For Chad Root and the rest of his family, summer weekends have never been quite the same since they bought their 2003 Sea Ray Sundancer 320 almost three years ago. Now every weekend from around May to September is filled with family fun and relaxation on Lake Michigan. Living in Elkhart, Ind., it only takes a little under an hour to drive to where they keep their boat at Pier 1000 Marina in Benton Harbor, Mich.
“We like to go up on weekends and on short vacations,” shared Chad. “We use it as a second home in a sense.”
Chad and his wife Sheila have five kids total, but just one still living at home with them. It’s usually just the three of them when they go out but the other four kids love to join them on the boat whenever they get a chance.
The family owned a 15-foot Boston Whaler prior to their Sea Ray, and while they enjoyed their time on their old boat, they can’t help but feel like this new one is an upgrade because of its outstanding performance, ample room for everyone, and its luxurious cabin.
That’s not to say the Roots haven’t had their fair share of hurdles to overcome with their Sundancer 320. Chad pointed out that it can be a bit of a gamble when buying used boats like they did, and it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, especially not in the beginning.
Getting Through The Gremlins
Chad started cleaning boats in high school, so he’s no stranger to the world of boats. He noticed while shopping around the used market that you’ll often come across boats that haven’t been properly maintained and kept up to date. Often, used boats don’t get fixed until there’s something obviously wrong. He said there can be a lot of small problems behind the scenes that aren’t apparent on the surface.
“We call buying a used boat ‘getting through the gremlins,’” explained Chad. “You spend the first year finding all the gremlins and things that are wrong that you would never have known on a survey. You work your way through them and get them fixed. I think that’s the biggest challenge owning a boat.”
With all that said, when the Roots ran into some issues with their Sea Ray, they knew it was all part of the process of “getting through the gremlins.” Some of the problems they ran into in the first year include water pumps failing, emergency high water alarms going off for no reason, leaking hatches, leaking port windows, wiring issues, and water showing up in places unexpectedly.
Even though they knew that running into some issues was an inevitable part of the process, it was still understandably frustrating at times. Between batteries going dead unpredictably and full system diagnostic alarms going off mysteriously, the Roots had their days of doubts.
There was one Sunday evening that they had to make it home on only one engine because the starboard engine died. The battery was completely dead and the emergency crossover startup refused to start.
“That’s one of those evenings where you go, “I’m selling that boat!” laughed Chad. “But then by Tuesday morning you’re working through it and its fine.”
A Great Lakes Boating Brand
The Roots bought their Sea Ray at B&E Marine in Michigan City, Ind., and Chad feels like this is one of the best Sea Ray dealers around his area. They worked with Chris Cipares at the dealership who has been selling boats for about 20 years, which helped make the buying process smooth and easy for the family.
Chad had B&E Marine do a bunch of work on their Sundancer 320 right away. They worked through some of the issues on the boat together and he was very impressed with the dealership’s communication and service. “I think they’re really good at what they do,” added Chad.
One of the big pluses about the Sea Ray brand is that they’re pretty common boats in the Great Lakes area. That makes it easier when it comes to questions on how to operate or fix common issues. There are plenty of people on the Great Lakes that are familiar with Sea Rays and know how to help you find answers.
It took the Roots about two years of shopping around to find their Sundancer 320. At first Chad was uncertain about the boat because it needed a lot more work than he’d initially planned on, but it was the only vessel that had the right specs and everything he was looking for in terms of features. By the time he found his family’s future Sea Ray, Chad was ready to take the leap and get his family onboard.
“One of the things was timing,” mentioned Chad. “I knew the boat needed work but I also knew it was stuff I could get taken care of. It’s one of those things—I wanted this boat because of the familiarity surrounding it. I knew it would be easy enough to find people with the answers if I needed them. I didn’t want to buy something really obscure that people weren’t familiar with. My family has a boating background and we’ve always had Sea Rays.”
The Perfect Weekender
Now that Chad and his family have gotten through the gremlins, all that’s left to do with their Sea Ray is enjoy the boat in all its grandeur. As a whole, the boat has matched every expectation the family has had in terms of luxury and performance.
“The layout of the boat itself is perfect,” testified Chad. “The mechanical system of the boat, the powering and the way the boat performs is fantastic. Another thing that stands out is luxuriousness of the cabin. The cherry cabinets, the surfaces and finishes… everything is just very, very comfortable for us to go and stay for a weekend and really enjoy it. It’s a beautiful boat.”
During the summer, the whole family anticipates their weekly weekend getaways on Lake Michigan with their prized vessel. They’ve already experienced countless hours of entertainment with family and friends thanks to the boat. If the skies are clear and the temperature’s warm, you can bet you’ll find the Roots out on the lake every weekend enjoying their Sea Ray.
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Pier 1000 Marina