The search continues

How hard can it be to find a right-priced, right-options, 27’ cruiser anyways?

We made it back from our combination boat shopping/mountains/anniversary trip, and work got/continued to be incredibly busy, but most nights I’d continue searching the usual places to see if anything new popped up before passing out for the night.

More non-responses from both brokers and individuals, or scammers posting as individuals.  I broadened the search to anywhere freshwater-only, particularly not wanting a seawater boat on an older boat like those I was looking at.

I had gone back and forth on a seemingling incredibly nice Crownline 260CR that was a fair drive away, always on a boat lift, but had sold by the time I was finally able to reach out via phone, as email seemed to be only answered by the guy’s wife, who had literally zero information of value.  No idea if she was his ex-sife-in-process, but had been unable to get even basic information (hours on engine or confirmation it had HVAC, for example) while my schedule was just being brutal.  

Note to sellers - including multiple pictures and information you would want buying a boat - helps!

Of course, the boat in particular wound up being sold, but hey - it might have sold earlier, to me, with some basic info.  As it was, I was fairly certain the 260CR at 26’ length probably would have the same results as the Chapparal 260 did - not enough space to sleep comfortably in the v-berth area.  

The Size Conspiracy - get less…for more

While looking into other options in the 27’ range, I discovered something those with boats in the late 90s to mid 2000s already knew, and was further annoyed with marketers in general. Once upon a time, boat lengths, were, you know - actual lengths, and as such, useful for direct comparisons of the same type of boat across different manufacturers. Go figure - using a measurement, to actually measure and compare

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Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Considering the fact that new boats, especially those in the cruiser, yacht or high performance categories, can become significantly more expensive going up 1-2 feet in length, this is intellectually dishonest, misleading, and well - slimy.

In essence, that 260 Sundancer in later years was effectively the same boat and length as prior years 240 Sundancer model.  As the first two digits represented the boat’s length, there were some surprises to be had, with people saying their ’26’ boat’ didn’t seem to have much more room than their prior 24 foot boat.  Well - that’s because in fact, it did not.  

Besides the general disgust at this practive, what does this mean for people looking in the used market?  Well, for starters, always try to find the official specifications, especially if unsure at what point a given manufacturer jumped onboat the size lie.  Owner’s manuals and online specifications should have them.  If in doubt, it’s also worth considering the boat’s weight and comparing it to prior years or even competing manufacturers - if a boat got singificantly lighter going from one year to the next, it might well be the year they started relabeling their 24-foot models as 26-footers etc.  Note - this is not just a Sea Ray thing, and it spans all models.  I’m unsure who first started it, but if like me, you’re looking for a specific length boat for a reason - it’s one more ’surprise’ to be aware of out there.

The good news for us, I suppose, is we weren't spending ’the big bucks,’ generally looking at late 90s boats, so we were generally clear of the start of the size games, but it was still something I looked at with every ‘possible’ boat I came across.  Actually, the SDA 270 was a measured 29’8” in length, so does that mean owners of older boats can say, “Hey, nice 290, mine’s a 300!”? :)  

I suppose we could have looked at 28 footers, but our local Falls Lake isn’t huge.  It’s good-sized at 12000 acres, but compared to Lake Jordan or Lake Norman with 32000 acres along with private and commercial properties on the lake, it’s different, as well as having some shallower areas as well as my own relative inexperience at piloting larger boats. 

Still considering and refining on brands..

At this point and hundreds of searches later, including looking at the actual layouts of each brand and model versus how I anticipated us using it, I really liked the ‘port side lounger’ layout on deck.  The majority of the time would be my wife and I, and occasionally another couple, so for normal cruising time, having a longer lounger on the port side right across from the helm and captain’s chair - really made sense for us.

Besides Sea Ray, I had really started to like Chris Craft or Crownline as the other main contenders, at least in the 27’ category.  I can’t say why exactly, but both just seemed to really have had some thought go into some of the little details of layout and usability among other things, but they were also fairly difficult to find in the right ranges of price and options anywhere nearby.  

I still kept Chapparal in there along with Sea Ray.  Undoubtedly there is a brand war to be waged out there somewhere, with Chapparal sometimes having some ‘upgrade’ options over some Sea Rays, and they do look nice, plus offer the MAG version engines vs Sea Rays typical 5.0L on the smaller 26’ cruisers.  So it’s entirely possible Chapparal may have some bit of an edge on the options front, but Sea Ray has been building boats a very long time - which is also seen in resale values.  For me, I would consider either of them (or Crownline or Chris Craft) as equivalent enough and let the right boat among any of these brands - be the one we went with.

We followed up with Justin at Boat Brokers LKN   the broker we’d visited for the Chapparal 260 at Lake Norman, on the 1998 SDA 270, with some good and bad on this one.  

It had a replaced engine, new bimini and camper tops but not the rest of the canvas package.  It had a fair amount of maintenance done on it - new bottom pain, steerbing cable, hull polish and detail, but also had some serious corrosion on the Brave 3 lower.  Someone else previously had been considering purchasing it and paid $1K for a survey($$$), and then decided to buy a $35K boat instead.  

Oh yeah - and the HVAC was in an unknown state.  

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1998 Sea Ray Sundancer 270 - rough lower

Not immediately promising, but...

it seemed like it might be worth knowing a bit more.  I wanted the rest of the maintenance records, some more info and to get her on the water.  I might consider having the owner pay for the fixes and doing a detailed inspection and seeing where it wound up.

CruisAirSXR7 HVAC-web
Cruisair SXR7 - OEM equipment in numerous 90s/00 Sea Rays

Keep on looking… until I found something

2005Crownline270CR 25K

I kept up the searches, with mixed success.  Some beautiful boats, but also some very high hour ones.  Looking at this age range of boats, some real hours should be expected and may even be desirable to make sure they got run, but from all I could gather, you should start assuming a replacement for many gas engines around 1000 hours or so, so I wasn’t feeling too confident on buying a boat at 1200 hours - right or wrong.  

I did find one Crownline, not the colors I would have chosen, but really - just beautiful.  A 2005 Crownline 270CR, 350MAG MPI, with 500 hours, with HVAC, so all boxes ticked.  She was in VA near the intercostal, so on the downside - she’s got to be a saltwater boat, which has me nervous, but she seemed to appear to have been well maintained, and again - is gorgeous.

Time to travel to check her out?

I must have looked at the pics of this boat dozens of times.  It was priced a bit higher than I’d been wanting, as usual, but - was really a nice looking boat, and I liked everything about her; even if I would have never chosen yellow intentionally, she was overall pretty compelling.

Then I did some digging to sanity check on her specs.  The boat weighed 6400# as a 27 footer, versus the 7500# or so of the earlier 27 foot Sundancers and Chapparals, etc.  Looking into it further…. the length was 26’8” including the swim platform.  Oh, oh no…. Beam width?  8’6”.  

This was basically a 24-25’ boat - with a 27 foot model designation

So close - so very close, but thank you for self-selecting yourself out of the pool of possible boats…especially before making a road trip to be disappointed!  Still a gorgeous boat; just won’t work for us.