Inside the box

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New sport cruisers from Pursuit and Sea Ray offer a fresh approach to outboard power

A number of innovative engines and helm-control systems will hit the market with full force this year. Among the more notable helm systems are those from Yamaha and Mercury, which introduced joystick controls for outboards in the fall.

Pursuit SC 365i Sport Coupe

Yamaha’s is called Helm Master, and Mercury’s is Joystick Piloting. These are complete electronically integrated steerage and low-speed maneuvering systems designed to work with each manufacturer’s high-horsepower outboards.

So now there’s the option of getting into an outboard-powered boat with joystick steering, and two such boats stand out: the Sea Ray 370 Venture and the Pursuit SC 365i Sport Coupe. Sea Ray introduced the 370 Venture at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October. Pursuit followed about a month later, unveiling the 365i in its hometown of Fort Pierce, Fla. Both boats take advantage of the 4-stroke’s efficiency, durability and ease of maintenance, but they do it behind closed doors — engine compartment doors, that is. The outboards are hidden from view.

These two sport cruisers mark a shift in boat design and engine installation that goes hand in hand with the improvements in outboard technology, including engines that pack 350 horses. The changes also aim to appease today’s time-strapped boater who wants an easy-to-use, durable and low-maintenance vessel that works for the entire family.

A 'snorkel' hose takes in the fresh air for each of the Sea Ray's Verados.

Pursuit powers the 365i — the “i” represents “integrated outboard technology” — with twin Yamaha F350s (www.pursuitboats.com). Sea Ray tasks twin 300-hp Mercury Verados with the propulsion duties (www.searay.com). Sea Ray conceals the outboards in separate engine compartments, each with their own access hatches. There’s a centerline walkthrough between the compartments, which double as sun pads with multiposition backrests. An integral swim platform extends about 18 inches, and a bolted-on swim platform adds another 20 inches aft.

Pursuit mounts the outboards in a single compartment with one hatch. The builder integrates an aft-facing bench seat into the engine compartment aft portion. You pass to and from the cockpit through a port-side walkthrough. The builder has used the identical space on the starboard side for a storage compartment that houses shore power and fresh- and raw-water hookups.

Pursuit places twin Yamaha F350s in one engine compartment, with polyethylene brushes that keep spray at bay.

Both boats have clean stern areas with swim platforms, and you’d never know they’re outboard-powered — and that’s the goal. “We wanted to continue to use what we feel is to our advantage at Pursuit, and that is outboard-engine technology,” says George Hetzel, vice president of sales and marketing at S2 Yachts Inc., the parent company of Pursuit. “But we wanted to bring it to the next level. With this style and use of the boat, we really wanted to cover those engines. We wanted those engines to be invisible to the consumer.”

Making the outboards fit

The Sea Ray's engine compartments double as sunpads, and a walkthrough connects the cockpit and swim platform.

Creating a design to integrate outboards in a boat traditionally suited for sterndrives presented design and building challenges, says Brunswick Boat Group director of program management Dan Robinson. (Brunswick is the parent company of Sea Ray.) “We are experts with producing Sundancers with sterndrives and V-drives,” Robinson says. “The toughest part was figuring out a way to integrate the Verados, which were not intended to operate inside a box. Managing the air flow and engineering to allow the engines to breathe was probably the biggest challenge.”

Mercury developed a custom cowl with a breathing hose, or “snorkel,” extending from the front of the engine that brings in fresh air so the Verados don’t ingest their exhaust and salt spray.

The engine exhaust presented another hurdle. “Most of it exits from the prop,” says Robinson, adding that the Venture project took about 16 months to complete. “At idle speeds there’s a muffler, located remotely so all the exhaust air is being pushed out the exterior of the boat and not building inside the wells. We wanted to make sure we removed all of the carbon monoxide from the engine wells.”

Pursuit uses three separate vents to draw fresh air into the engine compartment, says design and engineering manager Chris Gratz. “When you highly trim the engines the wake starts to get aerated,” he says. “It starts to get misty. That was a problem we identified early and set out to solve, with the goal being preventing the engines from ingesting the mist and feeding them fresh, clean air. That’s what [our] system does. It is incredibly effective. We’ve evaluated it on our end; Yamaha has evaluated on their end.”

Polypropylene brushes surrounding each outboard block the mist in the Pursuit installation. Two of the vents are designed into the inboard aft corners of the engine compartment. Pursuit has integrated the third vent — a 2-foot-long opening surrounded by stainless trim — into the center of the engine compartment hatch.

The centerline vent on the Pursuit compartment hatch feeds fresh air to the engines.

Providing access to the engines remained a top priority for Pursuit in the main 12-month design and testing phase, Gratz says. For example, the fiberglass frame that holds the polypropylene brushes pivots for access to the outboards, he says.

In both installations the lower units nearly clear the water at full tilt. “They’re 30-inch drives, and with a reasonable load the very tip of the bullet is in the water when tilted — that’s it,” Gratz says.

The Verados and the Yamahas represent the latest in outboard technology. They already operate relatively quietly, with noise levels registering 85 to 90 decibels at cruising speeds, according to tests done on a variety of boats. The engine compartments provide another barrier against engine noise. Engine sound levels on the 370 Venture are 6 to 8 decibels lower than on the 370 Sundancer, Robinson says. “That is quite significant and a noticeable difference,” he says.

Top speeds are similar, with the Sea Ray coming in at 43 mph at wide open throttle, with a 32-mph cruise. The Pursuit tops out at 47.3 mph and cruises at about 33 mph. Best mileage is about 1 mpg for both boats at their cruising speeds.

Cabin comforts

The Pursuit's dark helm reduces glare, and the obstruction-free windshield is one of the boat's notable characteristics.

The concealed outboards might be the big news with these boats, but there are other features that are worth noting. The Pursuit SC 365i’s huge windshield is free of obstructions, such as mullions and hardtop framework. The aerodynamic windshield and hardtop are built using the latest materials and methods, including resin infusion.

The outboards have changed the architecture and geometry of Sea Ray’s 37-foot platform, especially in the cabin, Robinson says, comparing it to the sterndrive-powered 370 Sundancer. “You will notice it’s different than a Sundancer,” he says. “Because the outboards are toward the exterior of the boat, we were able to compact the bilge and get more cockpit and more cabin space than in a traditional Sundancer. So as you look around, you will see the cockpit just keeps going, so there’s lots of seating and lounging positions.”

The port C-shaped settee converts to a sun lounge with a pad. There is more seating in the companion lounge and a starboard L-shaped settee. About the only spot without a seat is the starboard-side upper galley.

Below, the Sea Ray midcabin’s two-person berth stretches diagonally across the space, with a cushioned seat on the starboard side, aft, and another on the port side, forward. Two long windows let in natural light, and the cabin steps have open backs for more light. A counter stretches across the beam — good for resting a book or tablet. Another night-stand-type counter sits at the entrance to the midcabin. Cabin headroom measures about 6 feet, 5 inches.

The Sea Ray's helm has well-placed gauges and controls, and there is liittle to obstruct the view through the windshield.

Pursuit takes a different approach with its midcabin, closing it off from the main cabin with an Anigre-veneer door. Two single berths that run fore and aft on the starboard side can be converted to a double berth, and a counter stretches across the port side. The aft bulkhead houses an electrical distribution panel. Two large hull-side windows flank the space. A hanging locker and storage cabinetry round out the amenities. The builder covers the cabin sole with walnut.

The Pursuit’s main cabin is decked out with the cruising amenities you would expect to see on a larger yacht, including a full galley, a head with a separate enclosed shower and a large V-berth that converts to a dinette. There’s 6 feet, 7 inches of headroom in the cabin.

Sea Ray has designed its cabin with a relatively small galley in lieu of more seating, but it does have a refrigerator and microwave built into the cabinetry. “People just aren’t using the galley as a full-fledged kitchen,” says Erin Schwarz, a design manager for the Brunswick Boat Group. “They’d rather have the extra space for seating so they can socialize and relax.”

And socializing and relaxing are what these boats are all about.

See related article:

- Outboards in a box: ADVANTAGES

March 2013 issue