New Boat Review: Bavaria 36 Cruiser
Capt. Thom Burns
There is hardly a better place to check out new boats than the Annapolis Boat Show. It’s generally not too hot, not too cold, and it’s outside. Plus the boats are in the water which makes many comparisons really meaningful. Sailing a boat for demonstration or review purposes is also a treat because everyone is usually there from the designer to the builder.
Neither the designer nor the builder of Bavaria Yachts was at Annapolis this past October. Bruce Mundle, Managing Director of Bavaria, USA was there with his staff and they were a busy group. Bruce showed us the boats and took us sailing after the show.
The Yachts are built in Germany. While Bavaria Yachts is relatively new to North America, they are certainly not new in Europe. They have been building production boats for decades. In there last reported year they built nearly 1,700 yachts. They are the largest builder in Germany and number two in the world. According to Bruce Mundle, Managing Director of North American Operations, the company was able to double capacity this past year with the addition of less than a dozen workers.
When you are already rolling out 2,000 boats a year the new capacity is both impressive and an immediate challenge to domestic production builders. Bavaria has been able to ramp up production efficiently because of their high tech production lines and facilities backed up by state of the art technology and German engineering.
The manufacturing facilities are south of Frankfurt near the tip of the Bavarian region in the small town of Giebelstadt. The town is no where near any major bodies of water, but it is within twenty-four hours of the Baltic, Mediterraen and Atlantic by truck. The property for the new facility came from a closed U.S. Air Force Base.
This vessel is designed with the couple or single-handed sailor in mind. It is thus very family friendly for young families. The decks are remarkably clean and uncluttered. On the bow there is a built in self-draining, anchor locker, a stainless steel bow fitting with anchor roller and a chafe guard.
Sandwich Layer: Sandwich Layer
Keel Flange: Keel Flange
Kelvar fabric: Kevlar Fabric
Verstarkte Bodenwrangen: Verticle Reinforcements
The rig is a 9/10 fractional with two sets of slightly swept back spreaders on Selden spars with a positive action gas cylinder boom vang. Either an in mast furling mainsail or a full-battened main are standard. The full-battened main is 45 sq. ft. larger. Since we have a lot of light air on our Great Lakes in July and August, the larger main would be my preference. The standard genoa is on a Furlex headsail system.
All lines lead aft to the cockpit. The mainsail trims from the center of the boom onto a traveler located just forward of the companionway. The winches are Harken and the hatches are Lewmar. The wheel comes standard with a leather cover. The cockpit is reasonable for a 36’ boat which maximizes space below. It has a walk through transom and a hot & cold deck shower.
As I descended the companionway steps, I immediately liked the brightness from the overhead and coach sides, both of which are white. The cabin sole is “never-wear” which looks like teak but is virtually maintenance free. The cabinet and cabin doors are solid wood. All of the locker and cabinet doors are finished on the edges. One of the things that impressed me was that every hinge and latch on every drawer, locker, door, cabinet, . . . even the engine compartment were the same. It reminded me of the IKEA approach to efficiency.
The galley has a stainless steel double sink with easy access to the ice box which has built in 12 volt refrigeration. There’s a gimbaled, two burner propane stove with oven, covered trash disposal and good provision storage.
The navigation station is across from the galley facing forward. It is well appointed for a thirty six foot boat. Instrument displays are located directly in front of the nav table. There’s stowage under the chart table, above to starboard and under the nav seat.
The main salon is open and airy with a table for six mounted with a drop leaf for easy fore and aft passage. It is also well lighted with six adjustable lights strategically placed in the overhead. It has several opening hatches with roller blinds and six opening ports with curtains for enhanced cross ventilation.
The boat we sailed was a three cabin model with two aft cabins. This arrangement gives opposite sex children their own space. The cabins are big enough for a couple short term.
The forward head has a good size door and there is adequate shoulder room with a pull down seat for showering. There is also a hanging wet locker. All head surfaces are of an “easy care, easy clean” type.
The forward stateroom is light, airy with a closet, sit rest and a series of cabinets fore and aft on both sides. Overall this is a well done and well planned interior which I would be happy to show my guests.
|Note how far forward the sail-drive unit is from the rudder.|
The major difference between Bavaria and every other production builder that I am aware of is that they build their boats beam to beam rather than stem to stern. This allows different models to cruise down the same production line. They have also invested heavily in high-tech, computer aided manufacturing processes which should also increase quality control.
Despite all the automation, the hull is hand laid solid GRP fiberglass to the waterline, then it’s foam cored above the waterline and on deck to save weight. The boats also feature double centerline laminates, kevlar bow sections and reinforced stringers. The Bavaria line has Lloyd’s Register LRQA Offshore rating - the highest given in the pleasure craft industry.
|All cut-outs and holes are done by computer aided robots.|
We left Annapolis in light winds under power. This boat is equipped with a Volvo MD 2030, 29 hp sail drive. This is a really slick power unit because it mounts vertically much closer to the center of the boat. It does not have the long shaft and stuffing bearings associated with traditional diesels. I’m reluctant to say traditional because so many manufacturers are moving in the direction of sail drives. The shaft, stuffing box, couplers and room they take are removed. The overall unit is less expensive while saving space. The same hull shape has more usable interior space for deep lazurettes and double aft cabins.
I put the boat through some spin moves to both port and starboard. The Bavaria 36 really spins smoothly in a very tight circle both ways with a slight advantage to port as would be expected with a right handed screw. The most notable difference came when backing the boat under power. Where’s the prop walk? Because of the distance between the sail drive’s prop and the rudder, the boat backs smoothly with only a little prop walk which is easily overcome with a rudder unencumbered with prop wash. This boat handles very well under power which I attribute to its incredible balance due to the design and placement of the sail drive unit.
|All wood pieces are cut and painted or varnished by machine.|
Under sail we had a typical light wind July day in October. The roller furling main worked very smoothly as advertised. The genoa set nicely and the boat moved about 2.1 knots in gusts of 5 or 6 knots. We were lucky to get some wind for twenty minutes or so in the range of 8 to 10 knots. The boat sailed well and tracked beautifully with finger tip control on the wheel or no hands on the wheel at all. It is a very well balanced boat.
The sheets and lines which are all led back to the cockpit leave a clean deck and open cockpit adding to the enjoyment with less clutter. I have no doubt that the Bavaria 36 is a pleasure to sail. A quick perusal of the owners groups and events indicate people are doing great things with their boats. When we were ready to come in after our mostly light wind sail, it took more time to put the fenders on than to secure the two roller furling sails.
When Bavaria is mentioned in my familiar U.S. sailing circles most sailors I know wonder if it’s the latest trendy micro brewery and where it might be located. Sailing to Europe took me to Ireland, France and Spain over the past few years where I roamed the docks looking at the boats. I saw a lot of Bavaria Yachts in the mix which surprised me since before then I hadn’t known about them myself. Most were sailed by couples or families of four or so, often with younger kids. This bodes well for sailing, at least in Europe.
Bavaria has taken the approach of investing heavily in high-tech production with quality craftmanship in an effort to cut production costs, produce a quality product and increase units produced. At the same time several other manufacturers have taken the approach of cutting back production to their highest efficiencies using older production techniques while raising prices and encouraging custom orders. The good part is that the savings from the Bavaria approach are passed on to consumers in lower costs. The bad part is that the $Euro versus the $U.S. exchange rate may negate the savings to U.S. customers in the near future.
The success of the Bavaria line in the marketplace is clearly their value. You should not have to explain to your significant other why you need an extra ten to twenty thousand dollars in extras to make the boat “right.”
A new, well-equipped, sail-away Bavaria 36 Cruiser will price out at under $149,000. The boat comes with a laundry list of standard features many of which are extras on other boats. The value becomes apparent when strolling around a major boat show comparing this boat to its competitors.
|Bavaria 36 Specs
Length overall 37’10” Length hull 32’6”
Length waterline 30'10”
Water tank 80 gal.
Diesel tank 40 gal.
Draught (standard) 5'1"”
Deep Lead (option) 6’5”
Displacement 12,100 lbs.
Ballast 2,330 lbs.
Furling mainsail 290 sq. ft.
Battened mainsail 335 sq. ft.
Genoa 320 sq. ft.
Height of mast above
How are they doing it? By using good old-fashioned economic principles of lower production costs driven by higher capital investment in state-of-the-art technology. I believe you will appreciate the solid engineering behind these boats.
If I have any critique of the boat at all, it is very minor and involves the darkness of the African Mahogany finish. I would personally lighten the finish up a couple of shades. This is a minor quibble. The strongest plus is that the boat sails well and the sailaway specifications are actually true. There is a lot to be said for buying the right boat with the right gear on it with no surprises.
Personal preference recommendations on my part would be to select the deeper draft lead keel and the full-battened mainsail.
The challenge for Bavaria will be to maximize their presence in the U.S. market to make all that high-tech investment pay off in increased sales. As consumers, I would give Bavaria a good, careful look. You are likely to be pleasantly surprised.
Capt. Thom Burns publishes Northern Breezes and Sailing Breezes Internet Magazine.
For more info: Hooper’s Yachts,
Afton, MN 651-436-8795
Bavaria Yachts USA