Cox Craft Bay Runner Review

Something the Modern Boating team is always glad to see is a good homegrown Aussie product standing toe to toe with the imports and taking them on at their own game. One new boat that is doing just that is the Cox Craft Bay Runner a 5.4m Gold Coast-built bowrider.

We should point out that the Bay Runner in some ways follows a configuration established by boats built overseas. But Cox Craft have adapted an idea and improved on it to produce a top bowrider. What’s also different about the Bay Runner is that she is half a metre shorter than the smallest imported boats that showed Aussies the concept of having a passenger lounge along the portside, behind the windscreen. In place of the usual bowrider layout ‘ a pair of bucket seats for the driver and observer the passenger seated beside the helm in the Bay Runner has a lounge to ‘ well ‘ lounge on.

This is obviously a popular layout, because many imported bowriders configured this way have been sold in this country. But the good news is that Aussie-build Cox Craft have incorporated the design into a smaller 5.4m hull and made it work. In fact, having now seen just how well it works, it’s a fair bet that this design will be picked up by other local boat builders and incorporated into their vessels.

But they’re going to have some catching up to do though, because Cox Craft have raced away to a good lead with the Bay Runner. And one of the reasons for this is the Bay Runner’s hull. Some readers may see something familiar about the Bay Runner’s looks and they’d be right, because this otherwise new boat owes much of its success to the classic Cox Craft Rum Runner hull. The Cox Craft Rum Runner was a cuddy cabin boat that gained a solid reputation among both the open-water fishing and family day out sets.

So it was indeed solid ground on which to build this new layout. What this means to the new Bay Runner is that the hull’s integrity long precedes its latest metamorphous. With an established hull design to build on, Cox Craft were free to devote time and resources in developing the interior. They succeeded in adapting the lounge along the portside arrangement in a bowrider without compromising its proven success, but then they added a trump card ‘ a toilet.

A loo, or head, call it what you like. And yes, the 6m-plus imports also commonly have a toilet incorporated into the windscreen bulkhead on the portside, but it was almost unheard of in a 5.4m hull. Having the space to do this is actually a bonus of the way the lounge arrangement forms the bulkhead where its backrest meets the windscreen. But this takes nothing away from the clever design required to make the same big boat idea work in a 5.4m hull. Naturally, the smaller hull means the toilet is more of an en suite than a luxury bathroom; however, small though it may be, it is there, and it is spacious enough to be practical and private.

Toilet privacy is precious when we are out on the water and it can be mighty hard to find in many of our popular boating spots these days unless the boat you are on, like this one, somehow incorporates a place to escape public view. True, the toilet itself is a portable type, so to complete the privacy a zip up curtain is provided.

Still, we’re happy to agree with Cox Craft that this is all you can fit in a boat of this size. But it makes a heap of sense and will attract plenty of interest in the Bay Runner from potential bowrider buyers. If the cockpit lounge arrangement and head are what attracts interest though, it’ll be the execution of the finer details in this boat that will actually sell her. The Modern Boating team was impressed with the general standard of finish on the Bay Runner and in the amount of plain boating commonsense evident everywhere we looked.

There’s a lot of upholstery in the full height backrests incorporated in both bow and cockpit lounges and it’s all a tribute to the upholsterer’s craft. Bowriders should be social boats and this one sets a standard with that portside lounge and a helm seat that can be turned into the cockpit for conversation ‘- the small talk is up to you.

At the helm, the wood rim wheel is set low in front of the driver and there’s a solid moulded footrest to brace their feet against. The seating position places the driver high and offers a good view around the entire boat and its extremities. The shade canopy, which you may notice was removed to allow light into the boat’s interior in some of our photos, was mounted high enough to enable people to stand beneath it and gave good cover over the helm area.

For parking, the stainless steel Targa bar folds down to help get the boat into an average garage. The Targa bar and bimini top were options fitted to the test boat. So too was a full tonneau cover. A bow tonneau is supplied as standard fitment though. Up in the bow lounge, in-fill cushion between the seats (not in the boat during our photo session) quickly becomes a table if and when needed.

There’s a recessed grab bar set into each of the topsides in the bow just in case rough water, or another boat’s wake, force occupants to look for something to hang on to. Storage is always at a premium in any boat, even in boats only destined for day use as this one is, because it often enough involves a surprising amount of extra gear.

To combat the problem, storage lockers are located under both the bow and cockpit lounge seating and in side pockets along the cockpit walls. There is also a separate compartment in the helm bulkhead. Certain items such as water skis sometimes present a few hassles when they need to be stowed. They always seem to end up lying along the centre of the boat where they get in the way. But not in this case, the locker under that portside lounge extends all the way to the transom and is more than long enough for skis. It would even accommodate longer fishing rods; another of those always hard to stow items.

At the bow was a neat little bowrail that doesn’t spoil the boat’s looks (as bowrails sometimes do) while providing a secure grip to control the boat by after launching, or when pulling her up at a beach. Aft, the hull has the outboard mounted on a pod, which goes almost unnoticed beneath the full width flat section extending across the stern underneath the powerhead. A folding stainless steel boarding ladder was mounted in a recess on the port side. Like the rest of the Bay Runner, the transom area is well designed as an integral part of Bay Runner’s ‘always social’ functions.

In the power department our test Bay Runner ran an old friend, a 130hp V4 two-stroke ‘Saltwater Series’ Yamaha. Some may consider this motor a little out of date compared with the increasingly popular four-strokes and high-tech direct injected two-strokes now available. Still, how well the Bay Runner performed with the traditional 130hp Yamaha was a poignant reminder that motors like this have lost none of what made them so popular for so many years.

The Bay Runner hull is rated up to a maximum of 150hp with 130hp the recommended power by the Cox Craft factory. And we thought the Bay Runner was a top performer as tested, delivering a top speed of more than 38 knots during speed-to-rpm runs. A 150hp would make the Bay Runner quite spirited and the Modern Boating team suggests that only those more serious about their skiing need consider the 150hp option.