Not too long after purchasing our Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge, ‘Boogaboo IV’, I was looking online for a firm to perform some gelcoat repairs. One fellow I spoke to suggested that we should visit the manufacturing plant where our boat was built. I initially scoffed at the idea, but when I learned that it was in Florida, my interest was piqued.
Making a Date
When I first contacted a representative at Sea Ray, I was able to set up a general date for our arrival to visit the plant. As we had yet to make travel arrangements to Florida, I couldn’t provide a firm date, but they were very flexible. Ultimately, we decided to make a vacation out of it and decided to stay in Fort Lauderdale for a week before heading north to Palm Coast on our way back northward.
When we did have a preferred day to go, I simply emailed my contact at Sea Ray who arranged our welcome. And welcome us, they did! When we arrived, we were treated as if they had been eager to see us for a long while! Very nice folks who seemed to be genuinely happy to see us.
In House Production
When our visit was first confirmed, I had thought that we would get a quick look around the place and then be on our way. Our experience ended up be much more than that. We had a personal tour by one of the plant managers, Sean, who took us to every place in the joint but the employees washroom! A full two hours of interesting insights, with complete explanations of what each work station did and how things were put together.
The interior components of a Sea Ray Sundancer being assembled. Very interesting to see the process.
I’d have to say that my biggest surprise was how much they made in house. I was expecting to see most components being produced by third party suppliers, but apart from major mechanical systems, they produce and finish everything right there. It was explained that that is how they can control quality, which stands to reason.
Ease of Installation
Having spent enough time inside of our own engine room, I appreciated seeing how this was put together. Prior to a given boat’s deck being mated to the hull, all of the mechanical systems are put into place. Electrical, plumbing and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) components are all plumbed and connected with ease.
As it is in the automotive manufacturing world, you have to keep in mind that boats are built as efficiently as possible. That sometimes results in a big head scratching when having to service or disassemble something after the fact – not to mention a few choice words.
With number of larger scale boat repair/upgrade projects under my belt, I have learned a few tricks and insights on how these things tick and are put together. When I replaced our waste water holding tank last year, I made a comment on the fact that the exhaust pipe I was working on removing was originally assembled with ease at this very place, under much more pleasant conditions. Not to mention, prior to the poop tank having anything in it ;-)
This upper deck of a Sea Ray Sundancer is just about ready to be mated to it’s hull.
Once fully assembled, every finished boat is put in the water for testing. As one of the final steps in the manufacturing process, they launch each vessel to test the mechanical systems, check for leaks, etc..
Probably one of the most coveted jobs in the place would be the person who gets to take these beauties out for the first sea trial. Located just a stone’s throw from the Intracoastal Waterway allows access to miles of testing grounds, including the Atlantic Ocean. Given the fact that it is surrounded by palm trees and blessed with sunshine most days of the year, it’s in a perfect location to play with boats. And a neat place to visit :-)