Sea Ray | Bigger Is Better
Howard Cohen considers himself a fastidious boat owner, and that may be putting it mildly. As he would polish up his old 330 Sundancer, painstakingly wiping off every little water spot, his wife, Debbi, often had to remind him that boats are made to get wet.
It was in this spirit of fastidiousness that Howard embarked on upgrading to a newer, larger Sea Ray. Even though Howard researched options online, his past experiences as a long-time Sea Ray owner kept him in the Sea Ray family. Knowing the size and model he and Debbi wanted, they flew all the way to the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show to get a sneak peek at the prototype of the model he would soon own. Little did he know, this would actually be the boat he would wind up buying.
As if the boat itself weren’t enough to sell him, Howard was equally swept away by the MarineMax and Sea Ray staffers he met at the show. “The partnership that MarineMax has with Sea Ray is amazing to me,” he says. He got acquainted with Frank Svoboda, sales manager of MarineMax Lake Ozark; Brett McGill, regional vice president of MarineMax; and Larry Krestan, vice president of Sport Yacht and Yacht Sales for Sea Ray. “They spent an entire day with us on one of the busiest days of the boat show,” Howard says. “We got to go out and drive the boat; we got to actually spend time with the person who designed the boat. So any question we had, Larry was there to explain why the boat was designed a certain way, helping me understand the things we could or could not do in terms of accessories and extras.”
Because a big boat is a big investment, immediately after the Ft. Lauderdale show, he visited the Sea Ray factory in Palm Coast, Florida, to see new 450’s in various stages of production. One thing really stood out to the Cohens: the pride the plant workers took in their work. “They were really anxious to show us how they did what they did, and they loved seeing customers come into the factory,” Howard says. “It sort of hit me in the face how well that boat is made, and why it’s worth every penny that someone pays for it. I walked out of there feeling like that was probably the best-made boat that you could get.”
Howard says he expected to see an automated process like a car manufacturing line, but what he saw was far more hands-on. “The amount of labor that goes into every phase of that boat just makes me really proud to own a Sea Ray,” he says. “I wish everybody who bought a Sea Ray could go to the factory and watch the boat being made. It’s really impressive.”
Along the way, between his local dealer, MarineMax Lake Ozark, and the factory, he met dozens of employees who wowed him with their professionalism and their eagerness to show him he would be getting the top quality Sea Ray is known to build.
His experience gave him a deeper appreciation for his new boat, so much so that he wishes all Sea Ray owners would consider seeing the boat-building process up-close, as he did. “I just felt like everybody was really going the extra step to make sure that we were beyond pleased,” Howard says. “They far exceeded my expectations.”
Howard is a bundle of energy, and a single question can set him off on a rapid-fire, stream-of-consciousness monologue. His relationship with Sea Ray and MarineMax dates back to 2001 when he bought his first Sea Ray, a 290 Anniversary Edition Bow Rider from MarineMax Lake Ozark. At that time, the Cohen’s weren’t sure boating was for them, but they figured they’d give it a try. The purchase turned out to be transformative for the whole family. Along with their two children, Elizabeth (23) and David (20), Howard and Debbi found themselves heading to the Lake of the Ozarks every weekend and spending a three-week vacation there each summer. Their boat is tied to the dock at their condo on the lake.
In 2008, they upgraded to a 330 Sundancer. Meanwhile, they became increasingly committed to the Sea Ray lifestyle, regularly attending AquaPalooza and other events. “We have a very close-knit family, and it all kind of revolves around the boat and boating,” Howard says. Elizabeth and David, both students at the University of Kansas, often bring their friends along. “And we have two little dogs that love our Sea Ray as much as we do—Yorkies, about two pounds apiece, Sadie and Sofie.”
Howard appreciates the staff of MarineMax Lake Ozark. In a sense, they’ve become part of the family, too. “Their service is unbelievable,” Howard says. “Wherever we are, they come see us; and no matter how busy they are, they always seem to find the time to help.” Even the store’s finance manager, Dale Law, stays in touch with Howard. Howard is a diehard University of Kansas Jayhawks fan; Dale favors the rival Missouri Tigers, and they’re always joshing each other about games.
Salesman Terry Wise has been taking care of Howard from the beginning, ever since he sold him the 290. “He’s constantly checking in with us to see that the boat is still meeting our needs—and he isn’t like a typical salesperson being obtrusive about it,” Howard says. “I always feel like he is genuinely interested in making sure that we are really enjoying all the features of the boat.”
After the boat show and factory tour, it didn’t take long for Howard and Debbi to make a decision. The sale was finalized, and they ended up buying the exact prototype they demoed—hull number one—since it had, as he puts it, “all the bells and whistles.” “It’s really gorgeous,” he says. Howard especially enjoys the media room, which offers plenty of space for family and friends to sit and watch their beloved Jayhawks. “That’s why we’re really excited about the 450,” he says. “It was made for big family people like us.
Story by John Janowiak
Photos by Dean Groover
Courtesy of Sea Ray
Edited for length by iboats.com