The verdict? This was our crew’s favorite catamaran that we have ever been on for these sailing vacations (and we’ve been on many other Balis, Lagoons, and Leopards). If you want to know why I only sail catamarans for these trips, check out my catamaran vs monohull comparison.
This was also the largest multihull I’ve handled and a bit bigger than we needed for our crew size. We were supposed to be on a new Lagoon 46 for this trip, but it’s delivery was going to be delayed. So instead, the charter company upgraded us to this brand new Bali 5.4.
How new? We were the second crew to use it after it’s delivery from being on display at the Annapolis boat show.
Let’s start this Bali 5.4 review with the living areas.
This boat was made for relaxing!
This is exactly the type of catamaran that I’d want with a big crew (8-10) on a sailing trip!
Let’s start with the flybridge. The helm station has room for two and affords excellent visibility perched high above deck. It’s positioned on the starboard side so your immediate view isn’t blocked by the mainmast.
What I love about the flybridge is that it combines the helm station and lounge areas. The captain/helmsman still feels like they are a part of the action. Just behind the wheel is a large U-shaped seating area with two tables. And then behind that, are a couple cushions for sunbathing underneath the mainsail.
Other amenities of the flybridge: plenty of storage, speakers for jamming sailing tunes (yes I’ve been on catamarans that don’t have this) a beverage refrigerator, and a sink! No need to go downstairs for fresh cocktails.
The trampoline, a common feature of most catamarans, is replaced with a solid foredeck - probably the one feature I disapprove of. I love laying on the trampoline at night for stargazing. It’s a tradeoff on the Bali 5.4 to make room for the two single berths in the bows.
You can still lounge up front at the forward cockpit and we usually used this space in the morning for breakfast. Use the forward door straight out of the galley. This direct access is great. Enjoy some bacon, eggs, and coffee at the table as the sun rises over your anchorage.
Heading aft, another feature of Bali catamarans is the garage style door that rotates up. Our version had an electric winch to handle this, but on some models you may have to do this by hand (which is no big deal). So rather than have an indoor and outdoor dining table, you only need one. The door rotates up and large windows slide open so you get a true indoor/outdoor open space to enjoy!
We enjoyed dinners here and even popped up a sheet to make a big screen for Master and Commander.
The galley is plenty big for any amount of cooking and entertaining you plan to do. On the Bali 5.4, you have so much storage that we were able to stow most of our provisions away. It’s also U-shaped which makes enough space for 2 cooks to prep meals without bumping into each other.
The gas grill is built in with a pop up cover. While we could never get it blazing hot, always a problem with boat grills, but it’s location and cover helped shield it from the breezes.
Below decks on the Bali 5.4
Honestly, below deck features on a sailing trip are the least of my worries. We sleep there, but otherwise don’t spend much time hanging out in the cabins.
Our version had 5 main cabins, each with it’s own head. In addition there are 2 additional single cabins in the bows of the two pontoons. We didn’t use them - I believe for a crewed charter, this is where the captain and hostess would stay. You might be able to fit a kid in each, but keep in mind they are separate from the main living space. Access is from a deck hatch and in our version they were not air conditioned.
This was the first time I’ve slept on a mattress positioned perpendicular to the hull. The benefit is you have more space to maneuver in the cabin. The mattress was also bigger than, say, one shaped to fit in the bow of one of the pontoons.
One of our cabins was extra large - the biggest I’ve seen so far. On some models, this can be shrunk to make room for a 6th cabin.
Systems/features that are great for sailing trips
Our version of the yacht came with all the bells and whistles.
Generator / air conditioning: it got real cold! We can thank how new the boat was. In case you haven’t been on a Bali, be aware that the galley area is not air conditioned. The reason? The pop up garage door doesn’t seal perfectly.
Watermaker: again, this worked great and required no mid-trip adjustments. Our charter base helped set it and forget it. All we had to do was check the pressure occasionally and turn it off when water tanks were full.
Underwater blue lights: this was the first time I’ve had this and it was awesome!!! We put them on in the evenings - lots of fish and a couple sharks showed up to say hi.
Hydraulic swim platform: another nice suprise. You can adjust it to any level and it double functions as the dingy lift.
Bow thrusters? The Bali was equipped with these (I saw the propellers while snorkeling) but the charter company advised us that they were not operable. So, we didn’t attempt it. There was a control for them at the helm station. This boat, like most catamarans, are so easy to maneuver with twin engines that I’m not sure I would have even tried to use them.
We only averaged 10 knots of wind on our trip, occasionally cranking up to 15. As a result, we didn’t really get to put the Bali to the test under sail. We had to motor about half the time due to light winds.
But, we put the sails up whenever we could. The sails went up smoothly with help from 3 electric winches.
It has a self tacking jib - another nice feature that would make it easy to single hand for a captain.
On a broad reach we were able to get our speed up to about 7 knots - pretty good as far as I’m concerned for a bulky yacht charter catamaran. Downwind we picked up 6 knots with about 10 knots of wind speed.
This was the fastest catamaran I’ve been on under motor. Revving to 2,500 rpms, we easily reached double digit speeds. Engines seemed at ease. The speed came in handy for our Exumas trip when we got a late start out of the marina on our first day.
I really liked the electric throttle controls. It takes getting used to since you need to let them pause in neutral when moving between forward and reverse. Once figured out, there is no guessing which gear you are in - have you ever asked yourself if you are really in neutral??
Another bareboat charter with the Bali 5.4?
So would I charter the Bali 5.4 again? Yes and no. For a crew of 5 (we had a few last minute covid-related cancellations), it seems a bit excessive.
The other big consideration is the price, which we did not have to pay (we payed a lower rate which was applicable for the Lagoon 46). This would probably be one of the more expensive yachts you can charter - especially for a new model.
If money were no object and I had a large crew of 10-12. Absolutely!!! We loved it.
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