The 45-foot motoryacht, queen of the company's massive fleet, handles blue water easily - even outside the Golden Gate.

At this late date, it's hardly a secret that San Francisco is a boating paradise. Simply beam up a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun turning it orange and red and yellow, the welcome to or departure from the entire continent sprawling out behind it. Often barely visible, shrouded in fog, it is the Golden Gate of ballads, of legends, of romance and adventure. It's hard to imagine a heart so cold that it doesn't beat a little faster when approaching the Gate.

But boating in San Francisco is much more that the Golden Gate Bridge, the sparkling clean hills of the city, the secluded cove at Angel Island, and the crowded brunch on the dock at Sam's in Tiburon or the espresso and gentle guitar at the Cafe Trieste on the waterfront in Sausalito. Stretching north and east, winding up to Sacramento and the foothills of the Sierras, are 1,200 miles of delta, the little known cruising ground of levees and ducks and pheasants and winding cuts where - even on a holiday weekend when the entire population, it seems, is down to the sea in their ships - you can spend an entire day and only see enough boats to count on the fingers of one hand. There, 60 miles up the delta, is where we picked up the Bayliner 4550 Pilothouse Motoryacht, the flagship of the Bayliner fleet, the largest fleet in the U.S., to cruise it back to San Francisco.

The foredeck sunpad is perfect for catching some sun.

The Bayliner 45 is a good-looking boat. It's not particularly sexy or mind bindingly glamorous in the way of post-modern Italian design, but it's not stripped-out Bauhaus functional either. It's a good-looking American yacht, with graceful lines and pleasing countenance that convey certain honesty, a sense of purpose, a blend of style and function. It's a yacht that you want to spend some time on, to cruise easily wherever your dreams take you, to be comfortable on. Yes, it's a 45-foot-long yacht with all the grace and pride that go with the genre, but it's not prepossessing or ostentatious or overwhelming. This is a yacht you can really have some fun with for a long time.

Getting on the boat is certainly easy enough. This particular yacht was docked stern to at Carter's Marine Center at Bethel Island in the delta (Gary Carter has three Bayliner dealerships – in Stockton and Vallejo in addition to Bethel Island), so we just stepped across an enormous fiberglass swim platform, through an open, wide transom door and into a spacious cockpit - a cockpit large enough for some serious fishing, sunning, entertaining, or whatever you have in mind. This is not a cockpit added onto an existing yacht as an afterthought; it's a legitimate cockpit in its own right.

Bayliner 4550 Motoryacht ReviewThen it was only a matter of going through the sliding glass doors (they slide easily) into the main salon, a warm, bright easy-going space where we immediately felt at home. The salon is quite comfortable, with L-shaped lounge, adjustable-height table with seating opposite, the standard entertainment center plus wet bar and ice maker. At the forward end of the salon is the galley, an open area that actually is an extension of the salon itself, so that everyone - cook, guests, crew - is on the same level and can join in the conversation. It is efficient and well-laid out similar to the kitchen of a small apartment with a microwave, electric stove and oven, refrigerator, ice maker, trash compactor and more than ample storage - a necessity that is often overlooked in 45-foot boats, even 45-foot yachts.

The Bayliner profiled against the Brothers, two islands in San Pablo Bay.

The helm station in the pilothouse with side doors to the decks.                                

The 45 is designed to be a long-range yacht, a comfortable vessel that could easily serve as a true home away from home, an all-weather motoryacht with a fast, twin diesel hull. All-weather is the key here, for the Bayliner features an extremely functional - and handsome - pilothouse with full controls and instrumentation, a wheelhouse with a cursing lounge and table, a large table, a spot for the entire crew to gather when the weather is too hot or too cold up top. After spending a few days here - this is the San Francisco area, remember - I can attest that this is a pilothouse that works. My only quibble is that I kept forgetting about a small step behind the helm station that leads to a comfortable bench-seat and table and I tripped over it for an entire afternoon. My problem, not Bayliner’s.

Two large doors open from each side of the pilothouse for access to the side decks. A few steps lead up directly to the flying bridge, a very attractive design feature. You can reach the bridge this way or all the way aft, via the traditional ladder from the cockpit.

This frontal access is an enormous advantage in docking; it also makes switching from the upper station to the lower just a matter of seconds. The flying bridge has a swivel helm seat, two big L-shaped lounges and an open afterdeck with davit and ample space for a dinghy. For its part, the foredeck is easy to walk around and comes with a standard bow platform and anchor roller; 12-volt reversing anchor windlass and, in front of the pilothouse, a generous bench seat/sunpad that's long enough to lie down on or just sit and enjoy the view.

MORE ROOM BELOW

Below, the Bayliner has all three state rooms in the middle and front of the boat. The first stateroom on the port side has a queen-size bed and ample storage. The next stateroom, a guest stateroom, has over and under twin berths and a unique, attractive fold-out desk. The forward master stateroom has a walkaround king-size berth and direct access to a private head with a vanity, a good-sized tub and a marine head. It also has two large hanging lockers and generous storage under the berth. Another full head, with shower, is behind it, across from the guest stateroom. Demand pressure hot and cold water is standard on the boat, coming from two 11-gallon, 120 volt a.c hot water heaters with heat exchanger.

Unlike so many 45-foot yachts, the Bayliner comes equipped with many niceties that are option elsewhere: the dual helm stations, 12.5 kW generator, autopilot and long-range radar, for example, are all standard.

Standard power is twin 220 US Marine 6-cylinder turbo-intercooled diesels with 393 cubic-inch displacement driving the 22 x 21 four-blade props. The Seattle-based company says the most economical cruising range (producing just under a mile per gallon) comes at 2500 rpm, yielding 18.7 mph. At the low end, 1500 rpm gives 9.8 mph, while the red line of 3000 rpm produces 22.5 mph. These are impressive figures.

But then Bayliner has been doing this for some period of time. The largest boat building company in the U.S., it produces a new boat every three minutes of the working day - for a total of 46,000 boats in 1987. It has more than 4,000 employees in 17 plants, making boats ranging from 15-foot Capri runabouts - sold as total packages with boat, motor and trailer, all made by Bayliner - up to the 45-foot motoryacht It makes six distinct lines, each designed and engineered for a specific market segment.

To judge by the figures, Bayliner is doing something right: Sales have grown from $70 million in 1982 to $475 million last year.

Founded by J. Orin Edson in 1955, Bayliner - borrowing from the textbook of Henry Ford - quickly became the mass producer of recreational boats in the U.S., using standard production techniques to ensure quality control, reduce costs and produce high volume.

In the case of the 45, this means you can have any color boat you want - as long as it's white with a blue stripe and blue/teal interior. The end result, however, is quite attractive; it also is quite affordable - the entire boat costs $250,000, which on the one hand is a quarter of a million dollars, but on the other, is a real bargain for a 45-foot motoryacht. By comparison, most other major manufacturers price their 40 footers in this range, particularly considering all the equipment that comes on the Bayliner.

Already enormous, with 350 dealers, Bayliner's importance in the marketplace probably will only increase. In 1986, Edson sold the company to Brunswick, which makes Mercury engines and sterndrives; a few weeks after it bought Bayliner, Brunswick also purchased Sea Ray.                   

BACK TO THE BAY

It was time to shove off, so we headed out into the delta, past the small harbors and through the narrow channels until we hit the San Joaquin River, all the while watching snow-dappled Mt. Diablo, a San Francisco East Bay landmark, towering up on our left. Just below Pittsburg the San Joaquin joins the Sacramento River - and all of a sudden you could be in the Mississippi, except that now you're ready for a beautiful ride down to San Francisco Bay.

After an easy few hours, with the Bayliner performing perfectly - and quietly - we rounded the point of Tiburon, sliding through Raccoon Straight with Angel Island on the left and the Golden Gate Bridge beckoning in the afternoon sun dead ahead, and pulled in at the San Francisco Yacht Club in Belvedere.

The Bayliner 45 looked perfectly at home there - a comfortable, easygoing but elegant motoryacht. We'll tackle the Gate tomorrow.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW BAYLINER YACHTS CURRENTLY FOR SALE IN CALIFORNIA

This review/article originally appeared in Motorboating & Yachting Magazine, April 1988 and is written by Peter A. Jansesen. For more great powerboat reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://mby.com/subscriptions/motorboat-yachting-subscriptions

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