When I first saw her in Biograd, Croatia at the charter base I was very impressed. She is massive and definitely draws a lot of attention. The first thing that you recognize really is the bathing platform, which you can easily host a couple of people for sun-downers (we did that and its awesome). I am 6 ft tall and standing on that platform just allowed me to peek in the cockpit. A couple of steps lead up into the cockpit. I can not compare the size of this cockpit to anything I have seen so far. Its huge, a single huge entertainment area. Helming area and social area are separated, but I never had the feeling to be just at the helm. This separation helps a lot when single-handing though. You can handle the lines and everything, while your guests can hang out and enjoy whatever they want to enjoy in the other section of the cockpit. At any time you are part of the group … which is kind of nice. There are a lot of nice features on deck and all around the cockpit. I do not want to point them all out, but some of the stuff they came up with is really useful.
A lot has been written about this boat, so please go to the relative sites. One thing though dove me crazy. The position of the engine controls. Neatly hidden below a "flap". Pretty cool when you do not need them, but in order to use them you have to open that thing up and as soon as you are berthing the boat, its almost impossible to handle the landlines from the starboard quarter. I saw another 55 in a marina, which had that solved with a foldable cover.
If the 55 cave your interest already you might have noticed that her deck-space is incredible. Single-handed berthing (stern-to) is quite a challenge … not because it can not be done, but purely to the fact that it takes a while going from bow to stern and the other way around. Well, you get used to it. I have done it a couple of times now and its absolutely do-able. Even though she is really big, you can handle her pretty good in close quarters. She is responsive like a small 36 ft Jeanneau (or equivalent). Pretty amazing.
Sailing: We had a standard roller mainsail (horrible) and a 110% headsail. That's it. Understandable for a charter boat. To cut a long story short: She sails like a dream. You can point her high, she is not healing too much (but can be done :-)) and you can helm her with the famous one finger. In 15 knots of wind with the mainsail eased (guests on board) she did an amazing 9 knots and sometimes more. Trimmed as best as I could trim her – again in 15-16 knots of wind – the display shown 10,3 SOG. The only thing I do not like about modern production boats are their close-hauled qualities. Perfect without waves. However, one day after a night passage we had to point her very high in the wind in order to reach a headland and we had 20 knots of wind with rather steep and short waves (maybe 6 ft high). Not the best experience. She slammed-down into every other wave, which caused her to drop her speed significantly. Basically 7 knots in almost perfect wind conditions and after the slamming the display shown 3 or less. Not to speak from the noise the slamming caused. Anyways, this would be a wet and uncomfortable ride on any other boat as well.
Now here comes what I did not like: Below deck. Nicely appointed, lots of space, great cooking and the usual Bavaria-style crap in one or the other place. What is it with them not being able to put proper door handles on a boat. Every second day I had to pull out the allen wrench. The hatches and everything else you can possibly open feels like plastic and not very solid. Water proof – nope. We did not have bad weather, but I could see some moisture coming in there. Half of the fittings to leave a hatch open were broken. And it goes on and on. The worst thing though? Its a dark boat. No light comes through. The other thing. No ventilation. The only two hatches which would open bow-facing are those in the two bow cabins. All other hatches (apart from being too small) are opening up sideways.?!?!? How would you survive 35 degrees Celsius (and 25 during the night) without a little breeze going through the salon? Now the absolutely worst thing. Size of the berths. Our 55 had 4 doubles and a two bunk beds in one cabin, which we used as storage room for bags and the like. The aft cabins for this size of a boat are way to small. I did not measure but the usable space to use must have been less than 1,20 meters. It must have been less because at home my bed has 1.40 meters. Here is my question to Bavaria and BMW design group (or even the call themselves): How can you design a 55 ft sailing boat with four double cabins which barley can sleep two people? This still drives me crazy today and I wonder if one of their designers ever set one foot on that boat?
Here is a solution to the problem. Get rid of the dinghy garage, make the aft cabins bigger and only sell the boat as owner version with the huge owners area in the bows. This boat has such a huge deckspace, I would not need a garage for my dinghy. It can be easily stored on deck. And with two huge aft cabins, the bunk cabin and big owners area (bow) this makes a really good boat. Well … and a couple of larger hatches to have more light in the boat.
Here you have it. My first review of a boat. Not really professionally written, but very honest and based on a three weeks cruising experience …. at anchor, in marinas, on night trips and from calm to 25 knots of wind. Please do not take this as a reference or official test of the 55 … its only my humble opinion.