The fact is, like the plots of novels, there are no new boat designs, just refinements and twists on old ones. But even so I admit it's very hard to look at the Baia One and not say, "Wow-that's a new idea!
Baia gambled with a daringly innovative concept that is a fresh and honest way of looking at how people really use their boats. Buyers of the 43-foot Baia One are going to spend most of their time on the water cruising with family and friends, and that's exactly what Baia called this new offering: a day cruiser.
The starting point for Baia's designers was clearly the cockpit, which is simply immense. There's room for stylish chaise lounges comfy enough to suit a Riviera pool, there's a bar area for entertaining and a settee with table for alfresco dining. You could have a waterborne block party without ever feeling cramped.
OK, so you have to sacrifice something in return. In this case, you've given away the second stateroom found on most 43-footers. There's a master cabin forward but, with V-berths, even that is intended for casual overnighters and naps rather than serious cruising-especially those post-prandial two-bottle lunchtime naps, if you know what I mean.
What you do get, however, is a spacious saloon that is almost Zen-like in its simplicity. On one side, there's a simple but fully equipped galley. Opposite is an L-shaped settee that can double as berths for kids or, at worst, guests.
In-between is enough room for two couples to dance the merengue without colliding, and that very space-like the cockpit-is one of the attractions of the Baia One. On our test boat, the cabin sole was dark-stained wenge wood, which, with the dark cherry cabinets, added to the Zen-ish feel. The Baia One brochure, on the other hand, shows a pale wood (ash? birch?), which gives this area a casual beach-house look. It's a buyer's choice: Zen master or Hampton luxe.
Something particularly cool is the dedicated iPod that has been customized by Baia for the One. It has its own charger base in the saloon that also links to the comprehensive Sony sound system, so you can pre-program your MP3 tunes and then run them throughout. Rock the yacht, baby!
An interesting touch is the split-head arrangement, with the toilet compartment to starboard and the shower to port, separated by the entry to the forward cabin. The head proper is set off by a porcelain sink bowl atop the vanity counter, which is fed by an ever-so-Italian raised faucet. The shower is nicely sized with a teak grate and a handheld faucet that looks like a cell phone. Ah, Italian design!
On the other hand, the big storage locker behind the shower seat doesn't have waterproof seals, so don't put towels or toiletries there and expect them to stay dry. Ah, Italian design!
The forward cabin, particularly with the dark wood finish, is a cool cavern with linen-covered locker doors on the hull sides and drawers under the bunks. As with the saloon, there is a liberal use of a Formica-like faux wood on the bulkheads that neither matches the real wood nor adds anything other than a vaguely Winnebago-ish feel.
The galley, on the other hand, is highly styled with a one-piece stainless steel counter-cum-sink, a compact fridge in the after bulkhead and ample storage both under and behind the counter. Someone at Baia loves faucets because the sink is fed by an ultra-cool spigot that emerges from the bulkhead rather than being counter-mounted. There's a microwave under the counter, but my money is on the BBQ in the cockpit for the serious cooking.
Since we're up and hovering over the barbie, let that serve as a segue back to the cockpit, which is where the Baia One really shines. Looking at the techy stuff first, the helm is well planned, with a carbon-fiber dash that holds the GeoNav GPS system and an array of Yanmar gauges. The helm seat is double-wide (at least for a pair of slim Italians who can slip into Armani suits), with a flip-up bolster behind the wheel for standing.
The whole area forward and beside the helm has been thoughtfully finished in a dark grainy pattern so that there are no reflections in the sweptback windscreen to distract the helmsman. That windscreen, by the way, is techno-finished in carbon fiber. A raked mast carries the electronics antennas and a soft Bimini top is standard-or you can choose a hardtop that matches the lines perfectly.
But that's not all, because the Baia One is really about the rest of the cockpit-and yes, Virginia, there is a "rest. Simply put, other express cruisers have half the space and none of the style of the Baia One. There's just something that is so ineffably Italian that it stops traffic on the docks. A velvet rope wouldn't be out of place, but you may need a bouncer.
The bar is likely the heart of this cockpit, and it's a two-level affair so you can put your drinks and munchies on one shelf without intruding on anyone working at the sink or the built-in barbie on the lower level. Two chrome and black stools sit in sockets in the sole, although, sad to admit, their red cushions are more suited to bikinied Riviera crumpets than to my ample American rear. The good news, however, is that the stools transplant easily to sockets by the dinette so you can sit completely around the table for meals. Let the skinny ones sit on the outside.
The sleek chaise lounges are options (don't be silly-of course you're going to order them!), but they're much more usable than the usual permanently installed sunpads that consume cockpit space for only occasional use. You can push the chaises aside or even leave them on the dock when you want more room. Anyway, Baia provides very cleverly designed folding sunpads that configure in a variety of shapes for sprawling, reading or doing your morning exercises.
Two large doors on sturdy pantograph hinges fold out and back to open much of the transom to the swim platform (teak is optional and looks great). This makes water access easy, and swimmers coming in from the transom ladder have a freshwater shower for rinsing down. When it comes to stowage, bins inside the transom hold lines and fenders, while two large compartments under the cockpit sole handle everything else.
Construction is as high-tech as the galley and head faucets, and the lightweight, all-fiberglass hull is reinforced with carbon fiber for strength. There are a few lapses, with some generous joints between molds filled with silicone sealant and an oddly flimsy piece of teak plywood capping the cockpit coaming, but the moldwork is quite fair and the finish impeccable. Access to wiring and plumbing is good, including the area behind the dashboard, so service should be simple.
Our test boat had a pair of 480 hp Yanmar diesels and, even with the cockpit sole tilted up, you're going to need a skinny mechanic to get around outboard of them. Our boat also had an 8kW Dynamica genset in a box, but, again, it was tucked well aft under the deck, which will make your service people grumpy.
Under way, however, the Baia One is a sheer giggle. Glancing back from the helm at full tilt, I was startled by what appeared to be a large white boat right behind us. It was, of course, the roostertail that is the most visible indication of the Arneson surface drives linked to our Yanmars. Those drives are not an inconsiderable option but, gee, what an impressive sight. There are other engine options, such as Yanmar 440s or the standard Volvo Penta 350s with stern drives, but they won't push the Baia One past the 40-knot mark.
Standing up behind the single-spoked wheel with the Yanmar shifters pushed flat and a towering roostertail that begs the passing world to turn and look, I found the Baia One to be pure fun. Dial the wheel over hard, and the Baia banks into the turn like a Top Gun fighter in search of prey. Spin the wheel, and the Baia tiptoes through a slalom course as nimbly as a ballerina. This is a boat-a yacht, really-that discourages straight lines. It handles like a really big Jet Ski.
A word about our speeds: While we topped out at just over 40 knots with nearly full fuel and water, we knew before we started that the props weren't quite right. Tested at the factory, the Baia One was easily in the 42- to 43-knot range, which is a testament to the efficiency of both the Arneson drives and of Baia in keeping the hull weight to a minimum.
Just as impressive, however, is that we were consuming just 86 liters of fuel per engine at wide-open throttle. For those of you who slept through metric conversion formulas in school, that's about 44 gallons per hour total at nearly 50 mph. Sort of makes that whole "slow down and save fuel adage seem pointless. (And before you write letters about this being fuelish, understand that getting better than one mile per gallon at 50 mph in a 43-foot day cruiser is pretty special, especially as the Baia One is so hard to rein in. She wants to romp.)
If that sounds opinionated, well, this is an opinionated boat. The Baia One isn't trying to please everyone looking at 43-footers, because some of you really do want to do some serious cruising, or else you need a guest stateroom so Aunt Emma and Uncle Harry can spend the night. But for many of us, the Baia One is going to fit our boating needs like an Italian glove-and turn heads in the process.
Contact: Baia Yachts, (305) 335-0397; www.baiayacht.it