BOAT TEST: BENETEAU SWIFT TRAWLER 52
Weaving through a series of craft, one owner finds his boating nirvana in Beneteau’s flagship Swift Trawler 52. JOHN ZAMMIT explains
There aren't too many organisations that can boast 127 years of continuous operation, even fewer that can say they are still run by a descendant of the original founder, in this case the great granddaughter of Benjamin Beneteau, who started manufacturing fishing boats on the quays of Croix-de-Vie in Vendée, France, back in 1884.
But why well-known in Australia as a manufacturer of sailing yachts, what's perhaps less known about Beneteau here is that they've been manufacturing powerboats since 1912, when Benny Bénéteau launched the first tuna boat in Europe to combine sail and an engine. As well as a range of sailboats, Beneteau now manufactures 29 different models of powerboats from 5.5m speedboats up to the Swift Trawler 52 revisited hereabouts.
Looking every bit the epitome of a flagship, the Swift Trawler 52 is a stylish boat with elegant upswept lines and a commanding on-water presence. A series of portholes forward in the bow, large hull windows, a Portuguese bridge and walkaround decks all combine to give her a timeless little-ship look.
This is a boat designed for those who want to cruise into the wide blue yonder, which is just what Bill Robinson, the owner of this Beneteau, has in mind. He's owned a series of craft over the years, starting out with keelboats, but according to Bill, "the wife and friends were not into yachts and it was always a bit hard getting crew." So he moved on through a series of runabouts before settling on a Beneteau Swift Trawler 42, which he owned for three years. Then he graduated to the 52.
Stepping onto the 52 for the first time Bill recounts: "(it) felt like I was onboard a P&O liner, but the real surprise came when I realised that she was so much easier to handle than the 42."
High on Bill's list of priorities is a circumnavigation of Tasmania and beyond that he's looking forward to heading north, possibly up over the top and across to the Kimberley - in this boat, neither is out of the question.
A trawler style with a semi-displacement hull, superb central wheelhouse and comfortable flybridge deck, the 52 also boasts an elegant timber finish throughout, spacious saloon and forward galley, three staterooms, the master full-beam amidships, and two bathrooms.
Power comes from twin Volvo Penta D9 diesel engines producing 575hp each and she's just as happy loping along at 8kts as she is cruising at 16kts (she tops out at around 23kts). With a fuel capacity of 4000lt, the range is more than 1500nm.
Stepping into the saloon from the cockpit, the living space is generous with comfortable seating to port around a fold-up table that accommodates six for dinner when extended. Opposite, a clever entertainment/bar arrangement is inbuilt to window height. This unit incorporates the stereo system and a hideaway TV, as well as dedicated bottle and glass storage. Either side, a couple of stylish club chairs can be used in situ, or moved out for use at the table or as casual seating.
Forward on the portside and separated from the saloon by a stylish servery is the galley. This is a full-size walk-in that would satisfy the most discerning chef. Bench space is in plentiful supply along three sides and there's no lack of storage, either under-bench or overhead. The galley is fitted with name-brand appliances, including three-burner glass cooktop, convection microwave, twin stainless steel sinks, inbuilt extraction fan, dishwasher and even a clever rubbish disposal system built into the bench top that allows the rubbish to be collected from outside via the covered sidedeck. Ample power points are located in all the right places.
Opposite the galley to starboard, a full-size 175lt fridge with 45lt freezer section is surrounded by more cupboards and storage. Having the fridge located here is a good use of space - easily accessible from the galley yet located such that anyone can get to it from the wheelhouse forward, the saloon or the cockpit, without disturbing the chef preparing meals or snacks.
Moving forward and up three steps is the wheelhouse and it's here that I think Beneteau has nailed it. There is so much to like. It's centrally located with easy access downstairs to the accommodation, aft to the saloon/galley and cockpit, up an internal staircase directly to the flybridge or, out to the sidedecks via the sliding doors located either side.
Vision forward over the bow and to either side is excellent, thanks to the large windscreen and the side windows extending all the way round the wheelhouse. Seated in his fully adjustable (electrically operated) Besenzoni helm chair facing a big, stylish timber wheel, the skipper has all that he needs within easy sight and reach.
The dash is high, wide and handsome, accommodating a couple of Raymarine 12in screens, autopilot, rudder-angle indicator, an array of engine, fuel and water gauges, as well as VHF radio and stereo controls - all without impeding the skippers view forward. The finish is handsomely understated, just enough to say that this is a serious cruising boat.
Located centrally beside the helm are stairs leading down to the accommodation, while to port is an inbuilt chart table with map storage underneath. There's a gooseneck light here that not only adds to the traditional look, but has a practical element for those times you need to study a chart travelling at night. Farther aft is raised observation seating facing a table affording a nice view forward for a companion or guests keeping the skipper company underway.
The accommodation below decks features a full-beam owner's stateroom situated amidships. It's incredibly light and spacious, mainly thanks to the vast hull windows incorporating opening portholes. There's plenty of headroom, a large island bed, a vanity table and seating - giving the impression that you're on a much larger boat than a 52-footer.
There are two other cabins: a guest's VIP forward in the bow incorporating an island bed, and a third cabin fitted out with twin bunks. Overhead hatches and opening portholes throughout let in an abundance of light and ventilation, while storage and hanging space is plentiful. The owner's stateroom features an en suite bathroom with Vacuflush toilet, separate shower and extractor fans. An almost identical bathroom services the VIP and third cabin, while also doubling as a dayhead.
This is a boat that's spacious both inside and out, with plenty of places to sit and relax depending on your mood. Large sliding glass doors lead out from the saloon to the fully covered cockpit with inbuilt seating at the transom. A door here leads out to the swimplatform that on our test boat featured a safety rail on which a baitboard and/or barbecue can be fitted, while a handy (hot and cold) deck shower is located nearby.
Doors either side of the cockpit provide access to the sidedecks and these can be closed to deflect wind and spray, or to contain young children and pets. Going forward, along the wide, fully-covered sidedecks, you find boarding gates to port and starboard, while farther forward is the Portuguese bridge. This is a lovely setup for a cruising boat and means you can move right around this boat in any weather or conditions in relatively safety and easy fashion. It also takes the stress off young kids and older folk making their way outside while underway.
A gate through the Portuguese bridge leads out to the foredeck with more inbuilt seating and storage underneath. The uncluttered foredeck and its raised bulwarks provide another safe and pleasant area to relax, soak-up a few rays and keep a whale-watch lookout. At the bow, a substantial Lofrans anchor winch adds to the little-ship look with twin rollers for the addition of a second anchor and a couple of deep anchor lockers either side incorporating a saltwater washdown and a Quick anchor remote on an extending chord.
Access to the Swift Trawler 52 flybridge is either direct from the wheelhouse or the ladder in the cockpit. Our test boat was fitted with a bimini top forward of the hinged targa arch and while I've long been a believer in hardtops - especially coming from Melbourne - my thinking is rapidly changing on a boat of this style. Given the wheelhouse is such a comfortable place to be, especially if the weather's not kind, it's rather pleasant to bask in the sunshine on a nice day in the flybridge and enjoy the warm breeze, the smell of the salt and the fresh air.
The flybridge helm is not quite as large as the lower station but given it's a secondary station it's more than adequate in terms of accommodating a single 12in screen and all associated electronics and instrumentation required to make the skipper's life comfortable. Throw in a stylish and fully adjustable helm chair and I could think of no better place to be.
Beside the skipper to port is comfortable guest seating around a table and slightly aft to starboard, an inbuilt wetbar - its lift-up lid revealing a sink with hot and cold water, provision for an electric barbecue or griddle, and a fridge-freezer, plus storage below. The quarterdeck aft of the targa arch incorporates a 350kg davit, room for a large dinghy and the ladder to the cockpit.
Back in the cockpit, a hatch reveals a huge, almost standing-height lazarette/equipment room that houses an 11kVa generator, a washer/dryer, air-conditioning units, blackwater tank, with plenty of room left over for picnic tables, dive gear, water toys, fenders, etc. A couple of things I would add here for heading off on a long cruise would be a watermaker to supplement the 800lt of freshwater onboard and perhaps an additional freezer, given the only practical freezer onboard is up in the galley.
Access to the engineroom is through a half-height door from the lazarette and I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of room and the good access around the Volvo Penta D9 engines. Two 400lt water tanks (linked) are located outboard of each engine with the fuel tanks (two by 2000lt, also interconnected) located forward close to the centre of gravity, which means fuel loads don't affect the balance of the boat and being housed between the engineroom and the accommodation provides an additional noise buffer.
The hot-water service located here operates on both 240V and the heat exchanger, there's a fire suppressant system, too, engineroom blowers and a CCTV camera to help the skipper keep an eye on things down here from the helm. With the Racor fuel filters mounted on the forward bulkhead, you have to go right into the engineroom to check - not ideal - and no sign of any sight gauges on the fuel tanks, which to me would appear to be a major oversight on a boat designed for long-range cruising.
Batteries located under panels in the engineroom consist of two for the engine, six as house batteries, and one each for bow and stern thrusters, with a battery charger and paralleling system. Interestingly, each of the TVs onboard has its own inverter, but none of them power any of the onboard power points, so if you want a cup of tea while underway, start the genset.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
I drove the Beneteau Swift Trawler 52 from both stations and found them very comfortable. Up on the flybridge, on a beautiful sunny day on Sydney Harbour, it was just magic - this is what I was saying earlier about the joy of having the option of an open flybridge for days just like this.
Beneteau spent countless hours wind tunnel and tank testing, and fine tuning this semi-displacement hull that features a keel finishing just forward of the running gear. A result of that testing can be seen at the stern, where underwater it's shaped much like a duckbill. The effect is that when the boat is moving, water is deflected away from the stern providing more 'slip' aiding both hull and fuel efficiency.
At around 1100rpm you can feel the boat come up to what appears to be optimum hull efficiency at a speed of around 8kts, but it just gets better from there. I took her up to 2000rpm, recording 15.5kts and gradually through the rev range up to 2400rpm for a speed of 21kts. At this speed I was seriously disputing the accuracy of the gauges, given the softness of the ride and the effortless way the boat was handling. It all seemed so quiet, elegant and unfussed, but no, all was in order, she just rides so well.
BENETEAU SWIFT TRAWLER 52
AT THE HELM
Conditions on test day were good and even when we went below and drove from the wheelhouse heading out of Sydney Heads - with about a third of tabs down and heading just slightly across the swell - the Beneteau Swift Trawler 52 performed impeccably and I understood exactly what the owner was saying earlier about her easy handling nature.
PRICE AS TESTED
Twin 575hp Volvo Penta D9 turbo-diesels, 25% fuel, 50% water, three crew.
RPM SPEED FUEL BURN
1000 7.9kts 18lt/h
1400 10.5kts 27.5lt/h
1800 13.7kts 92.5lt/h
2000 16.1kts 116lt/h
2200 19.4kts 144.9lt/h
2300 21.1kts 161.5lt/h
2400 22.3kts 184.3lt/h
2500 24.3kts 197.4lt/h
2600 24.6kts 208lt/h
* Official sea-trial date supplied by Beneteau.
Flybridge refrigerated icebox, solid wood cockpit and catwalks, rear
deck searchlight, Raymarine ST 70 autopilot with gyrocompass and RV2 control in flybridge and wheelhouse plus multifunction screen with GPS, Raymarine C120W in flybridge with two multifunction screens, Raymarine E120W in wheelhouse, radar, twin set VHF coupled to the Raymarine AIS 500 transponder system, washing machine and dryer, engineroom and aft CCTV cameras, 32in LED TV, DVD player, and BOSE loudspeakers in saloon
TYPE: Semi-displacement monohull
LENGTH OVERALL: 17m
HULL LENGTH: 15.24m
MAKE/MODEL: 2 x Volvo Penta D9
TYPE: Inline six-cylinder turbo diesel
RATED HP: 575 (each)
DISPLACEMENT: 9.4lt (each)
WEIGHT: 1075kg (each)
This is a boat that looks and feels the part. The Beneteau Swift Trawler 52 is roomy, elegant, graceful and a joy to handle. She's equally at home idling along at 8kts using less than 20lt/h of fuel as she is cruising at 16kts and around 120lt/h. Fitted with both bow and stern thrusters, close-quarter handling is a cinch as well.
To me the 52 needs a few tweaks before being ready to head off on that long-distance cruise, but most of the fundamentals are there. Fuel range is good and with the addition of a watermaker, perhaps an additional freezer and maybe an inverter, this Swift Trawler is ready to take you anywhere in style and comfort.
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