Powering the Bavaria 34 through the crowded harbor in Newport, Rhode Island, I was satisfied with the predictable maneuverability of this little pocket rocket. Zipping between the moored megayachts with ease, I put the boat through its paces, turning spritely with the high-aspect spade rudder and stopping quickly on occasion as we wound our way to open water, where the saildrive pushed the boat along at better than 7 knots when I opened the throttle wide.
The standard cast-iron shoal-draft keel on the Bavaria consists of a tandem arrangement, essentially two narrow fins fore and aft with a long bulb between them. A foot-deeper conventional fin, also cast iron, can be had as an option.
The J&J-designed hull features hand-laid glass. with Kevlar reinforcement forward for puncture prevention, and, except below the waterline, Airex foam core. A full-width stainless-steel plate beneath the mast-compression post further strengthens the fiberglass grid system. Beefy stainless-steel chainplates tie into this grid, too, making for a very stiff, very strong structure. Deck hardware taps directly into stainless-steel backing plates laminated into the deck.
The 34-footer’s interior feels homey with mahogany woodwork and a teak-and-holly sole. Lots of large opening ports and hatches keep it cool and bright below. Spacious double cabins in the bow and port quarter include plenty of shelf and locker space for personal gear. The galley, to port, looks eminently workable and has a gimbaled two-burner propane stove and oven, a microwave oven, and a top-opening 12-volt refrigerator. Located inboard to prevent back flooding when the boat’s heeled on starboard tack, a double sink completes the galley.
Across the boat, a proper nav station with a seat and a large chart table will suit the navigator. Prewiring the bulkhead and electrical panel at the factory facilitates installation of all the electronics you could want. My one complaint: Shoulder-level handrails along each side of the cabin could be more substantial.
Aft of the nav station, the head has more than 6 feet of headroom and space for an average-size man to shower in comfort. An apse molded in the fiberglass lining aft is perfect for hanging up wet foul-weather gear. Ample light and ventilation come from a large opening port and a small overhead hatch.
The saloon embodies the standard layout for a boat this size: An L-shaped settee to port flanks a centerline table; leaves fold up, making room for four place settings. Ports in the hull on either side provide a view of the harbor for diners. With the addition of lee cloths, both settees will make good sea berths. Thanks to the boat’s 12-foot beam, outboard of each settee sits a shelf almost the size of some berths I’ve slept in. That promises plenty of storage behind the seat backs, too. Above the shelves are lockers mounted to the deckhead.
Bavaria didn’t forget to provide access to the guts of the boat. A panel at the foot of the aft berth opens to the steering gear and to cockpit and propane-locker drains. A hatch in the aft cabin opens to the Volvo diesel, with the alternator, starter, oil filter, and wiring front and center; removing the companionway steps displays all of the engine.
The cockpit seats and sole are attractively decked with teak, which makes for sure footing. Engine controls on the pedestal make shifting an easy reach. The binnacle features molded space for instruments, a chart plotter, and a compass. Between the seats, leaves of the cockpit table fold out to reveal a storage area. A stout rail graces each quarter, and a large swim platform that forms the center of the transom folds down with the touch of a button. On either side of the companionway, a winch and line clutches deal with halyards, reefing lines, and mainsheet. On the cabin top, just aft of the traveler, a low wrap-around coaming makes installing a dodger easy.
Good nonskid on the coaming and deck makes egress from the cockpit easy and sure, and inboard shrouds don’t impair movement forward. A full-length aluminum toerail borders the wide decks. Stainless-steel grabrails extend to the mast, and while there’s nonskid on the cabin top, there’s also an awful lot of shiny, smooth gelcoat that’ll prove slippery when wet. A big anchor locker forward with room for a windlass and rode complements a short stainless-steel sprit with a roller for the anchor. Crewmembers who use the small seat in the pulpit are sure to enjoy a wild ride on a windy day.
Owners can outfit the double-spreader 15/16ths Selden rig with a conventional, full-battened, or in-mast-furling main (as on our test boat) as standard equipment. Furlex furling makes the jib easy to handle, and Rutgerson blocks and Harken winches handled sheets and halyards on the boat we sailed. On current boats, winches are by Lewmar.
That’s all very well, but how did the Bavaria 34 sail on my blustery test day? Unrolling most of the main, we bore off to closehauled and unrolled most of the jib. The boat heeled over and accelerated while the helm stayed light, with only a slight pull to weather. The shoal-draft keel and beamy hull’s form stability kept the rail above the water. Though whitecaps were present, we stayed dry as we beat toward the Jamestown side of Narragansett Bay. It’s obvious to me that though this cruiser is no lightweight, its owners will do well on the racecourse, should the notion strike them. When we bore off to a reach, we unrolled both sails completely to let the boat show off. Even though buffeted by sudden blasts, the boat was controllable, stayed on course, and shot along at better than 7 knots in 18-knot puffs.
Though it might be small by modern North American standards, the Bavaria 34 is a substantial boat that Europeans wouldn’t hesitate to sail offshore, which echoes my feeling after inspecting and sailing it.
Andrew Burton is CW’s associate editor.
LOA 35′ 2″ (10.72 m.)
LWL 34′ 3″ (10.44 m.)
Beam 11′ 10″ (3.61 m.)
Draft 5′ 1″/6′ 4″ (1.55/1.93 m.)
Sail Area (100%) 660 sq. ft. (61.3 sq. m.)
Ballast 3,170 lb. (1,438 kg.)
Displacement 12,540 lb. (5,688 kg.)
Water 55 gal. (208 l.)
Fuel 40 gal. (151 l.)
Mast Height 48′ 8″ (14.84 m.)
Engine 28-hp. Volvo
Designer J&J Yacht Design