Space station

Graham Lloyd | VOLUME 27, ISSUE 4

For entertaining and comfort, Bavaria’s Sport 43 Hard Top is tough to beat.

Owners Paul and Trish Long, along with their son, Elliot, had kindly allowed the use of their Bavaria Sport 43 HT (Hard Top) for this test, and at one point they came aboard to see how we were getting along. Paul used to run a ski school in Darwin and was familiar with smaller craft, but this was the family’s first ‘big boat’. I asked them why they chose this particular craft.

“It’s easy to handle, especially with the joystick control,” said Paul. “And it’s big, so we can entertain comfortably. We had seven on board for Christmas lunch last year in air-conditioned comfort. It’s a pleasure to be on it,” he added.

Trish was just as enthusiastic. “I like the layout,” she said. “The kitchen is great and I enjoy relaxing on the cockpit lounge. It all works well, even when we have lots of guests onboard – it flows.”

SPORTING FLAGSHIP

Those comments neatly sum up the appeal of this 13.22m sporting cruiser. It’s the current flagship of the Bavaria sports boat range and it’s available in a three-cabin layout as well as this boat’s twin-cabin format. There’s also a Sport 43 soft-top version that retails from $569,000, while this Hard Top model starts from $589,000. Long lists of both standard and optional features come with the boats, and our review 43 was loaded with options that took its price to around the $650,000 mark.

That’s competitive pricing for a cruiser of this size, which encompasses twin cabins, two bathrooms, a large open belowdecks saloon and galley, as well as the generous one-level cockpit and monstrous two-section boarding platform. The aft section of the latter lowers to around knee-deep below water level; it’s perfect for sporting activities or for just lazing in the water on hot days. It has the capacity to take a PWC or tender, and Paul had fitted a bracket for an inflatable dinghy.

Perhaps more widely known for its sailing yachts in Australia, Bavaria also has a range of sporting power boats from 7.6m and it recently released its first flybridge cruiser. The German company has doubled its production capacity since 2000 and uses highly automated processes to aid its still largely hand-built production. That allows a lower staffing level than similar boat builders, for higher efficiency and lower overheads.

The boat also has a link with BMW cars, as the Hard Top 43 was designed by and developed in close cooperation with BMW Group Designworks USA, a subsidiary of the BMW Group. It’s been nominated for the prestigious European Powerboat of the Year Award this year, an accolade with which Bavaria is no stranger – it won it in 2009 with its 30 Sport HT and then again in 2010 with its Deep Blue 46.

SOLID STRUCTURES

This sort of quality was clearly evident in the Sport 43 HT. While in the cavernous engine bay, I could see the large box-section fibreglass stringers and cross-frames that are ’glassed into the hull. All the bulkheads are ’glassed in, too, for a solid unitary structure. The engineering looked superb, with wires, hoses and cables neatly routed and properly secured at regular intervals. Twin Volvo Penta D6-370 straight-six diesels, rated at 276kW (370hp) each, were strongly mounted into the box-section sub-structure and they drove through Volvo Duo-Prop sterndrives for excellent manoeuvrability and overall performance.

Access into the engine bay on the 43 is underneath a large aft sunbed. That sits on top of a deep storage locker, which is a convenient spot for all sorts of bulky gear. Both the sunbed and the locker lift on a powered ram to reveal a non-slip metal step and ladder down into the engineroom, where there’s plenty of space to move around for regular checks and maintenance.

With the ability to direct prop thrust through the steerable drives, the boat utilises joystick technology for easy-to-master operation – even in the close confines of marinas. Just tilt (or twist) the stick in the direction you want to go, and that’s where the boat goes – it’s almost too easy!

There are two buttons on the base of the joystick: one for control at low revs and in tight spots and the other for operation at higher revs at speeds up to 7 knots (12km/h). With the joystick engaged, the wheel is locked – you steer just with the stick itself. However, once in open water, simply putting either engine into gear disengages the joystick and you’re back to normal control. That’s when the real fun starts.

PENTA PUNCH

The engines lift the big 43 out of the water quickly, smoothly and without fuss; there’s just a quiet, relentless thrust as the boat gathers speed and lifts, with little bow-rise on plane. As well as the Long family, we had a crew onboard whose boating experience varied from lots to none, but everyone commented on the smooth passage of the 43 and the low noise levels.

The helm position is good, with a double seat offering a flip-up bolster. That gives the option of sitting or standing to drive, with a sight-line through the screen, or standing at a higher level on a fold-up step to see over the screen, with your head through the large sunroof. All three driving positions work well, with easy reach to the controls and excellent visibility in all directions. When seated, an angled foot panel comes in handy.

The joystick is on the starboard coaming in front of the twin throttle/shift levers. These have inbuilt drive trim controls, and just behind those are the trim tab switches. So all the main controls are close at hand and convenient to use.

Further forward on the coaming are some digital display panels and a compass. Directly in front of the tilt-adjustable wheel is a Garmin GPSMAP4008 GPS/plotter, while to port is a Garmin G8C10 autopilot. In front of that is a graphic display panel, with touch controls for most of the boat’s ancillary functions. Behind the autopilot, and a bit lower, are the bow thruster controls.

The main dash console is higher and ahead of the wheel, where all the gauges can be seen without distraction. Three large dials across the top comprise two tachos either side of a speedo. The tachos have inset digital displays for a raft of data, such as depth, water temperature, engine hours and so on. Some of that data is duplicated in the bottom row of smaller gauges displaying voltage, drive trim, water temperature and fuel level.

I was a tad concerned as to whether the shiny, white gelcoat of the dash surrounds would cause some glare at times, but it wasn’t an issue on the day and there’s been no adverse feedback. There was a clip-out fabric cover over the areas of white ’glass behind the screen and it could well be that this would eliminate any possible glare.

A sliding panel in the side window lets in a fresh sea breeze when needed and that big sunroof certainly opens up the whole cockpit, with fresh air and light aplenty. On the sunny winter’s day of our test run, it was delightful.

EFFORTLESS PROGRESS

Cruising along was delightful, too, with the 43 loping easily at 39km/h showing 2400rpm on the tachos. Those revs, or a bit lower, gave very enjoyable cruising, although the hull-engines-drives combination was just as happy going faster. At 3000rpm we achieved 49km/h, while full throttle had the D6 diesels humming at 3600rpm and the hull creaming along at 56km/h, or marginally over 30 knots. I was told the bottom had some growth and that fully clean the 43 would run to 33 or 34 knots (63km/h).

Even so, it was a good run, with a light touch on the wheel maintaining course or sweeping the Hard Top smoothly through turns. The hull does bank well into tighter directional changes, but the running surfaces stay in full control and those Duo-Prop drives never gave any sign of slipping. The trim tabs are effective, but rarely needed.

In terms of the accommodation, Paul commented that the 43 was rather like an apartment, and I wholeheartedly agree. The owner’s stateroom is forward, with an island double berth and a bathroom with separate shower. There’s plenty of natural light through portholes and overhead hatches with slip-along blinds. There’s good storage, too.

The twin guest cabin is under the cockpit, with entry through a lockable door on the aft port side of the saloon. This cabin has standing headroom and a lounge seat on the port side, with more than sitting headroom over the twin berths, which run laterally to starboard. The bathroom extends aft on the port side.

In this area, the 43 is a paradox that just doesn’t add up. It seems impossible from the external dimensions that the designers could fit all of the huge engine bay, the guest cabin and its bathroom in the available space – but they have. And it all works beautifully.

Between the cabins amidships is a large saloon, with U-shaped lounges around a dining table to starboard, with the galley opposite. As Trish noted, this is a lovely facility in which to entertain, with lots of headroom as well as floor space. Again, it is light and airy, with glowing cabinetry and woodwork, plush upholstery and a teak floor – it’s quite luxurious, but very practical.

The L-shaped galley has a two-burner electric cooktop, microwave, fridge-freezer (there’s an additional fridge drawer under the front seat of the dining area), a sink and good workbench space, plus plenty of stowage in drawers and cupboards. There’s also a swing-out TV.

ROOM TO RELAX

Back up in the cockpit, opposite the helm position is a double seat that L-shapes into an aft-facing recliner-lounge, making the area very adaptable for those keeping the skipper company when cruising. Just aft of that, on the port side, are U-shaped lounges around a removable table, while across to starboard is a wet bar, complete with griller and fridge.

Teak-faced steps on both sides of the cockpit lead aft to that huge twin-section boarding platform, while other steps lead up to wide side decks that, along with solid guard rails, make passage to the foredeck easy and safe.

It’s not hard to see why Paul, Trish and Elliot are so happy with their Bavaria Hard Top cruiser. The pleasing external lines disguise a much larger-volume interior than one would expect, and the excellent use of all that space makes the 43 a stand-out in any situation. There’s much more to find out about the Bavaria range, and this 43 in particular, so for the full story call the Australian importer of Bavaria power and sail boats, Andy Howden, on 0438 696 157, or the Sydney dealer, Ensign Ship Brokers, on (02) 9960 2799.

SPECIFICATIONS: BAVARIA SPORT 43 HT
Length (overall): 13.83m
Length (hull): 13.22m
Beam: 4.41m
Draft: 1.10m
Weight: 11,950kg
Sleeping capacity: 4 persons, 2 cabins
Headroom in cabin: 2.10m
Fuel capacity: 1500lt
Water capacity: 410lt
Power (as tested): Twin Volvo Penta D6-370 diesels, 276kW (370hp) each
Sterndrives: Volvo Penta Duo-Prop
Price from: $589,000
Price as tested: $650,000
For more information, visit: www.ensignbrokers.com.au, email: andy@ensignbrokers.com.au.


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