For a couple wanting to cruise their leisure hours or retirement years away with grace and ease, this boat is perfectly fitted for that role. The raised pilothouse design is a boon for extended cruising and on-board living, its layout working marvellously to separate the living and sleeping quarters.
Within its first weeks of landing in Australia the flagship of the world's largest boat manufacturer did its fair share of passage making in Australian waters, showing itself to be right at home. From being off-loaded at Sydney's Port Botany, the Bayliner 5288 did a coastal hop to the dealership at Berowra Waters Marina. Then it shot up to Sanctuary Cove Boat Show before returning for Sydney Boat Show.
On the trip north to the Gold Coast it encountered some fairly uncomfortable seas but the 52-footer apparently took them in its stride. By comparison, my run from Berowra Waters to Sydney Harbour was a walk in the park. Still, the Bayliner demonstrated just how comfortable and capable it is offshore.
On the early morning run from Berowra Waters into the Hawkesbury River we were confronted by a typical "pea soup" fog. Visibility was down to a boat length and the river is renowned for its shallows, meandering channels, moored boats and early morning fishos - so the radar, and a hint of local knowledge, was a blessing.
Once into the lower reaches of the Hawkesbury, the fog lifted and we enjoyed a pleasant early morning run out into a gentle swell. Clearing Barrenjoey Lighthouse, the sou'easterly headwind was nothing to this motoryacht as it ran smoothly under the command of the autopilot. These conditions are what the Bayliner was created for and at 23 knots the boat was doing things ever so easily.
The southerly began to freshen as we neared famous Manly beach, still nothing to upset our on-board comfort and there was never a hint of spray coming back over the boat. About the only thing I could criticise was the shortage of grab rails in the pilothouse around the helm console. If you want to stand and chat, there is little to hold on to.
The raised pilothouse design is a boon for extended cruising and on-board living, its layout working marvellously to separate the living and sleeping quarters. The link between the saloon and the flybridge deck is excellent. It's only a few steps from the galley and main saloon up to the midship pilothouse, and around eight or so steps to the flybridge. This is just about as direct and as protected as possible; it unites all levels of the boat and doesn't leave the flybridge as an isolated outpost.
Guests can comfortably congregate in the pilothouse, with good wrap-round lounges, and there is excellent access to all areas, including directly out onto the sidedeck walkways via pilothouse doors on both sides. The flybridge deck is vast, extending over about two-thirds of the rear cockpit. A 500kg davit (optional) is mounted to port and there is more than adequate space to store either a medium-sized tender or a couple of PWCs.
The three cabins are comparatively private areas, being accessed via a winding stairway off to the starboard side of the pilothouse. Spacious accommodation is provided for six people. Positioned midships is the owner's stateroom, complete with a queen-sized berth. It looks opulent with its Corian-topped vanity unit, cedar-lined hanging lockers and storage facilities. The ensuite is just as generous, with an enclosed shower/bathtub stall and plenty of room left to towel yourself off.
The saloon is more like a loungeroom with its plush leather lounges and built-in fixtures that enclose the complete audio/visual entertainment console and the wet bar. And kitchens found in chic apartments are no match in terms of space, practicality and finish for the Bayliner's galley. It has a refrigerator/freezer, cook top, oven, microwave and trash compactor.
Despite the weight (21,600kg) inherent in the well-appointed hull, the 52-footer responds almost instantly to the throttle as the twin 450hp Cummins diesels fire into action. Idle speed alone is almost 10 knots! Accordingly the Bayliner is very manoeuvrable in berthing situations, helped by a bow thruster to overcome the superstructure's considerable windage. Bennett electric/hydraulic trim tabs are standard, but these were not needed during any time of our run down the coast. Without the tabs, the hull has an almost ideal trim angle.
For a couple wanting to cruise their leisure hours or retirement years away with grace and ease, this boat is perfectly fitted for that role. At $1.4million or so, the Bayliner is way out of my league. But if money was taken out of the equation then I would very seriously consider it. It has all the comforts, it is very easy going, and surprisingly quick.