This spacious 34 footer designed by J&J (not to be confused with the Farr designed 'Cruiser' 34 from around 2008-09) was launched in the late 1990s and immediately struck a chord with the boat-buying public – the first year's production was sold before the first boat left the factory.

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Bavaria 34

The Bavaria 34 was a popular high volume cruiser from the 1990s and early 2000s, meaning there is plenty of choice on the secondhand market today. (Photo credit: Fxps / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0)

Key attributes

Bavaria was among the first wave of boat builders to fully embed the principles of production engineering into its manufacturing process. At the time when Westerly, for instance, was still fitting out interiors with a team of carpenters inside each boat wielding electric jigsaws, each element of Bavaria’s joinery was cut to the exact size and shape needed using a computer controlled router and lacquered in a proper spray booth. This process both significantly reduced unit costs and increased quality to a very consistent and repeatable standard. As a result of this and other developments, the brand became known for producing well made, yet affordable, spacious cruising yachts.


Hull shape

This was also a period of fairly rapid development of yacht design, and the 34 benefits from a bulbed keel, although the ballast ratio is low at 31 per cent and the bulb is smaller than those of later boats, which means stability is lower than more recent designs.

Although significantly shorter than earlier designs, the overhangs are relatively long by today’s standards. This makes for a relatively short waterline length, which reduces the boat’s speed potential, however it also confers an arguably more comfortable motion in a head sea. The stern sections are also narrower than most recent contemporary designs, but there’s still enough space to fit a pair of double quarter cabins.

Two keel options were available – a shallow fin with a 1.35m draught and a deep fin with a 1.85m draught. By today’s standards these are relatively shallow – Bavaria’s current equivalent model, the slightly smaller Cruiser 33, for instance offers a choice of 1.5m and 1.95m draught keels.

Below decks

The 34 was offered in both two and three cabin formats. Even in the three cabin boat these are of a decent size, with ample standing space at the head of each double berth, although stowage space is not commodious. In the two cabin model the heads moves to the starboard quarter, aft of the chart table, which frees up considerable extra space in the forecabin, which benefits from a larger berth, double the standing space, and a significant amount of additional stowage. The port quarter cabin on this model also gains a wider double berth.

Bavaria 34 layout

Both layout options provide good interior space in the cabins.

Although quite dark by today's standards, largely due to the choice of dark hardwood veneers, the boat feels surprisingly spacious inside. The saloon has two long settee berths each side of the central folding table and there's a proper forward facing chart table with its own seat that will take a half size Admiralty chart. However, the galley will be a disappointment for some, particularly on early models, as there is only a single sink and the lid of the cool box/fridge takes up all the available worktop space.

Equipment and options

As standard Bavarias of this era had minimal equipment – even the anchor was on the extras list. By now all will have gathered many extras, but don't be surprised to find wide differences in the inventory of otherwise very similar boats. Having said that, Furlex headsail reefing gear was fitted as standard, as was Selden single line mainsail reefing.

On deck and performance

The two spreader 9/10ths fractional rig offers easy depowering of the mainsail, before needing to reef. However, a sign of the age of the boat is that it's designed for large overlapping genoas, rather than the easier to handle non-overlapping jibs of more recent designs.

The cockpit feels safe and secure with enough space to move around easily, without being so large that it is difficult to brace yourself in position. Similarly, the deck layout is configured to make moving around on deck, when necessary, a straightforward matter.

The primary winches are located near the wheel, which makes it possible to tack the boat from the helm. However, the mainsheet is handled via a clutch on the coachroof, which makes even minor adjustments to sail trim a two-person affair.

For a boat aimed squarely at the cruising market the 34 handles well under sail, with no undue vices, particularly in deep draught format. Perhaps the biggest let down was that the original sails were of a poor quality. Boats with replacement sails of a low-stretch material can be expected to be faster, more close-winded and better mannered, especially in gusty conditions.

The 34 handles also handles well under power, particularly in the deep keel variant, with no particular vices and with steerage way quickly gained in reverse. Two engines were offered, both driving a sail drive - the standard model was a 20hp Volvo Penta, while some boats were fitted with the 28hp version from the same range.

What it does best

The Bavaria 34 provides plenty of space in a package that’s reasonably easy to look after and still sells for an attractive price. It’s a well-engineered boat with the key service items located where they can be easily reached – sadly this is by no means universally the case, even on today’s yachts. The 34 however has excellent engine access and other items such as shower sump pumps and filters are also easily reached.


Predominately these result from the space vs performance compromise – there are certainly faster boats of this size, many of which also have better handling. However, Bavaria has achieved a reasonable balance in producing a spacious boat that’s good to sail.

Alternative boats

Bavaria was primarily competing in this market with Beneteau’s Oceanis range, Jeanneau’s Sun Odysseys, and to a lesser extent Hunter (sold as Legend in the UK).

Bavaria 34: Specifications

Hull length: 10.35m
LWL: 8.45m
Beam: 3.48m
Draught: 1.85 or 1.35m
Displacement: 4,500kg
Ballast: 1,400kg

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Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.