BOAT TEST: BENETEAU SWIFT TRAWLER 34
Swift by name and nature, this French trawler stands out in a land or sea of giants, discovers DAVID LOCKWOOD
Among other things, when Jonathon Swift wrote Gulliver's Travels he showed how the strength of little people, the Lilliputians, could tame a giant. The new Swift Trawler 34 from Europe's biggest boatbuilder Beneteau is like that. The smallest Trawler in the range keeps company with the 52 flagship and popular 42, yet it is everything but short on good boating sense or adventure.
In fact, I will go so far as to say this is exactly the kind of boat more and more Australians should be looking at these days. In some ways, it's a case of everything old being new again. Look around the marinas and the country's big inshore waterways and you will see rafts of 30-something trawlers with badges like Island Gypsy, Clipper, Mariner and Cheoy Lee.
Only this French-take on the traditional trawler style offers a lot more in respect of modern engineering, speed and style. Price wise, this boat also makes good dollars and sense. Fully loaded, including options of generator, air-conditioning, chartplotter and autopilot, and flatscreen television, it costs under $500,000.
That's good buying for a boat that, with 320lt of water, you can spend days away aboard. But I'd order the optional additional 320lt water tank and, with 640lt at my disposal, I could do a week with the family at Christmas. See what I mean about all you ever need.
Underway, the single 425hp Cummins fully electronic common rail QSB 5.9 diesel engine sips fuel rather than guzzles it. And with a Maxpower bowthruster, you can manoeuvre back into your berth without denting your ego or worse.
There are some truly clever design features on the Swift Trawler 34, yet at the same time the boat doesn't turn its back on the things that have evolved over time. Take the mast, for example. It adds to the nautical eye candy and charm, but doubles as a lift and launch for the tender. The boom has a 200kg lift capacity while the flybridge deck can cater for a duckie up to 2.75m. Due to the mast height, the boat's bridge clearance off the water is 7.64m
To the eye, the proportions of this big-little boat look just right. Step aboard and you won't struggle getting around the decks or making your way down below, either. And there's a good degree of safety for small fry due to deep bulwarks and high safety rails with an intermediate wire on the bow, and bridge deck rails and moulded toerails as well.
Mindful of the desire to dine al fresco, the 1.59m x 3.53m (4.8m²) cockpit has room for a folding table (or use the loose fixed table in the saloon) and four chairs. Kick back as the kiddies or grandchildren dive of the decent-depth duckboard. You could even add side clear covers and derive all-weather protection in the cockpit. The boat's four-metre beam adds to the footprint and stability.
With an asymmetrical cabin pushed across to port, you can waltz up the starboard walkaround sidedeck, which is teak topped and covered by the bridge overhang. You will notice the swing-out boarding door ideal for provisioning from the marina, and the big wing door back into the lower helm.
Up two steps is the boat's second outdoor living area, that is, a big flat foredeck. The portside 'bulwark' is narrow as a consequence of the asymmetrical layout, but crew will find it safe enough to tend mooring lines. Consider it a successful compromise.
A ladder leads to the flybridge. Yes, it's rather vertical but that ensures you retain space in the cockpit where you will spend most of you time outdoors, undercover from the flybridge extension. Up top that same bridgedeck is used to tote your tender and once it's dispatched, provide a big lounging or second entertaining area.
With both upper and lower helm stations, you can drive your Swift Trawler 34 in fair and foul weather, with the wind in your hair or the wipers running. Inside the boat, the living spaces are generous, including a terrific stateroom in the bow with double bed, a second kids cabin, and a convertible double in the saloon. But, as ever, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I've been following the JW Marine story since the day the Beneteau powerboat importer opened its office in Sydney. That was late 2003. Now there are offices in all states. And they have shifted more than 120 Beneteau powerboats and been award Dealer of the Year. In a sign that things aren't all bad, the Sydney HQ sold six boats in six days recently.
But amid the mix of motorboats, the Trawlers have been the big hit. The 42, especially, can be seen gadding about the waterways of most Australian states. It's a pretty and practical boat that this writer wrote about glowingly back in September of 2004, five years prior to testing this little sibling.
It appears the timing is pretty flush for this fetching trawler. Fuel prices are still pretty lofty, berths for big boats are hard to find, and many boat owners are contemplating downsizing to something more manageable in which they can still weekend or holiday away.
Now, there are two ways you can go with the Swift Trawler 34 - the keep-it-simple solution that sailors relate to, which is to fit an extra battery or two and an inverter for powering the microwave oven and AC outlets, with a gas bottle for the two-burner stove and aftermarket rail-mounted barbecue; or the luxury alternative, as seen here, which includes a generator for onboard AC power and, with that, you may as well fit air-conditioning.
Being a European boatbuilder, Beneteau builds the Swift Trawler 34 to CE standards: B8/C10/D11. Category B is offshore up to and including four-metre waves and up to and including Beaufort Force 8 winds (40kts near gale). Categorise C and D are for inshore and sheltered waterways, hence the reason the number alongside the classification above, which represents the maximum passenger load, increases from eight to 11.
The hull of the Swift Trawler 34 is fashioned from fibreglass around a balsa core, with a structural liner for stiffness, and composite decks above. Although there isn't a keel per se, the prop, shaft and rudder are tucked under the hull. Providing you didn't go aground at high speed, you should be able to walk this boat back off a sandbank. That might be handy in southern Queensland or, say, the Gippsland Lakes where I'm told this boat was headed. Draft is just 0.90m.
The boarding platform is a decent one, deep enough to plonk yourself down while drying off following diving in, or to mount snap davits and tote a tender if you don't want to bother with the boom above, or lay your crab traps between anchorages, or unfurl a towel and work on your tan.
Hot and cold water, from a separate hot-water service, is plumbed to the deck shower, there's a dedicated gas-bottle locker mid-portside walkaround, and some cockpit storage space. Underfloor, back aft in the big lazarette, lives the Onan generator, where it has the least impact on your indoor living areas at night. There is plenty of storage leftover for water toys, fishing tackle, and so on. The boat comes with an emergency tiller, too.
A windlass is one of the supplied options on the test boat, but the amount of flat foredeck space, with a 1.90m x 1.51m sunpad cushion, is the drawcard up front. Given the space on the rear flybridge deck, you now have three separate outdoor stations aboard the impressive Swift Trawler 34.
Triple sliding doors create a seamless entry into the saloon, where there's a long lounge to starboard before a lose dinette. The two supplied folding timber deckchairs let you comfortably seat four for dinner. You will also notice the abundant glass and circumambient views.
Brilliantly, the abovementioned lounge converts to a 2.0m x 1.2m double bed. Such is the terrific mechanism you can convert the lounge with just one hand. Presto! Sleeping for six. Surrounding curtains offer privacy and the specifications list an LCD television with DVD and MP3 player for after-dark entertainment.
Engine access is through a saloon floor hatch, with everything you need to check right at your fingertips. I could easily reach the Racor fuel filter and the sea strainer, but you need to lift a second floor panel to dip the oil. With 40mm-thick high-density foam sound insulation, and four-blade prop, the boat proved surprisingly quiet and smooth despite its mid-mounted diesel engine.
Just as importantly, the galley is up on the same level as the seating, enjoying the same views, and located to port opposite the lower helm. It's a U-shaped number with twin sinks, two-burner gas or electric stove, convection microwave, 130lt fridge, and plenty of storage space. Headroom is about 1.96m and with side-opening windows and doors there's plenty of natural ventilation.
The joinery is rather interesting: reconstituted timber called Alpi in fruit-tree colour, with laminated teak-look flooring. Despite that fancy description, it looks a lot like mahogany. Timber trim on the headliner and bone-coloured leather upholstery add to the look, which only needs personal touches.
KITTED OUT CABINS
Accommodation forward centres on a portside cabin with bunks (1.85m x 0.72m) that, upon testing, we're declared adult-sized, and a stateroom in the bow with double berth, full headroom and second TV. Both cabins have opening portlights, hanging lockers and excellent storage.
The bathroom features a saltwater Jabsco Quiet Flush electric toilet, with 88lt holding tank, washbasin and mixer tap, water-tank gauge, and shower curtain around a moulded recessed section over which you wash.
No separate stall. A potentially greater concern is that the wiring to the lower helm is behind the timber panels alongside
SWIFT BY NATURE
Seating in the flybridge includes an L-shaped passenger lounge around a teak table that, with the helm bucket seat, let's you cater for four for lunch or sundowners at a quiet anchorage. The lounge is also long enough to double as a daybed mid-passage between shifts at the helm.
The wheel is a stainless steel number, the gearshift is an electric Twin Disc model, and there's the bowthruster controller. The basic engine gauges include Smartcraft readout of data such as fuel use. Lenco trim tabs let you adjust the ride for a full passenger and/or fuel and water load. There are also fuel gauge and rudder indicator (a handy device on a single-screw boat) up top.
While the view forward is superior from the flying bridge, the lower helm has a two-seater bench seat and plenty of glass. And with the side door, you can easily dock the boat with your head poked outdoors looking astern. A Raymarine C120 widescreen was to be mounted on the dash, I'm told. Wipers and demister are supplied.
Advance the throttle and the Swift Trawler 34 comes to life, slipping along quietly or fairly flying if you must. At 1000rpm you are doing 5.5 to 6kts idling along in gear, but at 1500rpm speed rises to 8.2kts, which is about hull speed, for 11.73lt/h and a range of more than 500nm leaving 10 per cent of the 800lt fuel supply in reserve. With a raised bow profile, the boat is dry and seaworthy when running at displacement speeds. The best of both worlds.
At 2000rpm, the hard-chine hull is planing at 11kts for 26.5lt/h and a safe working range of 300nm. The turbo whines excitedly at 2500rpm and 16kts, a handy cruise speed using 43.53lt/h for a range of 265nm. Still, the boat is none too noisy. At which stage I am singing and singing its praises.
Fast cruise was clocked at 2800rpm for 20.1kts and 57.5lt/h, while top speed at 3100rpm was 23.3kts but you'll burn 70lt/h. However, as with all the Beneteau powerboats I've driven, the ride was smooth and sporty, and the boat really responds to the wheel.
As I said, in many ways, this is all you ever need. In respect of Gulliver's Travels again, it's of course one of the all-time great adventure stories, introducing the reader to interesting people and taking you to fascinating places. To my mind, that's the charter of this Swift Trawler 34 as well.
Specifications - Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
PRICE AS TESTED
$495,000 w/ single Cummins QSB 5.9 diesel engine, and factory-fitted and dealer options
Generator, air-con, electronics, teak cockpit, sunpad mattress, second LCD television, windlass, flybridge bimini, and more
$459,000 for standard model w/ single Cummins QSB 5.9 diesel engine
Material: GRP fibreglass hull w/ balsa coring and decks
Type: Hard-chine semi-displacement
Length overall: 11.14m
Max. draft: 0.90m
Weight: 7450kg (dry)
Berths: Four plus two
Make/model: Cummins QSB 5.9
Type: Six-cylinder diesel w/ direct injection and turbocharging
Rated HP: 425
Gearboxes (make): Twin Disc
Props: Four-blade bronze
Jones Bay Wharf,
19-21 Lower Deck, Suite 90,
26-32 Pirrama Road,
Pyrmont, NSW, 2009
Phone: (02) 9518 6977
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