Swim Ladder.
We continue to be amazed that most boats have three-step ladders, but not the 280 Sundancer.
Standard Equipment We Like
The 280 Sundancer has a few items that we sometimes do not see on boats in this price category, so we are happy to see them here-- *High water bilge alarm *VHF radio *Automatic fire suppression system *Gel coated engine room *Water heater *Trim tabs
Starting our tour at the stern, the full beam swim platform comes out 22” (55.9 cm) from the transom. There is a sizable trunk storage compartment, behind the aft cockpit seat, that measures in at 38" x 8" (96.5 cm x 20.3 cm), and it's also quite deep so the compartment lends itself nicely to line and fender storage. A second compartment is over to the port hand side and protects the shore power connection and city water inlet. An optional transom shower is available ($375). An extended swim platform is also available as an option ($3,750).
As we move into the cockpit, the entryway measures 17” (43.2 cm) with an acrylic gate closing against a molded full-length door stop. It also latches in the open position. I would like to see the gate be see-through so the operator has a clear view of the corner of the swim platform with the gate closed.
Once inside the cockpit, the port side is occupied by L-shaped seating with storage underneath each of the cushions. The forward section of the “L” is an aft facing chaise lounge, reclined at a comfortable position, allowing a clear sightline of the wake shrinking in the distance. The aft bench seat is doublewide with the seat itself coming up 19” (48.3 cm) and coming out 21” (53.3 cm). There's a latch to the side of the entryway that releases the seatback allowing it to drop down to form a sun pad. This seatback also has a micro-switch that lights an indicator on the helm to let the captain know that the seat is in the reclined position before advancing the throttle. In this manner safety is maintained onboard the 280 and operators can be sure that no one is utilizing the sun pad when accelerating.
To the starboard side there is a step leading to the nonskid caprail for boarding from a fixed pier. There is a refreshment center with a recessed stainless steel sink and a Corian countertop. An open space in the counter will accommodate a cockpit grill ($1,667). The stainless grab handle surrounds the entire refreshment center. Underneath is a waste receptacle and there are blocks to hold it in its position. To the left of the wastebasket is a 25 quart (23.7 L) cooler also secured into position and that can be swapped out for an optional cockpit refrigerator ($1,333). The opening is gasketed all the way around and both doors are held in position with 17” (43.1cm) stainless steel piano hinges. When closing be sure to lift the latch to allow the door to close fully as it won’t just slam shut into the latched position. Forward and behind the helm seat are two 110 V outlets wired to the shore power.
A switch at the helm activates the electric lift engine hatch in the cockpit. A cut-off switch is activated when a magnet in the cockpit entry gate is open, preventing the hatch from lifting unless the gate is safely in the closed position. Once open the compartment provides a roomy installation allowing for access to three sides of the engine, as well as ancillary items such as batteries, hot water heater and an automatic fire suppression system.
Clever Helm Seat
The helm features a double-wide seat 38” (96.5 cm) wide. Sea Ray added a clever feature to this seat in that it is able to rotate approximately 30-degrees, and then the seatback flips back. Now it forms an aft-facing (well quarter-facing) seat facing the cockpit. The seat is not close enough to be in proximity of the table, but it is certainly close enough to be within conversational distance of the cockpit occupants. It’s mounted onto a small step on the starboard hand side to allow room for the mid-cabin below, and that makes a comfortable footrest for this aft facing helm seat. One perk, when the seat is rotated aft, there’s still enough room to stand at the helm and work the controls if needed.
The helm has only three gauges, the left being a SmartCraft gauge, and the center a 4-in-1 gauge. To the right is the tach. In this manner clutter is virtually eliminated. A stereo remote is over to the left hand side. Below, Sea Ray designed 8" x 8" (20.3 cm x 20.3 cm) of space for a small optional moving map display ($2,958). Rocker switches for the hatch lift and trim tabs are over to the right-hand side of the helm . To the right of the steering wheel are toggle switches, lighted at the end when activated. The steering wheel is a three-spoke woodgrain mounted to a tilt base.
Three center-mounted steps lead to the walk-through windshield. The windshield is held closed by two latches that are not interconnected but both are easy to get to. A stainless steel rail on the left-hand side gives additional support. Stepping forward requires walking around a massive skylight and smaller opening hatch, both providing natural light to the cabin below. The question remains as to whether this skylight could support the weight of a person walking across it, and I suspect it would, but long experience has taught me to not walk on a surface lacking non-skid treatment so I’ll leave that experimentation to the 280’s customers, should they be so inclined. Aside from that, I think this is a great feature that is long overdue in the industry. And rest assured, non-skid surrounds the skylight, so continuing forward…
Once at the working end of the bow, the rail height comes up 19” (48.26 cm). The bow of our test boat was without options, but I could clearly see where the deck-mold allowed for the mounting points for a windlass ($3,250 with chain, $3,083 rope/chain), stainless steel anchor roller ($1,150) and remote control spotlight ($992). A deck hatch to the starboard side allows access under the windlass for managing tangles.
At the top of the companionway, there is a small step down before continuing through the sliding hatch. A courtesy light illuminates the step, and a drain to the bilge is in the step well. An overhead hatch will get lifted up to allow more access and it is held open by a gas assist strut. Proceeding below, there are two steps to the left-hand side of the cabin and a conveniently located stainless steel grab handle is to the right of the companionway.
Stepping into the salon, another stainless steel grab handle is over to the right-hand side of the companionway. Headroom at the entrance is 6'2" (1.9m) decreasing moving forward to the dinette. Roomy seating surrounds the hardwood table. In the usual manner, the dinette converts to a berth measuring 5'3" (1.6 m) fore and aft by 6’(1.8 m) side to side. A wraparound bolster runs all the way around and curves as it meets the front. There are two reading lights to either side of a narrow mirror fully forward. An overhead hatch has both a privacy screen and a blackout shade. There are storage shelves to both port and starboard.
Sea Ray has managed to increase the amount of natural light coming into the cabin ten-fold by adding a large skylight just behind the opening hatch. It measures 29" x 24" (73.7 cm x 61 cm) and it is located just behind the opening forward hatch. An accordion style screen pulls forward across the entire area, and a blackout shade pulls aft.
The galley is to port, and while it is small, it remains appropriately sized and certainly functional for this size boat. A single burner alcohol stove is next to a single basin sink made out of the same solid surface material as the counter. A refrigerator is beneath. An opening portlight is outboard with a small storage space behind a molded lip that is 5” (12.7 cm) wide. Above is cabinetry housing a microwave oven and additional shelving is up on top.
Just behind the galley, and at the entryway to the cabin, is the ships electrical panel with 120 V on top 12 V below. The stereo is also in this location.
The head has 5'3" (1.6 m) of overhead room. It is a wet-head with the sink having a pullout faucet/wand. An opening portlight provides the only ventilation. A mirror is on the forward bulkhead and the entire head compartment is fully fiberglass lined. A storage shelf is above the portlight.
Underneath the cockpit deck is a berth measuring 5'11" x 4’ 1 ½” (1.8 m x 1.25 m). Headroom is 2'2" (.66 m) but then there is a section that rises to 3'2" (.97 m) under the helm seat. There are two doors opening to storage compartments to the starboard side with additional storage shelves forward. There are two LED reading lights. The raised area overhead also has an opening portlight leading to the cockpit.
The Sea Ray's 280 Sundancer has a base MSRP of $149,284 when packaged with the 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG and Bravo III outdrive. Engine options include a 380-hp 8.2 MAG ($16,667) and a 307-hp Yanmar with Bravo III outdrive. Additional options to consider are a bow thruster ($6,333), air conditioning ($3,583), and teak decking for the extended swim platform ($1,917). The 280 Sundancer, so equipped, will run in the neighborhood of $173,965, MSRP.
Sea Ray’s 280 Sundancer is a popular model, and for a good reason. She makes an excellent weekend getaway at a fair price and her handling is right on par with what we would expect from a builder in this class. She sleeps four and has almost all of the basic necessities. Few boats come standard with ground tackle but all boats must have it. Even if this boat is going to be trailered and never spend an evening at anchor, the 280 needs to have an anchor and appropriate rode. She also needs a proper chock and cleat on the bow upon which to tie-off the line. The 280 has molded-in deck pads for an optional anchor davit and windlass. She probably does not need a windlass.We like transitional boats such as the 280 Sundancer because while it is a small express cruiser, it is a big step for most people into the cruising lifestyle. When buying a transitional boat such as this our advice is to not load the boat up with options, electronics and extras. Save that for the next one. By keeping the investment as low as possible in the transitional boat, when moving up depreciation will be minimized… and Sea Ray wrote the book on how to make larger boats enticing.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Sea Ray 280 Sundancer (2013-) is 41.5 mph (66.8 kph), burning 23.40 gallons per hour (gph) or 88.57 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Sea Ray 280 Sundancer (2013-) is 23.6 mph (38 kph), and the boat gets 2.43 miles per gallon (mpg) or 1.03 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 184 miles (296.12 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 300-hp MerCruiser 350 MAG.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet