By Steven Bull

Baja Boats started in 1971, with the very first model being built in an abandoned roller-skating rink. From those humble beginnings, the company developed a reputation for making high quality, high performance sport boats in the years that followed.

If you’re like me, when you hear Baja you think of big, offshore-style boats. The 202 Islander is a little more cottage-friendly, but with all the fun you expect with the Baja name.

From the swim platform and sun pad up to the multiple seats in the bow, it looks a lot like a standard-issue cottage runabout. For a 20-foot boat with a beam under 8 feet, the bow lounge is roomy with plenty of storage. The cockpit, too, has a number of seats for passengers and the stereo system includes several speakers placed throughout the boat.

The distinction from your neighbour’s runabout becomes evident when the roomy sun pad behind the rear bench seat is lifted. The five-litre, 260-horsepower MerCruiser MPI sterndrive packs more than a punch. When you hit the throttle that Mercury roars like an outtake from Jurassic Park.

Controlled from the racing-inspired shifter and throttle at the helm, even the rocker switches look high performance. You don’t even have to take your hands off the wheel to adjust the trim. A small tab, within a finger’s reach on the left side of the wheel, moves the trim up or down. Once you find the sweet spot you’re in for some real fun.

In the right conditions, 60 miles per hour is easily achieved. Ideal conditions being a little chop to bounce across and suitable wind and fuel levels. On our test day, with two people in the boat on a flat, small lake with a full fuel tank, we topped out at 54.3 mph during our test runs. Though not at top speed, the ride felt all kinds of awesome.

There is a lot of power in the Baja, but it’s not designed for jackrabbit starts. It takes a little while to get her going, nearly 10 seconds to hit 20 mph. Once you’re off, it only takes two more seconds to crack 30 mph.

You can cruise at 25 mph at 3,000 rpm, but you’re not buying a Baja to have a slow, quiet cruise. It’s more likely you’ll be running at the 3,500 – 4,000 rpm range in the mid-to-high 30s – or faster.

The 202 Islander is loud and the graphics are flashy, but that’s what you want in a boat like this. You’re not looking for subtlety. And who cares about the slower holeshot when you have the powerful top end like this?

The meaty roar delivers that wow factor each and every time you hit the throttle, and despite this Baja being relatively small, it is a big load of fun! With the room of a runabout, it makes a perfect day boat for the family to get away from it all. If you’re looking to get away from it quickly, get in a Baja!

TEST BOAT ENGINE
260-hp MerCruiser 5.0L MPI

ACCELERATION (mph / sec)
0-20 / 9.5; 0-30 / 11.9
TOP SPEED (rpm/ mph)
5,200 / 54.3
CRUISING SPEED (rpm/ mph)
3,000 / 24.7; 4,000 / 37.7; 5,000 / 52.1

TIME TO PLANE – 6.8 secs
MINIMUM PLANE SPEED – 22.2 mph

SPEED TESTING by Lowrance GPS

Length: 20 ft 4 in / 6.2 m
Beam: 7 ft 10 in / 2.38 m
Weight: 3,000 lbs / 1,362 kg
Fuel Capacity: 50 gal / 189 L
Price Range: $18,000-$23,000

This boat review is featured in the Fall 2015 issue of Boats&Places. Stay tuned for the footitis video review in the 2016 season of PowerBoat Television.

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Steven Bull is an Associate Producer and Host of PowerBoat Television. He grew up boating on runabouts and PWCs on the lakes around Huntsville, while his wife grew up on cruisers. It only took months after getting married for Steve to adopt that lifestyle. Together, they purchased a Sea Ray 380 Sundancer they keep at the Toronto Islands. A graduate of the University of Windsor’s business school, Steve worked in the front office of OHL and CFL teams before moving to Europe and working as a Ski Guide in the French Alps. He returned to Canada get a Master of Arts in Journalism from Western University (formerly UWO). Steve’s broadcast experience ranges from the BBC World Service in England, to business reporter with NTV in Kenya, and from 2010-2014 as a multi-platform reporter and host with CBC News. In 2014, Steve combined his passion for boating with his skills as a broadcaster by joining Lifestyle Integrated where he contributes to Boats&Places Magazine, BoatTest.ca, BoaterNews.ca, and of course, PowerBoat Television.

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