Water Adventure Vehicle. What sounds like the newest get-wet thrill-ride at your local theme park is actually a new series of boats for 2001 from Baja Marine, a Bucyrus, Ohio-based builder of performance sport boats. So far Baja has introduced nine W.A.V. models from 21 to 34 feet long, in both stern-drive and outboard configurations. But the 292 Islander epitomizes what's best in the line.
The 292 Islander W.A.V. is 29 feet, 4 inches long with an 8-foot-11-inch beam. Second in size only to the 34-foot-long 340 Islander Outboard W.A.V. center-console, it is the largest bowrider Baja makes. For that matter, it is one of the largest bowriders on the market.
The design philosophy behind the design of the W.A.V. was to create a boat that blends performance with recreational versatility. Like Baja's Outlaw line of performance, W.A.V offerings are still plenty fast. But they also handle water-sports towing duty, an area of performance where Outlaw models come up short. Water Adventure Vehicles also offer additional creature comforts, such as portable heads, mini galleys and more, which makes them better for recreational use.
The biggest problem for the designers at Baja when approaching the W.A.V. series was what to include. To find out, the Baja team went to the people, so to speak. They asked for suggestions from more than 500 Club Baja members. Club Baja is made up of consumers, not necessarily Baja boat owners, who have joined the company's online Internet club.
Out of this listening exercise came some of the 292's strongest features, such as cockpit sink (which surprised Baja engineers and designers who thought this amenity was seldom used); the number and location of remote controls for the stereo (there are three, located at the transom, dash and bow); the bow seating configuration, which eliminates the traditional side-by-side seats; built-in storage for filler cushions; and a unique walk-through engine hatch arrangement.
One of the 292 Islander's most popular, family-oriented features is its wet bar located just aft of the windshield to port. It is equipped with a standard sink (that draws off a 25-gallon freshwater tank) and a built-in trash receptacle. However, the test boat also featured the following options: stove, refrigerator, shore-power connection and an upgraded waterproof Clarion CD stereo with removable beach speakers ? all of which made it one of the best-equipped mini-galleys of any bowrider I've ever tested.
Another family feature is the standard enclosed head/cuddy compartment that's built into the starboard console. Interior dimensions are a whopping 6 feet, 8 inches long, 4 feet wide, and 4 feet, 6 inches high. That kind of space looks voluminous when compared to the crawl-space cabins found on many open-bow boats. Inside is a bench seat that converts to a berth with filler cushions. There's also a small table that conveniently swivels up or down as needed. A couple of overhead spotlights assist your vision when the sliding door is closed, but there is no portal for natural light and ventilation.
The 292 Islander W.A.V. breaks from the norm with an unusual interior layout. Instead of the traditional mid-console, walk-through leading from the cockpit to the open bow, Baja designed a 6-foot-by-8-inch-long walk-through along the boat's port side. This permits the open bow to have a small L-shaped lounge ahead of the driver's console with a separate aft-facing bench at the front. The aft cockpit has a large U-shaped lounge seat ahead of an equally large padded sun deck over the engine compartment. Filler cushions are available to turn both the bow and aft section into large sun lounges. At the helm is a beefy offshore-like, dual-passenger racing bolster.
One feature I especially like (as did many consumers because the idea originated with them) is the walk-over transom arrangement. Down the center of the engine hatch is a non-upholstered fiberglass walkway to the swim platform. On each of this walkway are gull-wing hatches that open to large stowage bins over the engine.
Stowage space is abundant — a major plus for recreational family boating. Water skis and wakeboards can be kept in a large in-sole compartment near the helm that is equipped with a lock to keep items secure. Forward is a concealed locker to house fishing rods, while boat fenders stow beneath the aft bench. Wet items can be conveniently placed in a large compartment in the swim platform. There's also a locker for the anchor at the forepeak, plus several other stowage areas throughout the boat for a variety of other items.
As mentioned earlier, maintaining performance was a mandate for the designers of the series. To this end, the 292 comes with power packages that range from a 310-horsepower MerCruiser 7.4 MPI engine to a 500-horsepower Mercury Racing 500EFI rated at 470 horsepower — all with dual-propeller Bravo 3 drives that help the 5,500-pound boat plane and maneuver better. For those who prefer diesel, Baja also offers a Yanmar 250 power plant.
According to Baja representatives, you can expect to run around 52 mph with the base 7.4 MPI engine package. Moving up to a 385-horsepower 454 Magnum reportedly gets you an additional 3 or 4 mph, but it will cost you $8,000 above the $74,654 base price.
I tested the 292 Islander with a 415-horsepower MerCruiser 502 Magnum MPI engine ($12,767 above base sticker) and saw a top speed of 57 mph, which was 1 mph less than the Baja people predicted. If you want to crack the 60 mph barrier, the 500-horsepower engine likely will get you there *#8212; and then some. Unfortunately, the Baja reps did not have any performance estimates with the Yanmar diesel. They had worked out the price: $23,833 over base.
The 292 runs on Baja's True V? Hull, which has a deep 24 degrees of deadrise and considerable freeboard so that it can handle fairly rough water with ease. I found it to be well mannered in turns as well as wide-open straightaway runs. Acceleration was good, given the size of the boat. It planed in less than six seconds and exhibited little bowrise in the process. Zero to 40-mph sprints took approximately 10 seconds.
So if you are in the market for a big, well-appointed bowrider that can accommodate a large group and their gear and still not be a slug on the water, the Baja 292 Islander W.A.V. may be your ticket to adventure.
|Freshwater capacity||25 gallons|
|Waste-water capacity||25 gallons|
|Price as tested||$106,000|
|Top speed||57.0 mph at 4,800 rpm|
|Cruising speed||40.5 mph at 3,500 rpm|
|Time to plane||5.8 seconds|
|Minimum planing speed||18 mph (14 mph w/tabs down)|
|Zero to 40 mph||10.1 seconds|
For more information
Baja Marine Corp.
P.O. Box 151
Bucyrus OH 44820-0151