John martino, annapolis school of seamanship and annapolis yacht         management
The following review was written by John Martino and prepared by the marketing department of Chesapeake Bay Magazine. Mr. Martino is the founder and president of Annapolis Yacht Management and Annapolis School of Seamanship. He develops and teaches hands-on training courses for recreational boaters and professional mariners, and offers yacht delivery and onboard training services for powerboaters as well as sailors.

Sea Ray 310 Sundancer and MerCruiser Axius
JULY 2008
 
Length 33'4"
Beam 10'5"
Draft 2'5"(drives up)3'3"(drives down)
Fuel capacity 200 gals
Water Capacity 35 gals
Displacement 14,000 lbs
Base Price $179,444



In the last few years, the technology behind marine propulsion systems for recreational boats has taken a quantum leap forward. Both Volvo Penta and MerCruiser have offered pod drive systems which offer unparalleled maneuverability and efficiency. With an onboard computer interpreting the inputs from a joystick, maneuvering becomes extremely intuitive and straightforward. Push the joystick to the right and the boat walks sideways to starboard. Pull back on the stick and the boat backs up. Twist it to the right and the boat pirouettes clockwise. While pod drives are only available on twin-engine inboard boats, the new Axius system from MerCruiser offers the same independent pod technology to inboard/outboards. By uncoupling the outdrives in a twin screw I/O boat and allowing the computer to direct them individually, the Axius system provides that same joystick docking capability.     

Sea Ray has incorporated this new technology as an optional package aboard the Sundancer 310. I got the opportunity to test drive the 310 and the Axius system at Clarks Landing Marine Center in Shady Oaks, Maryland. At 33 feet overall, the Sundancer seems like a much larger boat down below. The galley is along the port side and is equipped with a refrigerator, microwave (with built-in coffee maker), and functional galley sink. A settee lines the starboard side of the cabin along with plenty of storage lockers. There is an offset double bunk all the way forward and a mid-cabin area aft which holds an additional bunk. The head has a Vacuuflush toilet, vanity and shower.

Up on deck the helm area seats two. A walkway to port is lined outboard with a barbeque grill and a second sink and refrigerator. Sliding the companionway hatch closed reveals steps that make it easy to walk up and over the dash to go forward to tend lines or handle the anchor. This arrangement is a vast improvement over the tiny side decks of old and allows for more interior volume. A U-shaped dinette area is aft of the helm. A transom door separates the cockpit from the swim platform where an aft-facing rumble seat pops out of a transom compartment.  

Underway, the Sea Ray was fun to drive. The 12–15 knots of breeze kicked-up a small one-foot chop at the mouth of the West River on test day but presented no problem for the Sundancer. She cruised at 3600 RPM, averaging 25.5 knots and burning 27 gph. At wide open throttle, she burned 48 gph and averaged 36 knots. In tight turns, she seemed less likely to fall off of plane and sink into her wake than many I/Os I’ve driven.
Back at the dock, I got to play with the Axius system and had fun putting the boat into all kinds of twists and gyrations. It took only a minute or two to get the hang of the joystick.

All in all the Sea Ray Sundancer 310 with the Axius system makes a good choice for either novice or experienced boaters looking for a relaxing time on the water and near the dock.