A Sundancer 280 has brought a new kind of peace to boater Joe Stanley's life.
Littleton, Colorado, like much of the state, revolves around the great outdoors. With 300 days of sunshine to work with, its residents don’t waste a lot of time inside. Instead, they’re hiking, fishing, swimming, skiing and snowshoeing. This past summer, Joe Stanley, owner of a new Sundancer 280, raised the bar even higher when it comes to being one with nature, spending no short of 60 nights onboard his Sea Ray on Chatfield Reservoir.
“It wasn’t really a goal or anything when I set out,” Joe says. “But halfway through the summer, once I got to 30 or 40 nights on the water, I did a calculation to see how many nights I could be out there before the end of the season. It ended up being 60.” Each of those 60 nights led to 60 peaceful mornings, waking up to views of the beautiful foothills southwest of Denver, and the calming whoosh of brightly colored hot air balloons floating past.
Chatfield State Park boasts nearly 4,000 acres and calm winds ideal for hot air balloon launching. The picture-book scenery also makes for great snapshots. Joe, who has owned a custom furniture business for more than 25 years, started a photography business 6 years ago.
Believing that photography “shouldn’t be seen; it should be felt,” Joe focuses on abstract images that stir up emotion, and he recently had a display at the Denver Design Center.
But when it comes to his days on the water, he takes a break from his professional and artistic approach to photography and focuses on capturing the memories that enrich his life year after year in his active and close-knit Chatfield Marina community.
“The marina life is phenomenal,” Joe says. “I’ve been out here for 16 years and have gotten so many friends from that. Everybody knows everybody. We do potluck dinners, Sunday brunches, karaoke nights… You can go out there without any plans, and there’s always something to do.”
Chatfield Marina was built in 1982 with just 13 rentable slips. Today, there are 320 slips, and they’re sold out every boating season, which here runs from April 1 to October 31. Joe enjoys entertaining friends onboard, barbecuing and making cocktails.
The reservoir’s 3,000 acres have two different no-wake zones that are perfect for dropping anchor, floating on rafts and swimming in the warm water. An active email list keeps all the marina members in the loop about upcoming events and parties, including the highly successful Fourth of July parade of lights, where more than 40 boats float around the lake, rimmed in twinkling strands.
Joe decided on a Hawaiian theme for the three-day holiday event, decorating his Sundancer 280 with palm trees, playing Hawaiian music and even donning a grass skirt. Not surprisingly, his slip is at the P Dock, known affectionately as the Party Dock.
But despite what its name implies, that’s not the only reason people stop by to pay him a visit these days. Instead, it’s Joe’s new Sundancer, which continues to capture people’s attention from across the lake with its sleek lines and fetching black side windows. “The dark glass windows are a drawing point,” Joe says. “Everyone seems to know me out on the lake. They say, ‘Oh yeah, you got the new Sea Ray!’”
Joe purchased the Sundancer 280 through Sundance Marine in Grand Junction, Colorado, after first laying eyes on it at the Denver Boat Show in February 2016. A lifetime lover of boats and the water, Joe has owned five other boats over the years, moving up by 2- or 3-foot increments each time.
He originally had his sights set on a 26-footer from another brand when considering his most recent upgrade, but construction delays prevented it. Fate seemed to continue having a hand with how it revealed the Sundancer 280. “I turned the corner at the boat show, and there’s the Sea Ray and I thought ‘Ohhh my gosh,’” Joe says. He was instantly sold.
“When I first got it, it was the big popular rage out on the lake,” Joe says. “I gave tours to 50 or 60 people. One of my friends loved it so much, he went out and bought one.”
Joe loves the Dynamic Running Surface and the big 8.2L engine. “It really gets up and moves,” he says. He took delivery on Lake Powell and put it through its paces for more than 7 hours. “It performed flawlessly,” he recalls. “I was going full speed and took a hard right turn. It was really stable. It felt like a sports car.”
Joe’s first experience with Sundance Marine was equally satisfying. He bought the 280 from sales manager Scott Schilling and has worked with service manager Gus Anest ever since. “Everything from initial contact to delivery to setup and walk-through was just wonderful,” Joe says. “They’ve showed me how everything works and have been there if I have questions about anything. I’ve gotten to know them and they’ve become friends. ”
Joe also loves the Sundancer 280 for its conduciveness to socializing and entertaining—essential for his life on Chatfield Reservoir. “I like the configuration,” he says. “One of the big selling points for me was the captain’s chair that flips and faces the rear. You can fit eight people on the aft deck and face each other and converse. On a smaller lake, you might take out just your family. But here it’s just such a community. We sit on the dock for hours and talk.”
With everything he needs just an 18-minute drive from home, Joe doesn’t have any big plans to trailer the Sundancer 280 anywhere else at the moment. But for all the socializing he does, Joe gets to escape in solitude plenty, with only the company of his recently adopted rescue Sheltie named Bentley. “I picked him up from the pound, went to get food, and then we went to the lake,” Joe says. “He was a little bit timid and shy at first, but he has really taken to boating. He just loves it. As my friends like to say, he’s gone from the poorhouse to the penthouse.”
The “penthouse” likely refers to the Sundancer 280’s spacious cabin with large windows and skylight that let in copious amounts of natural light. And when the sun sets, the cabin is the coziest place to unwind. “I love to spend nights out there,” Joe says. “I bring a good book, cuddle up with that, read. Maybe watch some TV. It’s a fun, relaxing and quiet time for me.”
With a statement like that, one gets the sense that next boating season, Joe might just beat his own overnighting record.