By: David Lockwood, Photography by: John Ford, Coastcolour

The Bayliner 212 Cuddy adds a touch of local flavour to the American family boat.

I reckon the FBI have moles posted Down Under and the CIA is covertly casing the waterfront. How else can you explain the local flavour of American boatbuilding giant Bayliner’s latest 212? It’s a cuddy cabin family boat that’s not only completely redesigned for 2006, and that ushers in a whole new styling line, but which is as tempting as a sizzling banger at a backyard summer barbie.
Whereas American boats to go are usually short on details like anchor wells and storage lockers, where canopies are often afterthoughts, and transom showers are options, this boat has them all. What’s more, it teams an Australian-sized cockpit for cruising and catering with a cabin in which you can crash or toss the kids when their lids are getting heavy.
Despite being freshly styled, the new 212 doesn’t bend to fashion at the expensive of practicality. Instead of sleek lines you get a high-sided and deep cockpit that will be welcomed by the safety-conscious family boater. Similarly, the high cabin means you get seated headroom inside. With a cabin door incorporating steps, and an opening Taylor Made safety-glass windscreen, this is a very safe boat to clamber across the bow and drop the anchor.
The seaworthiness of a cuddy cabin makes this a capable fishing boat. Yet a ski hook lets you tow the tykes, and you could sleep in the cabin, where there’s a loo to woo the ladies for those long hot lunches aboard. The boat’s application is really only limited by your imagination. Consider the 212 Cuddy a combo meal with a bit of everything to satisfy the whole family’s palates.

Bayliner has always believed in ’glassed-in marine-ply floors. The 212 breaks with this tradition, using a GRP floor liner that, as far as I know, is a first for Bayliner. Clip-in carpet is included, so you can have your comfy cruiser and easy-clean fish boat. What’s more, the cockpit is self-draining.
A self-draining cockpit in a small Bayliner is a real departure from the norm. As such, you can leave this boat in the water without have to worry about torrential downpours sinking your boat. And this makes the 212 much safer offshore. The scuppers are outboard and only the occasional sounds of water pushing them closed reminds you of their presence.
Another great new feature is the canopy. A must-have on a boat bound for an Australian summer, the canopy was a unique sliding number that hinged back into a storage pocket behind the rear lounge. This way, the boat had a clear space over its cockpit for casting lines and when stowed you didn’t have to worry about the canopy wobbling in the wind as you touch 50mph top speed. Demounted, it also reduced this boat’s garaging room.
But wait, there’s more. The 212’s new extended swim platform makes for a truly summer-savvy boat. Upon the ledge created by this platform you might don the skis, sit and watch the world drift by, encourage little Johnny practice his swimming, or feed the ducks that frequent anchorages for a handout.
Also playing into the hands of the outdoor set is the freshwater shower and a sink in which you can rinse the picnic plates. And all of this was standard in the 212 imported here. A surprisingly parochial package, indeed.

For stiffness, Bayliners such as the 212 Cuddy have box beam stringers on their unitised handlaid GRP hulls and glassed-in bulkheads. There’s a limited lifetime structural warranty and a transferable five-year structural deck warranty. There is also a lifetime guarantee against rot in the hull, deck and upholstery.
The fully-moulded liner brings a more integrated feel to the interior, with a few more bumps and curves than we’re accustomed to on Bayliners. The aggressive non-skid pattern found under the cockpit carpet extends to the foredeck and gunwales and, cleverly, across the engine box, which includes a moulded step so you don’t have to tread on the upholstery between swims. Wherever I found it, the non-skid felt grippy underfoot.
Deck gear is through-bolted including a low-slung but handy bowrail, a bowsprit and ski hook. However, I’m not sure how to go about fitting rodholders due to the design of the gunwales, which have pinched coamings that help conceal the canopy when it’s folded away. But where there’s a will there’s a way.

A lot of real estate for your buck, the 212 Cuddy is imported in the standard local layout with back-to-back seats and aft-quarter seats. This boat really can carry six adults. There is the option of a sports-type layout with full-length rear lounge and pedestal seats but it won’t be so great for lounging.
As usual, the back-to-back seats fold out to form sun lounges or day beds, either completely flat or with their headrests cocked up for support. I tried the seats in upright and supine positions and found them to be as comfortable as any back-to-backer. Canopy up, they would be pleasantly removed from the midday sun.
When not scampering through the boat in your swimwear you can clip a cushion over the engine box to create an additional aft seat. Additional lounging space is made by relocating the aft-quarter seat swabs to the mounting points beside the padded engine box. Add the cabin vee-berth with infill and you can play lounge lizard at three separate indoor and outdoor venues.
Storage exists under all the boat’s seats and in long cockpit sidepockets that were big enough for paddles or holding two-piece fishing rods. Drinkholders and grab handles were thoughtfully positioned where you need them, while the underfloor lined storage locker could double as an icebox.
The moulded sink with pullout handheld shower nozzle ahead of the co-pilot lets you rinse the lunch plates overboard. The deep footwell in the cabin is the obvious place to keep the carry-on cooler packed with lunch. I’d buy one that fits under the infill so you can have your bed and grub, too.
But before we go there, into the wilds of the cabin, a last word on the cockpit: despite all the seating it’s got plenty of floor space. The narrow gunwales allow the internal beam to be taken right to the hull sides and, with high freeboard, it feels very much like you ride in not on the 212 Cuddy.

I was pleasantly surprised to find seated headroom in the lock-up cuddy cabin that isn’t at all out of proportion like you find on some bloated trailerable cabin boats. Starboard, a kind of plastic, is used for the infill upon which you place the removable backrest cushions. A couple could sleep over, or it could be a good place to plonk the kids and/or carry-on gear.
I sat and noted a 12V outlet, lighting, CO detector, a vinyl clip-on cover over the dash wiring, and two additional speakers linked to the sound system, which would be nice and loud in here. There was a small amount of storage under the bunks and an escape hatch for fresh air.
But the pee de resistance was the concealed pullout chemical loo. I tried it on for size and liked the fact you could still close the cabin door. Privacy to boot.
The boat’s other housing, its engine bay, was no less accommodating of the 260hp 5.0lt V8 petrol MerCruiser. The bilge won’t be so easy to reach, but the primary pre-departure items were at hand, along with the 38lt water tank in the starboard corner and the modest 132lt polypropylene fuel tank at the foot of the engine bay, which had an accessible sender.

Despite the back-to-back helm seats the skipper’s, at least, had a fore-and-aft slide and I found the helm position comfortable. The matt-grey low-glare dash with brushed-metal look inserts contained a full spread of engine gauges and scope to fit the optional (in my view, must-have) digital depth sounder.
The boat was fitted with a four-speaker marine stereo and CD player and a switch panel for lights, blower and accessories. A 12V outlet was supplied and the wheel was a tilt number linked to power-assisted tilt steering.
Maybe I’m feeling cantankerous, but in this day and age I’d like to see MerCruiser develop a more sophisticated throttle than that which it fits to its small inboard petrol motors. No matter how hard I tried, the motor clunked into gear. This was no fault of Bayliner, but a function of tired technology from Mercury.
In all other respects this was a pleasant family cruiser, coming onto the plane at 2000rpm and 8.3kt, which is a sure sign of an efficient hull. The hull carries 19 degree of deadrise aft, making it a moderate-vee design that, with a 2.49m beam, offers a good compromise between straight-line ride comfort and stability at rest.
I’m guessing the 212 will split its time pretty evenly between both applications, with a little trolling and towing of tykes thrown in for good measure. Tube towing speed was clocked at 12.4kt at 2300rpm, low cruise was 17kt at 2400rpm and ski speed came in at 31kt at 3600rpm.
Comfortable family cruising was recorded at 3000rpm and 27kt with the boat settling comfortably at 3200rpm. Top speed of 44kt at 5000rpm felt flighty and, even with full leg-in trim, the boat was prone to porpoising into and before a moderate midday chop.
It wasn’t wet, however, and at the more sensible cruise speeds running noise wasn’t piercing. In short, no surprises on the performance front. Not so with the fitout.
While American boatbuilders usually thrust bowriders down our necks, this cabin cruiser arrived on a sunny summer’s day as a welcome surprise. It has been warmly welcomed by young families, I’m told, apparently rating as one of the importer’s best sellers.
But this boat’s popularity isn’t surprising, considering how well it caters for the Australian way of boating life. It’s as though someone’s read the wish-list, or they’re spying on us from afar, vicariously enjoying a summer of boating Down Under.

High-volume, safe family boat
Low maintenance full liner and self-bailing cockpit
Comfy cabin with seated headroom and loo
Great extras included in Aussie package
Unique canopy storage system
Terrific access to foredeck
Good anchoring setup
Stable and surefooted at rest and at cruise speeds

Upholstery could be improved
Difficult to fit rodholders on narrow gunwales
Big volume boat on its trailer
Moderate fuel capacity
Tricky bilge access


Specifications: Bayliner 212 Cuddy

Price as tested: $63,890 w/ 5.0L MerCruiser and Avante package
Options fitted: Avante package includes freshwater, sink and shower, portapotti, extended swim platform and more
Priced from: $63,890

Material: GRP or fibreglass
Type: Moderate-vee planing hull
Length Overall: 6.22m plus swim platform
Beam: 2.49m
Deadrise: 19.3°
Weight: Around 1220kg (dry)
Towing weight: About 1800kg

Fuel: 132.6lt
Water: 38lt
Berths: Two

Make/Model: MerCruiser 5.0lt
Type: V8 petrol four-stroke inboard
Rated hp: 260 at 5000rpm max
Displacement: 5.0lt
Weight: About 430kg
Gearboxes (Make/ratio): Alpha One sterndrive
Props: 21in alloy

Avante Marine,
Silverwater, NSW.
Phone: (02) 9737 0727

Bayliner Australia,
Berowra Waters, NSW
Phone: (02) 9456 3200

Originally published in TrailerBoat #200, 2006


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