Boat Review: Hanse 385, By No Means a Nimitz
Sailors tease. Often. So when I heard my friend Eric was getting a Hanse 385 and I saw a promo picture of its wide stern, I dubbed it the aircraft carrier. Under that veneer of jealousy, I wanted to see and sail the 385 and find out what the Germans at Hanse came up with. It’s impressive and by no means a Nimitz.
One of the things about boat tests is that they often don’t reflect real sailing conditions, and unless you’ve got the opportunity to come back several times with a willing owner, you only get to test one condition. For this January test, we enjoyed perfect summer conditions, 5-8 knots of wind, flat water and warmth (OK, the temp could have been 20 degrees warmer).
I was a little surprised by how well the Judel-Vrolijk design sailed upwind. When the breeze was over 6 knots true, we were sailing in the mid 5-knot range. And that’s with the standard non-overlapping headsail. The mainsheet is a bridle-type without a traveller. The racer in me wants the traveller, the cruiser in me says “is that really necessary?” The sailplan doesn’t look or feel very big, but it has a SA/Displacement ratio of 20.
JK3 Yachts dealer Bob Pistay unrolled the never-been-used-before genniker, jury-rigged a tack line and we played around with that for good long time. The sweetly-shaped Elvström sail took us around beam and close reaching at about 6 knots. Speed, of course, dropped dramatically as soon as we let the apparent wind get aft of 90 degrees. Like any other cruiser, to move in those conditions the boat has to tack downwind.
So, the boat sails as well as can be expected in that perfect “summer” breeze. It will be interesting to sail it when the wind pipes up. With its 34’ waterline and powerful aft sections, I’d expect it to chew up some serious miles reaching in a blow. This boat had the larger 38 hp Volvo saildrive, and topped 8 knots at max rpm. A comfy cruise speed will be about 7.5 knots. Handling under power was good and the boat tracked well.
The really remarkable thing about the test sail was the boat’s simplicity and ease. The powered winch made raising the main a push-button exercise and gave me the chance to tease Eric some more. Dropping the main into the lazy jacks and built-in cover was just as simple. The jib sheet is led to a block on a curved athwartships track and then high into the mast. From there it’s led thorough a covered channel back to the primary winch. This elegant system keeps the cockpit clean and puts control of the jib sheet (and mainsheet and basically everything) in the hands of the helmsman.
Tacking is a matter of a) telling the crew you’re going to tack, although it’s not altogether clear why that’s necessary and b) turning the wheel.
But that’s not all the helmsman gets to manage. Some of the many factory options on the boat included the Simrad autopilot, the really trick B&G touchpad system (with WiFi of course) mounted on the aft face of the cockpit table and the all important stereo control. The depth sounder wasn’t quite with it and insisted that we were in 8’ of water when we were in more like 800 feet.
Basically, the helmsman is captain, navigator, DJ and crew of the Hanse. Others on board are, for the most part, passengers. This is surely a prime selling point for many.
It is not so for me. Personally, I believe that people sail because they like to do things and like to have tasks. There are many fine powerboats for giving passengers a day on the water where nothing is expected of them. My poor passengers get put to work, and I just hope they’re OK with it. Ahh, but I digress.
The setup on the 385 is aimed at keeping all lines, controls and electronics within reach of the helmsman. And that’s a really good thing for singlehanders and cruising couples. With this boat, mom can handle everything while dad reads a book. Visibility from the helm is awesome. If you want the extra set of winches, which Eric did, they’re mounted on a bracket over the sheets which are led aft. If Eric gets a larger headsail, they can be used for that, but for the meantime they’re only for the genniker.
There are a number of exceptional features on deck. The transom platform will be an awesome place to board a dinghy or swim, more than just a foothold, a real staging area. The hatches are all flush, which will save more than a few bruises. The anchor locker forward is huge with more than enough room for both below-deck windlass and all ground tackle.
The high topsides and hard chines add a lot of volume to the interior, and while the phrase is overused, it does “feel bigger than it is.” Several different interior configurations are offered. This boat had the single aft stateroom layout, allowing for more counter space and a second fridge in the galley and a “garage” aft for an amazing amount of storage. That extra storage would enable some truly extended cruising.
With this arrangement there’s a dinette to starboard and two seats to port with the nav table in between. The days of poring over charts underway may be gone, so the chart table gets short shrift. But the seats are comfortable and definitely make the saloon homier. The galley has lots of storage, looks like it would work well at 15 degrees of heel and exceptionally well dead flat at anchor. And with two fridges, you could stay at anchor a good long while.
Midships and aft heads don’t require a tough trek forward in bumpy conditions, and they’re generally bigger. This head is amidships to port and even has a designer-type sink, instead of any kind of molded in bowl or drop-in stainless. More teasing was in order.
Both the aft and forward cabins are spacious with plenty of clothes storage so nobody has to live out of a duffel bag. Prodigious use of skylights add to that feeling of size.
As one might expect with a German boat, there is a lot of precision. Lockers are all tight-fitting, everything seemed to be in order. There are several tricks as well. The overhead handholds are perfectly positioned and so elegant they seem like artsy trim. The mid-hatch has two pull-out shades, one that blocks light and a semi-transparent one. There’s a wine locker under one of the floorboards.
The feature I was most impressed with down below was the engine access. It was excellent.
Eric pointed out the stainless backing plate and clean, accessible installation of the keel bolts. All the sailing gear looked to be sized appropriately. At 15,800 lbs., it’s not a light boat and there will certainly be some loading in rough conditions. The model has been out for two years and is standing up well to use in Europe and in the U.S.
The 385’s aesthetics are distinct from both the boxy traditional look and the wedgy Euro look of days gone by. The high freeboard and flat clean deck layout seem to lean more toward a Wally Yachts approach, simple and purposeful. The boat looked better to me in person than in did in photos, and didn’t look or feel Nimitz-like at all.
I just hope Eric lets me come out again, next time in some more breeze. I’ll just make sure I have a book in case he doesn’t let me near the helm.