Boat Test: Bayliner 265 Trailerable Cruisers

When it comes to trailerable cruisers, Bayliner has been one of the more innovative companies, and the thoughtful features and layout of its new 265 show that this model is no exception. Equally impressive is its performance. It wasn’t long ago that a 27-footer would labor with a 5.7L small block. This hull runs nicely with a 5.0L engine.

We caught up with Bayliner’s latest on the Tennessee River in Knoxville. But, unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating. Finally, we got a break in the clouds, and the rain quite long enough for us to gather our data and spend some time enjoying the boat.

The physical size of this mid-berth cruiser is impressive. To maximize cabin area, most of the flare of the forward V is below the chine. In addition, the 265 carries the full width of its 81/2-foot beam well forward. Further enhancing the sense of size is a wide, flat foredeck that isn’t broken by the customary walkway around the gunwale.

FORWARD THINKING

Upfront, our test boat was fitted with an anchor roller, an optional windlass and a good-size locker for the anchor and rode. The gently sloping deck has a nonskid surface and, thanks to a tall bow rail, offers one of the industry’s better foredeck arrangements for handling lines and anchor duties. Access is through the walkthrough windshield that is reached via molded steps in the cabin door — or through the deck hatch if conditions are rough. The windshield itself is a wraparound model and is sturdily braced.

You enter the cabin via a three-step ladder, and if you lift the lid of the upper step, you’ll find a large wastebasket. Lifting the lower step provides access to the boat’s plumbing and pump systems. The galley unit on the port side includes a pull-out drawer, icebox and under-sink storage. A single-burner alcohol stove is fitted with an electric element if the shore power option is ordered. On the starboard side, the fully molded head compartment provides space for a portable toilet or an optional marine head with pump-out. It also features a hot-water system for the sink and shower.

A small counter to starboard offers additional room for galley duties and is augmented by space above for an optional microwave oven and a hanging locker below. Aft of the galley is the entrance to the mid-cabin berth. Closed off by a privacy curtain, it features a double-size berth and opening porthole.

The dinette table is supported on two posts. It doesn’t wobble. Bayliner designed the 265’s seatback cushions in such a manner that when the table is used to form a berth, the cushions serve as filler pads. This eliminates the need to store separate and bulky filler cushions while enhancing the appearance of the dinette/V-berth.

Although you may not notice it right away, on closer examination you’ll see that Bayliner didn’t add a package tray around the edge of the dinette area. This handy storage will be missed — but eliminating it increases the feeling of roominess in the cabin by allowing a wider berth. More than 6 feet of headroom also helps in this regard.

Under the V-berth cushions are gel coated lockers — and, in fact, our boat’s optional air-conditioning system with reverse-cycle heat was hidden inside the starboard compartment. The berth supports are bonded to the stringer system to form a unitized structure that lends additional strength and support to Bayliner’s 27-foot hull.

Bayliner 265 Trailerable Cruisers
VIEW FROM THE HELM

The fiberglass helm has faux wood trim behind the instruments and lower electrical panel. Tilt steering is standard, and a complete set of gauges includes a digital depth meter along with a direct-reading Danforth compass. A bit on the small side, the compass is mounted off-center and is not in the skipper’s direct line of sight. If the boat is used primarily on inland lakes, a larger compass is probably not necessary, and if navigating longer distances, a boat of this size will probably be equipped with electronic nav gear. This somewhat negates the inconvenience of the compass’ current location.

And if you’re into electronics, you’ll find space under the instrument panel for flush-mounted radio gear and LCD instruments.

The Bayliner 265’s cockpit is designed for serious entertaining. While docked or at anchor, the captain’s chair swivels to face the cockpit, and the portside lounge has a convertible seatback that allows passengers to face forward or aft. In addition, the seatback folds down to form a sun lounge or extra berth.

Another nice feature is the jumpseat across the stern. The seat brace is designed so the engine hatch can be opened without removing the seat — even so, the seat is easily removed when the hatch must be fully opened for more serious engine access. A small cocktail table can be set up between the lounge seat and jumpseat, and drinks are never farther away than a 36-quart cooler that tucks neatly under the aft side of the lounge.

DRINKS, ANYONE?

A small wet bar is situated to starboard just behind the captain’s chair. With storage below the sink, the access door folds up to increase counter space. Near the door, you will find a step that can serve as an extra seat or a boarding aid when taking on passengers over the gunwale. Most will want to board across the swim step and through the transom door, however.

The 265’s transom door opens inward, but, in our estimation, it could use a sturdier latch. An inward-opening door is the most convenient arrangement in terms of use, but it’s not necessarily the best arrangement to keep out a following sea. Then again, we don’t take issue with it because it is also the best arrangement to keep the kids in.

The swim step provides access to a large compartment that’s designed to hold fenders, lines and the shore power cord. It also allows easy access to the battery-management panel, which is nice because you won’t have to dig inside the engine bay to throw the battery switch. There was one glitch during our test, however. Our boat’s shore power cable was hanging from a hook in the locker and, during a hard turn, the cord swung out and hit the DC main switch, turning it off. Everything stopped and we were dead in the water until we figured out what happened. We now recommend that the cord, fenders and other gear be stowed such that they can’t hit the switch panel.

Bayliner 265 Trailerable Cruisers
SMALL-BLOCK MUSCLE

Our test boat was powered with an optional 260 hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI sterndrive. The 265’s performance is impressive with this engine — due in part to its dual-propeller Bravo 3 drive. And while our boat’s 42.6 mph top end and holeshot time of 12.0 seconds from 0 to 30 mph are not scorching by any means, it wasn’t long ago that a 5.0L small-block would barely plane a 27-footer. Back then, speeds in excess of 40 mph generally required big-block power. Not so aboard this rig.

Both Volvo Penta’s and MerCruiser’s dual-prop drives tend to hold the bow down while the boat climbs onto the plane, and this certainly proved true in this application. The Bayliner 265 planes off with very little bow rise. Although the base engine is a 220 hp 5.0L MerCruiser with a single-prop Alpha drive, the minimum power package we recommend would be the 250 hp, 5.7L unit with a Bravo 3.

According to Bayliner’s suggested pricing, it is $435 less than the 260 hp 5.0L MPI we tested. Sure, you give up 10 hp and fuel injection — but you also gain 45 cubic inches in displacement, which should add a little grunt in the low-end department. The performance loss in giving up a few horses should be very minor. Maximum power for the Bayliner is a 350 Mag that develops 300 hp. This engine will provide a noticeable boost in performance but costs nearly $2000 more than the 5.0L MPI we tested. On a boat, this size, whichever engine you buy, go with the Bravo 3 drive.

DEGREE OF V

Bayliner designed this hull with 17 degrees of transom deadrise, which is a shallower V than many boats in this size range. This relatively modest deadrise helps the 265 cruiser jump on plane easily and also increases its top-speed potential. Normally, the deeper the V, the better a hull’s wave-slicing ability — and though water conditions were calm during our test, wake crossings indicate that riding qualities have not been sacrificed. But ultimately, we’ll have to reserve final judgment for a rougher day.

In terms of handling, the Bayliner carves turns with ease. There is no tendency for the hull to slide, and there is no displacement-speed wander. Both attributes are at least partially due to the dual-propeller drive that maintains a solid grip on the water, even in hard turns. The 265’s tall profile does make her a bit sensitive in crosswinds, but a touch of the appropriate trim tab easily sets things straight.

Bayliner employs conventional construction techniques coupled with some innovative processes. The wood stringer system is fiberglass encapsulated. Interior components, bulkheads, the mid berth structure, and galley units are also bonded to the hull and stringers; the resulting structure adds strength and saves weight. In fact, our boat was solid and free of rattles. The decks didn’t flex underfoot and detail finish is good. In terms of appointments, Bayliner doesn’t use granite counters and such but instead chooses materials that are attractive, practical and consistent with the boat’s value-price positioning.

Comfort and lots of amenities are the hallmarks of Bayliner’s latest cruiser. Trailerable boats don’t get much larger than this, and the 265 makes the most of every inch of space by maximizing cabin volume and offering topside lounge seating that can be configured in several ways. Although the base engine and drive may be a bit underpowered, the Bayliner performed more than satisfactorily with our rig’s optional 5.0L MPI/Bravo 3 package. Housing with white h3 led bulb inside, it can improve the illumination of the boat when there is a night party.

Either way, with a base price well under $50,000 and a price-as-tested (including the windlass, air conditioning system and engine upgrade) of $58,414, the new Bayliner 265 offers a lot of value. If you’re looking to expand your cruising horizons, this is one case where big is definitely beautiful.

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