Hard to top

David Toyer | VOLUME 23, ISSUE 2

Bavaria’s new 37 Sport Hard Top brings together the best of European styling and performance under one roof.

With the assistance of an almost fully automated production line that includes the latest in robotic cutting, routing, manufacturing and assembly machinery, the Bavaria factory in Giebelstadt, Germany churns out around 4100 yachts and sports boats each year, all in the 27-to 50-foot range. This makes the company one of the biggest boat builders in Europe, with exports to just about every boating market around the world.

Bavaria has been building yachts since 1978, but it was only in the very late ’90s that it turned its attention to powerboats. In 2001, the first of the Bavaria powerboats was imported into Australia by BMB Powerboats.

With their distinctive European styling below deck, Bavaria yachts were different to most of the open-planned US-built sports boats that were around at the time. The layout of the yachts, along with their reputation for solid, sporty construction and efficient performance, was backed by good handling and seagoing qualities. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for Bavaria to establish itself in the Australian market.

EUROPEAN CONFIGURATION

Bavaria’s latest model, the 37 Sport Hardtop, was released in Australia late in 2007. The 37HT retains all the ingredients that have made Bavaria so successful to date, including the characteristic European layout for the saloon and sleeping cabins.

Instead of integrating the saloon with open-planned forward and/or aft cabins – a layout that’s popular with many of the US designed and built sports boats – Bavaria sports boats enclose the sleeping cabins, separating them completely from the main saloon. This layout, while suited to the colder regions of Europe (including the Mediterranean during the off season), has, for various reasons, recently gained favour with a number of Australian builders and importers, particularly in the construction of hardtop sports boats.

Onboard the 37, the hardtop, along with the wrap-around glazing, substantially extends the versatility of the main cockpit. By almost fully enclosing this single-level deck, the cockpit becomes an ideal entertaining and living area, no matter the weather. Unlike the open sports boat, with its soft bimini top and clip-on or zip-up clears, the hardtop and its fixed glazing adds a new dimension to the boat.

The Bavaria 37 is available both as an open sports boat and a hard top, but the difference between the two is quite significant. Although both incorporate the same roomy layout and features – including a big U-shaped lounge around the table, an aft sun pad and forward lounge and helm chair – the hardtop enclosure allows a much broader use of the main level.

Unless it is bitterly cold or unpleasant, you can enjoy the amenities of the main cockpit well into the evening. There is no need to retreat to the intimacy of the saloon for anything other than cooking or to use the bathroom. Add an aftermarket barbecue to the edge of the boarding platform or an optional factory-fitted grill unit and refrigerator to the wet bar, and you have an almost-complete living space topside.

There is plenty of storage. Under the aft sun pad, it’s possible to store a small inflatable, diving gear, plus other odds and sods. By adding a drain and a solid insulated divider, the storage area can be turned, in part, into a large ice box.

Though the hardtop does give good protection to most of the cockpit, the locally fitted bimini projecting out the back provides just that little bit extra shelter that is needed over the rear lounge.

SPACIOUS DESIGN

Great headroom, with plenty of light via strategically-placed deck hatches and side portholes, is the key to the spacious open feeling that is created in the saloon, even though both the fore and aft cabins are separated from the saloon.

The spaciousness of the aft cabin is outstanding, while the bow cabin would put some bigger boats to shame. Both cabins have generous hanging lockers, storage drawers and lockers, and the storage bins under each of the aft cabin bunks are huge – not the shallow stuff you usually find under a bunk, but deep bins that can hold a couple of doonas, extra pillows and blankets and just about anything else that is big and bulky.

The aft cabin has full headroom in the sit out dressing area and there is good clearance over each of the berths. Plus, by using the infill cushions, the twin berths can be converted to a full-width double.

For the kids, the aft cabin is great, with plenty of room to sit out and play games or watch TV (not on the boat as tested). It’s an area of the boat where the kids can get out of the parents’ hair for a while and spend some time doing as they please, before tucking up in bed for the night.

The saloon itself is very complete, with the traditional lounge seating wrapped around a medium-sized dinette table, which, in turn, can convert to an extra sleeping berth, if needed. The galley includes a sink, with hot and cold water, double cook top, microwave and a refrigerator, and it’s great to see deep fiddles to the edges of all the galley bench tops.

The owner of this boat took up the option for fitted carpet for the saloon, though personally I would have stayed with the standard timber laminate that is underneath. This is a far more practical surface if you have kids around or if you’re constantly in and out of the water or on and off at the beach. It’s easy to clean and maintain. But this is a personal choice.

KEEPING COOL

Air conditioning is an option. Bavaria believes that the insulation provided by the PVC foamcored hull and deck, along with the natural cross ventilation from the overhead deck hatches and side portholes, negates the need for a mechanical means of temperature and comfort control. Flyscreens and sun shades are fitted over the deck hatches, as well as to the sliding door hatch between the cockpit and the saloon. All the hatches can be left open to encourage natural ventilation, keeping out all the insects and bugs.

The test boat didn’t have air conditioning and on a hot Gold Coast day, the cabins and saloon were quite pleasant and comfortable throughout. But we didn’t spend a hot balmy night on board, so I’m not sure just how well Bavaria’s theories hold up in the sub tropics. I suspect that some buyers would still pay the extra $11,000 for splitsystem reverse-cycle air conditioning, though Andy Howden says that very few Bavaria buyers go for the AC option, and never come back for a retrofit.

PERFORMANCE

Twin 5.7-litre, 320hp V8 Volvo GXI petrol engines, matched to Volvo DPS-Duoprop sterndrives, are the standard power package and they provide a good all-around performance. Speeds in excess of 35 knots are possible, while the best and most fuel-efficient cruise range can be found around 3500 to 3800rpm for 19 to 23 knots.

Other engine options include twin 250, 300 and 330hp four-and six-cylinder Volvo diesels, matched to DPH-Duoprop sterndrives and the MerCruiser 350MAG petrol sterndrive.

The deep vee hull incorporates a flat planing surface aft, and on our test, it more than adequately handled a two-metre sea swell (including a bit of a wind chop) quite comfortably. We cruised much of the time offshore around 3500rpm, getting near full throttle at times in a following sea, and there was rarely much in the way of wind blown spray back over the boat.

With a Category 4 offshore rating in Europe (approved for use in seas up to 4 metres), it’s understandable that the conditions we encountered on the test day presented no problems.

Into a head sea at 18 to 20 knots, it’s not essential to use the Volvo Q system electric trim tabs – just tuck the legs a little under and the 37HT will give a good ride without slamming into the waves or flying off the top. Turn around and run with the seas, and you only need to trim the legs out a little – not too far, as the props want to slip when trimmed much beyond level or +1 or 2 on the trim gauge.

In a sea, the hull runs confidently and soundly. It’s a naturally flat-running hull that has a very comfortable ride and provides the skipper with every confidence in the way the boat handles and responds. The boat feels solid and shows no flaws in its seagoing capabilities or how it responds.

While the boat generally responds quickly and positively to the throttles, the speed and ease with which it got onto the plane was a bit disappointing. I had expected a bit more zing in the way the hull came the plane, rather than the sluggish response I got. However, once over the hump, everything was fine.

And while I have long touted the benefits of the Volvo Duoprop sterndrives for the assistance they provide for berthing a sports cruiser, a boat such as the 37HT simply cannot do without a bow thruster. The bow thruster is standard equipment and with a strong wind and fast current during our test, the thruster was most welcome on a number of occasions.

Although the present flagship of the Bavaria sports boat range, the 42HT, has been designed for, and is equipped, with the revolutionary Volvo Penta IPS, it’s not an option for the 37HT. Instead, this boat relies on the combination of Volvo Duoprop (with electronic controls as an option) and the bow thruster. If the MerCruiser 350MAGs are installed, the new Axius joystick system can be added.

Whatever you want out of a boat, whether it is to entertain friends, day boat or cruise away for the weekend with a partner or the family, the Bavaria 37HT has everything on hand to fulfil your needs. It’s an excellent handling boat and runs well at sea, providing a good, comfortable dry ride at 20 knots or so in fairly sloppy water. It has good, smart styling and is solidly built and smartly fitted out.

SPECIFICATIONS: BAVARIA 37 SPORT HT

Length: 11.95m

Beam: 3.99m

Weight: 9000kg approx.

Fuel: 760lt

Water: 250lt

Sleep capacity: 4 persons

Engines: 2 × Volvo 5.7-litre V8 GXI/DPS-Duoprop 320hp

Price: Base price $429,000 As tested $445,216

Test Boat: BMB Powerboats Pty Ltd 0438696157 or (02) 9719 9177

PERFORMANCE:

RPM Speed (knots)

1000 3.8

1500 6

2000 8.3

2500 12

3000 14.9

3500 19

4000 22.5

4500 27.6

5000 (WOT) 35.5


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