Book of Sunsets

A 370 Venture Serves As A Lake Martin Cottage and Memory Catcher.

Every Friday, Ellen Mays of Birmingham, Alabama, gets ready for work on Monday. A paralegal for the city attorney in nearby Bessemer, she takes Fridays off to clean the house, manage the laundry, do the shopping and run errands for the following week.

“Then there is no need to hurry to leave the lake on Sunday,” she says. “Everything is ready for Monday morning.”

Her husband David, director of mortgage lending for Renasant Bank, slips away from his office as early as possible Friday afternoons to marinate the steaks and ice down the beer. David and Ellen like to roll into the marina at The Ridge on Lake Martin with their 5-year-old Chihuahua named Bear in plenty of time to watch the sunset from the deck of their Sea Ray 370 Venture.

Lake Martin is only an hour southeast of the couple’s home on the east side of Birmingham, and Liquid Liability, the Venture they keep in the last slip on D dock at The Ridge, is their never-miss weekend getaway.

“We come to the lake to relax, get away from the busy city life,” David says.

“We both have very stressful jobs,” Ellen explains. “This is where we find our sanity, where we refuel for the next week. We take a photograph of the sunset every night and keep the pictures in an album.”

The Venture allows them to refuel at an uncommon level of luxurious comfort and style. The unique Enclosed Outboard Design of the 370 Venture, one of Sea Ray’s NextWave innovations, maximizes onboard space. From the increased entertainment capacity on the upper deck to the full-width, very nicely appointed master stateroom below, this exceptional award-winning new launch from Sea Ray is the premier choice in lake life for David and Ellen.

“When this prototype came out last year, it was a Godsend,” David says. “What Sea Ray did was really listen to their consumers and give them what they wanted. There’s more entertainment space on deck and a real bedroom, with a real queen-size bed. They outdid themselves on the technology and made this more of a lifestyle. And the enclosed outboards give me a longer boat that still meets the size limits on the lake.”

The Venture’s length is 29 feet 8 eight inches from the bow to its two 300-horsepower Mercury Verado FourStroke outboard engines, but owners gain an additional 7 feet 4 inches of living space with the enclosed engine design. Each engine is hidden under a fiberglass hood that doubles as seating forward of a spacious swim platform.

“The size restriction on Lake Martin is 30 feet 6 inches,” David explains, “but this design gives us more space on deck. We can seat eight people very comfortably, and we have a full kitchen on deck, with a smokeless grill, a gas cook top, sink, refrigerator, flat screen TVs. It’s unbelievable.”

Below deck, in addition to the ultimate stateroom, the Mays enjoy a second kitchen with microwave oven, built-in coffeemaker and granite countertop. Where smaller boats tuck a triangular berth below deck, the Venture offers a second meal venue with spacious seating.

“It’s like having a cabin at the lake, only better,” David says.

The couple previously owned a cabin at Lay Lake south of Birmingham, Ellen explains, but sold it after only a few years.

“It was too much work,” she says. “By the time we did all the upkeep every weekend – mowing the yard, cleaning, making repairs – we didn’t have any relaxation time.”

“And with the cabin, we still had to buy a boat,” David adds. “With this setup, the IRS even lets me deduct interest like it’s a second home.”

So in 2009, they bought a 310 Sundancer, dubbed Liquid Asset, the largest boat that met Lake Martin’s size restrictions at the time.

“The marina staff knew I wanted something bigger, and when the 370 came out, the marina manager called me up and told me he thought it might be legal for Lake Martin. We went to see it at the show in Knoxville and took it for a test drive. It’s perfect,” David says.

David and Ellen grew up near Guntersville Lake in North Alabama, where David’s boating was primarily related to bass tournaments. He admits he was somewhat hesitant about moving to the Venture level of boating.

“I was a little concerned. I had heard all those jokes about how a boat is a black hole you pour money into, and the two best days in a man’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. But my concerns really were unfounded. The quality at Sea Ray is superb, and the company stands behind their product. The marina staff has been outstanding, too. All the research they did to make sure the Venture met the size limits has been great,” David says.

Married 17 years, the Mays are empty nesters, except for their beloved Bear. Their only child Tyler started college this year and generally doesn’t join them at the lake.

“We have made friends with the people who have boats around us, and they’re really a second family,” Ellen says. “None of us knew each other before we met at the marina, but we’ve grown very close.”

It’s a lifestyle to which Sea Ray readily lends itself, as six of the eight boats in D dock slips are Sea Ray models. The friends raft up Saturday afternoons in a quiet slough on the east side of Fishbone Island or tie on at the old homestead of the Dixie Sailing Club, the row of Sea Ray bows glistening in the Southern sun on Alabama’s only designated Treasured Lake.

David is in charge of the tunes, and with four flat screen TVs onboard the 370, the friends catch all of the important football games.

But they never miss a sunset. At the close of each day, the whisper-quiet 600 horses under the back sunpads speed them to the best vantage point for another of Lake Martin’s spectacular sunsets.

“You can’t hear the engines. I have to check the meters to see if they’re running. It’s that quiet,” David says.

As the sun goes down on another perfect weekend at the lake, David and Ellen settle Bear between them on the foredeck and drink in the tranquility of these stolen moments; they capture one more sunset for the album, knowing its image will sustain them until the next weekend, when their splendid cabin on the lake returns them to serenity one more time.

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