Stephen Daresta had a friend who was looking for a boat. The two looked through the classifieds and searched the internet, finally making a road trip to take a look at a possibility. It turned out to be a worthwhile venture. His friend, Frank Catalano, found and soon bought a 550 Sundancer, a 55-foot express cruiser from Sea Ray. Little did Daresta realize that he would eventually own the boat.
“I had traveled with him when he came across the 550,” says Daresta, 54, an electrical engineer from the coastal village of Massapequa, New York on the southern shore of Long
Island. “I, too, fell in love with it.”
Fast forward a few years to when Daresta and his wife, Pat, were planning to move up from their 37-foot Formula PC. “We were looking to get into something bigger, thinking a 44- or 48-foot Sea Ray Sundancer,” Daresta says. “At the same time, Frank was in the market for a larger sedan bridge and he mentioned I should buy his boat. After a few weeks, we agreed upon a sale price and the rest is history.”
It’s all part of Daresta’s longtime passion for boating. “I got into it as a young boy when my dad bought a 1972, 17-foot Sea Sprite to see if the family liked it,” he says. “A few years later he purchased an 18-foot bowrider, and my love for boating and the water had begun. Since that day I’ve been boating every summer.”
Daresta has owned two 15-foot Boston Whalers, a 1993 Checkmate 186 Pulse and four Formulas, running from the 233 up to the 37 PC. In the process, he’s passed on his passion to another generation, his own children. “Both of my kids [a 20-year-old daughter, Schyler, and 18-year-old son, Jack] were boating as toddlers,” he says, “and today they share their own 17-foot Boston Whaler Montauk.”
The 550 Sundancer, built in 2003, is the biggest boat he’s owned. He bought it in October 2. “The Sea Ray was in amazing condition, and still today people never believe me when I reveal the year of the hull,” he says. As for his friend Frank Catalano, “We still boat together today and are best friends,” Daresta says.
The family uses Skyjacked (named after Schyler and Jack) for casual outings with a fleet of boating friends and their families, cruising and enjoying overnights. “We love to travel and spend as many nights as we can on the boat,” Daresta says. “Typically, a summer will consist of two longer trips where we are away anywhere from seven to ten days at a time.”
Destinations are far-flung: Greenport and Montauk on Long Island, Block Island to the east and as far as Atlantic City on the southern New Jersey seaboard. But one destination top their list, Daresta says. “We would have to name Newport, Rhode Island, as our favorite, with great restaurants and the entire city within walking distance of the marinas.”
The Sea Ray 550 Sundancer is well-suited to its family cruising role, says Daresta. “The boat is 16 feet wide, so the cockpit is tremendous, with plenty of seating. A refrigerator, ice-maker and TV make it perfect for hanging out.”
The two-cabin layout below includes an aft master stateroom with a queen-size berth and an adjacent head with shower, and another queen-size berth and a head forward. The galley is complete, with home-style appliances. “I had always liked the look and reputation of the Sea Ray,” Daresta says. “Their use of space and layout made buying this boat an easy decision for us.”
Power comes from a pair of 800-hp MAN diesels. “I cruise at 26 knots at 1900 rpm, burning about 55 gallons per hour,” Daresta says. Top speed is 34 knots at 2350 rpm.
When not in use, Skyjacked is docked at the family’s Long Island home, so it’s easy for Daresta to handle normal maintenance chores, including oil and filter changes. “Weekly washes are done by my son, Jack,” he adds.
Future plans for the Sundancer include a first-time trip to Martha’s Vineyard. “The beauty of the 550 is the cruise speed,” Daresta says. “Finding a big boat with a ton of room and amenities is easy; finding one that handles and cruises as fast as she does isn’t so easy. And, once docked the amenities and size make for very comfortable living.”
Sea Ray updated its popular 540 Sundancer in the early 2000s, introducing the new model in 2002 as the 550 Sundancer. Major changes included a new cabin layout with a skylight and an updated hardtop design.
The large cockpit is laid out with a pair of L-shaped settees that convert to a large sunpad. There’s a wet bar with refrigerator to port and a sunpad on the foredeck. Amidships is the 550 Sundancer’s multi-tasking salon, with its open layout. There’s curved lounge seating to port (it converts to a berth) and a C-shaped galley to starboard. Galley appliances include a stove top, microwave and built-in coffeemaker; a 42-inch TV and wine rack came standard.
Standard power was twin 765-hp MAN diesels with twin 645-hp Cat diesels or 800-hp MAN diesels as options. Both produced cruising speeds in the mid- to upper-20s. Other Sundancer standards ranged from cherry wood joinery and a washer/dryer to a 42-inch TV and a Lexan wine rack.
LOA: 57’ 8”
Beam: 15’ 11”
Weight: 39,000 lbs.
Power: (2) 800-hp MANs
Fuel: 600 gals.
Water: 68 gals.
This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.