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2013, July; Berowra Waters: One of the keys to ongoing success in any line of business is adaptability, and that often comes down to recognising a market trend and meeting it as early as possible. Sensing that economic conditions have buyers looking for better value and smaller boats, Bayliner has taken a back to basics approach with this Element. It has a simple layout and no extraneous equipment in an easy-to-use bowrider-with-a-difference boat that offers safety, stability and a quite unexpectedly high fun-factor for both skipper and crew.
The last few years have seen the bad old Global Financial Crisis and consequent after-shocks hit boating companies around the world, and the huge US Bayliner organisation was no exception. The market was withdrawing into its shell somewhat with less new boats being purchased, and those that were bought were typically smaller as buyers downsized to keep within more restricted budgets.
Bayliner responded in a number of ways, including re-assessing what first-time new boat buyers were really looking to acquire. That was a good thing to do, regardless of the market situation, and the result was that this very appealing 4.9-metre Element is now available. It hits the target perfectly, and has been receiving a warm welcome.
Whilst the target market might be first time buyers, the Element is going to appeal to many more experienced boaties as well because it is such a ‘just right’ design. Buyers at the Melbourne Boat Show this year, where the Element was launched in Australia, frequently commented that the Element had them re-considering what they really wanted in their next boat after they had been looking at alternatives such as centre consoles and more conventional runabouts.
It’s all very well to go for a larger boat that’s packed with all sorts of features and equipment but, when it comes right down to it, you can have as much fun on the water with a smaller craft that has just the basic gear. There is a lower initial outlay, less to maintain, the boat is easier to trailer, launch, retrieve and store, and it’s quite likely that it will hold its value better when it comes time to upgrade in the future.
The Element’s layout blends ideas previously seen on bowriders and jet boats. The skipper has a neat helm console amidships to starboard with a pair of seats opposite, more seating up forward and a small sunpad aft. The boat has a capacity for six people and it accommodates that number very well for its length of just over four metres.
The seating is all set on integrally-moulded bases that form part of the inner liner of the hull. However, whilst it is a bit limiting for the skipper with no seat or wheel adjustment, the other seats works better than you might expect as most are designed so you can sit facing one of two ways. This gives options for the crew to face forwards, inwards or backwards. It’s rather clever and allows changing around between when running along and when at rest for communal chatting.
Even with all this seating, there is still good floor space for moving about the Element. As well, at the back of the boat are two boarding platforms on either side of the standard 60-hp Mercury four-stroke outboard. The platforms have a good non-skid surface as do matching boarding steps moulded in front of them on top of the transom. These steps are also intended as aft-facing seats for when the Element is moored.
All the seat cushions lift off to provide stowage below, with the skipper’s seat revealing a very spacious locker that runs back under the starboard side of the aft sunpad. The battery is in that locker, whilst under the port side of the sunpad is stored a removable 45 litre fuel tank. The cockpit sole is moulded in a non-skid pattern and the interior of the stowage lockers is finished in brushed-on grey flowcoat, so everything would be easy to clean. The seats are well finished in a dimpled white vinyl with grey accent panels. Again, it’s simple, but it still looks good.
The standard package includes a single-axle trailer, bimini cover and a removable 75-litre Igloo cooler. The Element comes with a good supply of drink holders and grab handles plus quality deck hardware including a combined navigation light at the bow. Options include a stereo system, digital depth gauge, bow filler cushion, mooring cover and a ’Sports Package’ which includes a choice of red for the main hull colour – the standard colour is black with accents in grey and silver - plus a watersports arch across the back of the boat with a board rack.
In profile, the Element looks just like a racy sports car with smoothly flowing lines and a small swept-back wind deflector at the helm. It’s deceptive though, for the cockpit is deep enough to be safe for youngsters and the topsides are high enough to keep out spray in all but very windy and rough conditions.
The hull configuration is interesting, and fresh, with Bayliner having a patent pending on its new ‘M-Hull’ design. This has a moderate vee centre section flanked by catamaran-like mini sponsons. In some respects, it’s similar to a cathedral tri-hull, and in other respects it’s like a tunnel hull. Yet it’s none of these and it suits its purpose very well with increased lateral stability, excellent buoyancy up front, quite a soft ride and less-than-usual banking in tighter turns. Especially for new boaties, it’s instantly confidence building.
The 60-hp Mercury four-stroke is another pleasing aspect of the Element package. It starts instantly, runs quietly and smoothly, and has plenty of power for cruising around with enough in reserve for casual watersports. It might struggle to haul out larger skiers or riders, but for youngsters it would be perfect.
This is a very open boat though, with no windscreen to protect occupants from the slipstream. We had our test run on a very cool and mostly overcast mid-winter day; I was concerned whether our crew of two teenage girls would be alright in the resulting rather low wind-factor temperatures, but they loved every minute of the run. Suitably rugged up, any family with even a trace of adventure in their blood would react in the same manner. On warmer days, the rush of air along the boat would be refreshing, and the bimini is there for shade from the summer sun.
The best bit is driving the Element. It is a beautifully responsive hull and is reminiscent of driving an older sports car like an early Mazda MX5 or an even earlier Austin Healy Sprite ‘Frog Eye’; those cars didn’t have a lot of power, but they had character and charm and excellent handling that made them great fun to own and drive.
The steering on the Element is pleasantly weighted and requires just a light touch with 3.5 turns lock-to-lock. That’s fairly direct and helps the wheel give useful feedback on how the hull is handling the conditions. We had calm waters and so resorted to swooshing through our own wake to check the ride; the hull proved family-friendly by avoiding any hard bumps and the forward hull sections worked effectively to push the wash and spray out and away from the boat.
The Mercury was spinning a 13inch pitch three-blade alloy prop which proved fine for typical driving; when accelerated into really tight turns, the prop ventilated a bit, especially if the Merc was trimmed up at all, but that would not be an issue in normal driving.
There was very little bowrise coming up on plane, and the design of the Element gives perfect 360-degree visibility. Cruising along, the running angle is quite level (as it should be) and the M-Hull and the four-stroke Mercury combine for very low levels of noise and vibration – it’s a smooth and comfortable ride.
The dash panel is ultra simple with a single, large dial for a speedo and an inset volts gauge. There’s room on the panel to add an after-market tacho and trim gauge if you want, and to fit a fish finder. Without a tacho we couldn’t check revs, but the Element was happily planing and low-speed cruising at 35 kph with mid-range cruising around 41 kph and a top speed of 49 kph.
However, it really feels a lot faster at all those settings with the breeze in your face and the water so close – it’s genuinely exhilarating! This is a great boat to take out even for a short run to blow away the cobwebs of the everyday world. The trailer is one that self-guides the boat when it’s being driven back on, and single-handed operation is easy when required.
The simplicity of the helm position is one of the compromises Bayliner has used to reach the top-value price point of the Element. With neither seat nor wheel adjustable, the comfort level of the skipper will depend on his height and reach; equally though, the vast majority of skippers will find the driving position totally acceptable, with maybe the help of an extra cushion behind the back of shorter-reach skippers. There’s a good angled foot rest under the wheel, and the throttle shift is well positioned.
All three drivers on our test run had no problems, and a common characteristic was the huge grin on their faces as they sped the Element through its paces and cruised back to the ramp afterwards. The only times that any of the crew were not grinning and smiling was when they were laughing at the fun of it all, especially at the times when the Element ran joyously through wakes.
All in all, this is a bonzer boat. It’s what real family and fun boating is all about. It’s fine for cruising and relaxed watersports and would be just as great for fishing; it has stacks of stowage space and versatile seating, is very easy to handle and tow, needs little space to store, and it’s less expensive than many alternatives. Go and have a look for yourself!
Length (overall): 4.93 metres
Beam: 2.13 metres
Draft: 1.10 metres
Weight: 712 kgs
Capacity: 6 persons
Fuel capacity: 45 litres
Power: Mercury Four-Stroke Outboard (45 kw, 60 hp)
Top Speed: 49.1 kph
2015, September; Sydney Harbour: In a genuinely exciting move for the hitherto rather conservatively-regarded Caribbean brand, the company has released its first-ever sedan cruiser in the 420 Express. Using the proven hull from its 40 Flybridge Cruiser, brand-owner International Marine has created a showcase for the craftsmanship its talented workforce is capable of producing. From the moment you step onboard, the quality of the materials used and of the workmanship in the cabinetry and overall finish is immediately noticeable.
Well-known and highly respected by knowledgeable boating enthusiasts in Australia, the Caribbean range has had a comparatively low market profile and is perhaps overlooked and under-rated by many seeking to buy a thoroughbred. Established way back in 1958 and based ever since in Scoresby (Melbourne), the company is now run by the third generation of the founding Spooner family.
Through all the highs and lows of the Aussie boating industry over nearly six decades, and with all the technology changes in that time, Caribbean boats have survived and thrived with a current range of runabouts to flybridge cruisers from around 6 to 15 metres – a boat for anybody and everybody.
The parent company is International Marine which built world-famous US-designed Bertram boats under licence for quite some years in which time that brand and Caribbean became almost synonymous. Partly because of that association, but more so because of its constant attention to build quality and its reputation for seaworthiness and longevity, Caribbean craft are highly regarded by those in the know.
However, until now, the focus of the boats has been more on practical simplicity in fit and finish, and the larger flybridge cruisers have been oriented more toward serious offshore fishing, rather than attempting to move ‘upmarket’ with higher levels of interior design and materials to attract buyers looking for more luxurious family cruising.
That’s not to say that other and previous Caribbeans have not been well built and finished – they indeed have been, but this 420 Express just takes everything to a new level in the way that the quality is presented. New interior design and fabrics along with designer-selected fittings make the difference and match the best of interiors from other Australia boatbuilders.
Competitive pricing has been in kept in mind though, and the target market will appreciate investment levels being kept below that of brands such as Riviera and Maritimo. Pricing starts around the $690,000 mark and this heavily-optioned first 420 is around $820,000 (including a desalination unit required for South Australian waters); more typical optioned-up 420s will be just under $800,000 (all pricing at time of writing).
Inspirational in the creation and development of the 420 Express have been Andrew and Mary Craddock. Andrew owns Marina Adelaide and the associated Marina Boat Sales South Australia; when he again took on a Caribbean dealership, he suggested that the sedan style of cruiser with an upmarket finish would meet a growing market trend. International Marine responded enthusiastically and worked with Andrew to produce this resulting achievement as the first of a planned range of such designs – a 510 Express is the likely next model with perhaps a smaller cruiser after that. Mary is an interior designer and selected the pleasing fabrics and finishes that have been used, with several optional colour schemes available.
The layout remains practical and adopts the growing trend toward single-level living as opposed to the split-level style of flybridge accommodations. A large extended boarding platform and the generous open cockpit are both teak surfaced for gloriously traditional appeal. Although not as dedicated toward angling as Caribbean’s flybridge models, that sport is still well catered for with a live bait tank in the transom (or it could be used as a cooler) and with side lockers that leave space below to tuck under toes when working close-hand across the aft side decks.
In the port forward quarter of the cockpit is a large wet bar with eutectic fridge/freezer and good storage space, and there’s massive under-sole stowage. A neat aft-facing seat to starboard would be handy and other casual seating could be spotted around in convivial fashion. A sliding door leads into the main saloon with a leather-upholstered lounge to starboard that converts to a three-quarter berth beneath a fold-up bunk. To port is the dinette with U-shaped seating around a beautifully finished table; optionally the dinette can be another convertible double berth.
The galley is forward of that with plenty of workspace; its features include Metaline splashbacks, polished teak drawers, a sink with flick-mixer tap, microwave, fridge and freezer plus a four-burner induction cooktop usefully protected with a fiddle rail. Opposite the galley is the helm with a superb chair for the skipper behind a stainless wheel and a large dash panel dominated by two Raymarine 12-inch touch-screen nav-aid displays.
Large windows all around bring scads of light into the whole area, and the close association of the helm and galley will keep cruising couples in loving communication as one steers and one cooks, with easy swapping between roles for those respecting gender-tasking equality.
Down a few steps heading further forward finds a guest cabin to port with extra-wide under-and-over berths. That’s across the companionway from a large bathroom with separate shower stall. A second door into the bathroom gives direct access to/from the owner’s stateroom right forward with an island double berth, hanging lockers and provision for a TV should the gentle lapping of water heard as background serenity through the strong fibreglass topsides lose its never-ending appeal.
All the fabrics, surface finishes, overheads, carpeting and carefully chosen fittings work together with fine craftsmanship to exude a sense of relaxed luxury that will be easy to maintain. There’s good access to the engine room under the saloon sole and the visible engineering is top class.
Externally, the deck hardware is just as good with sensibly-high stainless guard rails around the foredeck and side passages; a good bowsprit carries the anchor secured by a power windlass and then there are well-sized cleats, bollards and fairleads intelligently located around the 420 Express. Grab rails along each side of the cabin top aid safe movement fore and aft, and moulded steps make it easy to get into and out of the cockpit – a door in the transom connecting it to the boarding platform.
The helm position shows Caribbean’s experience too with an excellent layout and a very comfortable fore-aft-adjustable seat. The latter has a flip-up bolster and a neat swing-out foot rest so either sitting or standing to drive is equally gratifying. The twin Cummins QSC 500-hp diesels make easy work of idling the 420 along and then smoothing it up on plane.
There’s surprising punch for such a large cruiser with a real jump-out-of-the-hole initial acceleration that continues relentlessly so you’re at 24 knots or more before you know it. That level of thrust and nimble handling with responsive steering make the 420 Express feel almost like a skiboat to drive – it’s a real pleasure at the helm.
With a top speed of 32.2 knots at 2,650rpm and easy cruising in the 22-25 knot bracket (1,900 to 2,100rpms), the 420 is an ideal passage-maker for offshore running, and even more so for enjoying Australia’s countless inshore waterways. It’s a snap to handle so newcomers to waterborne weekends need not worry about getting it in and out of marina pens, although the optional bow thruster sure helps in that regard.
Throughout the 420 are many thoughtful touches such as doors with magnetic catches and fold-down hanging hooks, self-closing drawers, an engine room video feed, powerful trim tabs, dipstick for the fuel tank (as well as a fuel gauge), remote control saloon blinds and so on. The only way you can fully appreciate the boat is to be onboard and that’s well recommended if you’re at all thinking of investing in the multiple benefits of a sedan-cruiser lifestyle.
Length: 13.16 metres
Beam: 4.30 metres
Draft: 1.15 metres
Net Weight: 11,200 kgs
Sleeping Capacity: 4 -7 persons
Fuel capacity: 2,000 litres
Water capacity: 650 litres
Power (as tested): Twin Cummins QSC Diesels 373 kW (500 hp) each
Top Speed: 32.2 knots
2017, July; Sydney Harbour: There is a fascinating story behind this latest addition to the Fleming motor yachts fleet and, as well, there’s a tradition of more than three decades. Tony Fleming originated it all. He had a background in aerospace and marine engineering, including being production manager for the internationally renowned Grand Banks cruisers. He also had an enthusiasm for long-distance cruising.
The combination of his engineering and cruising experiences led Tony to create his own motor yachts. His objectives were safety, reliability, seaworthiness and ease of handling - to be achieved regardless of cost.
In 1986 he developed his first boat – the Fleming 55, and it obviously hit the spot. That same design, with refinements, is being built to meet current market demand. Larger versions have progressively joined the fleet and the current range comprises the 55, 58, 65 and 78 – all the numbers roughly indicating hull length in feet. The larger yachts were often developed to fulfil requests from owners who were up-sizing.
Tony sought out the Tung Hwa boat building company in Taiwan to meet his exacting standards, and a multi-decade association has ensued. The craftsmanship and attention to detail by that company has proven beneficial to both parties. The quality and suitability for purpose of each Fleming brings unstinted praise from its owner, and the resulting level of business has allowed Tung Hwa to be dedicated to building these yachts.
Tony cruises extensively himself. Including aboard his latest Fleming, the 65-foot ‘Venture’, he has accumulated over 60,000 nautical miles. He has experienced first-hand the finer aspects of what is needed to safely and enjoyably handle a boat in conditions from inland rivers to open oceans and from tropical to arctic environments. Some of his voyages have been across the North Sea, to the Aleutian Islands and a circumnavigation of Iceland. The lessons he has learned along the way are streamed back into the production line at Tung Hwa.
Perhaps production line is misleading though, as only about fourteen Fleming yachts are built each year. The goal is to build to an exceptional standard and not to any cost or volume targets. An outcome is that these cruisers cannot be judged on price alone. The Australian ‘base’ price (at time of review) for the 58 is AU$4.745 million with extensive inclusions. As seen, with a number of further significant extras, this particular 58 represents an AU$5.375 million investment. To appreciate the genuine value that a Fleming represents takes an eye for engineering and practical details, plus either an experience of long range cruising or a willingness to learn from an expert.
I was welcomed aboard the 58 by Sam Nicholas of Fleming Yachts Australia at its base on Sydney Harbour. Sam’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the boats he represents was immediately apparent. Sam works for Egil Paulsen who established FYA. Egil owned a 55 and took that, with Tony Fleming aboard, on its maiden voyage from Southampton to Norway. Egil and Sam have cruised extensively in Norwegian and other waters, often with Tony too, so there’s no shortage of real-world, hands-on experience when you talk with them about your own Fleming.
It’s impossible in the space here to do justice in describing all that the Fleming 58 offers, but it is genuinely outstanding in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s very practical. This 58 was a brand new boat being prepared for the 2017 Sydney Boat Show. It was immaculate, yet there was no need, nor request, to remove shoes before stepping inside. The carpets covering the glorious teak and holly floors were top quality, pleasing to the eye in colour and texture and comfortable to walk on, yet they were easily removed for cleaning and of a hard-wearing style that showed not the slightest imprint as I and others explored the 58.
The layout of the entire boat is practical too. Boarding is easy either from doors in the bulwarks each side at two different levels to cater for different heights of pontoons and jetties, or across a large transom platform with removable hand rails into a good sized cockpit. Passage onboard continues through wide-opening doors into a spacious saloon. A large galley, U-shaped for convenience and security in a seaway, is forward at the same level.
A few steps, large and straight, lead up past a handy toilet compartment to a wonderful wheelhouse with an exemplary, electronics-laden, helm. To port there is an L-shaped settee around a table where crew or guests could comfortably keep the skipper company. Or the skipper could relax there with a snack while on autopilot in open waters as visibility is excellent. Additionally, the area converts to a very comfortable berth.
Doors on both sides of the wheelhouse lead out to wide and deeply protected sidedecks, a Portuguese bridge and the foredeck. Just inside the starboard door, a flight of stairs leads down to the three staterooms, two bathrooms and the laundry. Centre-aft of the wheelhouse is an easily-traversed staircase that takes you up to a huge flybridge with extensive seating, a barbecue with other conveniences and another excellent helm position.
A key aspect of the 58 is its engineering. Back in the cockpit, a ladder gives access down to a large engine room with two MAN i6-800 diesels in immaculate surroundings. It’s worth an hour or two in this part of the 58 to check out all the systems, and it takes at least that long to begin to appreciate the attention to detail in the engineering. The Fleming has redundant redundancies to give back-ups to back-ups for those ‘it couldn’t possibly happen’ circumstances that actually can happen on long cruises away from any support.
One example is the hydraulic steering system which has back-up power and three hydraulic pumps – ‘just in case’. Another example of engineering thoughtfulness is the engine room air intake which originates under the side deck bulwarks where there’s little chance of salt contamination but, ‘just in case’, the air flows first into the large lazarette aft of the engine room where any salt spray that might get through would be contained. Fleming yachts with years of extensive cruising under their keels have immaculate engine rooms partly because of this intake air ‘filtration’ approach. The two engines have totally discreet fuel and electrical systems for resilience. The 58 can still do 10 knots on one engine.
Indicative of comfort throughout are the six separate air conditioning systems, including one for the engine room. The staterooms sleep six with optional layouts available. The master stateroom can be amidships or forward. On this 58, it was full-beam amidships with an island queen berth, capacious ensuite, a large walk-in robe plus side cabinetry, a settee to one side plus a vanity table or mini office on the other side. The guest cabins can be to port and starboard or with one forward and the other to port; they can have various layouts including an island queen berth or twin singles or a single and office space.
For Australian-delivered Flemings, all the electronics are purchased locally and shipped to the factory for installation (or are locally installed where appropriate) so that Aussie servicing is readily available. Extensive documentation and manuals come with each yacht along with as much on-water tuition and familiarisation as each owner desires. After-sales support and assistance is emphasized.
Aboard the Fleming 58, there was no mistaking the feel of luxury, but it is the sort of luxury that also exudes a comforting welcome and an intuition that you would relax onboard. There is apparent artisan care and skills in the cabinetry which is all in selected teak and built in-situ for the ultimate in perfect fit and long-life strength. Overall it creates an aura that everything would be easy to care for and to keep in top condition.
Details progressively become apparent as you tour the 58 such as the slide-out pantry, the separate wine fridge as part of the galley’s large fridge/freezer, the Royal Doulton china, the shaving mirror that opens to a convenient height, the heated towel racks in the bathrooms, the excellent labelling in the engine room, the deck hardware carefully positioned to avoid toes, ankles and shins, the lift-up cleats on the boarding platform to secure a tender, indeed the centre-console, outboard-powered RIB tender itself and its articulated davit on the flybridge, the dual anchor winches, the dedicated linen locker, the laundry with a stacked washer and dryer, the powered insect or block-out screens for hatches, the discretely concealed manoeuvering controls in the cockpit, plus so much more.
Those manoeuvering controls, at all four stations (wheelhouse, bridge, cockpit and aft boat deck), are part of a fully integrated system with extensive data displays in the wheelhouse and, to a slightly lesser extent, on the flybridge. Intuitive joystick operation takes the stress out of close quarter operation including berthing. The careful engineering and construction give quiet and smooth cruising.
Fleming has the catch phrase ‘The Ultimate Cruising Yacht’ which seems very applicable.
Overall Length: 19.94 metres
Hull Length: 19.10 metres
Beam: 5.33 metres
Draft: 1.52 metres
Displacement: 48,000 kgs
Fuel: 5,488 litres
Water: 1,211 litres
Power (as tested): Twin MAN i6-800 Diesels 800hp (597kW) each
Cruise Speed: 8-12 knots
Top Speed: 20.5 knots
Range: 2,200 nautical miles at 8 knots
Price as tested (at time of review): $5.375 million
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