REVIEW: BENETEAU SWIFT TRAWLER 50
The Beneteau Swift Trawler 50 is yet another variation on the theme of what makes a really practical motorcruiser, writes Kevin Green.
Traditionally, trawler yachts have taken many traits from the working vessels they borrow their name from; such as seaworthy hulls, high bulwarks, enclosed decks, low-revving engines and long-range fuel tanks. Interiors are usually fairly utilitarian to both maximise space and minimise maintenance, so plenty of hardwood and benches with little else to cause fuss.
Major builders, such as Grand Banks and Halvorsens locally, have been producing sturdy boats like these for half a century, but Beneteau’s take on the concept is considerably tweaked. Back in 2003 the French giant rethought this traditional concept when it launched its Trawler range that has gone on to number five models, from 34 to 52 feet with the Trawler 50 the newest member of this flotilla of semi-displacement hulls.
Despite emerging from a completely different mould the new 50 looks very similar to the 52, unsurprising as both models are from the well-known Joubert-Nivelt Design house. Several of the flagship 52s have been sold locally, according to Adam Waters at Australian distributor JW Marine. "The buyers are really focused on long-range cruising, with most of the owners spending the winter up north and south in Tasmania over the summer, so liveaboard features are very important," he explained.
Slotting in nicely between the 44 and the 52 and at a price point ($1.75m) well away from the other siblings, Waters expects a strong demand for the new 50.
This modern take on the trawler has IPS pod drives for easy manoeuvrability to manage a voluminous hull that can easily accommodate a liveaboard family in style; as I found out when I spent a day aboard on the Mediterranean waters around Palma, Majorca, Spain.
Two cabins come as standard on the Swift Trawler 50, with a third available – as we found on the test boat – plus the saloon dinette can convert into a double bed. Large sliding doors leading to the aft deck means the saloon is a light-filled area, with bench seats nestling around the rectangular wooden table. Storage space included a locker for an Isotherm icemaker and a TV that elevated from the bulkhead. The freestanding table was the only annoyance during our sea trial as it wasn’t secured, but a strong bungee cord would suffice. The dark finish on the test boat was mahogany veneer that set a nautical tone as well as being practical to keep clean, although the squared edges could bruise you at sea.
Moving forward requires stepping up to the galley and dinette area – which can be enclosed by a curtain that separates this half from the lounge. Cooking can be done on either a three-burner gas hob, or an electric one by option, in the U-shaped starboardside galley. Double sinks and ample whitegoods space – including an Electrolux dishwasher on our test boat – should keep the cook happy and there are twin 130lt fridges with a freezer option. Also, a washing machine can go into the third cabin space (where bunks are available) and a wine cooler nestles in the L-shaped stairwell to the berths. Bulkheads running to roof level accommodate plenty of cupboards as well. Another useful feature, especially on a rocking boat at sea, is the service lift from galley to flybridge.
Up front the main steering console is raised and has a double bench seat with side door for easy deck access – the starboard deck is noticeably wider than the narrow port one, so is the main way forward. The instrument layout easily housed the twin Raymarine Hybrid e127 plotter screens, Ray autopilot and chunky buttons for the systems, but the helm console is a wee bit high (prompting me to use the Lenco trim tabs at sea to peer over it). However, the tall wraparound windows with slim struts gave good views generally, although the wiper blades are rather small for my liking. Views aft are limited too because your sightline is blocked by those tall cupboards in the galley; so the optional aft camera is pretty essential I’d say. Also the rudder indicator is welcome, to see exactly where those forward-facing IPS propellers are pointing. Other onboard smarts included the wireless lighting switches from Schreiber, reducing cabling and connections, the latter a common source of problems as boats age. These switches have a 4m range from their base stations around the boat.
The stairs down to the accommodation deck are beside the main helm station and bend around affording privacy and you’re guided by a handrail to the corridor leading off to the cabins. The three-cabin layout has the owner’s suite aft with guest cabin forward and the third cabin with bunks to port. Plenty of space is given for the owner’s island bed with headroom to spare for my 5ft10in frame.
The darkwood interior on the test boat was naturally illuminated by the elongated portlights and the opening stainless steel portholes are a stylish and practical touch as you sit at the vanity desk. Also pleasing are the louvred doors on the cupboards, the larger one with a slide-out benchtop, so ideal for the laptop. My only complaint was the flimsy plastic catches that will have a limited lifespan. For ablutions a smoked Perspex door leads off portside to the en suite toilet with separate show to starboard.
In the forepeak the guest cabin is a comfortable spot – especially as it’s a long way from the engineroom – with island bed, ample cupboard space and sturdy handrails along each hull that act as tall fiddles for items as well. There’s an en suite shower but the corridor bathroom is shared with the third cabin. The Swift Trawler 50 is definitely a family-friendly boat thanks to those bunks in the third cabin which, of course, can sleep adults as well; but I’d grab the top bunk with the portholes.
The deck is well protected by 65cm high teak-capped bulwarks with top rail and grip is good underfoot thanks to the laid teak slats as you walk forward. At the bow the double sunpad awaits you with plenty of usable space around it as well. For anchoring there’s a Lewmar 24V 2000W windlass with capstan and the cleats are sizeable, with the midship one right beside the helm door which also has a useful gate for side mooring.
The aft deck is utilitarian rather than stylish but remember, this is a no-nonsense trawler so it remains a useful space with totally enclosed hardtop roof and bench seat against the transom – with capstans either side. The test boat had the optional aft helm station with a Quick bowthruster in addition to the pod joystick system, giving plenty of control and of course, redundancy for manoeuvring.
Another plus is the hydraulic transom swimplatform. With this option in conjunction with the crane on the flybridge, launching the dinghy should be easy. There’s a transom hatch to the lazarette, a space which can be fitted-out as a crew cabin with a bunk, shower and head, and is also accessible from the main deck. Climbing topside, the steps to the bridgedeck are angled gently enough to allow ascending with even a G&T in one hand.
The rectangular flybridge should win plenty of admirers with surrounding bench seating comfortably angled and rounded, while the steerer and co-pilot score swivelling back seats allowing interaction with guests. The console space houses the Raymarine e95 plotter and engine instrumentation, nicely angled to be viewable even in strong sunlight but for our blessedly sunny climes the optional bimini might be worthwhile. Facilities here include a wetbar and large icebox integrated into the bulkhead which includes the GRP arch sporting a Simrad 4G radar. Behind it is free space for the optional crane and dinghy, completing a very functional top deck.
The Swift Trawler 50 has a semi-displacement hull with trim tabs and is one of few trawlers fitted with pod drives, so has been optimised for these Volvo Penta IPS600 units. The IPS600 is the only engine offered and with a true delivery of 435hp per side is likely to be economical. The vee-hull looks shallower than its predecessor in terms of its forward sections, while the aft is cut-out and flattened to promote planing; this is also helped by being considerably lighter (displacement of 16 tons) than conventional displacement trawlers.
Construction is balsa cored GRP throughout with sandwich above and solid glass below the waterline and on the chines. Our test boat was hull #7 of the 10 built by May this year. These hulls have an EU rating of B, which is classified as offshore rather than A for ocean.
Engineroom access is from a central hatch on the aft deck via an alloy ladder. The engineroom is a busy spot as the pod drives require much less room than conventional shafts so the owner’s cabin gets the space, which leaves things a bit of squeeze for the twin motors. Ahead of them sits the 11kVa Onan generator and power includes both 12 and 24V. The twin 1200lt fuel tanks are not generous for this size of boat but I believe these are being upgraded to 1350lt in later models. Other engineroom gear can include a watermaker and there’s an inbuilt fire-protection system.
Leaving the busy dockside at Palma I pointed the blunt bow of the Swift Trawler 50 north towards the Spanish mainland as I stood at the saloon helm. Weaving through the harbour mouth traffic – fast mainland ferries, superyachts and harbour tugs – literally kept me on my toes, so relaxing to sit at the double helm seat was my reward for reaching open waters as I gunned the motors.
The small chop didn’t raise any complaints aboard, with minimal interior noise from fixtures and fittings when we crossed our own wake at cruising speed, e.g. 15.5kts (3000rpm) with the consumption at 117lt/h giving a range of 317 miles.
Banking into figure-eight turns produced moderate heel as the hull chine dug in and tracked around. My main gripe was the limited views aft from the saloon helm – more limited than the older trawlers I’d been on, so a camera is again advisable in busy waterways. Cab noise wasn’t noticeable as I carried on talking without hindrance to the company representative (my sound meter showed 71dB at 15.5kts).
Pushing the throttles all the way forward along with more trim to increase visibility resulted in a top speed of 23kts and a modest 168lt/h of diesel being used, illustrating how the relatively more efficient pods power the hull to semi-displacement speeds while keeping consumption in check. Throttling back to her theoretical hull speed of 7.4kts, as most traditional trawlers run at, requires a meagre 30lt/h giving a 540nm range – easily covering the 384nm trip between Sydney and the Gold Coast.
Climbing upstairs to drive from the flybridge was an equally enjoyable experience, enhanced by the better all-round visibility and the front visor doing its job reducing windage. My only gripe was at rest in the chop when the relatively light hull rolled fairly a bit, so it could perhaps benefit from a larger keel.
Motoring back to port I approached the quay to check out the joystick docking. The IPS system reduces the stress levels of docking considerably, given that the fairly upright topsides with a lightweight hull will be affected strongly by windage. This is what I found when manoeuvring near a very unforgiving stone pier in Palma. At the main helm, docking is best done by standing outside on the deck as visibility is limited inside. Alternatively, use the aft deck controls for docking stern-to. Pushing the joystick sideways with occasional dabs at the bowthruster brought us parallel to the quay, despite the sea breeze curling around the tall topsides and ended a very enjoyable afternoon on the Swift Trawler 50.
Overall I’d say this boat should have wide appeal to both cruising sailors and time-poor weekenders who want to escape to that favourite anchorage without compromising comfort or seaworthiness, as the Swift Trawler 50 successfully combines a practical semi-planing hull with the smarts of IPS drives and the protection of tall topsides.
[TRADE-A-BOAT SAYS… ]
The Swift Trawler 50 concept succeeds in creating a compromise between traditional heavy-displacement trawlers and fast motorcruisers, so is a worthy addition to Beneteau’s growing flotilla. It’s also at a competitive price which reflects the economies-of-scale available from this huge French yard.
› Practical concept
› Fuel efficient
› Comfortable and easily maintained interior
› Limited views aft from main console
› Busy engineroom
› Bigger bilge keels preferred
BENETEAU SWIFT TRAWLER 50
MATERIAL GRP (solid under waterline and balsa cored above)
TYPE Semi-displacement monohull
PEOPLE (NIGHT) 8
MAKE/MODEL 2 x Volvo Penta D6 IPS600
TYPE Inline six-cylinder turbo-diesel
DISPLACEMENT 5.5lt (each)
RATED HP 435 (each)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Originally published in Trade-a-Boat #443, August/September 2013
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