A 24-hour test gives us the perfect opportunity to get beneath the skin of the latest addition to the Beneteau range, the Swift Trawler 47
A suspected mechanical malady meant that a recent passage home on my boat that would normally take 45 mins at 25 knots instead took almost three hours at 6 knots, and as we finally reached port we firmly agreed on one thing. Cruising at displacement speed for a change had been brilliant!
We’d chatted, relaxed, listened to music and enjoyed the scenery. And the icing on the cake was over two miles out of each litre instead of the usual three quarters of a mile – less than half the fuel burn!
That last facet is particularly relevant in these times of ever-increasing fuel prices and uncertainty over the future of red diesel. Displacement speed cruising is becoming ever more popular, and whilst people are reluctant to give up their 20 knot cruising ability, they are frequently opting not to use all of it.
Manufacturers are responding. Azimut, famed for its fast planing craft, launched the Magellano 43 in 2013, a boat described as having a hybrid hull, equally at home at lower speeds, and a deck layout more suited to displacement cruising. It was so successful that its Magellano range now stretches across four models. Cranchi launched its three-strong Eco Trawler range soon afterwards.
But of course one company has been quietly building boats equally suited to displacement and fast cruising way ahead of the current zeitgeist. Beneteau launched its Swift Trawler 42 back in 2004 before bookending it with a Swift Trawler 34 and a Swift Trawler 52. As the incredibly literal nomenclature suggests, these were trawler-style boats that were also surprisingly swift.
Four days after my displacement cruising epiphany, I was heading for Port Ginesta, near Barcelona, to experience Swift Trawler cruising first hand. The wraps came off Beneteau’s very first Swift Trawler 47 at the Cannes Yacthing Festival in September, with boat number two appearing at Southampton Boat Show days later before making an appearance at the La Rochelle Boat Show and finally reaching its destination at Beneteau’s new sea trial centre in Port Ginesta, where I caught up with it early one evening.
Having already seen some use, Beneteau’s press department were relaxed about it seeing a little more, so when we suggested sleeping on board and using it as an owner would, the answer was ‘sure, help yourself’.
Goldilocks and the three cabins
Spending proper time aboard a boat is a great way to really get under its skin, and once alone, job one is to choose a cabin. There is a choice of three on the lower deck, and unlike the current trend for full beam master cabins, the Swift Trawler 47 has the master in the bow and two guest cabins aft, a rather low-ceilinged double and a more generous twin (although an infill converts it). Both share the day heads.
There’s a sense that these cabins have been slightly compromised to create a really generous master cabin in the bow. If I were Goldilocks I’d probably say that the smallest is too small, the largest too large and the middle size just right. But I’m not, so I make my home in the biggest, with its separate shower and heads either side.
There’s not much nightlife in Port Ginesta in late October, so I pad around the boat poking and prodding things and opening cupboards before settling down with a good book, and this is what I learn. The main saloon door furniture feels a little flimsy and the lock is broken. In fairness, the boat has had a hard life, but this is not complex engineering, it ought to work (plus I can’t lock myself in). The lighting is excellent, super bright, but there’s no way to turn it down (although there are separately switched pelmet lights above the windows).
There’s an annoyingly creaky section of floor at the top of the steps. The water pump is somewhere behind a panel in the lobby area of the lower deck, so is not exactly subtle at night. And the blind in the heads is a rather cheap affair that you have to latch over a couple of hooks to stop it springing back. It’s functional, rather than sophisticated, a little like the boat’s plain GRP (rather than padded and upholstered) headlining.
But what I also discover is that I really like the ‘mini superyacht’ feel to just how much space there is, considering this is a sub-50ft boat. I also discover that there is fresh bread in one of the many cupboards, cheese in one of the four fridge drawers and best of all chocolate chip cookies, so I make myself a snack in the galley that lies at the head of the saloon.
My culinary exploits don’t require the extra counter space gained by hinging the double helm seat forward, but it’s there if yours do. I also discover that the starboard settee is a really comfortable place to relax with a good book (Black Fish by Sam Llewellyn). The seat bases are deep and raked back, and a proper right angle at the end means you can pile it with cushions and snuggle right in. A USB port keeps my phone handy and charged.
At 23:30 I head to bed. I’m 6ft 2in and it’s just long enough and very comfortable, and I slip into a slightly disturbed sleep filled with dreams of marauding ne’er-do-wells breaking in through the unlocked saloon door. At 06:00 I’m jolted harshly awake by the boat dipping as though someone has actually boarded it. Did I just dream that? The boat moves again – there is someone aboard!
It’s dark outside and I dress quickly, heart thumping, and creep up to the saloon carefully avoiding the creaking floor panel. No sign of anyone. I ease open the saloon door and step out to find boat cleaners hard at work, looking bemused at the sight of a bedraggled middle-aged man appearing silently from the dark interior of the boat they’re cleaning! Slightly embarrassed, I head off into the dark for a walk as though that was the plan all along.
I’ve arranged to meet the Beneteau crew at 07:30, just before sunrise, so I get back at 07:00 and avail myself of the shower. It’s excellent, better than the one at home (although that might say more about the plumbing in my old house). By 08:00 we’re all aboard and moseying out of the marina before switching the autopilot on and settling in for some breakfast. This is what displacement cruising is all about, living on board whilst underway rather than hanging on till arrival, and the galley is well positioned for food preparation whilst maintaining a watch.
It’s the same story outside, asymmetric side decks create a deeply bulwarked starboard side deck with a motor yacht-style overhang above. A huge sliding side door gives direct access to the helm and forward saloon, and a couple of steps gain access to the foredeck where a hinging section of the sunpad creates forward facing seating right at the bow. At 8 knots all of this is entirely usable and eminently desirable; the bow at displacement speeds is a great place to be.
It’s the same story up on the flybridge where a bar area and dinette that will seat 10 make this a great place to relax underway. You can flip the ends of the dinette backrests to add forward facing seating next to the helm, well protected by high sides and a fabric bimini overhead, which can be swapped for a solid GRP hard top (it’s actually the same moulding as the 60ft Beneteau MC6, which gives a clue as to how big this area really is).
Thomas Gaillard, product manager for the Swift Trawler range, talks me though a few of the finer details. The fixed bathing platform, for example, can be swapped for a hydraulic high/low version with a 350kg lift capacity. It’s completely level with the cockpit floor and the transom gate is 900mm wide, enough to allow a wheelchair to pass through.
If you spec the hydraulic passerelle it’s fitted out of the way over on the starboard side of the transom, and there’s a section of seating that lifts out to reveal steps down into the cockpit. And that easy-access ethos also extends to a door in the starboard bulwark, making side boarding painless – rare these days.
Inside, there’s an option of teak instead of the light oak of our test boat, and a handrail in the ceiling. A double sofa bed folds out of the starboard settee and the port settee can be swapped for a sideboard with more storage. At the galley there’s a gas hob, a proper oven, plus the option of a pop-up microwave in the corner and a dishwasher.
At the helm, the Beneteau Ship Control system allows control of everything electronic via the Raymarine Hybrid Touch MFD, but there’s a separate small touch screen in case that doesn’t work, and access to manual switching if all else fails. Typical Swift Trawler owners really use their boats, often for two or three months at a time he tells me, so it’s important that the layout is practical and that everything stays working so that their cruising doesn’t suffer interruptions.
By now we’re a couple of hours into our cruise and a good 15 miles up the coast. But our photographer needs to get back for a midday flight – it’s time to put the Swift into Trawler. I take the lower helm and scan the gauges and screens – the two Cummins 425hp diesels running conventional shaft drives are sipping just 10 litres an hour between them. We’ll soon change that!
The hull is semi-displacement (charmingly referred to as ‘semi-floating’ in the UK translation of the specification), not full planing so the cruising speed range is pretty infinite between 600rpm (4 knots, 3lph) and flat chat of 3,070rpm (26 knots and a rather less parsimonious 160lph). I settle on 20 knots and put the helm down hard with the big vertical wheel. The boat banks gently and turns surprisingly quickly, albeit without much enthusiasm. Straightening up, I point the nose at Port Ginesta and we’re home in 40 minutes.
And this is what the Swift Trawler does. Combines pitch perfect displacement cruising and a layout that facilitates easy use of the whole boat with the ability to put the hammer down when there’s a plane to catch. Back at base we have some lunch and then I wander around the boat some more. The floor still creaks, the headlining is still GRP and I’ve noticed that there are a few exposed screw heads dotted around the helm.
But none of this matters anymore because there’s an honesty and warm-heartedness to this boat. It’s designed to be used and enjoyed. To head out to sea and stay there, gently covering distance for a day whilst life goes on, not the 30 minutes it takes to get to the nearest bay at 40 knots and drop anchor.
Buyers will prize its easy-going style and its laid back vibe. They’ll appreciate the access, the space, the way everything conspires to make living on board a joy. And they’ll appreciate the fact that those few exposed screw heads and GRP headlining keep the price down and the low running costs and dead simple shaft drive mechanicals mean that they can afford to run it.
Easily manageable by two but with space for up to six further guests, it’s a boat to be slept on, lived on and cruised. It might not be the ultimate lifestyle accessory, but it is a brilliant boat.
Top speed: 26 knots
Cruising speed: 20 knots
Range: 325 miles
Test engines: Twin 425hp Cummins QSB6.7
Price from: £508,800
Price as tested: £569,432 (inc VAT)
LOA: 48ft 4in (14.74m)
Beam: 14ft 6in (4.42m)
Fuel capacity: 1,930 litres
Water capacity: 640 litres
Draught: 3ft 10in (1.15 metres)
RCD: category B for 14 people
Designer: Andreani Design
Displacement: 12.7 tonnes