In the few years since the Bali brand appeared as an offshoot of the Catana line of catamarans, it has grown rapidly. The original models are popular bareboat charter vessels in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and the new Bali 5.4, the largest of the line, moves the company into the crewed-charter business as well.
The Bali 5.4 is a cruiser, not a performance voyager like the Catana, so the construction has to meet somewhat different requirements. Its big open living spaces, for example, pose some serious engineering challenges from the torque loads of the hulls and the compression loads of the rig. The solid foredeck with all its furniture must also be kept light to maintain decent sailing performance and seaworthiness. All the necessary husky structural reinforcements are concealed in a few pillars and crossbeams.
The vacuum-infused layup of the hull and deck is to modern standards, and a closed-cell foam core above the waterline and in the deck makes them strong and light.
It’s easy to get to the twin engines in the aft ends of the hulls for maintenance. The soundproofing is quite good, ensuring a quiet ride under power.
The plumbing and drain systems utilize bronze through-hulls and double-clamped, labeled hoses. The bilges are quite deep, and their access hatches are rather small, begging the question of how the crew might reach them when necessary. I was not able to see much of the electrical system, but the boat is certified to CE standards.
The Bali 5.4 is all about lounging space. The decks seem to go on forever, with cushioned surfaces everywhere. Up to 12 vacationers can take in the views on the foredeck, the afterdeck or atop the flybridge. For more seating, the entire aft bulkhead of the saloon raises like a garage door to blend the interior living space with the afterdeck into one seamless expanse.
A door from the saloon to the foredeck cockpit makes movement fore and aft much easier than on the company’s smaller models. This forward seating, complete with a dropleaf table, will be the prime place to ride while underway in moderate conditions.
With the “front door” open and the “garage door” raised, guests can move freely about the boat with no climbing or squeezing through narrow passages. It’s an open-space apartment afloat with exceptional ventilation for tropical breezes.
The rig is a powerful double-headed sloop with a self-tacking jib and a genoa that can be unfurled from its short bowsprit in light air. The main is almost square-topped for efficiency, and the jib stay goes nearly to the masthead. There’s a lot of sail area here, but the big electric winches handle it easily.
The dinghy davit system is strong and simple, and the stern platform makes boarding the boat easy. The only drawback I can see in charter service is a relatively limited storage space for water toys, like paddleboards, kayaks and diving gear.
I sailed the six-cabin version of the Bali 5.4, which will accommodate 12 charter guests and includes small, separate crew quarters in the bows of the two hulls. In such a charter, the boat carries a captain and a chef/hostess/deck hand.
The designers have done an exceptional job of providing for this multitude of guests in only 54ft. Each cabin has a full double berth and ensuite head. Everybody gets together at meals and during daytime travel in the huge deck space aft. After that they can break into smaller groups at various seating areas for the evening and finally retire to private cabins. It’s quite civilized.
Forward in each hull is a dramatic double berth that gives the illusion of floating in space, while the aft cabins of our test boat had a double berth on the port side and twins to starboard. Two more cabins with double berths have access from the deck instead of the saloon.
Other available interior layouts are aimed at private ownership or bareboat charter, providing four or five cabins in several configurations.
The galley is spacious and efficient. A nav station in a corner of the saloon has space for all the electronics that a modern vessel might require. The interior has a pleasant neutral beige and gray decor, with unremarkable cabinetry and finish detail.
Bali cats have inherited many of the sailing qualities from their Catana parentage. For example, while it has stub keels instead of the Catana’s more efficient daggerboards, the Bali 5.4 still went to windward well. In 12 knots of wind on Chesapeake Bay, the boat returned 5.5 knots and tacked easily through 90 degrees.
Off the wind on a beam reach, we topped out at 6 knots. Tacking and gybing were simple with the self-tending jib, and the boat always felt under perfect control. Raising and lowering sails was simple enough, although someone must climb a short ladder and then follow a narrow catwalk atop the bimini to reach the end of the boom. The mainsail came down smoothly without assistance at the end of our test sail.
Appropriately for a crewed charter boat, the lines all lead directly to the helm in a manner that ensures the guests will not trip over anything. Visibility from the helm and from the autopilot at the nav station inside is excellent.
The sailing performance should remain good even at full load of 14 people plus gear, especially as there is plenty of wind in the Caribbean.
The Bali 5.4 runs well under power. With the throttle set for cruise speed (there was no tachometer on our test boat), we moved across the Severn River at better than 8 knots. Full throttle produced 9 knots of boatspeed. This cat purrs very quietly under power.
With a turning circle of 1.5 boatlengths and predictable handling with the two engines running in opposite directions, this boat will be handy in tight marina spaces. The throttles and steering are exceptionally smooth-operating.
The largest vessel in the Bali line, this is a big boat with big capacity. While some may go to private owners, the main market will be charter companies, where the Bali 5.4 can provide the luxury of a crewed charter experience to a sizable group of people. If you have a bunch of friends or an extended family to take on vacation, the Bali 5.4 would be a good choice.
LOA 55ft 1in LWL 53ft 2in BEAM 28ft 8in DRAFT 4ft 10in AIR DRAFT 81ft 6in DISPLACEMENT 48,501lb (lightship) SAIL AREA 1411ft (100% FT) FUEL/WATER (GAL) 317/317 ENGINE 2 x 80hp Yanmar SA/D Ratio 17 D/L Ratio 144 DESIGNER Xavier Fay, Olivier Poncin BUILDER Catana Group, Canet en Roussillon, France, bali-catamarans.com U. S. Distributor Dream Yacht Sales, 844-328-7771, dreamyachtsales.com PRICE $1.48 million (as tested) at time of publication
MHS Winter 2019