Bavaria 38 – The practical performer

Continuing to do what it does best, producing well-mannered and equipped cruisers, Bavaria has once again hit the spot with its new 38, reports Kevin Green. 

The revamped range of cruisers from the southern German yard of Bavaria has produced a raft of high specified yachts with the launching of the 31 and the 34, and the Bavaria 38 which has just arrived on our shores. These new models are more than just upgrades to the previous 30, 33 and 37 models, with redesigned hulls and innovative features making these boats solid all-round cruisers.

A good cruising boat should have all the basics: be comfortable, stable, roomy and have adequate equipment to ensure self-sufficiency, yet also be no slouch on the water. After all you've got to get there, some time, and people with busy lifestyles tend to be time-poor. But with so many boats to choose from, it's always difficult to pin a model down so it was interesting to chat with Dan Jones from distributor North South Yachting about the plans for the new 38 that we were looking over. “We're aiming this model at the baby boomer and mum and dad buyer,” he told me. Standing alongside the boat, it was easy to see its cruiser credentials: high topsides with the chunky hull carrying its volume well back, giving a big, long cockpit space. The new hand-laid fibreglass hull has Kevlar-reinforced bow sections and enough overhangs fore and aft prevent the large volume giving too boxy a look to it.

On board the elongated teak-clad cockpit area with its smoothly rounded combings and deep lockers is cavernous. Access to it is easy via the electric fold-down transom. Beside it sits the medium-sized steering wheel, with a prominent pod/binnacle arrangement that can accommodate a charter plotter. Twin Raymarine ST 60 instruments nestle in here and the pod is large enough to house speakers on each side, to complement the stereo system that comes as standard. Adjoining it is a varnished wooden fold-out table (maybe not the best finish given our strong UV) and below it a useful icebox arrangement and another practical touch is the stainless steel gas bottle.

Again, following the cruising proviso of having gear in abundance, the six Lewmar winch arrangement gives plenty of setup options for the sheets. They are wound by four Lewmar 40s near the helm, which was handy for our test sail with the helmsman operating the nearby mainsheet and just ahead the overlapping genoa trimmed by the crew. With this arrangement and all halyards running back to the cockpit (where a couple of Lewmar 30s sit) even single-handed sailors can sail the boat with ease. Reflecting the beamy design the cabin top has plenty of flat space for the adjustable main traveller with twin sheets running back through solid Rutgerson blocks. Ventilation is excellent with seven Lewmar hatches on the cabin top (an amazing 13 in total) along with twin-air vents, the latter surrounded by sturdy stainless grab rails in additional to hand rails; exactly the type of features a cruising sailor needs.

Moving forward, other nice touches included hefty midship cleats and a meaty toe rail that protrudes beyond the gunwhale, acting like a rubbing strake, a handy feature for protecting the hull. The optional teak-laid decks would be tempting if your budget allowed for it. At first glance, the pulpit area looks conventional until the gaze rests on a large stainless ring, part of the apparatus for an extendable prod to fly the optional asymmetric spinnaker. This, along with 11 or so other features, has been offered as a value-added pack by North South Yachting. Anchoring for the cruising sailor is important so the deep chain locker is welcome and gives plenty of options. It houses 50m of chain and a 1000 watt Quick windlass with optional plug-in electric controls. The plough anchor sits on a single bow roller. Another handy feature here is the hardwood seat, just above the Furlex reefing drum.

The aluminium Selden rig is located well forward in the boat, to accommodate the elongated cockpit, and is held up with standard wire shrouds. A solid Rodkick boom vang and an adjustable twin backstay completes a pretty straightforward rig. On the test boat Elvestron Hi-Tech sails were bent on – this option has a fully battened main with a denser weaved mylar cloth used. Also included are metal sliders on the mast, much stronger than plastic which is fitted to a lot of boats.

Below decks
Below decks, the buyer has the choice of two or three cabin layouts. The two-cabin setup on the test boat looked ideal for a cruising couple with a roomy double up front, a long head/shower in the starboard quarter and an adequate cabin on the port quarter. The shower/head room has a lot of space for a 38 footer, including a wet locker, and an electric flush has been fitted by North South.

The voluminous saloon houses a well-equipped port galley with microwave and loads of cupboard space. Good features here include a twin sink with sloping second basin, handy when the boat is heeled. Water supply is from two separate plastic tanks, totalling 360 litres???.

The lightly varnished mahogany used throughout is well-finished while giving a warm and solid feel to the area. The full size chart table is deep enough to store plenty of routing charts and above it a push-button panel effectively controls all systems on the boat. Stored power comes from two 140ah house batteries and one 55ah starting battery which are charged by the 25 amp hour charger that runs off the Volvo Penta 40hp sail drive motor. All fixtures and fittings worked well throughout, typical of expertise from a company that produces 3500 yachts a year. The composite material used on the cabin sole is machined precisely, giving easy access to the shallow bilge, where big bolts keep a firm grip on the cast iron keel and cradle setup, along with hefty tie rods that anchor the shrouds on to this cradle as well. A very strong-looking setup overall, which gives confidence.

Anticipation of taking the boat for a sail was growing with the North South team as the 38 had just been launched, so its very first trip in Australian waters would be under our command. We weren't to be disappointed as the northerly wind filled in down the narrow confines of Pittwater. Taking the helm I gave the 40hp Volvo plenty of revs to push the stubby hull through the water and managed 7.4kts at 3200rpm, with the steering easy under full power. As we readied the sails, the optional Raymarine ST 6002 Autopilot would have been handy but the conventional running rigging setup was easy to deploy: Attach the main halyard, unzip the boom bag and crank the cabin top winch to hoist the sail above the lazy jacks. Rolling out the genoa was equally easy for the two of us on board as I killed the engine and shoved the throttle into reverse to feather the three-blade prop. As the wind cranked to double figures, the 38 gained momentum, with the big genoa doing most of the work, yet the helm felt balanced – to the extent I could let the boat sail herself as we reached towards Broken Bay while doing some rig tuning. Moving forward to tighten the leech line, as we got a big lift, did not unnerve me – she stiffened up without too much weather helm. Tacking took a bit of practice; done too tightly, the speed disappeared and acceleration, understandably, wasn't there. But with practice I enjoyed tacking, and gybing was nimble when the helmsman got the feel of the boat. The 38 was put on all points of sail with close reaching probably her most favoured – the instruments read 6.98 in an estimated 12 knots of breeze. “A steady performer and a safe platform to walk around on at sea,” were a couple of the thoughts that I jotted in my note pad at the time. It was the same sentiments I remember from a delivery trip many years ago in the Med, when I took a brand new early-model Bavaria 37 through heavy conditions for a week. So I'd say that Bavaria has carried on doing what it does best: producing a well-mannered and equipped cruising boat at an affordable price.


Length Overall 11.72 m
Length of Hull 11.45 m
Beam 3.90m
Draught Standard 1.95 m
Displacement 7,200 kg
Ballast 2,100 kg
Engine (Volvo Penta D2-40) 30 kW/40HP
Water Tank 360 l
Fuel Tank 150 l
Cabins 2/3
Sail area (main and genoa) 69,0 sqm
Mast height 15.45 m
Price: $285,000 (standard)
Price: $293,719 ( sailaway review boat with High-Tech Sails)

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