Sailing with a Dog – The Bavaria 50 Footer!
This is my first sailboat review. It’s silly when I think about it because after all, it is one of our favorite ways to travel. In fact, we have our own 26ft foot Niagara that I have yet to critique. So you will be seeing these from now on. Why? Because there are other ways to travel that go beyond hotels, motels, camping, and youth hostels. There are the worlds of RV’s, motorcycles, motor boats, barges, and sailboats. Heck we even have a friend that has his own little plane; a hydroplane to be precise. He uses it to access a remote cottage way up North that is on a private island. MUST look into that!
So I have decided that we will from now on, attempt to look outside the “box” and try to report more often on “other” methods of transport and accommodation for you Dear Reader.
Even if I have been on a few sailboats, my expertise on the subject may take some time to grow. I will try and keep it from getting to dry and focus more on our comfort, enjoyment and impressions rather than statistics, because you can get sailboat statistics from the manufacturer. What you can’t get from them is how well they do for sailing with a dog!
Our first impression of the Bavaria 50ft is that it was spacious and solid. She’s no sleek, skinny model type. Oh no. She’s a happy, tray of stains lifting Fraulein. But don’t let her large hips fool you! When a crazy wind forced us to do a very tight spin, this 50 foot sailboat did it upright, within a boat length and a half of itself. She’s fun! We discovered just how much fun when the winds were just right and she actually seriously moved! Not light as air … but light.
For those that like engine talk, the Bavaria 50 footer has a 75-horsepower Volvo engine that isn’t too shabby. Often due to lack of wind we were forced to drop the sails and turn on the motor, or the wind was so strong and insane that the added motor strength was a welcome way to speed things up in order to get those that were sea sick to land as fast as possible. On average we went about 7-8 knots with the engine. That’s not bad at all for such a big sailboat. Although, I do have to add that the boat did not perform that well straight upwind without engine assistance, and that Dear Reader is a serious flaw.
Above deck: The upper deck (or cockpit, where we spent most of our time) was a little small for a 50 footer. We didn’t have a full crew (we had an extra room still for 2) and it did feel a little crammed. It made it difficult for me to roam about without the risk of being trampled *shudder*. We had no cushions (they had flown off on a previous trip) so our memory is of a hard seating area but I believe that with the cushions it is in fact wide and very comfortable.
With two wheels and a central console, and seven on board there was little room but we still found a way to happily co-exist without getting in each other’s way… unless we had to work those ropes! But to be honest, I think those particular mishaps occurred more because few on board had experience and didn’t know what to look for or what to do.
The one thing I did notice when Dad was sailing was that having to step around the wheel and center console was not practical when you had to reach for the ropes to adjust the sails. Plus, annoyingly the center console was not well designed. Actually I have to admit, it was Dad’s biggest pet peeve the entire trip and … and I have to agree. Every time we wanted to access the console’s storage area, we had to unfold the table panels (they hinge outwards to extend the table to a larger one for dining) from the top! Yes, they had teh sides resting on top of the lid that accessed the storage area *shakes head*. I think the panels should have been hinged down the SIDES to leave the top open and accessible.
And then there was the bimini (that’s the fabric sun shade that covers the cockpit). The straps that hold the bimini down and support the frame are dangerous obstacles when roaming around. And the worst was that when the winds were strong the bimini would drop and actually block the line of site of the Captain. Someone really didn’t think that through properly.
BUT an amazing and wonderful feature that Dad has had to agree is now “a must” in his choices, was the in-mast furling of the main sail. Mom loved it too. One job she hates is to fold or unfold the main mast. Especially in the morning after all the spiders have had a chance to settle in the folds overnight; it creeps her out! It’s really a plus if you have a small or inexperienced crew as well, and its neater looking. No big saggy fabric making the boat look disheveled.
Another feature Dad discovered and really enjoyed (as in: “OMG we MUST have this!”) was the hydraulic bow thrusters (I had to ask him the name). Basically they are like these thrusters on the side of the boat that make it a lot easier to dock; especially with a limited and inexperienced crew trying to dock in the Mediterranean way. Dad is now convinced it’s a must have for larger sailboats and vital if sailing solo; ditto for the electric anchoring system. Oh and the auto-pilot!! What a great gadget to have with a big boat and small crew (i.e. three) that really allows for multi-tasking. None of these things are Bavaria 50 ft specific, but this was the first time we (ahmmmm Dad…) had used them and loved them.
Personally I enjoyed the teak in the cockpit and on the swim platform; the model we sailed did not have the teak decks (it is an option) that can provide for a more solid footing forward. I didn’t mind but I think if we were to have this boat that is an option we would want. That and safety netting attached to the boat railing to keep me from going overboard too easily. I did love the wide space, the fact that the sails were higher up and so I could walk about the top of the boat (when in quiet waters or docked) without any worries. Mom is a big fan of sitting way at the front (bow) where there was a little teak plank. She did find that this boat didn’t have the safety measures that others have. As a result she didn’t sit there much because she felt she might end up in the water. There was no net, no handle bars to hold onto … nothing.
Below deck: This 50 ft is downright spacious! With the saloon laid out to accommodate a crowd. A U-shaped galley keeps the cook a part of the party, and the amply sized table with U-shaped seating can easily seat eight. It was so wide that some of the humans would nap there from time to time. The four-cabin model we tested had a cabin forward of the galley with two bunks and a toilet/shower opposite to starboard. A large owner’s cabin and V-berth were forward, just aft of a water-tight bulkhead and the deep chain (for the anchor) locker in the bow. I liked the idea of a head (a.k.a. bathroom, including shower, toilet and sink) to starboard of the companionway just beyond the kitchen. It had a separate shower that could double as a place to store wet items such as wet suits, towels and such. In a nutshell, we had five bedrooms and three bathrooms … nice eh?
Our room had plenty of space (by sailboat standards) with a double bed for the bipeds, lots of shelving including a nook that ended up being my personal space; complete with my own window and fan for the stuffier evenings! We had not one, but two lockers for our stuff, a huge luxury on a sailboat. The windows were small but we did have three of them including a large “sun-roof” that allowed for some pretty nice star gazing. Overall there were a lot of windows on deck and along the hull, allowing for lots of natural light below deck. There were also plenty of hatches to allow for good air circulation once docked. We never really suffered from the heat; in fact I think my fan was turned on only once.
The best part? The boat is discretely equipped with tons of “holy shit” bars in case of rough seas or sudden maneuvers. They were well placed because when needed a Biped would reach out and miraculously one would be there, often followed by: “Huh… had not noticed that there…” before walking away without injury.
Our head/bathroom was standard issue. It had its own window, and annoyingly the latch on the door was finicky. It had two small lockers to the left of the sink allowing for the dry storage of a few things such as toilet paper (showers and toilet paper are not a good match!). It could use a better system for garbage since you can’t flush anything into the toilet and a garbage bag was … ummm…un-appetizing to say the least. Oh and according to Mom, the shower curtain was absolutely useless.
What made us laugh the most were the usual pitfalls of being on a sailboat. It’s a vicious place for Biped toes I noticed. Between every doorway and entrance there was a lip of some sort. Both above and below deck little lips and wooden platforms and bits would constantly cause pain. I wasn’t sure if I should laugh or lick the injuries.
On an entirely un-amusing note however were the steps leading from the cockpit to below deck.
The anti-slip tape on the steps was not well thought out. The nose of every stair was covered with the product and with the steps being so steep, the Bipeds were constantly rubbing bare skin against its sandpaper like surface. Mom’s legs looked like she had a bad fight with some cats, Dad’s nose and forehead got stripped once or twice … I think that having the anti-slip just on the thread (the part you step on) would have been sufficient. And of course the steepness of the stairs was an issue for me – I fell down them once – to a collective breath holding – and it wasn’t amusing at all. I was alright, no broken bones; but the Bipeds and I learned that I need either a barrier to prevent me from using the stairs to join them below deck or we need to create some sort of ramp that isn’t as steep for me to use.
But that … will be for our own boat… one day.
Intended to be a well-rounded cruiser for both the private owner and charterer, the Bavaria 50 footer delivers good value. Add performance into the equation, and it’s hard not to enjoy 10 days out on this Fraulein.
Is the Bavaria 50 footer the sailboat we would purchase for ourselves? Not likely. But we enjoyed sailing with her and captain Toby … absolutely no regrets there and I can’t wait for my next sailboat … I am secretly hoping it will be a Beneteau! What? It’s good to dream right?
P.S. – I almost forgot! One thing that has nothing to do with the Bavaria 50 footer but that Dad came to love was the iPhone/iPad navigation app our captain Toby showed us. It’s amazing and cost effective and really very good… and that Dear Reader is the lesson right there. Every time we sail a new boat, in new waters with a new Captain we will learn something. Every time we do this we will know better what to look for, and what we like and what we don’t like. There are so many take-away’s.