Used Boat Review: Sea Ray 390

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By Steve Knauth

Talk about home waters. Larry Young has been boating on the rivers and lakes of eastern Tennessee just about all his life, and he’s done it in a variety of boats. His first was a 16-foot runabout with an outboard, perfect for a youngster to mess about in. Nine more boats followed, each well suited to Young’s boating lifestyle at the time, including a 36-foot houseboat, a 19-foot bowrider (a family boat for many years), a 28-foot flying-bridge cruiser, and a 37-foot aft-cabin cruiser.

The last was the only boat that didn’t work out, says Young, 65, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, attorney. “It wasn’t quite the boat we thought it was,” he says. “It just didn’t work out, so we decided to sell it and start looking again.”

Good move. In January 2007, they received a call from a broker they’d previously spoken with, and he said he had just the boat for them and that they wouldn’t get a better deal. “We took a look and saw right away how nice it was,” says Young.

It was a 1988 Sea Ray 390 Express Cruiser in what Young calls “immaculate” condition. The $59,000 price was right, and he and his wife, Libby, jumped at the deal. “I’ve always been convinced the old Sea Rays were built well. They’re a big seller around here,” says Young. “I felt safe buying an older Sea Ray.”

Sea Ray’s 390 Express Cruiser enjoyed a lengthy production run, thanks largely to its ample cockpit, an innovative and spacious two-cabin interior, and twin-engine power available in either gas or diesel. The styling was contemporary, with a low, sloping cabin top surrounded by a walkaround deck and rails. The raked aluminum-frame windshield and integrated radar arch were also distinctive.

The cockpit gets much of its space from the boat’s nearly 14-foot beam. There’s an aft bench and lounge seating, and engine access is through a large in-deck hatch. The bridgedeck, up one step, has room for a full helm station to starboard with a double helm/companion bench seat.

The twin-cabin layout below is versatile, with a large island berth forward that can be closed off. The adjacent head, to port, is laid out with a stall shower. There’s a convenient amidships cabin with over-and-under bunks to starboard, which closes off with a sliding bulkhead. The L-shaped dinette is to port amidships in the large central area. A fully equipped galley to starboard includes a double sink, stove, refrigerator, and room for a microwave, coffeemaker, and other accessories. Standard power was twin 340-horsepower MerCruiser inboards, and 375-horsepower diesels were optional. The latter option gave the boat a top speed of 26 knots.

Condition of available boats varies, but a hunt can turn up excellent, well-cared-for specimens. “I know that word ‘immaculate’ gets overused,” Young says. “But this boat was beautiful, especially inside. We’d been looking at 33- and 34-footers, but this boat was just too nice for the money to pass up.”

Now that the Youngs have had it for a year, it seems to be a perfect fit. “With a 14-foot beam, it’s an honest 39-foot boat,” says Young. “The big aft cockpit is perfect for us. We go out a lot in the evenings, and the room [on our Sea Ray] is on the level of a much bigger boat.

The couple also appreciates the fact that the cockpit can be fully enclosed. “That greatly expands the room onboard,” says Young. “And you get some protection from the weather, which is important because we boat all year long around here.”

Young’s twin 340-horsepower MerCruiser gas inboards were standard at the time the boat was built. Though the 390 Express Cruiser will cruise at 13 to 14 knots, Young runs along at a leisurely 8 or 9 knots, the engines turning 1700 to 1800 rpm. “It’ll run all day at that speed and not use much gas,” he says. Fuel capacity is 300 gallons.

The couple stays on the boat three or four days at a time. “It’s our condo on the water,” says Young. A galley equipped with a three-burner stove, refrigerator, and microwave make cooking a breeze. There’s plenty of stowage, too, including in-sole receptacles.

Young retired not long ago, only to go back to work. The next time he retires, he has other plans, however, and the Sea Ray is at the heart of them. “When I decide to retire for the second time, we’d like to do the Tombigbee Waterway down to the Gulf of Mexico,” he says. “With the cockpit, the roomy cabin, all the stowage onboard, and that big fuel load, I think this would be a good cruising boat. At the moment, we’re just getting comfortable with it, and so far it’s proven to be just what we need right now.”

Power & Motoryacht spoke to three brokers who each had a Sea Ray 390 Express Cruiser listed on BoatQuest.com. Click here to read what they each had to say about the model and its place in the market.

LOA: 39’0″
BEAM: 13’11″
DRAFT: 2’4″
DISPLACEMENT: 16,400 lb.
POWER OPTIONS: 2/340-hp
Mercruiser gas engines; 2/375-hp
Caterpillar 3208TA diesels
FUEL: 300 gal.
WATER: 100 gal.
YEARS BUILT: 1984 to 1992
PRICE RANGE: $29,900 to $67,500

Click here for a survey report on the 390.