Bayliner 195 and 215 Bowriders
Bayliner's 2002 range of Capri bowriders are typical of the US manufacturer's emphasis on fun family boating. Steve Raea headed to Lake Taupo for a day out on the 195 and flagship 215 Capri models.
Bayliner claims to be the biggest selling boat manufacturer in the world with the Capri bowrider range exported to 55 countries around the globe. The question then must surely be what makes the Capri range so popular?
The answer, according to many, lies in the simple fact that the boats come as a complete package and not simply a hull and deck on which to add as budget allows.
And as Bayliner brochures boast, the Capri range is all about "stow and go".
Many small boat manufacturers, particularly in New Zealand, leave too much to choice - choices that can make a simple thing like buying a trailerboat an ordeal for the uninitiated.
All too often the list of add-ons creates a quagmire that can quickly take the pleasure out of new-boat buying.
But this is not so with the Capri range. What you see is what you get and what you get is everything you need for a great day out on the water. The Capri is a just-add-water kind of boat and the cornerstone behind Bayliner's manufacturing philosophy.
The only anxiety, therefore, is deciding what watertoys to pack on board, who to invite and where to go. In my case a late summer's day on Lake Taupo provided a perfect testing ground with the picturesque blue hue of the mountains providing a stunning backdrop.
The Capri range of bowriders, which spans five models (with a few optional seating arrangements), are family boats with seating up front as well as amidships and back aft. Being American, they come with a good spread of amenities.
While some local boatbuilders may make stiffer boats, Bayliner's Capris are backed by decades of boatbuilding experience. The hulls are beamy up front and the mouldings are superbly fair. The Bayliner's are, in a word, sharp. Their beauty, however, is more than just skin deep. Described as "unitised construction", the Capris underfloor hides a foam-filled fibreglass box stringer system for longitudinal stiffness. Bulkheads provide transverse strength while foam filling of the underfloor void provides flotation and sound deadening. The hulls are all hand laid fibreglass and are backed by a transferable limited lifetime structural warranty.
On the surface, the Capris flaunt a flash finish derived from a combination of UV-resistant gelcoat, go-fast graphics, moulded dash consoles, marine carpet and thick vinyl upholstery. The 2002 Capris have a new dash design and a change of interior colours. The graphics package has been re-worked and the engine box is smaller and less obtrusive than that of earlier models.
Bayliner has all but phased out outboards on their bowriders, replacing them with MerCruiser sterndrives which provide an all round superior package with better integration, lower noise levels and less smoke. The 195 test boat was fitted with a V6 4.3lt 190hp MerCruiser and the 215 with the V8 5.0 lt petrol engine cranking out 220hp petrol.
The 2002 Capri range features Bayliner's latest APSIII hull with a cutout amidships to reduce drag and produce whats known as sequential planing. This, I'm told, simply means the hull shape allows the boats to reach planing speed quickly and effortlessly.
The 195 and 215 both offered generous beam with lots of flare in the topsides above the waterline providing a bone-dry ride even in a mild chop. In tight turns, something the Capris lend themselves to, both models refused to bury their bow or ship water even at high revs. At low speeds, the Capris have plenty of freeboard up front for traversing boat wake without taking a wave aboard.
The deep cockpits will satisfy the safety conscious and keep the kids on board in rough weather. It would be wrong, however, to dumb down the boat's true character by describing it as a safe family runabout because it is a whole lot more. While the handling is predictable, the hull and motor combinations are extremely agile and it's hard when behind the wheel to stop yourself pulling tight turns at full noise just because you can.
Its hard, too, to get rid of the grin on your face when you look around and realise what you've got - a wolf in sheep's clothes.
The top speed on both models is fast by trailerboat standards, particularly on the 215 model, which can be optioned with the bigger 5.7 litre V8 MerCruiser.
FIGURED FOR FUN
Aside from speed and volume, both of which increase as you move up the Capri range, the 195 and 215 differ little in layout and looks and, side by side, its almost impossible to tell the two models apart. On board is a different story, however, with the bigger model giving an appreciably different and better ride than its smaller sister.
The Capri 195 perhaps best illustrates what Bayliner provides for your buck. At the stern is a boarding platform molded into the hull with a recessed swim ladder, grab rail, ski ring, fuel filter and venting for the petrol engine. Access to the engine on the Capris is via twin upholstered quarter panels and clips on the engine box. The removable panels also allow access to the batteries and the bilge pump.
Comfort is paramount and cleverly built into the Capris. By lifting out the quarter seats the padded engine box, complete with drinkholders built in, can be converted into a sun lounge. All three models have room for an adult to lie across the transom and soak-up the rays. The Capris also have back-to-back seats that fold down into sun lounges.
In running mode, the quarter seats offer plenty of support and security with cut-outs in the mouldings for extra shoulder room and armrests. There are cleats for mooring aft, amidships and at the bow. The sidepockets are narrow but long.
Set in the polypropylene carpet is an underfloor wet box for storing togs, wetsuits, ski ropes and suchlike. The flooring in the bow area is non-skid fibreglass with access to the bow seats through the opening aluminum windscreen.
A nice feature about the Capris is the thought given to passengers, particularly upfront where the copilot - probably mum - gets her own grabrail, drinkholder and control of the stereo built into a glove box. A removable facia provides access to a small well set in the dash designed to be used as a self-draining icebox.
There is plentiful legroom on the driver's side and there is good all-round vision through the windscreen which does a good job. The throttle falls to hand and the power-assisted steering makes light work for the driver.
The VDO analogue instruments relay boat speed, engine revs, oil pressure, temp, trim, fuel and volt levels. A car-like switch panel activates the horn, lights, blower, bilge and ignition. The nav-light is a simple split model on the bow, where there is cleat and non-skid gunwale to aid stepping aboard. The bowrider section of the 195 and 215 has seating for three adults. On the 215 there are cushioned backrests with good storage under the bowseats. The centre storage section is big enough to hold a small anchor and rope.
BIGGER IS BETTER
The Capri range kicks off with the entry level 175 and the up-spec 185 which is probably the consummate American bowrider being not too big to manhandle or launch alone and not too small to cross a bay in a blow. The 195 and the 215 are a step up again and have the goodies to set them apart from their smaller sisters. The 195 has a top speed of 30 plus knots, perky performance and the sort of agility that allows it to turn on a dime. Driver ergonomics and noise levels are good.
When it comes to handling, however, waterline length rules the waves and the flagship 215 model comes in to its own providing superior stability and ride. Both the 195 and 215 are fitted with LCD clock, trip log, distance and hour meter. Like the 185, but unlike the 175, it had power-assisted steering.
Underway, even in the relative calm of Lake Taupo, the Capri 215 felt sure-footed, dry and quiet with a.feeling of unity not always apparent on similar sized boats. Top speed is around 35 to 40 knots depending on the engine configuration.
While there are numerous American-made bowriders to choose from, the 195 and 215 models provided everything a family might need for a day's boating. There is an optional sports pack on both models with a full-width lounge and pedestal helmseats, digital depth sounder, tilt steering wheel, CD player and water temperature gauge for those too lazy to throw a leg over the side.
The beauty about the Capri is their simplicity. Hitch one up, haul it to the water and the only decision left to make is where to go.
The Bayliner range is imported directly from the factory by Taupo's Lakeland Marine which has an enviable record, having won Bayliner's President's Award for customer service for the last two years running. Managing Director Bob Smith says the dealership has sold about 1500 new Bayliners since 1988 - testiment to their popularity in New Zealand. He says one of the Capri's strongest assets is the price, which he estimates at being $7000 to $10,000 cheaper than any locally manufactured glass runabout offering the same options. Resale is also very good with strong second hand demand.
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