A Busy Family Finds Time To Slow Down On Alabama’s Lake Martin With A Little Encouragement From Their 270 SLX
Life is full of a million little choices. Busy families, with only so much time in a day, are all too familiar with the process: Do we eat dinner before soccer practice? Can you pick up the kids while I spend an extra hour at the office? Everyone is home tonight; what can we do that we’ll all enjoy?
The young family lifestyle can be dizzying—wonderful, but dizzying. As busy as they are, Stephen and Stacey Collins count themselves blessed, both to have their hectic lifestyle and to have one activity that’s never, ever up for debate: heading out on their Sea Ray270 SLX. Stephen and Stacey’s two sons, Tyler (12) and Brody (8), keep plenty busy with baseball, football, soccer and Beta Club, just to name a few activities. But when it’s time to head out on the boat, they eagerly drop everything.
“There’s not a single instance i can recall of one of the boys or my wife saying, ‘nah, let’s not go to the lake today,’” Stephen says. “Boating is truly one of the only things that consistently brings us together.”
Such is the case on this gorgeous summer day on Alabama’s Lake Martin, where the Collinses have a vacation home. The two boys brought along their cousin, Cole Freeman (13), to enjoy their last day of vacation. Though Stephen describes the family as “tired,” their level of activity would suggest anything but. Or perhaps their bodies work on a special lake time, one that extends energy far past its usual expiration date. “When we’re at the lake, if we’re not sleeping, we’re on the water,” Stacey says.
Right away, Brody, Tyler and Cole scramble for first dibs on the wakeboard, their favorite on-water activity. Brody wins out and jumps into the clear, warm water. Brody and Tyler started wakeboarding as soon as they could swim, around 3 years old (not surprising for sons of a couple who bought their first boat together before they were even married). Having mastered the butterslide, masterslide and several grabs, they now focus on going higher and farther on each run. The Sea Ray’s sleek, black hull carves through the water with ease, Stephen deftly commanding the Digital Throttle & Shift system.
“We really loved being able to get back into watersports with the SLX,” Stacey says. The Collinses owned a 250 SLX just a year ago, before “two more feet sounded like the cure for all of our ills. And sure enough, it was. We gained more bottom storage for the wakeboards and other toys. It’s just such a comfortable boat for a day on the water no matter how many friends and kids are onboard.”
The Collinses also rave about the 270’s Quiet Ride™. “We continue to be amazed at how quiet the boat is even at high rates of speed,” Stephen says. “It’s much harder to describe and really something everyone needs to experience.”
During their trips to Lake Martin, which boasts 750 miles of gorgeous shoreline, the family likes to visit some of the lake’s popular islands. They cruise over to Goat Island while catching their breath from their wakeboarding pursuits. Though the island fails to live up to its name today, Tyler, Brody and Cole aren’t left disappointed. Instead of observing the curious goats that inhabit the island, they’re treated to some sunning turtles.
With their energy restored, they head to Chimney Rock Island. A wooden ladder on the bank leads to a majestic shoreline tree and a long rope swing—the perfect picture of childhood summer. When not swinging from the rope like Tarzan, the kids jump from the bow of the Sea Ray, making silly faces and flexing their muscles. Rounds and rounds of swinging and jumping soon truly exhaust this rambunctious group.
On a more festive night, the Collins crew would end the day by heading over to Chuck’s Marina for pizza and live music, or Kowaliga Restaurant for some smoked catfish dip and steak. But today, the group decides to pull up to Nibblers Float-Thru Grill, a food boat offering classics like burgers, nachos and milkshakes. That’s the other thing about the water: No decision is the wrong decision.
In the same way, the Collinses have never had to think twice about which brand to buy. From the moment they bought their first Sea Ray, a 290 Sundancer from Russell Marine, they’ve been 100 percent loyal to the brand. The 290’s cabin proved the perfect nap time spot when Tyler and Brody were little. The family then upgraded to a 330 Sundancer before switching over to the 250 SLX and current 270 SLX when the boys became more invested in watersports. “We’ve always been drawn to Sea Rays,” Stacey says. “They’re just such beautiful machines. When we saw the Sundancer and started thinking about why we ‘shouldn’t’ get it instead of a lake house, we just couldn’t think of a good reason. That started our foray into Sea Rays and we’ve never looked back.”
Stephen echoes Stacey’s appreciation for the luxury brand: “With our first Sea Ray, we simply purchased the boat because it was beautiful and fun and fast and all of those great adjectives that come to mind when getting into a boat. Sea Ray really sweats the details, from the overall design to the way the boat handles to the feel of the materials. Every one of our boats, while very different in nature, shares the same DNA that begs you to take them out for a spin.”
The Collinses gladly take up on the offer, day after day, summer after summer, year after year. And when they’ve had questions along the way, they’ve been overwhelmed by the support all around them—from the dealers at Russell Marine to fellow owners. “What we got was much more than a boat,” Stephen says. “When we purchased the 290 Sundancer, I had so many little questions. From sharing tricks and tips to great advice about locations, the Sea Ray community we were welcomed into really takes the experience to a whole new level.”
These experiences have created family memories as beautiful as the Sea Ray itself. Today, as the sun dips below the horizon and the boys curl up in fluffy, warm towels in the bow of the SLX, Stephen and Stacey take a moment for themselves. “Watching my wife effortlessly park the Sea Ray at the restaurant or drive into the sunset with her hair blowing and a smile beaming…I think, ‘Man, this is cool,’” Stephen says. “Watching my children when they make a big jump or learn a new trick… laughing when all of our friends and dogs are hanging out on the boat just enjoying the day… As far back as I can remember, my kids have been on a boat. They learned to swim off the back deck of a Sea Ray, and every memory I have of them in the summer is with our boats.”