Beneteau Swift 34: A Modern Version of a Classic Cruiser - 05/04/2011

If you'd rather cruise in something that looks more like a trawler and less like a big sportboat, then Beneteau has the boat for you. The Beneteau Swift Trawler 34, European Boat of the Year 2010 in her category, was introduced to the Yanks at the Ft. Lauderdale Boat Show last October, and several boats have already been sold. At 36' 7" (11.14 m) LOA (inc. platform), the two-cabin Swift Trawler 34 should make a good cruiser for a couple or a family.

Beneteau Swift 34
Beneteau claims their Swift Trawler 34 will reach 21 knots tops, and cruise economically in the high teens with a single 425-hp Cummins diesel. MSRP: $279,000 (FOB US East Coast).
Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
This fish's-eye-view of the Swift Trawler 34 accentuates her high topsides, flying-bridge overhangs that cover the side decks and traditional portholes in the hull. Both hull and deck are balsa-cored fiberglass to save weight and improve performance.

No Time for Slow Boats

Time was, "trawlers," as defined in the pleasureboat world, were low-powered, fat-bodied cruisers content to amble along at 7 or 8 knots. But that was then, this is now: 21st century boaters want to go fast, even aboard "trawlers." So, like many other builders of such vessels, Beneteau combined a semi-planing hull with lightweight composite construction and a classic angular deckhouse, dropped in a single diesel (425-hp Cummins) and created a yacht that will run over 20 knots wide-open, cruise economically in the high-teens, but still cut a traditional figure around the marina. Although "swift trawler" is something of a contradiction in terms, the Beneteau Swift Trawler 34 is just that.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
One thing that makes a trawler a trawler is her primary steering station in the pilothouse, adjacent to a sliding door leading onto the side deck. There is no matching door on the port side; the space is taken by the galley; placing it here makes room for two cabins below.

Squeezing 20+ knots out of a 16,471-lb. (7,471 kg.) yacht with just a single diesel demands skill both on the drawing board and in the engineering department. ("Drawing board" is another euphemism: Today most yachts are designed on a computer screen.) The ST 34's design team drew a modified-V hull with what looks to us like a hint of concavity in the sections (typically, sections are straight or slightly convex). Then they built her light, with balsa-cored laminates for both the hull and deck to save weight while achieving adequate strength and stiffness.

Beneteau Swift 34
It looks to us that the Swift Trawler 34's hull sections are slightly concave. There are definitely wide chine flats to add lift and help with planing.

Traditional trawler yachts were heavy boats whose builders didn't worry about extra weight because their buyers didn't care about going fast. But when speed is an issue, every pound, or kilo, matters. By keeping the ST 34 lightweight, Beneteau can meet the performance mark with a single, reasonably sized, economical diesel.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
A skeg should improve tracking and protect the underwater gear on this conventional shaft/prop/rudder assembly. The odd structure protruding from the transom is an optional gangway, common aboard European boats that usually dock stern-to. A bow thruster is standard, stern thruster optional.

Interior

The ST 34's layout is just what you'd expect – master stateroom with a double berth forward, guest to port with upper and lower singles, galley and dining area "up," in the deckhouse. How else could it be? We can't think of a better way. This is all possible -- and why 30-something boats in the past have not had a stand-up port guest cabin -- because the topsides and superstructure are slightly asymmetrical. This is a clever design that creates important added utility both below and in the salon.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
Aboard a boat this size, the galley belongs "up," like it is on the ST 34. Otherwise it's too cramped and claustrophobic. But a cook working here has lots of light and fresh air, and big windows to look through while the food's on the stove. Double stainless sinks are standard, the cooktop is gas-fired, so you won't need a generator to prepare food underway. A dual-voltage fridge and microwave are also standard.
Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
The deckhouse contains a U-shaped galley and dinette, with wide doors leading onto the aft deck. The dinette will convert to a double berth.
Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
For the dinette, Beneteau opted for a bench seat and table, with added seating in folding director's chairs, included as standard. We like this: When only two people are cruising, and eating, aboard the ST 34, it keeps the salon clear for passage to and from the cockpit. If guests come aboard, unfold the chairs.
Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
No surprises in the Swift Trawler 34's layout: main cabin forward with a double, guest to port, head to starboard. Look at all that open space around the diesel! But can you reach it? See below.
Beneteau Swift 34
Belowdecks, two cabins and a single head fill the space; the cabins share a common bulkhead. Here, the guest berths, upper and lower singles, are on the left, while the centerline double berth in the forward cabin is at right. There's a low bench seat in the forward cabin, too. Both spaces look to us to be compact but adequate, as you'd expect aboard a boat like this.
Machinery and Performance

Standard power for the Swift Trawler 34 is a single 425-hp (313-kW) Cummins QSB5.9 diesel; there is no optional power. It's mounted under the salon, and spins a conventional shaft and four-blade prop. A bow thruster is standard, stern thruster optional. The engine compartment is soundproofed with 40mm high-density foam, important when the diesel lives just below the salon.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 34
Access to the Cummins diesel is through a hatch in the salon, but it looks to us like squeezing into the engine compartment would be tight. Beneteau says otherwise, but we'll have to see for ourselves when we test the boat. The fuel tank lies athwartships, forward of the engine; the water tank is under the galley. An optional grey-water tank can be added to starboard, outboard of the diesel. Another machinery space is under the cockpit, with room for a genset.

We haven't tested a Swift 34 yet, but according to a complete performance report supplied by the builder, she will run 21 knots tops, and exhibits a fairly flat fuel-burn curve between 11 knots and 16 knots. She should have approximately 200 n.m. range at those speeds, so you can pick your cruising speed. Actually, according to Beneteau's figures, even with the throttle pushed all the way open, you might still get 170 n.m. from full tanks.

Price

MSRP for the Swift Trawler 34 is $279,000 in the U.S. (FOB East Coast). The boat is fairly well-equipped as standard, but everyone will want options. A Beneteau rep said a typical upgraded boat, with 6.5-kW generator, A/C and electronics, would run about $350,000. Trawlers have been a hard sell over the past few years, so there are fewer comparable boats than there were even a few years ago. But we found a similar model, built in the Far East, almost the same size and weight but with twin diesels, selling for about $415,000.

If you're interested in a traditional looking vessel, one recalling the good old days of trawler yachts, but with a turn of speed that would give skippers of those boats nosebleeds, we suggest checking out the Beneteau Swift Trawler 34. Be sure to test engine access – it looks tight to us – but otherwise we think this is a boat worth investigating.


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