Captain's Report by Capt. Steve--
Lord knows I love a good cruiser, and the Swift 52 is, to me, a representative example of what a fun time can be had when jaunting along the coasts of the world. For a cruising couple, I think she's ideal. If you cruise there are two guest staterooms that can handle four of them, in addition to the full beam master -- all of which will make this a very comfy home away from home… with scenery that keeps changing.
Beneteau has chosen a middle path between the slow trawler and the high-speed sleek-looking motoryachts that can often go 40 knots or more. The word "Swift" in the name defines exactly what Beneteau is trying to do with this vessel: build a cruiser that goes reasonably fast but also has prodigious range at displacement speeds while adding roominess below for extended living. The Swift 52 has taken the best of both worlds and combined them into what I think will be one of the most popular concepts in the new decade.
The boat has a high freeboard, a Portuguese pilothouse, a high stern, and a centerline keel that affords some protection for the props which are tucked up as far as they can be in pockets. She draws just a little over 4' (1.30 m) which means places like the Abacos, the Chesapeake Bay, the Baltic Sea and other notoriously shoal areas are definitely on the list of places to visit with the Swift 52.
The whole Swift line, starting with the 34, is clearly a cruising couple's boat, and that includes the 52. Everything about the Swift 52 has been designed and engineered to be handled by owner/operators who are also a couple. In case you haven't noticed, except on yacht club cruises, that's how most people do long-distance cruising. Children and friends are usually too busy to come aboard for extended periods, so they just fly in now an then for a few days.By far the biggest market for the Beneteau 52 will be the baby boomer powerboat owners who are moving up from express cruisers. These boaters are looking for their "cruise-into-the-sunset" yacht, and they are aware of the cruising limitations of the express concept.
In addition to all of the power boaters, Beneteau has also been aiming their sights on the sailor; and, well they might, since more sailors own that brand than any other in the world. By the time most sailors reach retirement age they have figured out going 6 knots covers ground very slowly and that 75% of the time they travel under power anyway. So why not get out of that cramped, dark sailboat and discover what millions before them have already figured out -- power is the only way to go!
When it comes to long range cruisers (LRC) and even moderate range cruisers (MRC), the defining aspect of the boat is its speed through the water. Boat buyers must make a very conscious decision about how fast they want to go, as well as where they want to go. Beneteau has carefully surveyed the market and has chosen to pick the middle course, one that is favored by many veteran cruising yachtsmen. Most coastal cruising boaters we know would choose to cruise at 16 to 20 knots. At those speeds, 128 to 168 nautical miles can be covered in an 8 hour day outside the harbors. There is no need to go faster because -- by definition -- cruising yachtsmen are not in that big of a hurry. Otherwise they would be called racing yachtsmen!
Powering out of Annapolis we tested the 52 in the Chesapeake Bay on an overcast day with a light breeze. Our test boat was powered by twin Cummins 600-hp diesels driving 4-bladed props through conventional straight inboard shafts. Our top average speed over the ground was 24.7 knots in the middle of the bay running reciprocal courses both into and with a 3-knot ebbing tide. At WOT the Swift 52 with the 600-hp Cummins burned 60.0 gph (227.1 L), giving her a range of 391 nautical miles with a 10% reserve.
From a fuel-efficiency standpoint the boat's best cruising speed was 14.05 knots, just after she had gotten over the hump and was solidly on plane turning 2250 rpm. At that speed she was burning 26.9 gph (102 Lph) and getting .52 nmpg. At that speed the 52 can cover 496 miles on a load of fuel with a 10% reserve. And at that speed the distance can be covered in about 35 hours. That's what we call good MRC (Medium Range Cruising speed). At 2500 rpm, where we think many boaters would like to cruise, particularly on short hops, she burned 36.08 gph (136.6 lph) getting .50 nmpg -- which is not much more than when going 14 knots. We suspect most cruisers would choose to go 18 knots.
How slow can you go? If you want to go transoceanic you must go at displacement speeds in any recreational boat. Turning 1000 rpm, the Swift 52 we tested -- with a 20% fuel load, light water, no stores nor gear and therefore far, far lighter than she would be if she were to set off across one of the great ponds -- went 7.35 knots, and burned just 2.45 gph (9.3 lph). At 1250 rpm she went in our tests 8.7 knots and burned 4.25 gph (16.1 lph). That is pretty stingy fuel consumption. In no way are we suggesting that our test numbers could be extrapolated for transoceanic voyaging, and indeed, Beneteau did not design the boat for that. But even if you never go out of sight of land, you can travel for many days at those speeds even with a fully loaded vessel on the Swift 52's fuel load.
How Does She Handle?
I did a full performance evaluation on the Swift 52 and found her to be quite easy to operate. The lower helm seat is ultra-comfortable and I loved the big 29” (73.7 cm) destroyer wheel. With 6 turns from lock-to-lock, you can get as heavy handed as you’d like but the 52 will turn with grace. I’m also a “fingertip” sort of driver, especially with larger boats, and the steering on the 52 is so easy and gentle that I was right at home in my comfort zone.
Cranking and Banking… NOT!
So while we would never want to be whipping the 52 around, we can still have pretty responsive steering capabilities, evidenced by the fact that I was testing in the Chesapeake, which was laden with crab pots that just seem to “appear” in front of the boat from nowhere. A quick spin of the helm had us swerving in short order with immediate response to my control inputs. Full turns were completed with a roughly 5 degree bank angle, so we didn’t lose the dishes out of the cupboards, and I was able to complete a full speed turn in just a little over 2 ½ boat lengths at nearly full throttle.
View from the Flybridge
When operating from the flybridge you get a very “shippy” feel aboard the 52. I instantly pictured making a landfall to a distant island as the wide bows continued carving through the slop. It was very cool operating from up there. The 52 has a sharp entry that cuts nicely through the short waves we encountered. Crossing our self-generated wakes presented little more than a bump in the road. In fact, when crossing the waves on the beam showed that the 52 had just a small list, with an equally small change in heading but we went right back on course after the waves passed under us.
Of course all this doesn’t matter if you can’t get the thing into the dock. So we headed back to see how things worked after a couple of hours on the water. Before pulling into the dock I did some maneuvering when I had some space and found her to be pretty darn responsive. She won’t walk sideways, but the stern can get pushed around with just a little effort from the prop wash. (Actually, she will walk sideways with the standard bow and stern thruster, but I did not use that method.)
While I didn’t get to see the 52 out of the water, I have a feeling that the rudders are fairly good sized, as there was good responsiveness even with the engines taken out of gear. We decided to back into the slip. So I turned the boat around in front of the slip and backed her down slowly. While the rudder was turned to starboard (the same side as the main pier, the helm and -- thank you very much -- the rudder angle indicator). I used the port engine astern to keep us moving back, which eased us towards the dock. When the stern started getting too close, just a shot of “ahead” pushed the stern back out. I then used taps on the bow thruster to keep the boat straight and moving diagonally into the pier as we eased into the slip. Frankly, I would have used the stern thruster but clearly it’s not necessary. In fact the bow thruster is not really necessary either, particularly with twin screws, but it is nice to have it.
The Boat Tour
Stepping aboard from the dock at her swim platform, the first thing we noticed was how big the platform is. It is also 12" (30.5 cm) off the water. This platform has a standard four-step swim ladder. She has standard electric trim tabs. I found that the tabs are not needed for running, but rather for balancing the boat in a beam wind or asymmetric loading condition.
The Main Deck of the Swift 52
The cockpit sole and side decks of our test boat were teak, but they are optional (part of the "Advantage" trim level). Put some cushions on the built-in L-shaped seat along the transom, add a table and you'll be ready for lunch.
The salon is standard for a vessel of this type. A U-shaped settee to port has a high-low table that makes a coffee table or a dinning table, and then to starboard is a built-in cabinet to a high-low TV with two chairs that fit snugly on either side of the credenza. When dinner is served, they can be pulled up to the table.
The U-shaped galley with three-burner electric stove top adjoins the salon area and is a bit larger than you'll find on most boats of this size. I'm happy to report that each burner has sea rails. These are ABYC requirements but I don't see them on many boats. The microwave oven is at a perfect height and the starboard bulkhead houses the refrigerator, freezer, and separate ice maker. There is counter space galore, and any sea-going chef will find that there is even enough room for his souse chef in this large galley.
Up a few steps from the galley you come to the raised pilothouse. The helm is to starboard with a large destroyer stainless steel wheel covered in leather (standard). There is room for two 12" (30.5 cm) screens and lots of gauges, including my favorite… the rudder angle indicator. Visibility forward and to the sides is superb thanks to the narrowest mullions I have ever seen on this size of boat. It is worth noting that there are defrosters or defoggers for the windscreen, something that is very important and all too few boats in this class have them. Overhead LED lights are red.
To port is a comfortable pilot seat and table. It's upholstered in Ultra-Leather and wide enough for three. Just ahead is a fixed teak table with a comfortable footrest. This will clearly be the most popular spot onboard when the boat is underway, and it will also make an ideal spot for the off-watch on extended voyages.
Forward of this is a genuine navigator's table complete with gooseneck light and a deep drawer for chart books. Say what? Yep, charts, you know those paper things that people used to use in the old days and which every cruising yachtsman should still use today! The 52 has sliding doors to the side decks both port and starboard. This means that the helmsman can quickly and easily get to either rail for line handling. It also makes it easy to single-hand this boat.
Probably the nicest cabin on the boat is the full-beam owner's stateroom amidships. It is 129 sq. ft (12 sq m) and that is a very good size in a 52' (15.8m) boat. This is the cabin that has the two large portlights on either side. You will not only immediately fall in love with the view (when not in a marina), but you will also come to rely on the sunshine to brighten your day in paradise. And you will thank Beneteau for having the courage to break with moss-backed cruiser traditionalists and install something that has become very popular on large production motoryachts which are not as tightly tethered to tradition.
To starboard there is a large table or vanity, or both. The hanging locker measures 30” (76 cm) wide which is quite large. Forward is the head which is not overly large, but it passed muster with me because: 1) It has a separate shower stall, 2) two people can use the toilet and sink at the same time. I found plenty of room for taking a mock shower.
The hanging locker is 28" (71 cm) wide, which is relatively large for a forward cabin. It shares the second head with the guest cabin across the passageway. Again there is a separate shower stall.Because Beneteau has a sailing culture, please note that the forward hatch is large enough for almost anyone to get through and is placed in such a way that one can stand on the berth to get out. The island berth is only accessible from the port side. The starboard comes in contact with the head bulkhead.
This cabin is small by any standard but since you're only going to be sleeping here, I won't deduct points, especially considering the berths are over 7' (2.1m) long. I would probably make the upper bunk a Pullman berth, thereby opening up the cabin when it is not needed. As small as it is, I have cruised on powerboats in cabins even smaller than this one so let me point out some of its positive points: 1) You can actually close the door without having to stand on the bed, 2) there is a half-height hanging locker that you can reach without having to close the cabin door, 3) there are two cabinets for clothes, 4) it has two small round portlights, 5) the bunks are sufficiently wide that occupants can turn over. Kids will love it just as it is.Beneteau will be glad to make this cabin into a dressing room, an office, a utility room, or most anything else you can think of. Just ask. It can also be accessible from the master stateroom is desired.
Mechanical Spaces -- Crew Quarters
There are two ways to get into the engine room. Either through a hatch in the salon sole or by stepping in from the lazarette, which you access through a hatch in the aft deck. Between the two engines below there is not full standing headroom, but the overhead is not as low as on some other boats this size that we have been on. I would call it “bend-over-head-room” vs. “crawling head room.”Most important, even a 240-lb (109 kg.) 6' (1.8 m) tall person can get around the two diesels to get to the outboard side of each engine. Once there, the owner/operator will find an incredible amount of space in which to work or just check on things. Abaft the engine room, through a hatch, is the lazarette which is highly customizable. Our test boat had a washer/dryer combo to port just in front of a cablemaster bin. Other 52s we are told, have had separate washers and dryers installed. Our test boat even accommodated crew quarters for one mate. Because of the 52’s high freeboard and relatively high main deck, there is stooping headroom in the lazarette which is more than you find on some boats in class and that fact makes this space as pleasant as possible to work in. The crew cabin has a head, a sink and a single crawl in bunk with a hatch to the aft deck for light and air. We would install two large opening portlights in the transom to give the space a more open feeling and for emergency egress. The friendly folks a Annapolis Yacht Sales said they would be glad to oblige with the change order.
On deck the Swift 52 is the equal of most boats in class, in my opinion. Starting from the bow, there are anchor rollers for two large anchors and a solid wood platform with a stainless steel frame. There is a Lofran Falkon 1500 W windlass for chain and a gypsy head for line. This unit has a peel strength of 3,500 lbs. (1,600 kgs.) and can retrieve chain at the rate of 55’ (17 m) per minute. There is a remote control for the windlass stowed in the anchor locker, as well as in the wheelhouse and on the flying bridge. The mooring cleats are actually large bollards as you might find on a small megayacht.
There is a bench seat cut into the Portuguese bridge protecting the pilothouse and under the seat there is storage for fenders and lines. The side decks on the 52 are wider than they are on some 60-footers we have seen. The wide side decks, together with the high bulwarks, two amidships mooring cleats for spring lines and the port and starboard side entry gates make mooring as easy as it can be.
The Aft Deck
On the aft deck there are two large stainless steel fairleads on the top of the coaming on both the port and starboard quarters that can handle large mooring lines coming from nearly any direction. We like this arrangement rather than the more traditional hawse pipe in the bulwarks simply because it is much faster just to drop the mooring line into the fairlead and whip it around the cleat. (Incidentally, the Swift 52 comes standard with enough mooring lines to secure the Queen Mary II.)Forward of the cleats is space for optional warping winches. Frankly with both bow and stern thrusters as standard equipment, we doubt that you’ll need these winches in the U.S., Europeans will go for the option for Med-mooring.
Wing Doors Are Standard
An important standard equipment item are two wing doors which close off the side decks from the aft deck. These doors are essential if you plan to use the aft deck extensively. Because the boat deck above extends to the transom, the Swift 52 is made to order for having the aft deck enclosed to make this valuable space useable in all types of weather.
Depending on your mission for the 52, this large deck space can be a living area, dining spot, al fresco work station or with the addition of some racks, a staging area for scuba diving adventures, and – of course – a venue for a cocktail party.
The swim platform is large and the teak covering comes standard. The platform has a fold-away four-step ladder that is wider and more substantial than most, and it has wooden treads which are more comfortable on bare feet. Perhaps most unusual of all is the stainless steel rail that runs along the periphery of the platform. As this will be the first point of impact when a heavy handed captain backs into a dock this will take the brunt of the hit.
The Flying Bridge
The flying bridge can be reached by either a staircase abaft the helm or by a steep ladder from the aft deck. While having two means of access might seem like a waste of space, they both have their special uses.
I like this flying bridge for several reasons, the most important of which is that it has high bulwarks. Even though this boat was designed and built in Europe everything about its flying bridge is large, secure and ready for serious use in a seaway. The U-shaped seating to port will easily hold seven people sitting and if you want to make it into a sunning pad that can be arranged.Abaft the lounge seating is the boat deck with an optional 880 lb. (400 kg.) Bezenzoni hydraulic davit. Proper-sized tenders are a very important item on a real cruising boat and we wouldn’t mind at all if part of it, including the outboard engine, protruded well aft of the deck. We would put at least a 12’ (3.7 m) RIB tender aboard with a 50-hp outboard. The deck measures just over 11' (3.4 m) fore and aft to the back of the settee seating.No matter what size tender you choose to have aboard, be sure to have chocks installed that can be easily removed from the deck. When the boat is at anchor, or even in a marina, much of the time the tender will be in the water, freeing up this large boat deck space for sunning, cocktail parties or grilling. A console on the starboard side can hold all sorts of optional equipment including a grill and fridge.
Anyone who reads my reports will know how much I appreciate that Beneteau offers an optional Bimini top with cruising canvas. Same goes for the aft deck below. Cruising canvas is the lowest cost way to get more square footage of useable space in a boat.
Power For the Glory
The standard power for the Swift 52 is provided by twin Volvo Penta D-9 575-hp diesels turning four-bladed props through conventional inboard drives. Our test boat was powered by a pair of 600-hp Cummins engines that peaked at 3100 rpm. As noted above, at 18 knots the 52 has nearly a 500 nautical mile range with a 10% fuel reserve. That is also a very comfortable planing speed, and it is why Beneteau calls this boat a “swift”. Certainly it is a long way from being a “crawler" trawler. This is an extraordinary and rarely-seen combination of speed and range. It means that the typical Miami to New York City delivery can be made with only two fuel stops! And that means with a proper crew, one can run outside at night and make the trip in three days.The 52 comes standard with a 7 kW generator, but can be upgraded to something more. Why not more? Remember this boat is designed for economical cruising, and that means careful conservation of electrical power. Further, the diesel engine turning a generator should always be under full load in order to operate efficiently. For that reason, Beneteau engineers have tried to match the kW output of the generator set with the boat’s requirements.
Noteworthy Standard Equipment
I like to draw attention to standard equipment that most builders in the class do not include because, of course, it is reflected in the price of the boat. To me it also tips off the buyer to the builder’s business philosophy and his attitude about the consumer. On the list of noteworthy standards that the Swift 52 has: * Teak cap rails * Electrically adjustable table in the salon* Dish washer* Electrically adjustable lower helm seat* Automatically engine room fire extinguiser* 4 bateries dedicated to the thrusters
A Middle Path
When it comes to pricing, Beneteau seems to have aimed for the middle range of the trawler price-point structure. By installing both a bow and a stern thruster in a twin screw boat, the builder has made this boat nearly as easy to dock as it would be with a far more costly pod and joystick system. And while this traditional inboard propulsion does not have the efficiency of a pod system, if the boat is operated at displacement speeds it doesn’t make any difference.
If you are one of those handful of adventurers who want to go around Cape Horn and power to Tahiti – God bless you, but this is not the boat for you. On the other hand, if you are like most boaters we know – and you don’t have to be of retirement age – and would like to do some long distance coastal cruising and nearby island hopping, then this boat can fit the bill.To my way of thinking, it is a nice marriage between a conventional motoryacht in terms of accommodations and speed and a long range cruiser in terms of its sea keeping abilities and its fuel economy at displacement speeds.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Beneteau Swift Trawler 52 (2011-) is 28.4 mph (45.7 kph), burning 60.0 gallons per hour (gph) or 227.1 liters per hour (lph).
Standard and Optional Features
|Dripless Shaft Seals||Standard|
|Washdown: Raw Water||Standard|
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
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