Sea Ray’s new 270 Amberjack successfully blends cruiser comfort with offshore disability.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. If ample disability mixed with a healthy dose of cruiser comfort sounds like your recipe for the perfect boat, step aboard the new 270 Amberjack. You’ll like what Sea Ray has cooked up. On the other hand, if you’re only interested in fishing and all your trips leave at oh-dark-thirty, this isn’t your rig. Frankly, it has too much going on to satisfy your one-dimensional cravings.
The essential difference between this boat and the 260 Sundancer — the cruiser model on which it’s based — goes a bit deeper than a slight bump in length. It boils down to cockpit real estate. The 270 Amberjack has it in spades and is willing to give up the cabin mid berth in order to achieve it. The ’Dancer, by comparison, wraps its cockpit around a wet bar and lounge-style seating, sacrificing wide-open fishing room so you can put on the Ritz.
Both models utilize the same new hull design and, except for the mid-berth, their cabins are identical. The underlying personalities are what give each its own identity. The 270 Amberjack is an upscale utility model. It’s designed to appeal to owners who want to go fishing one weekend and cruising the next. Its 260 sister is strictly cotillion. Technically, you could still troll or cast from this rig — but we can’t shake the feeling Emily Post would frown on it. The ’Dancer will never be mistaken for anything but a civilized cruiser.
If that image doesn’t quite match your 5 o’clock shadow, you’ll be glad to know the 270 ’Jack walks on the macho side of the dock. Order the $7935 Fishing Package with its aluminum radar arch, rocket launchers and bait station, slap on a pair of outriggers and you’re in the fish biz. You’ll feel right at home pulling up to a marina filled with battlewagons, where you can swap tales of glory and heartbreak played out on the high seas.
Afterward, you can duck below to grab a shower and shave in the well-appointed head, and emerge in a fresh shirt and your best Topsiders, bound for a romantic rendezvous. Either way, Sea Ray’s new seafood combo is ready to serve.
Although we were scheduled to test the 270 of West Palm Beach, Florida, Hurricane Charlie crashed the dance and forced us to reconvene along the protected waters of the French Broad River, near Sea Ray’s Knoxville, Tennessee, headquarters. While conditions were too benign to challenge this 30×81/2-footer, we were able to gather speed and fuel data, and evaluate Hull No. 2’s layout and handling.
For more pronounced lift, the running surface features four lifting strakes instead of the two used on the previous version of the 260 hull — a design with which we’ve had considerable experience after running one as a project boat for two years. The 270 Amberjack’s relatively sharp 21 degrees of transom deadrise hints that it should have similarly pleasing — if not better — seakeeping ability as the earlier 260 models, which featured a 19-degree V. And the hull’s wide, reversed chines aid tracking in turns, while also helping minimize spray.
If you crank the wheel over hard at speed, the new, deeper V will carve squarely through the turn, but with a substantial lean that’s typical of tall-sided cruisers. She’s also highly responsive to the standard trim tabs, although this also means you can quickly get out of shape if you overtime. Moderate turns are sure and steady, as the twin propellers of the MerCruiser 496 Mag/Bravo 3 grab the water and simply won’t let go. The extra blade area of our counter-rotating, 24-inch prop set also makes handling around the dock a pleasure.
POUR ON THE COALS
All told, this 375 hp package — a top-of-the-line upgrade from the base, 300 hp MerCruiser 350 Mag MPI/Bravo 3 — provides lively handling and good midrange punch. Lightly loaded with one-third of a tank of fuel, two men and test gear, the boat reached 43.5 mph at 5000 pm. Maximum cruising economy was realized at 3500 to 4000 pm, where she achieved 1.9 mpg, good for a range of 171 miles. And while the Amberjack’s range is in line with what we see from most similarly sized cruisers, it simply doesn’t carry enough fuel to satisfy dedicated offshore fishermen.
We’re not just picking on Sea Ray here. With its 100-gallon tank, the 270 Amberjack carries 20 to 30 percent more fuel than some competitive cruisers, but it’s our opinion that, as a category, this group needs to tank up. The average 23-foot center console carries 125 to 150 gallons, while the typical 26-foot cruiser holds about 80. If the 270 Amberjack wants to be considered a legitimate fish boat, it needs longer legs.
We would be willing to give up space in the roomy, amidships lazarette in order to have a larger fuel tank. Fortunately, Sea Ray also offers a 275 hp Volvo Penta KAD 300 diesel that promises to extend range considerably — particularly at trolling speeds.
WHAT’S IN A SWIM STEP?
We’ve mentioned the 270 and 260 are based on the same hull, so you’re probably wondering why the Amberjack is listed as a 30-footer while the Sundancer comes in at 28 feet. Both running surfaces are essentially identical, but the Amberjack is considered longer because Sea Ray stretched the self-bailing cockpit by eliminating the 260’s integral swim step and by “pushing back” the transom bulkhead. It uses a bolt-on swim platform instead and replaces the Sundancer’s fixed transom seat with a drop-away bench that maximizes fishing room.
This 181/2x47x111/2-inch aft bench features hinged, articulated legs that allow you to raise the engine hatch without stowing the seat. It’s a cool setup that would be even better if the legs had clips to keep them secured while folding the seat. On our boat, one leg kept dropping down and interfering. While we’re at it, how about adding a set of cockpit toe rails, as found on the 290 Amberjack?
The gel coated engine bay offers good access and plenty of potential stowages. Plywood covering board atop the fuel tank, for example, is an ideal place to strap down tool and parts boxes. And there’s also room for an optional 5-kW Kohler generator ($8667).
Located abaft the helm seat, the bait station is a must-have option but is available only as part of the Fishing Package. This well-designed center includes a sink, cutting board, 26-gallon bait tank and a locker large enough to swallow a jumbo tackle bag. The oval-shaped tank is lighted, and its plastic interior walls are blue — a combination that should keep bait milling calmly. Best of all, there’s no standpipe or other obstruction that can knock scales loose and beat up the bait.
We also like the cockpit grabrail, and commend Sea Ray for cantilevering the bait station off the deck so there’s room to slip your toes underneath. Not only does this minimize the chance of stubbing a toe as the crew moves between the cockpit and helm, but it also lets anglers brace themselves when rigging up in heavy seas. All told, it wouldn’t make a bad entertainment center, either. It’s just the right height for mixing drinks or laying out hors d’oeuvres.
The cockpit extends a shade over 4 feet from the bait station to the transom bulkhead and 61/2 feet from port to starboard. Interior freeboard is a secure 261/2 inches, and coaming pads make it comfortable to lock your knees under the gunwales, where you’ll also find rod stowage and a raw-water hose bib. Exterior freeboard is a whopping 4 feet, which is higher off the water than most fishermen would care to be. All but the tallest anglers will be hard-pressed to lean over the side to rinse their hands or “bill” a sailfish.
STOW IT GOOD
On deck, you’ll find storage in a spacious, plywood-lined lazarette between the helm seats. Roomy enough to be a wine cellar, it takes the place of the mid cabin berth found on the 260 Sundancer. A 47×141/2×11-inch, self-draining fishbox is built into the transom, and another locker, located on the outboard side, holds fenders, dock lines, shore power cords, a white 7443 led bulb and hoses. It’s lighted and the hatch lifts on a gas strut — we only wish it opened aft instead of forward so you could grab fenders and lines from inside the boat, without having to venture onto the swim step.
Fortunately, the swim platform features handy grabrails to make the task easier. It’s also equipped with a hidden, three-rung swimbladder. Another plus is that the transom gate boasts a self-closing “slam latch” that doesn’t protrude or rattle, yet holds the gate securely.
To the left of the helm, a back-to-back seat converts to a sun lounge and offers storage underneath. It can also serve as an extra berth when overnighting. The standard layout includes a fully adjustable, pedestal helm seat. Finished in heavy marine vinyl and featuring neat, tight stitching, the deep bucket provides excellent lateral support, and Sea Ray’s windshield is tall enough to block most of the wind. A tilt wheel highlights a helm station that features toggle controls, SmartCraft digital instruments and a panel for flush-mounting a combination electronics unit. It’s a nice touch that the 260 ’Dancer lacks.
A flip-up bolster allows the skipper to use the seat as a leaning post, and a footrest adds driving comfort when perched on the elevated bolster. The first mate also enjoys a footrest, as well as a stylish, elliptical grabrail that’s equally handy when entering the cabin.
The sliding cabin door has molded steps for access to the foredeck, which, like all surfaces where a foot might fall, is covered in nonskid fiberglass. The anchor locker is super-sized, and features a gutter and drain so errant seas, rain or wash water won’t flood inside.
Stepping into the cabin, you’ll find the head to starboard and the electrical panel, Clarion CD stereo and galley to port. The cherry-wood Formica cabinetry lends a warm yet cheery touch, and though the countertop looks like Corian, it’s actually cleverly disguised fiberglass. (No need to tell your guests, of course.) Galley amenities include a microwave and dual-voltage (120/12V) refrigerator, and Sea Ray offers butane or alcohol/ electric stoves.
You can also order a flip-down, 10.4-inch LCD television with a DVD player. Frankly, this was one of the few options our test boat wasn’t equipped with, although it did have air conditioning and Sirius satellite radio.
Cabin headroom measures right around 6 feet and the convertible dinette sleeps two when the V-berth is made up with filler cushions that stow in compartments under the seats. Wood-trimmed and offset by what looks like black lacquer finish, twin storage rails line each side of the V-berth. It’s a classy touch that adds symmetry and style.
Ventilation is provided by four oval portholes and a Taylor hatch that’s equipped with “self-furling” bug screens and sunshades that retract into the hatch frame. It’s slick, for sure.
Truth be told, the new 270 Amberjack has a lot going for it. Its 81/2-foot beam and approximate 10,000-pound trailered weight make it practical to haul behind today’s 3/4- and 1-ton trucks. And its layout offers enough utility to please buyers who aren’t looking for a full-on fish boat, but want something saltier than a traditional cruiser.
We’re confident Sea Ray’s latest will find a loyal following. Like any rig designed for multitasking, the 270 Amberjack doesn’t chase a single mission at the cost of all others. Rather, it does a lot of different things well. Aimed primarily at the saltwater crowd, we think it will find favor with those who boat on large lakes, too. After all, you don’t have to live near the coast to enjoy Sea Ray’s spicy new seafood combo.