Best Pocket Cruiser

The Bavaria Cruiser 34 sailed away with the Best Pocket Cruiser award in an interesting and highly varied small boat category.

December 12, 2017
Bavaria 34
Winner: Bavaria Cruiser 34 Jon Whittle

Winner: Bavaria Cruiser 34

Talk about three different vessels. The Best Pocket Cruiser class for 2018 was a study in diversity. It included the smallest boat in this year’s contest, the tidy Malbec 18. It was home to a blisteringly fast catamaran with accommodations for happy weekend forays, the Stiletto Xc. And it even contained a more traditional German-built cruising boat, the Bavaria Cruiser 34.

“The Malbec 18 is interesting,” said Tim Murphy. “It’s an 18-foot, light displacement (1,500 pounds) boat with sleeping accommodations inside it. It’s based on a model that was created in 1966 called the West Wight Potter, and there were about 4,000 of those built. The builder set himself a goal of bringing a boat to market that you could sleep and cook on at around the $20,000 mark. We’ve seen lots of builders in the past who have entry-level ideas, and it sounds like a great idea until it turns out their entry-level boat costs more than my house. So I think that’s a strong point. To see something priced more like a car than a home was a very good thing.”

Ed Sherman agreed. “I say hats off to the builder because I think the idea of getting a boat to market at that price point is something our industry as a whole is lacking,” he said. “They’ve created a small boat that a couple could enjoy in relatively sheltered water. In a nice, steady 10-knot breeze you could really have a blast sailing it. So, to sum up, it’s an intriguing little boat that’s priced for newbie sailors that just want to begin experimenting with sailing, maybe sleeping out on a mooring, or exploring little islands off the coast.”

Malbec 18
A true entry-level boat, the Malbec 18 will be ideal for newbie sailors looking to break into sailing on a dedicated camper cruiser, one judge said. Courtesy of the Manufacturer

Like the Malbec, the Stiletto Xc was another boat that fit the description of a “camper cruiser.” Built of high-tech materials, including Nomex, Kevlar, carbon and foam coring, it has minimalist sleeping accommodations in each hull as well as a compact head and galley. “But I think camping on the beach or under a boom tent would be the way most people used this boat,” said Bill Bolin.

“It’s a neat concept boat,” he continued. “There’s a way to fold it up and trailer it, which was one of their goals.” The current owners purchased licensing rights to the name Stiletto from a previous builder of 27-foot cats. The boat has been lengthened to 30 feet to eliminate hobby­horsing from the earlier iteration. The “c” in Xc stands for cruising; the company also has plans for an Xf model that would incorporate foils in the hulls to produce a foiling cat.

“We went out and had a nice sail with the boat,” added Bolin. “It’s kind of like sailing a big Hobie cat; it has a very similar sheeting system, an adjustable traveler that was almost full-beam width and a multipurchase mainsail sheeting system. It sailed and tacked like a cat — you needed to release the main and backwind the jib a bit to help get the bows around. We sailed in a dying breeze that started out at 10 to 12 knots and threw the chute up, and it was real fun.”


In every Boat of the Year contest, it seems, a boat rises up after sea trials to make a lasting impression on the judges. For 2018, that boat was the Bavaria Cruiser 34.

Stiletto Xc
Built in the United States, the Stiletto Xc is a cool concept boat that can be folded up and trailered to distant cruising grounds. Jon Whittle

“I found this category the trickiest of them all because the boats were so different from each other,” said Murphy. “But the Bavaria was a lovely boat to sail. It has a single rudder, and she answered her helm just beautifully in the conditions we had today. We started off with around 10 knots of breeze that built to 13 to 15 knots. As a sailboat, it was just a pleasurable sailing experience, among the best we had during our judging. It was among the boats that felt like a really happy sailing experience.

“It’s the one with real accommodations,” he added. “You really can cook a meal on it, you can sleep comfortably, you can travel to places, there’s a head with closed-door privacy, there’s a shower. …”


“The boat was just rigged right. It had great sails on it. It sailed really well,” said Sherman. “It felt wonderful. The steering controls and everything just felt good. I was comfortable at the helm. So high marks and kudos to the sailing performance. This is a nice couple’s boat. I think two people could have a blast on it, or maybe a family with one or two small children. I think it definitely has a place in this class as a solid contender.”

In fact, when the votes were tallied, the Bavaria Cruiser 34 did even better than that, earning the title of 2018’s Best Pocket Cruiser.

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