By Capt. Steve
Beneteau started out life building sailboats. Now don't tell anyone we said so, but we think sailboat designers are much better at squeezing the last drop of performance out of a hull than their powerboat counterparts. And when it comes to layouts, they are used to getting more into less space because, in case one hasn't noticed, sailboats are pretty cramped below. For those reasons we couldn't wait to test the Beneteau Swift Trawler 34 and find out if she would be comfortable for a cruising couple.
One can board the Swift Trawler 34 from a number of locations, but two are primary... the boarding gate to starboard midships, and the cockpit entry from the swim platform. Let's focus on the cockpit entry for now. The swim platform extends aft 2.9' (.88 m) and on our test boat it was covered in teak -- left natural, it really added to the weathered and well-traveled look of the Swift Trawler 34. To starboard is a relatively large reboarding ladder with integrated handholds both on the ladder and the platform itself. The entry to the cockpit is over to port and I found the aft cockpit to be roomy enough for additional deck chairs, which conveniently enough were right in the salon. An optional large bench wraps around from the gate to the starboard side, with the ladder to the flying bridge just ahead on the starboard side.Below the deck is a lazarette big enough to hold plenty of gear, or dry stores for an extended trip, as well as the generator.
Asymmetry Pays Off
The Swift Trawler 34 employs an asymmetrical layout, and the wider side deck is to starboard. From the aft cockpit, there is a door that closes off the side deck from the stern on the starboard side, and a portlight is built into the door to ensure that the boater doesn't open it into someone's nose should they come from the opposite direction. This door is important because when the captain is on the hook, or motoring along, it keeps the wind off the aft deck and makes it a good place to hang out. All the caprails are unfinished teak, and my eye could only see them as sanded down and layered with 8 to 10 coats of spar varnish. Yes it adds maintenance, but my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) was kicking in as I walked the decks, and I'd be happy to add that sense of pride myself if this were my boat.
Beneteau is clearly leaving the varnish decision up to the owner, and some people will be quite happy to give the rail a good drink of teak oil every month or so and let it go at that. Make a choice, but either way the teak caprail is an important detail and one that sets this boat apart from similar boats that are built in the Far East and elsewhere at a low price-point.
The starboard side deck is also on the same level as the aft deck. The port side deck is elevated by two steps. The refueling port is to starboard and Beneteau thoughtfully placed it inside a closed compartment that shares space with the fuel vent, with a convenient overflow that directs the excess back to the tank, rather than onto the deck or over the side. Nice touch.
Enter the salon from the aft sliding doors. Two of the three glass sections open, so flow-through ventilation is maximized. Underway, these doors remained where I put them regardless of my attempts to close them with aggressive helm maneuvers. This is a rather remarkable achievement. A pull-out sofa-bed is to starboard, and the previously mentioned deck chairs are to port. A cherry cabinet is behind the deck chairs with storage inside. All the windows open and I found the area to be comfortable and inviting. One has a good view of the surroundings going from the sides and certainly out the stern through the glass doors.
From outside the boat looks like a typical raised pilothouse design. However, inside, the helm deck of the boat is actually not raised at all. Rather, only the helm seat is raised. As a result there is one deck level that extends all the way from the aft deck through to the companionway going below. This is a real plus, because it is far easier -- and safer -- to be moving about in a seaway on one level rather than having to negotiate steps to and from the helm area.
The galley is forward and to port of the main salon and enjoys the same 6'5'' (1.96 m) headroom as the salon. The galley is "U"- shaped and features a double basin stainless steel sink, a 2-burner gas stove, a microwave, and a 137 quart (130 L) refrigerator. Beneteau thoughtfully created storage for the propane tank below a hatch in the port side deck.
The lower helm station is to starboard and accommodates a double wide helm seat that slides fore and aft. The 6.5' (1.96 m) overhead continues here, and to accommodate shorter captains there is a flip down step that will allow for more height and therefore more visibility.The captain will be looking ahead through three safety glass windows with aluminum frames lacquered black. All three have windshield wipers/washers and I was happy to see defogging vents to keep things clearer on rainy days. Our test boat was equipped with the optional Raymarine E 120 wide screen display. We had full instrumentation as well as my personal favorite, the rudder angle indicator. In addition to our single engine, our boat was also equipped with bow and stern thrusters. A sliding door with integral bug screen not only allowed for additional flow-through ventilation but access to the starboard side deck. Beneteau seems always to be mindful that many boats are single-handed at least some of the time, and by putting a door next to the helm a skipper can easily pop out and tie his boat up by himself.
The 28" (71 cm) rail height exceeds minimum requirements for safety. An anchor davit holds the ground tackle secure and a standard windlass assists in retrieval. Access hatches on both sides of the windlass allow for plenty of room to reach in should it be necessary to untangle the chain. A sun pad lies atop the cabin and it makes an outstanding place to sit and watch the world go by on a cruise.
The Swift Trawler 34 is a two-cabin, one-head layout with the master fully forward. A queen sized berth is accessible only from the foot as the space on the sides is used for much needed stowage. A small seat lies to port at the foot, and the usual hanging lockers are to either side.
The wet head was roomy enough for me to remain comfortable taking a mock shower and a curtain keeps the contents dry. And two people can actually use the head at once. To port is a second stateroom with twin berths, one over the other. The upper berth will be fought over as it is the only one with dual portlights, one of which is opening. There is space inside the second cabin to stand and change clothes, but that is about all. Nevertheless, in a 34'(10.36 m) boat this is quite an accomplishment. We can think of 44' boats that have much smaller guest cabins.
Flying Bridge and Boat Deck
Access to the flying bridge is via the stairs leading up from the cockpit. The aft end of the flying bridge is called the "boat deck" in this arrangement and here there is room for a small tender fore and aft. It can be launched with the mast and winch. Our test boat didn't have a tender, and as such it was easy to see my guests enjoying the day sitting on deck chairs in this open spot, while the boat swings at a remote anchorage. I always recommend that owners install removable chocks for their tender in order to make dual use of the boat deck.
Forward there is "L"-shaped seating, with the "L" going the wrong way to my way of thinking. It requires people to sit with their backs to the bow, and that's not the way people like to cruise. I'm also an advocate for as many eyes looking forward as possible, and it seems like it would be a simple fix to rotate the seating so that my guests could enjoy my view as well. I would just flip the layout and move the table forward.
View from the Helm
The helm is to starboard, much as below, so when docking to starboard the skipper has better sight lines than would be the case if the helm were on the centerline. Conversely, if the captain were to dock on the port side, because the helm is to starboard there is commensurately less visibility. There is a view of the stern through the stairway hatch, but I wasn't tall enough to see the stern, without standing on my tip-toes. With time, of course, and a helpful first mate, owners will get used to the distances just as one does when parking an automobile.For me, docking the Swift Trawler 34 was better accomplished from the lower station. And as it turned out, visibility wasn't the only benefit.
Perhaps the largest compromise on the Swift Trawler 34 is the location, size and access to the engine room. There is not much the builder can do about this given the fact the boat is only 34'(10.36 m) long. As is typical in this type of design, the single engine is located under the salon deck. As regular readers know, BoatTEST.com is adamant about morning fluid checks and daily engine room general inspections. Getting to it requires some thought and planning.
As the boat I tested was set up, I first had to pull out the deck chairs, and then move the pedestal table. To me, that was a two-person job as I also had to remove the snap-in carpeting from underneath the table at the same time, and that requires one to lift the table, not slide it. Sliding it would risk scratching the wood deck underneath. If this were my boat, I would eliminate the snap-in carpet and put the table on two recessed tracks in the sole so I could easily move the table by myself. With those two changes, doing daily fluid checks and engine room inspection will be painless.
Our test boat was powered by a 425-hp Cummins QSB 5.9L HO diesel. There was enough room all around the engine to check for leaks and perform minor maintenance, short of oil changes. Cummins doesn't build their engines with the ancillary items able to be switched from one side to the other, and in the Swift Trawler 34 the oil filter was largely inaccessible. I'd like a remote oil change system to be added to the options list, but the filter would still have to be changed. The engine was mounted on vibration absorbing mounts well secured to the stringers. I was happy to see two fixed automatic discharge fire extinguishers in the forward corners of the engine compartment. The stainless steel driveshaft passed through a dripless shaft seal as opposed to a stuffing box.
Good Sound Numbers
Looking at the engine room hatch I noticed 3/4" (1.9 cm) marine grade plywood with 1-1/2" (3.8 cm) of foam sound protection all around. I had concerns that this still would not be enough sound protection for the main salon, but as it turned out it did a very effective job, indeed. With the engine idling I measured sound levels in the low 60 dBA range, and while cruising we were having a simple conversation with no shouting. At 15 knots I recorded only 78 dBA in the salon. If there is concern about having engine noise in the salon, relax, as Beneteau has figured out how to absorb the noise. The sound numbers we recorded were about the lowest we have ever measured on this type boat.
Close Quarters Handling
I've spent a lot of years operating single screw inboards and have a pretty good feel about when it works and when it doesn't. The Swift Trawler 34 is one of the ones that works. I locked us into a small basin in front of a fuel dock, and put the Swift Trawler 34 through some tight maneuvers. I was almost able to get her to pivot in her own length. If the boater backs down a bit, and then turn the wheel hard over, just a shot of "ahead" will allow them to use the aft momentum to push only the stern around without cancelling out that reverse momentum. One can't do it continually, of course, sooner or later they'll start moving forward, but I could control the pivot quite nicely in this manner.
With the sliding door to starboard, and the inboard's natural tendency to back to starboard, one will want to always be sure to lay the Swift Trawler 34 starboard to. Once I had my fun in the basin, I backed up to the fuel dock, nice and gently, and once alongside, I simply stepped out the open side door and tied the boat up single handed, with a crosswind trying, but failing to blow the 34 off. That alone was very telling to me, as I see this boat as a cruising couple's boat. In my house, that means I have to do everything myself, and being able to dock, and tie up this boat alone is very likely how others will have to do it as well. Now that I've shown how it can be done, I think the stock in this boat will go up with the potential buyers that may have been worried about one person being able to handle it. I had no trouble.
I didn't get to see the boat out of the water, but by the way she responded to the helm, I'm gathering that the rudder is quite substantial. When pulling out of the dock, we were immediately in very tight spaces between finger piers and she handled it with grace and poise, weaving in and around much larger yachts that didn't seem to want to share space with any other boats, let alone a slow moving trawler type. Pulling power off still showed a boat that was responding to the helm, with only the forward momentum acting on the rudder. If one doesn't want to finesse the Swift Trawler 34 around, then the optional bow and stern thrusters will take care of the job quite nicely, and that's how I ultimately backed the 34 into her tight slip. The thrusters are electric, but I worked them hard to see if they'd trip, and they kept right on going until I was done with them.
At cruise settings, things were quiet and comfortable. I couldn't manage to get into any significant waves, but a passing cruiser now and then left sizable enough wakes for me to do some experimenting. I let us get caught in a 2' (.6 m) wake to see what would happen, and the result was… not much. We rolled only 5-degrees from level and the waves just passed under us. Quite a show of stability. I then cranked the wheel hard over from side to side (5 1/2 turns from lock to lock) and only was able to generate a maximum of 10-degrees roll. At slow speed, the Swift Trawler 34 tends to ride bow low, and for that reason, in light chop and low speed, she tends to take a bit of spray over the bows. Add speed and get the bow up, and the 34 likes to ride roughly 5-degrees bow high and therefore remains much drier.
We reached a top speed of 20.7 kts at 3100 rpm. At that speed we were burning 18.9 gph and getting 1.1 nmpg for a range of 208 nm. Best cruise was a match between 2350 and 2500 rpm where we were running at 13.1 kts and 14.7 kts respectively.
Best Cruise – Planing
But as this is a semi-displacement hull, one will likely go for the added speed, as I did. 14.7 kts yielded an 11.4 gph fuel burn for 1.29 nmpg and a range of 245 nm. That's not bad for a 34'(10.36 m) cruiser, and I could see myself going a lot of places at that speed, and then pulling back to loiter for days at my destination before powering back home. The Swift Trawler 34's happy spot is anywhere above 2000 rpm. Below that, and the hull is fully in the water and efficiency suffers. If the boater slows further, say to around 1500, they'll be running at just over 7 kts and can continue to do so for 467 nm.
Displacement Hull Speed
Now, the boater will be wanting to think about displacement speeds and maximizing the Swift Trawler 34's range. Her waterline length is about 32.7' (9.98 m) which gives her a hull speed of 6.86 kts at 1.2 times the square root of 32.7.' At that speed the Swift Trawler 34 will only burn 1.96 gph giving her 3.71 nmpg and an incredible range of 705 nautical miles with a 10% fuel reserve in her 211 gallon (799 L) fuel tank. Now this is economical cruising, and one can smell the flowers at the same time. This sort of flexibility opens up a lot of choices for how and where the boater would like to cruise. Get out charts and start marking off how far one can get at displacement speeds -- they'll be amazed at where they can go.
Overall, my experience with the Swift Trawler 34 was one of the more pleasurable times I've had testing a boat. I'm a cruiser at heart, and this boat had me envisioning a cruise through the Great Loop, or the inside passage to Alaska. Were I to take delivery in Europe, then I could spend years cruising the incredible coastlines and islands of the Med and the Baltic. But most importantly, Beneteau designed the Swift Trawler 34 with the cruising couple in mind, and in that light, I think they hit their mark dead center. I think their use of space is superb and Beneteau puts their priorities on the things that are important from standpoints of seamanship and sea-keeping. If one has been dreaming about cruising, this may be the boat for them.We think so much of this boat that we have made four videos of it. If one looks at all of them, they should have a good feel for the boat.
Test Result Highlights
- Top speed for the Beneteau Swift Trawler 34 (2011-) is 23.8 mph (38.3 kph), burning 18.9 gallons per hour (gph) or 71.54 liters per hour (lph).
- Best cruise for the Beneteau Swift Trawler 34 (2011-) is 16.9 mph (27.2 kph), and the boat gets 1.48 miles per gallon (mpg) or 0.63 kilometers per liter (kpl), giving the boat a cruising range of 282 miles (453.84 kilometers).
- Tested power is 1 x 425-hp Cummins QSB5.9.
Standard and Optional Features
|Outlet: 12-Volt Acc||Standard|
Boats More Than 30 Feet
Full Warranty Information on this brand coming soon!