There’s barely a sound as Bayliner’s Greg Wright cranks up the twin 250hp Cummins diesels, before leaving them to warm up at idle. At the cry of “cast off”, I prepare to help fend off as the skipper reverses from the fuel wharf. But instead of engaging reverse and juggling the throttles, there’s a muffled whine as the boat moves sideways, clearing the jetty. The skipper then simply backs away and we’re off – the benefits of this Bayliner’s forward and rear thrusters are instantly obvious.
Twin thrusters may seem an overkill on a 34 footer – they add around $17,000 to the cost of the test boat – but they definitely save the heartache of costly berthing mistakes. Plus, they make even the greenest skipper look like a seasoned sea dog.
The MB test crew have skippered many 14m or bigger boats with a single bow thruster, but this is the first time we’ve handled a boat with both forward and aft thrusters. It was an absolute pleasure and certainly makes manoeuvring around the marina a lot easier.
There are probably a lot more options to be added to many buyers’ wish lists ahead of the dual thrusters, but if you do a lot of boating on your own, these thrusters are a must have. While a single thruster takes a little practice to get used to, the dual thruster installation is easy to master. The way Bayliner has set up the control on the helm station helps enormously. The control is shaped like a boat and you simply twist or slide the mini boat control in the direction you want your vessel to move. We’re always guiding a new boat into its pen and this dual thruster control makes everything a lot more relaxed.
Now we have the close-quarter manoeuvring down pat, let’s have a look at her handling. The 250hp Cummins diesel shaftdrives fitted to the test boat are a popular choice among dealers and boat manufacturers at present. And for this 3488 Bayliner they turn out to be an extremely good match. There is no excess engine power, yet the boat doesn’t struggle either. She maintains a good, low speed planing trim and that speed isn’t washed off in turns or by big swells.
Most of the testing was done offshore because we were shooting for the cover on this issue and we consistently ran at 2800rpm pulling between 20 to 24 knots. Surprisingly there wasn’t the slightest problem with boat handling or trim. Most of the time we were too busy concentrating on the photographer in the helicopter and it wasn’t until we looked back at the gauges that we realised how fast we were going and how well the boat was handling the seas.
Normally if there’s a 3m or more swell, we consider any boat to be a good offshore performer if it can run faster than 20 knots without jarring, thumping, throwing spray over everything or losing speed every time the hull buries itself into a swell. So having spent the day cruising around at more than 20 knots with no major dramas, we can attest to this boat’s handling characteristics. Running with trim tabs set to keep the bow slightly down actually increased water speed by a knot or two.
The 3m swells witnessed during our test are about average when offshore and under these conditions, the Bayliner 3488 Command Bridge ran superbly. She makes for an extremely smooth and pleasant riding boat ideally suited for coastal cruising.
But it’s not only this boat’s performance that impresses. Below decks the sleeping accommodation is provided by two double berth cabins and the lounge in the main saloon that converts to another double berth. The main cabin in the bow features a diagonal berth. It’s not enormous, but this double bed is comfortable all the same.
Tucked away under the saloon floor and optional lower helm station is the second cabin. It’s compact, but there is plenty of dressing room in the full height section at the entrance to the cabin. There isn’t too much headroom above this transverse double berth, so changing the bed linen could be a little difficult. But it does the job and you will sleep comfortably in this cabin.
The bathroom is well set out with a fully enclosed shower unit, a vanity unit with mirror and a top quality marine toilet. The area is large given the lengths that Bayliner has taken to avoid making individual features too large below decks. The designers have concentrated on providing space where it will be put to more active use.
The main saloon has been arranged to create as much space as possible for socialising, entertaining and for general cruising activities. There’s an L-shaped galley on the rear starboard side of the saloon, behind the lower helm station, which means cookie doesn’t get left out of the fun.
On the port side extending from the forward bulkhead back towards the rear of the saloon is a large comfy lounge that doesn’t encroach on cabin space. This lounge also converts into a double bed, increasing the boat’s sleeping capacity to six.
For a 34 footer the boat exudes an immense feeling of space in the main saloon. But by pushing the galley aft and incorporating the entertainment unit as part of the cabinetry, there isn’t the usual amount of galley storage space you may expect to find on locally built 34s. Even so, we feel the storage space is adequate, particularly given the other areas where dry goods, drinks and the other day-to-day wares can be housed.
The rear cockpit is clean and uncluttered with smooth, easy to clean mouldings. Plus there’s a transom door on the starboard side that leads straight out onto the rear swim platform. The cockpit is also sheltered by the extended flybridge decking above which creates a lot of space up there. The flybridge features a well-appointed helm station and a big wrap-around lounge set off to the starboard side. This provides plenty of lounging space without reducing the room to move about.
Priced from $360,000 the Bayliner 3488 has plenty of standard inclusions plus the luxury of forward and aft thrusters. Despite the problems of the Australian dollar against the US Greenback, this import can still hold its ground against locally built craft if you compare apples with apples. It also has the performance to mix it with the big boys in the offshore cruising stakes. For a relatively lightly powered 34 footer, the 3488 is fast, stable, dry and smooth riding. Useful credentials for any boat.
As stated in the feature, the Bayliner 3488 test boat is powered by two relatively modest 250hp Cummins diesels, but she doesn’t lack in the power stakes. During the test, cruising at around 2800rpm proved comfortable and delivered 19 to 20 knot performance. The hull planes easily around 2100 to 2200rpm, or just over 11 knots. In this configuration top speed is 24 knots at 3000rpm and that should be enough to please most cruising boat owners.
Other rpm to speed readings were: 5 knots at1000rpm; 7.5 knots at 1500rpm, 9 knots at 2000rpm; 15.7 knots at 2500rpm; 19.8 knots at 2800rpm and 25.2 knots at 3000rpm. The 3488 is also offered with optional twin 5.7lt MerCruiser 260hp engines and shaftdrives for those preferring petrol motors.
Story by David Toyer, Photos by Ian Macrae