Originally Posted by Exile
Excuse my ignorance on this "branding" thing, but what's the rub against Bavaria's? Aren't they, along with Jeanneau's & others made by Beneteau
? Maybe similar but with less frills?
I think the "rub" is at least in part the direction that yacht designs have gone as a result of cost pressures, particularly in vying for the bareboat charter
business (which is a large part of the market in Europe
and elsewhere). Brands like Jeaneau and Bavaria
were considered to be above average a few decades ago; as the volume shifted to the charter
companies and competition heated up, brands that wanted to stay in the volume charter boat market needed to get the costs down while delivering attractive boats with layouts that suited the charter business (many berths/staterooms, good sailing characteristics, easy/inexpensive maintenance) and would still look good at the end of heavy charter use in 5 years. The resulting designs are highly engineered, lightweight, and fast as well as low cost. Features tend to be designed into the molds rather than added later with expensive fittings and labor (Hunter has been particularly innovative in this regard), and of course the manufacturing process has become highly automated for these volume suppliers. It can be argued that the contemporary yachts are in fact a lot "better" (by many measures) than the old ones. And Jeaneau, Beneteau
and Hunter are right at the front of these developments.
So back to the "rub": the older designs have more handcrafted woodwork, while newer boats tend to have more white fiberglass
. Older boats were built strong everywhere and thus survive accidents better (like the boats having their bows chewed up against the dock
, or anchor
chain out of the roller cutting into the bow). The extra weight tends to give a vessel a seakindly motion (and slower forward motion). Builders who still build in the older ways produce beautiful handcrafted boats (and in fact the older boats by Jeaneau and Bavaria had some very nice woodworking), but I would be reluctant to claim them to be better - at least from an engineering, performance, and cost POV. They are/were overbuilt and arguably under-engineered. Newer boats perform wonderfully - until stresses are placed on them which the engineering did not intend. Grounding a modern sailboat can result in quick hull failure, while an older design may survive for days before failing - but does it really make sense to carry all of that weight around just in case you do something stupid? Same with smashing the bows into concrete floats or letting the anchor
chain jump the roller and saw through the hull. Modern hulls are engineered to keep the water
out; other loads are taken to bulkheads and liners, or if in the hull through local reinforcement using modern materials such as unidirectional glass. Thus Beneteaus have become known for oil-canning and Jeaneaus have used kevlar for impact resistance - such is the nature of the designs. But I would not expect trouble unless the boat is put into a situation that it should not be in.
The point I am working up to is that these new designs often appear less robust and crafted than the older ones, and so get (often undeserved) criticism. I would have you look at higher-end brands of production boat, and compare what they build today with what they use to build, and you will find they too are lighter and more engineered than their older models. In fact I believe the differences in quality today between expensive boats like HR and inexpensive Hunters and Bavarias is small (I'll put on my helmet now) - such is the advantage of high volumes supporting more engineering and automation. Of course there are differences, such as more wood
and cabinet-work, on the expensive boats - but I don't see that as a hit on the others. And for long-term cruising I would be making upgrades on any production boat (or any boat full stop).
BTW when I returned 5 years ago I was shocked to learn from a local boat electrician that Hunters come from the factory with isolation transformers. Other manufacturers save a few hundred per boat by using galvanic isolators. So how many of the expensive yachts today come with iso xfmrs?
Full disclosure: I built, beginning in 1978, and still own and live aboard one of the beautiful, heavy, old-fashioned boats. I wouldn't trade
- mostly because there is too much of me in it. I appreciate the virtues of the old designs. I also appreciate that to replace this 31' boat with one professionally built today to the same design would take well north of half a million dollars, and would still require a lot of maintenance
. It is perfectly rational to buy a 40' modern boat for a lot less, skip all the maintenance
no longer needed, and go cruising with a lot more money
in the pocket.