BOAT TEST: BAVARIA SPORT 38
Bavaria’s Sport 38 is a waterborne version of the best German-made luxury automobile, says JOHN ZAMMIT after a sporty ride
Over many years, the jolly Germans have developed a reputation for precision, attention to detail, and quality engineering. It's evident in many ways, not the least being their auto industry. Building fine automobiles has won them worldwide acclaim via prestige marques like Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, and VW.
What is sometimes overlooked is the extent of the German boatbuilding industry. One of their most successful brands is Bavaria. Since 1978, Bavaria Yachtbau has been producing more than 3000 motorboats and yachts per year. Like a lot of European counterparts, the yard had its share of ups and downs, and even new ownership in recent years. Despite these, it's still be ranked among the world's largest and most successful marques.
Today, Bavaria manufactures boats from 28- to 55-foot in a state-of-the-art production facility employing 550 workers. Its Sport range (from 28ft to 46ft) account for almost half of annual production. But while engineering and efficiency have been high priorities for Bavaria, the company recently turned its attention to ramping up the design aspect.
To this end, Bavaria teamed up with BMW DesignworksUSA to produce a new, dashing and inspiring range of boats like, well, the resulting Sport 38 driven here. This chic cruiser combines practicality, engineering and seaworthiness with two other essential elements of any German sports conveyance - show and go!
THE BIG BAVARIAN
Approaching the Sport 38 dockside, the most striking feature is its volume. A surprisingly high-sided boat with a spoon bow, it could almost be described as looking bulky. Having said that, the sharply raked windscreen and forward-facing targa arch temper the beef and give the boat a purposeful look that quickly grew on me.
The test boat was a soft top - there's a 38 HT or hardtop variant on the ship to Australia as we speak - fitted with a bimini that extended forward and aft of the targa arch. And I thought the soft top looked pretty good and did the job in terms of providing enough shade while still leaving an open feel to the cockpit.
The supports for the bimini had clever inbuilt tensioners that were adjustable by hand and came in handy on the day. As we got underway, and the wind started to rattle the bimini, a quick turn of the tensioner solved the problem. What was I saying earlier about engineering and attention to detail?
Having come aboard, the single-level cockpit presents as a nice setup for entertaining - there's lots of seating, a wetbar with fridge, and plenty of places to lounge about. Sun worshippers are taken care of with a huge aft sunpad that lifts on gas struts, revealing cavernous storage for fenders, water toys, perhaps even a rollup dinghy, or party drinks
The second cockpit sunpad or daybed is forward on the portside. It's just aft of the windscreen, taking clever advantage of what, in normal circumstances, might be wasted space. There was a hydraulic swimplatform still to be fitted that will doubtless add another dimension to this already socially adept sportsboat. You'll get both wet and dry entertaining areas.
Power comes from a pair of Volvo Penta 5.7GXI petrol V8 engines rated at 320hp and matched to Aquamatic Duoprop sterndrives. While there are diesel options, they're an added expense and I can't see any reason why you'd go past this combination that produces more than enough power and torque to satisfy the thrillseeker within.
I found the Sport 38 easy to drive from the comfortable helm on a single seat, facing a dash with room for the C90 Raymarine screen incorporating GPS-plotter, a series of Volvo gauges, the Volvo Electronic Vessel Control (EVC) unit incorporating trip computer, engine data, and so on. And the trim tabs fall to hand, too.
With the combined benefits of speed and comfort, this is a boat that can get you to your playground fast and in style. Once there, you've got space to kick back and relax, not just in the roomy cockpit but also on the foredeck, where people seem to gravitate on this type of boat.
Steps from the cockpit lead to nice, wide sidedecks, where good handholds make the trip forward safe and easy. I love the teak decking running all the way to the bow. Very practical and chic, giving the boat a Med' feel.
Forward, there's lots of room to spread out, while the anchor gear is housed in under a hatch thereby leaving the area uncluttered underfoot. However, there's no sign of a deckwash, which could be a problem for getting rid of any mud that comes up with the anchor. But the walkthrough bow gate is a good idea and I could use this on my own boat, as I regularly nose up to a fixed wharf to pick up guests.
At which point, I'm thinking the Sport 38 could be the perfect boat for day-cruising on Sydney Harbour, Port Phillip Bay or the Broadwater, enjoying time with friends and family. But she's more versatile than that. With twin private cabins, a well equipped galley and comfortable saloon, this Bavaria will play the overnighter, allowing a couple to enjoy a weekend up the coast, and a family oodles of room to holiday together.
Access to the accommodation is through a sliding door alongside the helm. The four steps lead to the saloon and galley where, it should be said, you again appreciate the volume of this boat - hey, there's 2.1m of headroom. The décor is what I'd call European, very functional, efficient and stylish, but without unnecessary bling.
Finished in a light oak - one of the three colour options available - with portholes either side of the hull that let in light and provide cross-flow ventilation, the interior is bright and cheerful unlike the sombre Bavaria sod yore. The galley to starboard is equipped with everything you would need for preparing a quick snack, picnic lunch or a gourmet dinner - lots of bench space, two sinks, electric cooktop, microwave and under-bench fridge/freezer. To port is a dinette, and it seems like everywhere you look, there's storage with clever and practical use of space.
The forward cabin has a large double berth and the sense of space continues through to the storage hanging space and shelving. A large overhead hatch and side portholes provide light and ventilation and owners or VIP guests should be very comfortable here.
The full-beam cabin amidships is vast and, although fitted out with twin berths, they easily convert to a large double, courtesy of a handy infill that otherwise is utilised as the backrest to create a sofa out one of the berths. There's loads of light, from hatches and, as with elsewhere, you'll find plenty of storage and hanging space.
The single, central bathroom is yet another model of space utilisation, accommodating a head, vanity unit and separate walk-in shower. Its location at the bottom of the companionway steps means it's easily accessed from both cabins and is conveniently placed as a dayhead.
With great facilities like this, on what is more often a dayboat, there's nothing stopping you from finding a sheltered cove, picking a mooring or dropping the pick, and staying the night. And, believe me after years of pleasure boating, that option presents aplenty.
But for all this, the practical side hasn't been forgotten and getting to the business end of the boat is as easy as flicking a switch - quick as that, the cockpit rises to reveal a large and spacious engineroom. Gaining entry, however, isn't all that straightforward and requires some deft foot placement. Once down, there's plenty of room and access around both engines.
You'll find the hot-water service in the engineroom, along with separate batteries for each motor and the house battery. There's a couple of engine blowers and, forward of the Volvo Pentas, is the 720lt fuel tank that features a large inspection hatch on top. With the fuel tank located amidships, at the equilibrium, onboard stability is not affected by fuel load. The soundproofing is quite good, too, leaving the design to speak for itself, and the Bavaria marque to call loudest. I drive a German-made car and I wouldn't feel out of place behind the wheel of the Bavaria 38 on a sunny Sunday.
FACTS & FIGURES
BAVARIA SPORT 38
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The Sport 38 was given a good hit-out on a day where there was about a 1.5m of swell but not a lot of sea on top. Performance was brilliant. Nicely balanced, she was up and running in no time, jumping effortlessly from the hole.
In fact, I was taken back to my skiboat days, racing around, twisting and turning at high speed. But try as I may I couldn't put a drop of water over the bow. In short, lots of fun factor with genuine German sports performance.
At just over 5000rpm (the engines are rated to 5200rpm) we clocked 36kts, very handy if you're trying to get somewhere in a hurry. The sweet spot, though, seemed around 3500rpm, on the day producing 22kts and 36lt/h per side.
PRICE AS TESTED
Bowthruster, teak cockpit sole and sidedecks, hydraulic swimplatform, cockpit fridge, cockpit table and wetbar, camper covers, shower in head, electric toilet with holding tank, microwave, hot-water service, trim tabs, second service battery, battery charger, Raymarine C90 GPS-plotter, and more
Refer to dealer for pricing options
LENGTH OVERALL: 11.8m
DRAFT: 1.05m (drive down); 0.7m (drive up)
WEIGHT: 8500kg (dry)
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta 5.7GXI
TYPE: Fuel-injected petrol V8
RATED HP: 320 (each)
Ensign Ship Brokers,
Suite 2 Smiths Marina, The Spit,
81 Parriwi Road,
Mosman, NSW, 2088
Phone: (02) 9960 2799
The Sport 38 is contemporary without resorting to radical lines, perhaps even slightly understated, but with just the right amount of flair to command attention. It's a sophisticated look, not unlike a German prestige car and, with so much choice in terms of internal finishes, including three different timbers and 16 colour combinations - as well as enclosed hardtop or targa arch - this boat can be customised to reflect your own personality.
But perhaps best of all, the boat offers hitherto new riches, more volume and comforts, and bang for your buck. Together, such things put this sportscruiser on the must-see list and help shift that huge first-boat-owner's market back in gear.
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