A competition clogger escapes to the seas
By Sue Rodman
While other people her age are contemplating a first home, Erika Albritton was more interested in her first boat. And just like picking the finishings on a new home, the 21-year-old was able to easily custom build her Sea Ray SPX 190 Outboard to her specifications on the Sea Ray website.
“People ask me why not a house,” said Albritton. “But I already have a place to live, and a day on the boat is like a vacation in an afternoon. When you go out on the boat, you are in another world, even if it’s only for the day.”
The boat she designed is a sleek craft with a blue and grey hull. The interior, seats and Infinity snap in sea deck are shades of white, grey and black. The helm bucket seats rotate and drop down for comfort, an especially nice feature so others can easily adjust to drive the boat when she wants to tube. Bow seating has a comfortable oval shape with space for three grown adults. Albritton chose bench seating for the port side figuring it would be more comfortable for her passengers. Her father suggested the name, Water Dancer.
For now her passengers are limited to family, parents Mike and Kathy and her brother Dustin. Albritton wants to get comfortable with the boat before taking friends out. First on the list are her teammates on the National Champion Buckshot Cloggers competition dance team. Albritton has been a dancer for more than 10 years and regularly travels to events. Having the boat allows her to get away without having to spend hours traveling.
“The team has already started planning our boat outing,” laughs Albritton.
To get herself comfortable with the boat, the young captain and her mother took one of the many free classes offered to MarineMax boat owners called Women on Water. She found the instruction both informative and fun.
“Captain Keith was really patient,” she said. “He taught us how to tie knots and answered all our questions. He even clarified things I learned in my boating safety course like the fact that we can have inflatable life jackets, but they aren’t counted as safety gear.”
With her travel for dance, her job as an X-ray technologist, and less than ideal weather, Albritton hasn’t taken the boat out as much as she’d like yet. The inaugural voyage of the Water Dancer was over Thanksgiving break, a full month after delivery. She took her family out on the Alafia River into Tampa Bay for a two plus hour cruise.
Albritton summed up her first outing, “It was a lot of fun. There is so much to learn and get used to. It reminds me of dancing. At one point you are enjoying the boat ride and if you aren’t paying attention and hit a wave it knocks the boat around a little bit. In competition when you’re focused on the dance and you miss a step it throws you off balance as well. In both situations you have to recover quick to keep it going.”
Albritton has more plans for future outings. She ordered Sea Ray’s Elite Package for the water sport tower, and upgraded Fusion stereo system, as well as a chart plotter and electronic touchscreen dashboard with depth finder. Her dad felt the touchscreen dashboard would be necessary since she isn’t familiar with the waterways yet. Albritton is excited about the sports tower. She enjoys tubing and can’t wait to get out for a day with friends.
The Sea Ray 190 SPX-OB is built for exactly what Albritton wants to do. She upgraded the standard Mercury outboard engine from the 115 horsepower to the optional 150 horsepower, perfect for water sports. A large Sea Deck swim platform makes it easy to strap on skis or jump onto a tube, and ample storage means you can get the gear out of the way when cruising. The portside four-rung stepladder with grab handle makes it easy to get out of the water and back into the boat after a swim. A standard igloo cooler means cold beverages are just an arms length away.
Albritton has a wish list of items for the boat, but she’s also creating gifts of her own.
“I’m a crafter,” she said. “I’m going to make personalized cups for my family, and I already have a shirt that says ‘Life is Better on the Boat’.
Indeed it is.