John page williams
The following review was written by John Page Williams, Editor-at-large, Chesapeake Bay Magazine. John, senior naturalist for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, has been a regular contributor to Chesapeake Bay Magazine for 30 years, specializing in environmental issues, nature, wildlife, fishing and boats. He has been testing new and used boats for the magazine's Time-Tested and New Boat News departments since 1998.

APRIL 2013
 
   
LOA  26' 2"
Beam  7' 5"
Draft 12"       
Weight 1,570 lb
Fuel 12 gal
Max. Power 60 hp

In its new 16-foot Element, Bayliner has brought fresh thinking and a very low $11,999 base price to entry-level boating. The Element is stylish enough that young wakeboarders won’t be embarrassed in it, but under its hull graphics, it is relentlessly practical and built to inspire confidence in families. The “M-hull” design maintains stability at rest, under way and in turns.

The freeboard is low enough that one can reach out and touch the water, but still plenty high enough to keep everyone inside. There is comfortable seating for up to six adults, including a “conversation pit” arrangement for three in the cockpit, but it’s easy enough for folks on the bow lounges or the jump-seat/sunpad astern to join in. Under the sun pad is space for a 25-quart cooler (a $93 option if you don’t own one). Construction is sturdy but simple, without a lot of gadgets to break. The cockpit is self-bailing, so rainwater runs right out.

Bayliner chose to power the Element with only one engine, Mercury’s strong and super-efficient 60-hp four-stroke outboard. Choose the optional Sports Package ($1,421) with a ski-tow arch and the engine becomes a 60-hp BigFoot with its oversized gear case, for strong acceleration while towing. Both versions come with four-blade propellers that allow this engine to show its best. I have to confess a strong prejudice for the 60 BigFoot, having run that engine on my own skiff for over 10 years. It’s plenty for a top speed of 31 mph and cruising speeds of 18- to 22-mph, which are realistic for operating a 16-foot boat comfortably in most Chesapeake waters. At those speeds with this engine, the Element will go a long way on four gallons of fuel. And, by the way, the boat is light enough that a compact crossover wagon can tow it. For more information, visit www.bayliner.com.