Four very different boats in the Full Size Cruiser Under 50 Feet kept the judges deliberating long and hard as they worked through the largest category in the 2015 BOTY competition. For the record, all the judges agreed that they’d be more than happy to take any yacht in this quartet on an extended cruise. This is how they broke down the nominees:
“The Bavaria Cruiser 46 aims at the widest demographic of sailors; it’s inclusive, if that makes sense,” Tim Murphy said. “The Island Packet SP Cruiser MK II is aimed toward experienced, perhaps older sailors who may be thinking of graduating from a sailboat to a trawler. This boat will keep them sailing longer. The Morris 48 GT was built for a couple to live aboard and winter in the Bahamas, but then in a different season, to go ocean racing with a full crew. To accommodate that special purpose, the idea would be to return to the yard and swap the cruising keel and rudder for racing foils. And the Garcia Exploration 45 is an aluminum boat that’s clearly designed and laid out for high-latitude exploration, to go up into the ice. In fact, this is the very same boat Jimmy Cornell commissioned and used to sail north of the Arctic Circle.”
Despite the Bavaria’s being, by far, the most economical boat in this grouping, it held its own against its competitors. Mark Schrader said, “There’s a great opening transom, it’s electric with a manual override. The twin rudders and wheels, coupled with the Jefa steering system, are very smooth. The mechanical installations are good, very traditional, with a bow thruster and generator. The anchoring setup was excellent; I underlined that in my notes. There’s a striker plate on the hull because the anchor will inevitably bounce around and bang something at some point, and they’ve made provisions for that. We didn’t have a lot of breeze for our sail test, unfortunately, but this is another solid entry from Bavaria.”
The judges found the Morris 48 GT to have the overall good looks and attention to finish that we’ve come to expect from the Maine craftsmen on Mount Desert Island. And they had no doubt that the owners, longtime Morris customers, would have a fine time with the twin objectives for the boat: cruising for a couple and racing with a team. But they also felt the cost and complication of swapping keels and rudders for those rather opposing goals would make it less than ideal or practical for most sailors. That said, in a workable breeze, carrying the self-tending jib setup for cruising mode, the boat would be quite easily sailed by a short-handed crew.
As deliberations continued, it soon became a two-boat battle for top honors in the category, and the deliberations became more focused. Attention turned next to the revamped Island Packet.
“The construction is typical Island Packet, and I mean that in the best way,” said Ed Sherman. “They’re a conservative company. They work with proven, high-quality components. The people who assemble these boats really care about what they do and how they do it, and it’s quite obvious when you look at the way everything is laid out. And I like the layout of this boat a lot. Their design brief is perfect. This is a four-season boat, with this interior, that will be great to cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway and shoot over to the Bahamas. With the shallow draft there will be no issues there. Or you could comfortably take it to Alaska.
“At first glance, I labeled this boat a motorsailer; frankly, I never expected it to sail particularly well, Sherman continued. “But I was pleasantly surprised by its sailing performance. Even in light air, and to windward, it did just fine.”