BOAT TEST: BAYLINER 285 CRUISER
The latest Bayliner 285 Cruiser will attract kids like moths to the flame, finds JOHN ZAMMIT
The latest Cruiser from the world's largest manufacturer of recreational boats aims to please. At 8.7m long and with a beam of 3.02m, accommodation is generous for two couples plus a brace of kids. Then there's social cockpit, single-engine affordability, and the turnkey fitout.
An ideal entry-level cruiser for those making the transition from trailerable to "big boat," the 285 is the full package. In fact, the boat is such a good fit that it may be the answer to keeping the family together a little longer. But first, something about Bayliner.
Based at Lake Forest, Illinois (USA), Bayliner is part of Brunswick Corporation, the world's largest marine company, which manufactures a range of runabouts, cuddy cabins, deckboats and cruisers from 16 to 33 feet. The latest 285 Cruiser is a big-little boat and the first completely new-shaped 285 to come out of the yard in almost a decade.
The new 285 features a beam-forward hull creating more room in the bow. Bayliner's trademark Smooth Ride System (SRS) matches the hull design to each model's application. This gives optimum acceleration with low horsepower and, says Bayliner, a better ride and handling.
Powered by a single 320hp MerCruiser 377 MAG petrol engine, the 285 will happily cruise comfortably at 25kts using just 38lt/h. So you should be able to have a big day's cruising and lolling about without being strapped to the bowser afterwards.
This is the type of boat where most of the living and socialising is done in the cockpit and Bayliner have really thought this through. The space has been maximised on a single-level floor, with plenty of seating and lounge areas while retaining an open feel.
Step in through the transom gate off the wide swimplatform, itself broad enough for a couple of deckchairs, and there's horseshoe-shaped seating around a table to starboard and bench seating forward on the portside adjacent the helm.
The wetbar with sink and under-bench fridge is accessible from anywhere in the cockpit and convenient to the swimplatform. Stock the fridge, add a barbecue out on the stern, and you have everything needed for a great day relaxing with the family or entertaining guests.
The starboardside helm features a dash with a subtle non-glare finish - something I was most appreciative of on what was a bright sunny day - and there is good vision across the bow from the fully adjustable, bolstered helm seat. The aluminium-framed windscreen has wraparound safety glass and a wiper.
For a small boat there's a surprising amount of room on the dash, enough for a series of analogue gauges for things like speed, rpm, trim position, and so on, as well as controls for the anchor winch, stereo, remote spotlight, and rocker switches. Yet there's still room enough for electronics and a couple of 8in screens.
Overall, I thought the helm was a highlight. With a fully adjustable sports steering wheel I had no problem making myself comfortable sitting or, as I often like to do, standing while driving. We boarded the test boat at Darling Harbour and idling out of this iconic, busy Sydney waterway on a glorious sunny day.
I couldn't help but feel that this is a nice way to use this boat: idle in for lunch at a dockside café at Cockle Bay or Docklands or take guests sightseeing out on the Harbour or Broadwater, But get the 285 out on an open expanse of water and she's like a speedboat on steroids.
We spent a good couple of hours running the boat up and around at high speed, twisting and turning tightly around our photographer to get the right shots and angles, Along the way I could really see the attraction to this little pocket rocket. With a top speed of more than 36kts, this little number is not only a lot of fun to drive but can get you to your playground fast.
More importantly, you could stay there longer, enjoying more time onboard relaxing with family and friends, knowing that when it's time to head home you can get back in a jiffy.
Of course, should you decide you're having too much fun you can stay out overnight. Below decks is two cabin layout with a large living area and a fully enclosed head with sink, shower and even a small cabinet and mirror in between. (Just watch your showers and toilet flushes with 100lt of water only- ED).
The handy little galley is fitted with an alcohol/electric stove, microwave, sink, fridge/freezer and ample drawers and storage. Directly opposite, to starboard, is a small dinette that comfortably seats four for dinner and converts to sleeping that, while probably a bit squeezy for adults, is certainly okay for a couple of kids.
Forward is a double vee-berth, while aft of the dinette is the mid-cabin with double bed, storage and a portlight for light and ventilation. There's a door for privacy and located behind it is the DC and 240V panel. It's easily accessible adjacent to the cockpit steps.
One of the nice things about this boat - and it's typical of Bayliners - is the amount of room and light below decks. These things are a result of the builder's trademark elongated hull portlights. These come fitted with blinds and there are two additional deck hatches and a couple of portholes.
The 3.02m (that's 9ft11in in old money) beam is among the widest in the class and its forward design, coupled with the fact there are no sidedecks, adds to the spacious feel. It's a win-win because sidedecks aren't really required on a boat this size, as you have easy access to the foredeck via moulded steps up to the walkthrough windscreen.
Wet feet aren't a problem either as the steps and the foredeck are finished with Bayliner's patented slip-safe surface, an aggressive texture that's grippy but still comfortable underfoot. Out on the foredeck, a popular spot on a sportscruiser with the younger set, is a nice, high bowrail, a "quick" winch with foot controls, a spotlight that comes standard, and a couple of cushions that can be snap-locked to the foredeck in case you want to chill out and catch a few rays.
Getting to the business end isn't a problem either, with engineroom access via a hatch in the cockpit that lifts on gas struts - it takes seconds to lift and is easy to climb in and out of. With only a single engine there's plenty of room to get around. There's also a blower and room for the hot-water service, batteries, holding tank and battery charger. The freshwater and the fuel tanks are both located forward of the engine closer to the boat's centre of gravity, which helps with stability.
It's been a while since I've had a close look at a Bayliner sportscruiser, after having owned a 24-footer some years ago, and I think they've come a long way. The reason why they've proved so popular in the entry-level market is the net result of a lot of little things. There are grabrails throughout the cockpit, so no matter where you are there is something within easy reach to hang on to, a kid-friendly layout with no sharp or protruding edges, affordability and a long list of standard inclusions. With this boat it's just a matter of deciding what you like in the way of electronics and everything else comes standard. The Americans call it turnkey. We call smart boating.
* Fitted canvas bimini top w/ boot and camper canvas inc. bimini extension front, side and rear canvas
* Cockpit refrigerator
* Preferred equipment package: Carpet runners, coloured hull sides, helm stereo remote, cockpit table and filler cushions, foredeck cushions and rails, teak floor and transom shower
* Swimplatform extension
* Stainless steel trim upgrade package includes cupholders, grabrails, gunwale moulding, and portlights
* Vacuflush head system
* Electric anchor winch system
* Electric conversion w/ shore power
(Facts & figures)
BAYLINER 285 CRUISER
The 285 Cruiser is a lot of fun to drive. The big 6.2lt V8 coupled to a Bravo II leg with a 2.2-drive ratio sees the boat leap out of the hole. On the plane, she's very easy to handle and almost carlike.
PRICE AS TESTED
$159,990 w/ optional 320hp MerCruiser 6.2lt 377 MAG and Bravo II drive
$156,590 w/ 300hp 5.7lt MerCruiser 350 MAG
MATERIAL: Handlaid fibreglass
LENGTH OVERALL: 8.7m
WEIGHT: 3654kg (dry)
HOLDING TANK: 113lt
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x MerCruiser 377 MAG
TYPE: V8 petrol w/ multipoint electronic fuel injection
RATED HP: 320
GEARBOX RATIO: 2.2:1
The Bayliner 285 Cruiser is proving popular with couples, many with older children looking for something the whole family can enjoy together. With a single engine there's less running and servicing costs, so it won't break the bank. The wide beam and spacious accommodation make it a genuine weekender and the well thought-out cockpit makes it a great entertainer. With this little package, the only problem may be that the kids stick around too long!
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