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 370
AUGUST 2013
 
   
Length 37' 2"
Beam  11' 3"
Dry Weight  15,432lb  
Draft 1'4" 
Fuel 222 gal
Water 8031gal
Price as Tested $446,547


The purpose of an express cruiser is to offer the performance of a runabout with enough interior living space for comfortable weekending and the occasional longer cruise. The balance between these two objectives is the subject of continual refinement and innovation among manufacturers. The Sea Ray Venture represents not just the next design innovation but a major departure in design thinking when it comes to express cruiser propulsion.

Engine placement on express cruiser yachts has always been one of the most challenging design compromises faced by designers and builders. Historically these boats were fitted with conventional inboard propulsion with in-line transmissions and shafts. This put the engines just aft of amidships and provided the best combination weight and balance for inboards when it came to performance. However, this design consumes the majority of the hull volume with engine and mechanical spaces leaving only a small space forward for living accommodations.

In order to create more living space, yacht designers moved the inboard engines aft, turned them around backwards and coupled them to v-drive transmissions so the propeller shaft stuffing box was directly under the engines. This design allowed for greater interior volume for living accommodations at the cost of modest performance and maintenance disadvantages. Express cruisers with v-drive transmissions offer a “mid-cabin” which is a small stateroom or convertible lounge under the helm area where the engines would have been. An alternative to v-drives is to fit smaller express cruisers with outdrives which are often referred to as inboard/outboards. This arrangement moves the engines all the way aft and couples them to a steerable outdrive unit on the transom.

The next major design breakthrough with inboard-powered express cruisers was the introduction of pod drives whereby inboard diesels are coupled to pods on the bottom of the boat that turn independently from one another and allow for joystick docking as well as increased performance. Pod systems also allow yacht designers to put the engines where they desire. However pod systems are limited to the upper end of the express cruiser lines.

With the Venture 370, Sea Ray has once again proven itself to be a leader in the express cruiser world by breaking with all of this design evolution and going in a totally new direction. By coupling state of the art twin Mercury Verado outboards to an express cruiser hull, Sea Ray has not only broken the code on offering loads of interior living volume but they have also made a super quiet boat that performs well. Mercury Verados are known for being very quiet engines, but that was not enough for the design team at Sea Ray. Instead of just bolting them on the back of the Venture, they are installed in separate outboard wells with dedicated intake ducts and located farther apart for better close quarters maneuverability. The outboard wells are also large enough to allow the engines to tilt all the way up and out of the water. The well hatches go up and down with the touch of a button and are fitted with cushions on top for sunbathing.

I got a chance to give the Venture 370 a test drive at Clarks Landing on Kent Island. From outward appearances, you can’t tell that she is powered by outboards. She looks like any other Sea Ray. But when you start her up, there is no mistaking the fact. At idle you can barely hear the engines at all. At cruising speed, it’s hard to hear the engine over the wind and water.

On the way back to the dock I thought to myself, “Finally, powerboaters are able to enjoy something sailors have known about for a long time . . . the sound of the water going by the hull.”