Bayliner 305 Review

Issue: September 2003

Imported boats like the Bayliner 305 are a better than ever prospect while the Aussie dollar continues to improve against the greenback, even if Bayliner were always competitively priced anyway. Some imported boats literally sit awkwardly on Aussie water. Boating overseas and boating here are like chalk and cheese. Apart from the west coast of the United States that is, where Aussies from anywhere from the Whitsundays west to Fremantle would feel right at home. And like the US west coast, the Bayliner 305 Sportcruiser is the exception to the rule.

She’s not a boat designed for lengthy stays onboard, or travelling too far from marina facilities, although a couple with two kids will find her an excellent weekender. But on the other hand, day trips with more than just a few friends onboard is not a problem all in luxurious comfort. It’s a package that doesn’t quite make it to 32 old fashioned feet  she’s 31″ 6′ in imperial measure. But the thing about being 31″ 6′ is that the Bayliner 305’s actual length is somewhat irrelevant. Onboard the only time size does matter is when you are maneuvering in the confines of a marina or anchorage.

We’ll leave that line of thought there for the sake of decorum, but in terms of living space, one of the things the Modern Boating team liked most of all about the Bayliner 305 was just how well it uses what space it did have. For a boat its size, the Bayliner 305 has a remarkable amount of living room. Nothing is cramped, not the head and shower, not the bow berth, not the dinette, nor the galley. The layout follows an established formula of upstairs dinette, downstairs saloon/galley, bow berth, head and shower to port as you go downstairs and a supplementary berth aft below the stairs, or more geographically correctly, below the helm.

OK, so there’s nothing too unique there, but it’s the perception the boat creates of being anything but cramped.

Compact yes, cramped, no way. The bow berth is set at an angle across rather than along the boat’s centre line. While it’s not as easy to get the linen straight when doing your housework, this arrangement does allow more space in the galley and dinette. The amount of living space I keep referring to literally starts here. A curtain running in an L-shaped track around the ceiling provides privacy for the bow berth. You do have to step onto the dinette to clamber up into the berth though and that may present some difficulties for the less than limber.

The dinette fills the starboard side of the galley. It is an open C-shape and four adults could certainly dine here without crowding each other and without getting underfoot of whoever is working the galley at the time. It’s worth checking out the photos of the dinette/galley area to see how well the strip windows along each side ‘ which make the boat look sleek from outside ‘ contribute to this open feel I keep going on about below decks. Ambient light in the downstairs living area goes way past adequate into ample. Bright and airy immediately springs to mind.

The galley itself is as compact as the limited amount of space available dictates; however, again, compact bears no relationship to cramped. The 305 also has a good-size sink which goes a long way towards domestic bliss, as does a reasonable food preparation area and how easy it was to clean the glass topped stove as we found after spilling a drink on it. Wardrobe and cupboard space is good, given that the boat is clearly not intended for global circumnavigations, as is the size of the refrigerator and microwave. A genset, or an inverter, to operate 240V appliances onboard are options not fitted to our test boat, which relied on the availability of shore power. As it would to operate the optional reverse-cycle air-conditioning if fitted.

Obviously the availability, and indeed the desirability, of a marina and shore power in any potential owner’s backyard will dictate your choice of options. The head and shower in the Bayliner 305 are another part of essential living space that scored big points from the team. We’ve seen smaller heads in much bigger boats and were also impressed by the practicality of the porthole to vent steam and a shower curtain to keep the worst of the inevitable spray from drenching the ‘loo seat. Hot and cold water are on tap for the shower and vanity sink. A privacy curtain for the second berth under the bridge deck was a surprising omission on the test boat.

This area was perhaps the only place where the boat’s size limitations caught up with it to some extent. It was not that the berth was especially small, but it was the least ‘bright and airy’ space onboard ‘ tucked away under the helm as aft berths in bridge deck boats are ‘ but it did have a sliding window below the upstairs dinette to ventilate it. Upstairs, the Bayliner 305’s layout follows the established norm, and distinguishes itself by how well it does so. On day trips, six adults plus a rug rat or two, would be at ease on this boat and all of them could socialise in comfort at the upstairs dinette. The Targa arch rakes well back over this area.

Full storm covers are optional; we kept the shade bimini fitted to our test boat stowed for the sake of the photo shoot, but when it is in place over the helm seating and saloon entry stairs, it provides considerable shading for the dinette. The dinette also converts to a comfy sunlounge if desired. On the portside is a small sink unit and storage locker, while drink holders seemed to be strategically placed everywhere we looked. Steps are moulded into the dash area for access through the opening centre of the windscreen to the cabin top. And speaking of the dash, the test boat lacked any navigation electronics; however, it did have sufficient space available right under the wheel in a big timber panel apparently meant for their siting.

A high bow rail doesn’t spoil the boat’s lines and adds security for anyone going forward along the sides. Aft there is a big transom door and the moulded transom platform features a folding boarding ladder, which will need habitual checking by the skipper after it’s used, because it’s out of sight and could easily be left down. If this is the worst thing about the boat, it demonstrates that the Bayliner 305 really doesn’t hide any unpleasant surprises at all. It’s a well equipped and finished sports cruiser in every respect and if that means it merely delivers everything you might expect of it, that too is what stands it out among its peers.

When driving the Bayliner 305 it takes a few moments to attune yourself to the lightness and responsiveness of the steering and controls. Having sterndrives ‘ and MerCruiser’s excellent Bravo II legs ‘ and electric/hydraulic trim tabs there is ample trim adjustment. It’s an enjoyable boat to drive with a manner under acceleration more like that of a runabout fitted with a big outboard than a middle-size sportcruiser with twin sterndrives. But that impression is completely blown away once the pair of 300hp 350 Magnum MPI MerCruisers, hiding under the engine room’s gas assisted hatch, pass 4000rpm. About there a testosterone stimulating V8 rumble makes its presence felt. Check the performance table.

This Bayliner/ MerCruiser 350 MPI Magnum combination was cruising at 23 knots pulling 3000rpm. The boat just lopes along anywhere between 3000rpm and four grand, where it will hit 33 knots plus. With a thousand revs left it begins what our American friends who build it would call ‘haulin’ some serious ass’ while those V8’s rumble all the way to 5000rpm where we recorded just over 39 knots. And that our friends who relate to 31′ 6′ will already have realised is over the old fashioned 45mph ‘ yee hah! To park a 305 Bayliner at the marina will set you back $229,990, which represents good value for money for a 30 footer.

Words and Photos by Warren Steptoe