There is such a huge range of boats on the market today, and most come with every bell, whistle, kitchen sink and other option you could possibly imagine. The fact is, though, that not all those bells and whistles are needed to have a great time out on the water with family and friends, and it can actually be rather delightful to go boating without them.
Part of the fun of boating is simply getting out and enjoying the wonders of nature in their purest form, such as listening to the sounds of water and wind, stopping in a quiet bay and hearing the calls of birds and the gentle lapping of waves against the hull, or dangling a line and almost hoping a fish doesn’t take the bait so you can relax a bit longer without the need to actually do anything. Alternatively, there’s spearing across the water on a ski or wakeboard, or executing that vital maintenance with a full-throttle run that both clears the cobwebs from your mind and cleans the plugs in the engine!
Well, this Bayliner 160 Bowrider is just the boat for getting back to those boating basics.
It makes an excellent first boat and is equally appropriate for those downsizing to a craft that is very easy to handle and maintain, and all with a modest price tag (just $30,390 ready to go).
It’s not the first time I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the level of enjoyment, and respect, that I’ve found when testing a ‘basic’ bowrider. The 160 was a ball to drive and highly responsive to throttle, steering and trim, so that it also delivered a very rewarding and satisfying drive.
The helm position is not quite perfect, though, as the wheel is offset slightly from the seat. That’s not so unusual in some boats – and cars, too – and it’s the sort of thing you notice when you first get behind the wheel. But then, a few minutes later, you’ve forgotten all about it as you quickly adapt to the layout.
The helm seat on the 160 is not adjustable, but it is comfortable and offers good support (well, it did for me, anyway). It was in just the right spot, with a nice reach to the wheel and with the foot brace on the floor the perfect distance away for my feet.
The windscreen carries a very smooth curve and looks neat because the frame sweeps all the way around and back down to the cockpit coaming, without any break or separate side section. It provides good protection from the breeze and offers clear vision all around.
The dash panel is quite straightforward, with two big dials, but all the key information is there, with fuel level and voltage read-outs in smaller gauges below a speedo in the left bezel and a tacho in the right gauge housing. A trim gauge would have been nice, but with outboard power it’s easy to see where the power head is tilted and anyway, with a hull as responsive as this, and one that provides such a high level of feedback, you can easily achieve the right trim by feel.
Switches for the anchor, navigation lights and bilge pump are clearly set out on the dash, with a row of indicator lights down the centre. There’s a horn switch, too, to the left of the wheel near the ignition key. The throttle and shift lever is in the standard position on the cockpit side panel and is easily accessible..
The steering was light and precise, as was the throttle linkage, and those factors, in partnership with a well-chosen pairing of hull and engine, were the key to the 160’s pleasing performance.
On the back was mounted a Mercury 90hp Optimax outboard that I’d say is about the right match for the hull. The Bayliner is listed with standard power of a 60hp four-stroke outboard and that would be entirely satisfactory, too, but the additional 30hp sure made the 160 feel good, and the Optimax two-stroke is quiet, smooth and economical.
From rest, the Merc could either slip the 160 on plane or boost it out of the hole with a fair surge of power. Either way, the hull held a good angle, with minimal bow rise, and rapidly adopted a perfect running posture. It was best, as usual, to trim the outboard right in for initial take-off, but the boat was not overly sensitive to the trim setting. It responded quickly and once up and running, just a touch on the trim button brought a clear and clean reaction from the hull. Skippers who enjoy playing with trim will love it, but ‘set and forget’ skippers can also enjoy themselves without having to make constant adjustments.
The 160 answered swiftly to throttle and wheel, as well. With encouraging mid-range acceleration, turns were swift and sure, whether gently sweeping or extra tight – just make sure everyone is secure in their seat!
The prop kept a firm grip on the water at all times, and the underwater surfaces of the hull functioned as they should to keep the 160 feeling stable, with no untoward skipping or jumping around.
We were comfortably on plane at 2800rpm and that showed 30km/h on the GPS. Mid-range cruising was pleasant anywhere from 3500rpm and 41km/h, through to 4500rpm and 55km/h. The top speed we saw was at 5200rpm, for a rewarding 69km/h. The Optimax 90 was smooth through the rev range, and quiet, too.
This is a ‘smile on the dial’ sort of boat for any skipper; it feels so good and reacts so beautifully that it’d be a pleasure to take it out just for the driving enjoyment, let alone for cruising, fishing or social watersports. It’s the sort of boat in which you’d cruise the morning away, then drop off the crew at a beach to get the picnic ready while you took it for a quick spear around the bay by yourself, just for the sheer fun of it.
The underside of the hull is quite basic in design, with a single strake either side of the keel. Up front, the keel flairs out from a sharp entry down low to be quite rounded at the top of the stem, and that flair carries around into the topsides for the good forward buoyancy needed in a bowrider that can carry extra weight up front. The chines, too, are quite narrow near the bow, but gradually widen toward the back of the boat for extra grip in turns and an easier transition from rest to planing. The design might be straightforward, but it works perfectly and the 160 is as good a handling boat as you’ll find in a bowrider of this size.
Matching the skipper’s seat is an identical one to port for the first mate, and a rear lounge accommodates three crew members. The aft lounge lifts out and has some storage areas below and behind, plus there’s access to the aft bilges and the battery.
Up front is a generously proportioned (for a 4.93m boat) bowrider cockpit that can accommodate a couple of adults or maybe three youngsters. Seat cushions either side lift out for storage below, and the backrests lift off for easy cleaning. A centre section between the fronts of the seats has a non-slip surface for boarding over the bow, whilst on the mini foredeck there is a cleat and combined port/star board navigation light.
A central section of the screen hinges to port to allow access into the main cockpit, which has plenty of floor space to move around. There are no sidepockets as such, but longer items like paddles and skis could still be laid down out of the way. As well, small cleats are mounted on the side of the cockpit under the gunwale coaming so you could clip netting in place for extra stowage, and there’s a convenient recess in the screen console in front of the passenger seat for holding sunscreen, keys, mobile phones and similar bits and pieces.
All the seating features quality upholstery and is comfortable, whilst the rest of the interior trim is attractive and well executed, and should be long wearing. Drink holders and grab handles are prevalent throughout the 160. The transom has boarding platforms either side of the outboard, with a drop-down swim ladder to starboard and cleats on the aft side decks.
As tested, the 160 came fitted with a ski pole, canvas bimini top and bow cover, safety equipment and registration, and a galvanised trailer with disc brakes for a ready-to-run price of $31,390. That’s an excellent investment for a boat that will give years of fun and entertainment, while being easy to handle and maintain.
SPECIFICATIONS: BAYLINER 160
Overall length: 5.4m (rigged)
Length incl trailer: 5.69m
Draft (max): 0.79m
Weight incl trailer: 772kg
Deadrise: 16 degrees
Capacity: 5 people
Fuel: 64.4lt (usable) capacity
Power as tested: Mercury 90hp Optimax
Price as tested: $31,390 (incl trailer)
2800 30.1(comfortably on plane)
5200 68.9 (wide open throttle)
For more information contact Bayliner, tel 1800 802 444 or visit: global.bayliner.com.