This is a big, powerful, bluewater trailerboat. Of all the Bayliners brought into Australia so far, none has such an immediate and direct application to Aussie ocean and fishing conditions as this.
A twenty three feet long walkaround, available with or without the GRP hardtop, it's as good as anything we're building in Australia at the moment, and in many cases, it's a lot better. For years, Bayliner's Australian push has been hamstrung by the local (opposition) dealers' well rehearsed rebuttal "Ah, those Bayliners are only made for freshwater" and together with some of the silly model choices they've imported from the 'States over the years, Bayliner has never realized its full potential in this country.
But they didn't get to be the biggest boat builder in the world (by a country mile, too) because they were slow to learn about market trends. Over the last few difficult years in the 'States, Bayliner has increasingly split its activities into two distinctly different directions. One direction concentrates on further developing Bayliner's core business: selling amazingly stylish boats to families buying their first boat? While the other direction reveals Bayliner investing in 'serious' boats for experienced boatowners.
Be it spoofy runabouts, big cruisers or dedicated fishing boats, Bayliner's awesome '92 model line-up will be viewed with deepening concern by an even wider group of boat builders around the world, as this vast, Brunswick owned conglomerate demonstrates it's more than capable of matching it with the best the U.S. has to offer. Now, finally, the local Bayliner guys too, are starting to appreciate that the biggest market of all in this country is the family trailerboat fisherman. At long last, we are starting to see some of the really good stuff this international boatbuilder is capable of producing, imported to our shores.
Okay, so what makes this rig so special ? Well, come along and join the writer as we put the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround through its paces at Port Stephens, NSW, following the region's first ever ? and very successful ? Boat Show in the grounds of D'Albora's beautiful Nelson Bay Marina.
Number one, overwhelming impression concerned its size and the depth of the vee (or deadrise) at the transom. Crikey, this Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround has the most deeply veed hull I've seen since I last drooled over a good Formula 233 ! And although the Trophy's patented 'Sequential Lift' hull doesn't have the Formula's 'rocker' in its chine lines, it is a singularly impressive bit of gear. Have another look at the out-of-water shots, and check out the deep forefoot angle, and the transom deadrise. Add in the Trophy's 82" waterline beam, plus a hull weight giving 1.5 tonnes a good nudge, and you have a recipe for a dream ride across Moreton and Port Phillip Bay's infamous rattle yer bones chop.
And so it proved out on Port Stephens' inner bay, when a stiff 20 knot Nor'easter blew in hard over the runout tide, lifting up a bastard 60 cm (2') chop in the bay, and a big 1.52 m (5') wave lift over the bar at the entrance. But hold up, we're getting ahead of ourselves ? Let's look at some of the other features before we take the Trophy offshore for a run in the briny . . .
The next best thing about the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround is that it's finished. No kidding. Like the only comparable, fully fitted Aussie GRP walkaround, the excellent but much smaller Cruisecraft 580 Outsider, the Bayliner Trophy comes fully fitted. Basically, you can just add. The fishing tackle box, fishing outfits, bait, lunch? & go fishing. The Trophy series comes standard with an impressive list of fishing features and fittings, check this lot out:
• Self bailing cockpit.
• Insulated baitwells with drains.
• Three drawer tackle stowage.
• Two large fish boxes, fully plumbed with overboard drains.
• Good size, aerated live bait tank.
• Four deck mounted rod holders.
• Horizontal rod storage.
• Wide, flush deck coaming but it is just as impressive in the general fitting-out area.
• The specification includes:
• GRP Hardtop
• Standard trim tabs
• Long range keel fuel tank ? try 140 gallons (530 litres !)
• AM/FM cassette radio and speakers
• Flush mounted compass
• Stainless steel steering wheel
• Electric windscreen wiper
• Tempered, safety glass windshield
• Two electric bilge pumps with auto float switches
• Nav lights
• Galley with icebox and fresh water sink
Putting the tape measure to use, we learned the Trophy measures 6.88 m (227") down the centreline, has a maximum beam of 2.59 m (8'6") a draft of 43.1 cm (1'5") and a bridge clearance on canal estates, etc, of 1.92 m (6'4"). Especially in Australia, where the boat will be operating out of some notoriously difficult barred inlets of the Narooma, Ballina, or Tweed kind. If you do get unlucky, and have to 'wear' a big wave over the top? It's far better to let all that green stuff surge clean through the back of the boat without stopping than have it hang around in what can easily become an overgrown swimming pool in the back of your boat.
'Perish the thought' is right? But it can and does happen too often, and the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround 's outboard well arrangement is thus a very responsible design decision I suspect several big local manufacturers will tend to emulate as they develop their own walk-around models. 'No names no pack drill' but several top local designers have only held back in this area because of their genuine concern that what might be a fairly innocuous capping of a wave (say, the top 300 mm or so) going out through a bar in a cuddy cab, could well prove a disaster in a walk-around. If the walk-around 'trenches' up front and down the sides of the boat pick up and carry that water back into the rear cockpit, the whole exercise is suddenly fraught with real, imminent danger.
And this from a wave a conventional Cuddy has merely shrugged off, and one most fisho's would consider all in a day's work going out to the fishing grounds. Anyway, more power to Bayliner for their initiative in dealing with a problem that exists in many parts of the world, not least of which is their own Oregon coast, an area with waters and barred inlets very similar to our own.
The Creature Comforts
Okay, as everyone who knows the writer is aware, being a caffeine addict means that any manufacturer who submits a boat with coffee making facilities is going to get a better wrap than one without. And this Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround scores heavily in this area, let me tell you! But why should an offshore fishing trip be some sort of machiavellian tria? Surely it's not unreasonable to expect a twenty three footer to have a toilet; somewhere for a bit of shut-eye during the middle of the day (read: the boring bits I) much less somewhere to prepare a simple, albeit fresh lunch with hands that have had all the pilly blood and gunk washed clean ?
Below decks here, we have two full size Vee berths surrounding a nifty centre table that pulls out, slips in and with a cushion on top, makes up into a roomy, queen size double berth. As well though, the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround people have incorporated a third, man-sized quarter berth (as the yachties call them) running back under the passenger's seat. This is the best berth of the lot, being genuinely comfortable, lower, and a regular shape.
The sink unit comprises a stainless steel sink, icebox and cupboards, but as quick as a flash, I'd replace the icebox with a 12 Volt 'fridge (wired through the ignition so it can only run when the engines are going) and drop in a small spirit or CNG stove to heat up the proverbial kettle, can of soup or that ultimate in offshore gourmet fare: the toasted Sanger!
Here, Bayliner has created a boat that is just about fully found. There's very little money or experience needed to hop aboard and go boating and sportfishing from day one. It will not have all the toys a purist needs, but it was not designed for him. But it does have everything the weekend fisherman wants, and them some. It's well put together, exceeds U.S. Coastguard standards, meets the tough U.S. BIA Small Boats Code and far exceeds any of our local manufacturer's. Build standards in the specific safety areas such as standard bilge pumps, wiring looms, etc. Significantly, it carries a full five year hull warranty, so they are not kidding about its structural integrity.
Bottom fishing enthusiasts will like the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround a lot. More than any other group, they get to take advantage of the Walkaround especially as there is a nice comfy seat upfront, and plenty of leg room, too. In a sportfishing sense, the cockpit is very good; there's plenty of room, a self draining deck, smooth moldings (to make it easy to wash down the action centre in minutes), excellent under floor fish boxes, a good live bait In the water, it's a pretty good looking rig. I liked the powerful lines, the no-nonsense GRP workboat look about the craft, and you have to admire the 2.0 m long x 2.3 m wide self-draining, non-skid cockpit. Here, the designers have made no bones about it this is a fishing boat first, and an overnight cruiser second.
The GRP hardtop is a mixed blessing. Obviously, it provides needed protection against the sun's midday harshness, bad weather, etc, and lends itself to one of the few things the Trophy doesn't have a rod rack across the trailing edge of the hardtop. The height is nigh-on perfect for this purpose. Against the GRP hardtop are just two disadvantages the engine noise level which gets 'trapped' in the cabin area and the simple fact that at sea, in rough conditions, what goes up . . . hits head on hardtop!
The noise factor is not a big deal and probably no more than if a canopy and sidescreens had been used. These are a regular option, by the way, the soft top version of this rig retailing here for some $2,000 less than the hardtop. As far as the hardtop's head-bump situation is concerned, I'm damned if I could decide one way or the other. The advantages of the hardtop outweigh the disadvantages by 5:1, and in everything other than rough water, it's a no-contest. But if you prefer to stand up and drive at sea, I think the hardtop model would probably prove frustrating, even though the view from the helmsman's seat is superb, in rough or smooth water. No, there's no need to stand it all comes back to personal preference I think, and also, getting used to the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround.
As Number Two son Jody pointed out during the test after we'd gone through the bar "What's the big deal, Dad? Surely the next time you come off a wave like that, you'll duck your head I and if you don't? Its only a matter of time before you'll get the message ..." He's got a point of course, but I'm still undecided. Writing about Jody's comments reminds me to highlight another feature he wasn't too happy about. For readers unaware of the family background, 20-year-old Jody has, for the best part of ten years or more, been an integral part of our fishing team, and in particular, responsible for gaffing or tagging, if he's not on the fish himself. He's super conscious about a boat's freeboard, safety rails, grip for feet, having had to hang on grimly to a few large and sometimes very 'green' fish doing their darndest to pull him overboard!
He was not impressed by the cut-away transom arrangement around the brace of Force 120's on the transom. As you can see in the pics, there is no false transom Australians are used to in front of the outboards the outboard 'well' is all but non-existent. In its place is a 125 mm ledge designed to prevent slop coming over the stern backing down (it works well, too) but clearly designed to encourage green water in the cockpit to be quickly reduced to manageable proportions for the self-draining scuppers to handle.
Jody's point that the lack of any internal GRP wall could be dangerous for the crew is indisputably true? But equally, it's very easily fixed with a gutsy 50 mm stainless steel pipe across the front of the well. I'd not only do that from the outset, but I'd also utilize the rail to build in a teflon bait tray, cum cutting board and workbench over the pipe at the same time. But I wouldn't fill in the well, in fact, from a seamanship point of view, and having made the above mods, I agree with the designer's view that an open well in a big offshore rig like this is an excellent safety aid.
Well and rod stowage it adds up to a fine start and an excellent basic platform for the most discerning fisho. The Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround needs a few things to make it fully equipped and competitive. A rocket launcher overhead (across the hardtop, probably), some extra rod holders, outriggers (the new Reelax gunwale mount system would be perfect) and a fishing chair would complete the picture. The walkaround trench is easily wide enough to take an angler more worried about fighting his fish than where his feet are going ? and the side coamings are low enough some would say too low to use stand-up tackle without fouling the coamings on the down-stroke. All-up, it's a very exciting addition to the Australian sportfishing fleet.
On Water Performance
As you'd expect from the biggest boat manufacturer in the world, this is an extremely good boat, both inshore and offshore. It is one of the softest riding trailerboats I've ever tested, and at the same time, unusually, one of the most stable. As noted elsewhere in this report, that's due to a combination of beam width, hull deadrise, shape, strake design, forefoot entry angles a whole matrix of factors. Having twin Force 120s, the test rig should have been able to use their inherent trimming ability, but unfortunately, the gremlins had got to the Force trim system, and they steadfastly refused to work. Fortunately, the motors' tilt was okay, so were able to set the motors at a good angle for normal work, and carried on with the test, just giving the performance runs a miss due to this lack of trim and increasingly poor weather in Port Stephens.
Mind you, the poor weather was a blessing in some ways, as we were able to give the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround a much harder work-out than normal. The score-card is impressive. Ride in choppy water is superb. Offshore in the very lumpy bluewater off Yacaaba Headland and out to the Lighthouse through the confused waters in the middle ground, the ride was dry, stable and soft. The Trophy has a beautiful attack angle in heavy water stuff; you can cock it up to sit on its haunches and break the waves using its very deep forefoot and underbody vee. Running at around 12-14 knots, we methodically punched our way through the lumpy, short 1.8 m waves, and as we moved out of the confused stuff in the entrance and started work in the ocean proper, increased speed to a very handsome 16-18 knots. We still had to pull back to neutral for the occasional wall; punching it up first for lift, then buttoning right off for the follow-over.
Coming about was easy; she's a very stable rig, and with the twin Forces, wasn't ever short of grunt. For a while, I just ran beam-to at trolling speeds varying between 7 and 12 knots without fuss. There's the predictable snap-roll sometimes on the short vertical stuff, but we were in conditions very close to the 'Forget The Fishing, Go Home' stage, and if you had to run beam-to, then it was up to the skipper to give her a few points on the bow as a vertical wall came in. This always induces an awkward twist and roll movement after the wave has passed through, but it's still safer and more comfortable for the crew, than to lay on her beam ends.
Head in to the sea, the Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround was excellent, no, better than that, superb. At trolling speeds, she proved once again that a good mono makes a 'cat look silly into a head^ sea, and as mentioned, the running angle into the sea at higher speeds is first rate. Downhill, the Trophy is outstanding. That big, wide beam, combined with the boat's beautiful balance ensures she's a classic downhill flyer. Tracks straight as a die, too, and is extremely forgiving (and very predictable) if the skipper has to run skew-if (or deep three quarter downhill) for any distance.
For any trailerboat, this is the most dangerous point of running. The boat is travelling over and down the waves, with the sea pushing up under its bum, rolling it over and down the wave onto the shoulders of the boat, pushing it down into the trough. Standard practice is to avoid this situation as if your life depends on it; it often does. But sometimes, you've just got to sit and wear it as you make landfall, come about for the entrance leads, move to miss a suddenly exposed fish trap. Whatever.
Try and be in a Bayliner Trophy 2302 Walkaround next time it happens. The boat is getting to the size where it's physically big enough, and powerful enough, to handle these situations with ease. The hull is so predictable and responsive, you can pull it off the face of a wave, give it some stick, and straighten it up at the bottom of the trough powering back up the next wave in whatever direction you choose.
Back in the relatively calm waters of Nelson Bay, we just put the tabs down, dropped the nose, and sliced across the chop in a manner best likened to the ride of a good 'cat. Dead set, Brisbanites and Melbournians will think their dreams have all come true in this boat I Otherwise, all the inshore tests were predictably passed with flying colors. Oh, one small criticism for a twin engine rig, the Trophy steers backwards like a dog, as the engines aren't counter-rotating. And because they are positioned so closely together, you don't get the full benefit of twin engine responsiveness for close quarter manouvering.
I guess you can't win them all! On The Trailer Well, it's a big mother, and more to the point, it's technically illegal to trail without a permit, having a 2.59 m (8'6") beam. Dry, the boat weighs in at a listed 1415 kg with a single engine and no fuel in that huge, 530 liter tank. Given the necessarily solid tandem axle trailer, the second engine, fishing gear, and (say) half a tank of fuel, it will tip the scales at around 2.5 tonnes in highway trim. On the good news side, being a deep-vee mono, a tandem trailer using Al-Ko axles (for their low profile) will keep the rig profile low and manageable, so she'll tuck in nicely behind a big Ford F-150, let alone any of the more specialised tow vehicles around these days. Trailer upkeep will be higher than some, because it is a drive on-drive off rig, and the wheel bearings are being continually 'drowned'. Against that though, is the ease with which it is launched and retrieved. Big boats like this are usually easier to handle than rigs half the size.
This is a real winner for Bayliner's efforts down-under. If they don't get good sales with this rig, it will not be due to anything about the boat. At a quoted $60,000 as tested, it is competitively priced, and you simply can't get better all-round offshore performance in a mono-hull at this point in time. For my vote, I'd love to see one of these rigs with the new Mercruiser 230 hp diesel sterndrive aboard, the hardtop raised maybe an ouch or two ? but I'd not be backward in accepting one of these rigs as it stands, right now. And yes, I have to admit, I'd stay with the GRP hardtop too. There are just too many advantages in its favor.
Recent Boat Test
Check the recent boat test reportView more