Bavaria Yachts 38 Review

Yachts have natural steps in size  24ft, 28ft, 32ft, 38ft, 42ft. Beyond 42ft it doesn t matter. Don t ask me why this is so; it just is so. What is also true is that these figures make no sense in metric measurements.

A 38 footer is the smallest yacht a couple could contemplate a long-distance cruise in real comfort.  At 38ft you get the big-boat feel you don t get in a 36 , says Bavaria importer Ralph Hogg of North South Yachting.  This 38 may be a touch harder to put in a marina pen than the 36, but it is no harder to handle under sail .

Bavarias sell well in Australia (and elsewhere), because they have always represented great value for money. Various rumours have spread about why this should be so and to sort things out Bavaria invited Yachting World magazine to inspect their production line in central Germany.

The journalist reported that he found Bavarias to be soundly built, and that cost savings were generated by high-volume. Bavaria has developed car-like production lines and aim to build 4000 yachts and powerboats a year and become the biggest yacht builder in Europe.

Bavarias are stylish yachts with plenty of internal volume, which is disguised by clever styling. Decoration is simple – white hull and decks, blue Swan-like coveline and stripe along the coachroof and cockpit sides. The cockpits are quite small, but big enough. The boats have a classy appearance and being German-made does not hurt the marketing image. Guess what the  B in BMW stands for

Let s sort out that value for money business. You can have a basic 38 with two, or threecabin layout, two sails and 29hp Volvo, for $270,000. $289,000 buys the boat with the Prestige Pack, which includes a 55hp Volvo, deep (2m) lead keel, electronics package and other important bits of gear (stainless steel gas bottle, cockpit table, that sort of thing).

This new 38 spearheads a change in Bavaria design direction, says Ralph Hogg.  The boats have hulls and keels, which are more performance-oriented, more powerful.  The keel is now a blade (rather than the flared-bottom style), but centre of gravity is still low.

Owners are getting better performance for club racing than they would expect from the older generation. On this new 38, Bavaria has reverted to a single-head layout, which opens up interior volume. You can have two or three cabins; the boat shown here had three, with the master cabin in the bow and two near-identical stern cabins. The bathroom, which is very roomy, is on the portside aft; navigation table is to starboard. The forecabin has a cupboard each side, each split vertically with shelves on one side and hanging space on the other. Beneath the bed is a big sail locker, which reveals the forward end of the grid system, which supports the hull skin.

The forecabin, and the saloon and galley, feature Bavaria s trademark eye-level lockers, mounted just below deck level, which can hold a huge amount of stuff. This boat s main saloon had a fixed dinette table, but the importers can fit a telescopic strut. It also had leather upholstery, locally done. Timber trim is in sapele, a dark red timber. The deck liner is moulded with vinyl inserts, which can be removed for access to the deck hardware bolts.

The galley is a straight-line style down the port side, the cook given support by the centreline dinette seat whose top lifts to reveal stowage. The ply used here has an outer veneer of more than 1mm thickness, good for future sanding and refinishing, says Ralph. This point is made strongly in the company literature; they claim the amount of thick veneer and solid timber makes long-term maintenance easier.

The galley features a fridge (no freezer), two-burner stove with oven and a split sink. Utensils and crockery are stowed in the eye-level lockers, a good arrangement. The worktop is in Bavaria s blue Corian. Deck layout is simple. Anchor chain locker and electric windlass are in the extreme bow, which comes as no surprise.

The mast s twin spreaders are angled, the diagonals are discontinuous. The backstay leads to a bridle, which provides the 12:1 backstay tensioner. There are twin cars on each genoa track and they are adjustable under load. The spars and vang are by Selden; the boom is fitted with outhaul tension graduations, reflecting the 38 s more athletic role. Primary winches are No.44 Harken self-tailers; auxiliary winches (halyard and mainsheet) on the coachroof are No.40s.

How does she sail Easily. Control lines are cammed on the coachroof, so up goes the main, unfurl the headsail, we are sailing. The standard two sails are by Elvstrom. Ralph checked the log against the GPS and it seemed accurate. The 38 reached along comfortable at 7.5 knots in 16 knots True in smooth water under full sail.

On the wind under full sail she got to 6.5 knots in 15 True, but the breeze was gusty and difficult to read. She actually went quite a bit faster than that, but the breeze was very gusty and reached the point where we were over-pressed under full headsail, so readings could not be trusted.

We should have reefed the headsail, but it would have been no harder to reef the main than it is to roll up some of the headsail. We eased the mainsheet, bore off a little, eased the halyard, wound in the reef with the Selden single-line system, tensioned the halyard and hauled in the mainsheet. I should have timed it; I reckon it took less than 60 seconds.

Certainly no more difficult than feathering the boat, easing the headsail sheet, hauling on the furler and re-sheeting. The Whitlock steering on the 38 is terrific  weighted right with the right gearing. You can seat six, snugly, in the cockpit.

The Bavaria 38 has a lot of hull volume and indeed, as Ralph Hogg said, represents the size point at which big boats start. Below decks this is a very big boat; many people would never feel the need to trade up in size, because this 38 is capable of almost any role a buyer should desire.

The design pendulum has swung a little more towards performance, which should suit Australian owners where the twilight race is such an institution, representing as it does an undemanding forum for cruising types and newcomers to dabble in competition and thus get more use from their boat. The cockpit is not huge, but it is not bad, either.

Which brings us to the obvious, predictable conclusion  I wish I could think of something more original. This is a lot of boat for the money.