A boat model that rolls off an assembly line in significant numbers is sometimes called an AWB – “average white boat” — by sailing snobs. It’s synonymous with affordable but soul-less, mass-produced boats. But can a boat that will be built considerably less than 1,000 times really be called that?
Also, the term “affordable” might be correct relative to the boat’s size, but a new 37-foot cruising boat still costs way more than a fully appointed Porsche 911 convertible. The meaning of such terms depends on the point of view.
The fact is, 37 feet, or about 11 meters, is a popular size for high-volume production models, and thus a key segment for a production company that is geared toward high output. These models typically sell in big numbers, because they appeal to charter companies and private owners alike. And 37 feet is ideal for other reasons, too: It’s not too big on the outside for smaller marinas, and not too cramped on the inside for an adult charter crew; and boats in that size offer seakeeping abilities, waterline length, stability, and comfort that make them suitable for long-distance sailing and even worldwide cruising.
Hanse Yachts, Dufour, Jeanneau, and Beneteau have recently rolled out new models; now Bavaria joins the fray with the new Cruiser 37. It replaces the 36, which had been built 358 times over the past three years — a successful run. The design, from 2010, is still current enough, which is why Bavaria is sticking with the hull shape and the basic architecture developed by Farr Yacht Design. But the yard no longer uses BMW Designworks USA for styling and details; the company now contracts with the English firm, Design Unlimited, which is owned by Mark Tucker. Tucker made a name for himself in the megayacht business, and also did work for Bavaria’s direct competitor, Hanse Yachts.
The most significant changes on the Cruiser 37 are found on deck. Instead of the small rectangular ports that resembled embrasures, the cabin trunk now sports stretched-out windows and five instead of four deck hatches. Also notable is the twin-wheel steering, which required a new cockpit and moving the companionway bulkhead farther forward. That in turn pushed the main bulkhead forward as well, so the saloon wouldn’t get cramped. The fore cabin is hardly affected by those measures, as there was plenty of extra space anyway. (Originally, an additional head was supposed to be installed here.)
Sizing up the new boat won’t make you do back flips off the dock with joy, but it looks very neat and solid, maybe even downright good, especially compared to the Cruiser 36, which looks decidedly more stolid, bulky, and dated — also due to its long cockpit coamings.
Other notable differences include the combined aluminum rub and toe rail, a solid footrest atop the anchor roller (for boarding from the bow) and the dark yellow Duradeck coating that resembles teak. The grand stern hatch is still there, which makes it easier to board the boat and ads deck space when folded down. It is simply raised and lowered by hand with the support of gas cylinders. When closed, the top edge doubles as a helm thwart for sailors who prefer to sit right behind one of the wheels.
Surprising performance under sail
Forward of the steering station there’s enough space for three crew on the windward side, or six around the cockpit table, which is an option. On the tested boat the fold-down leaves were still a tad too large. The table also houses a compass and chart plotter, and doubles as a welcome brace at sea. However its value was not really proven during the test, as the winds were rather light and the water smooth on a hazy day on the Kiel Fjord. The prevailing winds of 3 to 4 Beaufort were good for 4.8 to 5.4 knots of upwind speed while tacking through 90 degrees, which are all good numbers.
Even better is the simplicity and ease of unleashing that performance potential and the way the boat can be steered and guided. The Danish Jefa steering system works cleanly, smoothly, and with ease. In addition, it is compact, and easy to install and maintain.
With only a hint of weather helm, which is desirable for feedback and a little heel, the test boat took off. Empty tanks and lockers, no bow thruster, and a set of new, well-shaped, higher-end roller-furling sails by Elvstrom might have contributed to that — but that’s standard procedure for a boat test. Even so, the 37 delivers more than the usual. It drives, it luffs, it lives, and it’s fun. Under gennaker it reached 6.4 knots on this day, which is also quite decent.
The helmsperson sits on a flat extra thwart or stands up comfortably, despite the split backstay, which is attached farther outboard and more or less out of the way. It’s a good solution for this important trim instrument for the two-spreader Selden mast. It’s adjusted by a bridle and a 1:6 pulley, which is helpful and functional. However, more elegant and more precise to handle would be an even higher gear reduction.
The 110-percent genoa, which overlaps only a little bit, is sheeted from movable cars that run on short tracks on the cabin top. This geometry enables close sheeting angles, shorter distances during tacks, and permits the now-common shroud attachment outside for a lighter rig.
Many options for the mainsheet
While the jib sheeting is simple, the mainsheet system brims with different possibilities. Standard is the 1:2 pulley system that is attached to both sides of the companionway and is operated via both Lewmar 30 halyard winches. That way, the boom can be pulled to windward without a traveler and without too much downward force, which works well. It’s the right choice for light air. Without additional effort, owners can reeve the sheet in a 1:4 pulley by running it through the existing blocks and to one winch only. It’s a popular configuration, because it’s simple, but it does not substitute for a traveler. Setting up the German cupper system that uses a continuous sheet led to both winches is also possible without big alterations.
However, none of these arrangements gives the helmsman the opportunity to trim the mainsheet directly. It requires two additional blocks and fairleads (the aluminum backing plates are already installed) to lead the sheet back to the optional gennaker winches right in front of the helm stations. That solution would be ideal, because it is flexible and already set up for the sporty use of a gennaker.
Under canvas everything was peachy, and there were no noticeable issues under engine power, either. The noise level remained comfortable and the maneuverability was good, including going in reverse. Sure, a slight wheel effect from the Saildrive was noticeable. Under full throttle the boat reaches 8 knots and at cruising speed it still does 6. It’s all good.
A smart interior
The positive impression continues below deck. Taking the first step onto the floorboards there is no noise, no creaking, no squeaking, and no flexing. The floorboards sit atop a construction floor that is connected to closely spaced stringers and floor timbers. This laminated composite skeleton reaches from the anchor locker to the stern and is rather wide. The bilge compartments are connected by drilled limber holes so water can collect at the deepest point. A nice detail is the installation of glued-in tubes that keep water from seeping into the timbers and stringers. The top-coated bilge sections are easily accessible through nine large and loosely fitting hatches, which make it easy to inspect and maintain the bilge and utilize it well for storage.
|Bavaria Cruiser 37|
|Draft, std/shoal||1.95 / 1.63 m|
|Sail Area (upwind)||69.0 sq. m|
|Engine||Volvo-Penta 14 kW / Saildrive|
But more important are the living quarters that impress with timeless, practical, and well thought-out styling. One does not have to love the rutted surface of the ceilings that are made up of structural elements with glossy and matte surfaces. But that’s just evidence for a notion enhanced by studying the drawings: the deck structure is stiff, strong and durable.
Universally convincing are the clean and replicable installations for water and electricity, even though the starting battery was put in a disadvantageous spot, in the bilge by the companionway, where lots of water tends to collect. However, the finicky inspectors of the Germanic Lloyd waved it through during their inspection.
Other conspicuous features belowdecks include upper cupboards and hull windows, a commendable combination. Ventilation from above is very good, with a total of six opening hatches, but cross-ventilation is a bit skimpy with only one opening port in the galley. In the three-cabin version the nav table can be pushed out of the way and the settee underneath extended to a full berth. Freshwater capacity might be a bit limited for a full crew complement, but it can be expanded for 770 euros with an optional tank in the fore cabin.
The boat is available with one or two aft staterooms (the surcharge for the second one is 2,500 euros). In the three-cabin layout the head compartment is a bit smaller, and the shower can’t be separated from the toilet. Storage in the lazarette shrinks to a minimum, which means that bulky items such as the gennaker will have to find a spot under the V-berth in the forward cabin. The two-cabin version offers more space in the head, more storage, and a larger berth aft, because the longitudinal separating bulkhead moves to port.
Plenty of good points
The Bavaria Cruiser 37 convinces with performance and handling under sail, has a high standard of quality, offers plenty of comfort, has no real weaknesses, and still comes with an attractive price tag. The new boat delights with the sum of qualities, and surpasses a predecessor that was successful in its own right. Bavaria — and more importantly Bavaria’s customers — will be pleased with this boat for a long time.
For more information, visit Bavaria Yachts.
This story originally appeared in YACHT magazine, and is republished here by permission. Translated by Dieter Loibner.