Tim Plouff and his wife, Kathy, had spent 30 years kayaking the Maine coast, exploring the pine-clad islands and rocky coves of the Island Trail and Coast Heritage Trust. It was good, simple fun, but their trips were limited by how far they could paddle in a day.
There always seemed to be more to see, so Tim Plouff started looking for a boat. “I wanted something with more speed and distance options,” says Plouff, 60, who works for Dead River Oil Co., near their hometown of Otis, Maine.
They found their ideal boat in a 2000 Sea Ray 215 Express Cruiser, a 22-foot overnighter that has served them well for 10 years. “The logbook averages out to 10 or 12 saltwater trips each year and [a few] freshwater days here on our lake,” says Plouff. Favorite destinations include Marshall Island and Frenchboro on Long Island, as well as Crotch, Green, Wreck and Russ islands in the Stonington region. “Bath to Boothbay via the Sasanoa River and Hell Gate [are other favorites],” says Plouff. “Plus Seguin Island, South Bristol, Mere Point, Eagle Island, Jewell Island and so many more.”
The couple bought the boat (with a ShoreLand’r trailer) at a Portland, Maine, boat show in April 2005, paying $25,000. “Our Sea Ray spoke to me from the bulletin board at the Port Harbor exhibit,” says Plouff. “It fit my immediate wants, I could tow it with my existing pickup truck, and it was within our budget. On Easter weekend I took my in-laws to climb through the winter wrap and inspect this pristine boat. Sale!”
With a Zodiac inflatable in tow, the couple island-hop along the coast, “trailer-boating to ramps up and down Route 1,” says Plouff. The 22-footer with the big cockpit and cuddy-cabin comforts “fits us very well,” he says. “The camper canvas package lets us stay out overnight very comfortably, sometimes with my sister-in-law Paula joining us. Cooking on a Coleman stove doesn’t seem at all odd, while the rear transom seat makes a roomy berth for my sleeping.”
Other pluses: the swim platform; the double helm and companion seats, which allow four to ride behind the windshield; the weather-secure V-berth and small head; and the “smooth power” of the 5.0-liter MerCruiser V-8 I/O. Plouff has added GPS and a tilt-column steering wheel. The boat also has a Bimini top, 25-watt radio, four-speaker stereo, swim ladder, removable carpeting, a transom door and removable aft jump seats.
The Sea Ray has required little in the way of unexpected maintenance. “We have it serviced by the selling dealer, Port Harbor Marine, every fall,” says Plouff. “Andy Graham and Blaine treat me better than family, taking care of my needs without protest.”
Plouff has made a few changes to the double-axle trailer (equipped with a breakaway tongue). “The surge brakes have been done twice, the lights are now all LED, and the boat and trailer get a freshwater washdown after virtually every launch and retrieval,” he says. “I now carry a 60-gallon tank and Honda pump in our Tundra [pickup truck] for washing the boat at ramps where there is no hose.”
Hauling and launching has become routine. “In our 11 years with the 215 EC, Kathy has never once missed landing the boat onto the trailer on the first attempt,” says Plouff. “With all of the ‘crows’ watching from shore, she patiently nails the bunks on the trailer every time, and we load and leave the ramp like a precision pit team. I think that is key to any couple enjoying the boat experience — each person has responsibilities to make sure that the trips are safe, complete and fun.”
And fun is what the little Sea Ray is all about. Plouff recalls a trip to Green Island last year with good friends aboard and other friends and relatives in a second boat. “We rafted up and went ashore — some went swimming in the quarry swimming hole. It was a picture-perfect coast-of-Maine day. We then plied our way back to the launch ramp on the Benjamin River, cruising around the various Deer Isle islands and ledges in almost perfect harmony.”
If there’s ever another boat in the Plouffs’ future, it will have to be special. “It might be longer, more powerful and maybe have a fixed T-top,” Plouff says. “But it would need a swim platform, a roomy deck and the comfort of our 215 EC.”
Sea Ray’s 215 EC combines overnight comforts and sporty performance. The boat rides a modified-vee hull powered by a 220-hp gas V-8. (Options included a 150-hp diesel, and 250- and 260-hp gas V-8s). Cruising speed was listed at 37 mph, with a top end of 48 mph.
The companionway door slides up and forward beneath the windshield for easy access to the cuddy. Below there’s a separate compartment to starboard with room for a portable head, closed off with a sliding curtain/door. The camp-style galley is to port, and the basic gear includes a sink with cold water and an insulated ice chest. The V-berth is big enough for two (with an insert) beneath a large hatch. It converts to become the dinette, with a table and room for four adults.
The helm is to starboard, with a companion seat to port and bench seating aft. Molded steps lead through the windshield’s opening center panel to the foredeck. Sea Ray offered an optional camper canvas package, which included a front Isinglass visor and side and aft curtains.
Sea Ray Boats has grown from humble beginnings to become one of the world’s largest boatbuilders. Founded by C.N. Ray in 1959, who first set up shop in Detroit, it had grown to three facilities building 1,000 boats a year by the mid-1980s. Part of Brunswick Corp., Sea Ray offers more than three dozen models from 19 to 65 feet. The 215 Express Cruiser, introduced in the late 1990s, was a popular overnighter designed for couples and small families. Online prices start at less than $20,000 and climb to the mid-$30,000 range.
LOA: 21 feet, 6 inches
BEAM: 8 feet, 6 inches
DRAFT: 3 feet, 1 inch (drive down)
WEIGHT: 3,800 pounds
HULL TYPE: modified-vee
PROPULSION: 240-hp, 5.0-liter MerCruiser I/O
FUEL CAPACITY: 50 gallons
BUILDER: Sea Ray Boats, Knoxville, Tennessee, (865) 544-0600. searay.com
This article originally appeared in the September 2015 issue.