Bavaria 38

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Even with the declining dollar, it’s possible to own a European cruiser that offers decent value for the money. Bavaria has built thousands of boats since it began in 1979, and the new Bavaria 38 Cruiser is a chip off the old block. With its moderate displacement, ballast, and sail power, it’s not extreme in any way, yet it does have a slippery underbody that gives it a performance boost.


The company’s weapon against rising costs is a highly automated, super-efficient factory that produces strictly standardized boats. The standard wiring harness is complete, even for those options not installed, so adding electronics, a genset, or air conditioning later is easy. Similarly, the places on deck that might receive fittings for additional winches and cleats are already reinforced and backed with metal plates. An Airex hull core extends from the waterline to the rail, and Kevlar reinforces the forward sections. The wiring and plumbing are equally neat, although the electrical system is to CE standards, not ABYC, which calls for tinned wires. I found the layup to be workmanlike, even in hidden areas.

Deck and Cockpit

This boat all but rolls out a red carpet when you board from the stern. The transom opens electrically to create a wide platform that serves as a dockside passerelle as well as a swim platform and dinghy step. Nice. In the cockpit, however, the big wheel necessitates climbing up on the seat to move forward. You can remove it for entertaining. Otherwise, the winches are the right sizes and are placed well for setting, furling, and trimming the sails shorthanded. Sight lines are excellent on this boat, and it’s comfortable to sail from either the windward or the leeward side. I did wish for a central helm seat after a while and suspect that long periods of motoring without one will be tiring. Long grabrails make moving forward to the mast easy, and the fittings are substantial. There’s a single anchor roller forward of the deep chain locker and the standard windlass. Our test boat had a roller-furling mainsail that operated smoothly and set well. Slab reefing (with either a conventional or full-batten main) is available at the same price.


The accommodation plan provides a nice balance between the light varnished mahogany woodwork, white trim, and pretty fabric. The plentiful lockers should stow most of the small items a cruiser would want to keep handy, and there’s more space beneath the settees. The big opening hatches overhead will keep the saloon fresh and cool. A toe-stubbing step-over to the forward cabin may be an annoyance, but otherwise the interior is crew-friendly. I liked the table design with its single drop leaf to utilize the port settee for extra seating when necessary. The forward double is unusually wide, and the aft-cabin berth is also spacious. The head compartment has the shower closer to the door than the toilet is, a unique layout.

Under Sail

A weather window between the thunderstorms spawned by a departing offshore hurricane gave me a chance to sail the boat in a shifting 6-to-10-knot southerly at Annapolis, Maryland. With the in-mast furling main and standard jib, it returned 5 to 6 knots of boatspeed on the smooth water. I would expect the slab-reefing version to be a bit peppier in light air as a result of its greater area. The windshifts prevented exact measurement of tacking angles, but the boat felt close-winded and tacked with perfect control through somewhat less than 90 degrees. Offwind performance was similar, with easy control and good speed.

Under Power

The standard three-blade prop and underbody give the Bavaria 38 exceptional maneuverability. Returning to the dock called for a sharp J-shaped turn, followed by backing to the pier against a quartering breeze. It was easy. The test boat had a bow thruster, but I honestly doubt it will get much use. Cruise speed was 7.5 knots at 2,600 RPM, with a moderate sound level in the saloon.

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