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Forget the ski trip, the overseas holiday, and the duty-free shopping spree. Bayliner’s affordable 245 Cruiser is the ticket to backyard adventure instead. DAVID LOCKWOOD explains

Bayliner 245 Cruiser


The best boat you can ever hope to own is the one you use the most. And that comes through ease of use. You need to be able to berth, drive and maintain your boat with a modicum of effort and expense. This way you can concentrate on the not-so-serious business of pleasure boating. Idle contemplation and all that.

Although this is our Adventure Special Edition of Trade-a-Boat, the modest Bayliner 245 Cruiser could be the ideal entry-level cruiser for some backyard exploration. Pack the family aboard and zoom upriver to a quiet bay. Mix it with the million-dollar motoryachts for a weekend of fun. And when Sunday comes to a close, you won't be left with a big bill or protracted boat wash.

It was also fitting that Trade-a-Boat gad about the Broadwater on Bayliner's 245 Cruiser. The smallest boat in the world's biggest Cruiser range is a perfect pocket getaway machine for exploring big-city waterways. The inside passages on the Gold Coast beckon in a boat like this. In Sydney, the Hawkesbury would be your home; in Melbourne you would range anywhere from Docklands to Beaumaris and beyond. Kangaroo Island in SA and Rottnest off WA also come to mind.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Bayliner has evolved its ever-popular entry-level cruiser into a better-looking and better-performing boat than its predecessors, models of which I have been testing for some 20 years now. The signature eagle-eye cabin window remains, but the coloured king plank, better lines and mouldings and raked windscreen produce a sleeker profile.

Fitted with a small-block 5.0L MerCruiser MPI petrol inboard producing 260hp, the 245 raced to 35kts and happily cruises at 24kts, allowing you to find your own version of backyard bliss in no time at all. In keeping with the user-friendliness angle, the sterndrive is a Bravo III model. That means it has counter-rotating duoprops for steerage in reverse so you can nap a marina pen with ease. Going forward, you will find real grip and purchase in the bends. A sporty escape machine, indeed.




Building a production boat like this isn't rocket science. Bayliner uses handlaid fibreglass backed by marine-ply sub-frames, with a vinylester skin coat to ward against osmosis. That said, the 235 is a perfect candidate for a dry stack and, with permit and powerful vehicle, the 2787kg, 2.59m-wide rig is towable. I wouldn't.

Backed by a transferable limited five-year structural hull warranty, Bayliners in Australia enjoy excellent local dealer backing through Avante Marine, which has dealerships in all states. Unlike most boat dealers, Avante actually buys and owns the boats in its showroom. That is a real show of confidence and Bayliner is sticking around.




Of course, there are essentials to consider before embarking on a boating adventure. The first one is power generation. The 245 comes with a 30amp Shorepower connection, battery charger and isolators for the house and separate engine-start battery. This way you can hook up to the marina and cook up a storm, while connecting all your 240V appliances.

But if it were my boat I would fit a second house battery and inverter, thereby creating enough 240V power to run the boat's microwave oven, a coffee maker, power a TV or DVD player, recharge the laptop, and so forth while you are on the anchor. The alternative is to stay low-tech and fit a rail-mounted gas or charcoal barbie for your Saturday-night hot meal.

As for water, there is just 75.7lt of the lifeblood. So you won't be showering. Thankfully, a rinse on deck or a nun's bath in the sink with wipes is all you need to wash the salt away for a not-so-crunchy night's sleep. The boat is bundled with a 20lt hot-water heater, but you need 240V power to run it. Leave on Saturday morning and the water in the tank should still be warm for a spray on deck at sundown.




With full camper covers in the preferred equipment package included with the test boat, you can turn the cockpit of the 245 into an all-weather enclosure. Add optional infill cushion and the C-shaped seating layout converts to a sunpad and, with those camper covers, a sleepout. Kids might enjoy spending a summer's night here, occasionally tending a fishing line, before slipping into their sleeping bag.

A drop-in cockpit table lets a family of four lunch outdoors and enjoy open-air dinners at the same locale. A new unobtrusive amenities centre opposite has an integrated sink, drinks centre with three cupholders, and storage module with battery breakers below. Nearby is a handy 56-can Igloo portable icebox that should last a weekend, while overhead is a fold-down bimini top for shade in summer.

The generous storage space under the cockpit seats is welcome, as is the co-pilot lounge to port with padded headrest so your prized crew can kick back Cleopatra-style. Outdoor speakers let you crank-up the Jensen stereo en route to the anchorage, while the double-width helm seat is an altogether new number with flip-forward backrest that creates more space at the aforesaid sunpad or outdoor bed. There is also a bolster so you gain legroom while driving on your feet.

Back aft, the swim platform has been enlarged and there are drinkholders at hand. I like the way the cockpit, with clip-out carpet, flows forward from and allows unfettered access to the cabin. Alternatively, jump across to your friend's boat rafted up alongside. Non-skid on the gunwale assists with your safe departure.

It's now easier than ever to reach the foredeck of Bayliner's pocket cruiser - up a few moulded steps in the sliding cabin door and through the centre-opening windscreen. You will find sufficient flat space to unfurl a towel and catch some rays. There's a spotlight, in case you need to find a mooring on Friday night, and an optional windlass for push-button anchoring. The stainless steel bowrail is throughbolted, but an intermediate wire would be welcome by roaming kids.

Elsewhere, I found additional drinkholders and a bottle holder, stainless steel grabrails, and a wiper on the windscreen. But I have seen the plastic fittings on the windscreen struts fail before; at least they're a common fitting and therefore simple to repair.

A new sexy dash has been designed to accommodate bigger electronics. It had a spread of Faria analogue engine dials, fuel gauge, trim tab buttons, digital depthsounder, and a handy slot for personal effects. There are controllers for the windlass and the Jensen stereo. The wheel and throttle fall to hand, sight lines are good when you are standing and/or seated, and the MerCruiser fired into life with the turn of the key using the Thunderbolt turnkey ignition.




There's a good sense of headroom for a little boat and, thanks to the eagle-eye windows, escape hatch and opening portlights, light and fresh air aren't in short supply. Accommodation includes a vee-berth and dinette than converts to a double in the bow, and a transverse double back aft which is actually amidships in the hull. The nautical blue-and-white upholstery, cherrywood-like joinery, and bone-coloured carpet make for a pleasant enough ambience.

Impressively, the 245 has a separate WC with manual head and handheld shower that doubles as the faucet in the sink. An opening portlight provides ventilation. Moreover, with more than 180cm of headroom, there's sufficient space, privacy and amenity to serve the whole family.

Across to port is the galley, with small microwave oven, single-burner alcohol/240V stove and dual-voltage fridge. Again, the addition of that extra battery and inverter will let you use the microwave and electric (no soot) side of the stove when away from dock. Food-prep space has been extended thanks to a flip-out cutting board or servery.

Despite its towable dimensions, the 245 feels as though it has a pretty decent footprint and, thus, stability for sleeping aboard without being thrown out of your bed. The optional LCD television will help pass the time should the weather turn turtle. But given the poor reception on water, make sure it has a built-in DVD player, too.




I was pleasantly surprised at the performance of the 245 with 5.0L MPI MerCruiser. A 300hp inboard is an option, but why bother. The hull with a moderate 16? of deadrise jumps out of the blocks and, with a touch of trim tab, vision is good from go to whoa.

The boat holds a low-speed plan of about 12 to 13kts, cruises around 20kts without frightening the family, and skips along at 24kts (give or take a knot for the tide) in an agreeable, quiet and smooth manner at the economical setting of 4000rpm. Top speed was 35 to 36kts.

Underway and on the Broadwater, the 245 proved dry. The bit I liked was the sporty handling. Bayliner hasn't pushed the boundaries and tried to fit a quart into a pint glass, to quote an Americanism. So long as you concentrate at keeping the boat on an even keel, it will reward with a predictable ride.

In the bends, meanwhile, the Bravo III sterndrive leg and duoprop really grip the water, holding on to the extent you feel the G-forces. At which point, the kiddies will be whooping with delight. And I must admit to enjoying this point of the test. There is some driver pleasure to be had here.

Tilt up the sterndrive leg and you can anchor a dog paddle from shore and find peace and quiet in bays where big boats dare venture. Indeed, small and shallow-draft can be good.

With 245lt of petrol in the tank, you can hightail it to your favourite bolthole before the grey nomads have shuffled out of bed and cast the lines. You need to add water toys, crab pots and fishing gear, a blow-up tender, a barbecue on the rail, some DVDs, and provisions. But the adventure comes gratis on the 245.




Specifications - Bayliner 245 Cruiser




$129,990 w/ MerCruiser 260hp 5.0L MPI petrol engine, Preferred Pack, options, safety gear, and registration




Imported with bimini top with boot, cockpit cover, macerator, and Preferred Equipment Package (camper canvas, carpet runners, interior décor package, spotlight and windlass, and 220V certified electrics).




'As above' for standard Australian package




Material: Handlaid GRP fibreglass
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
Length overall: 7.65m
Beam: 2.59m
Max. draft: 0.56m
Deadrise: 16°
Weight: Approx 2787kg (dry w/ standard engine)




People: 4 + 2 kids in cockpit
Fuel: 265lt
Water: 76lt




Make/model: MerCruiser 5.0L MPI
Type: Eight-cylinder petrol w/ multipoint fuel injection
Rated HP: 260
Displacement: 5.0lt
Weight: 463kg
Gearboxes (make): Bravo III
Props: Standard three-blade alloy




Berowra Waters Wholesale,
975 The Northern Road,
Bringelly, NSW, 2171.
Phone: 1800 802 444
Fax: (02) 4774 6030

Find Bayliner boats for sale.


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