Quintessentially French: Shake Hands With Beneteau's Swift Trawler 44

In addition to a fine running hull, the new Swift Trawler 44 from Beneteau adds improved performance and fuel economy, more storage, and increased livability.
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The waters around Ile des Embiez, site of the Beneteau Sea Trials 2011, roughly 30 miles southeast of Marseille on the southern coast of France, are wide open to the Mediterranean Sea. So it should have come as no surprise last spring when, after spending the morning cruising the local waters and taking photos near the picturesque lighthouse, that the afternoon weather would bring a marked change. I had spent part of the morning gathering performance numbers and putting the new Swift Trawler 44 through a variety of handling maneuvers. The waters were so flat, I made numerous tight turns to create enough wake-generated confusion to judge how dry the hull entry was, and how it passed through a chop.

The afternoon run was far more generous. A gusty wind in the 15 to 20 knot range stacked up gloriously tight-packed sets of waves pressing on shore, and the runs I made at all speeds, particularly high cruise of about 18 knots, showed the attributes of this well-designed hull, the same hull developed for the Swift Trawler 42 that was introduced in 2005. The sharp, curved entry at the bow cut right into the oncoming waves, while a significant chine running from stem to stern and a fine flare in the topsides, helped thrust water well away from the hull sides. Those same chines widened well aft to provide good hull stability against roll, and also aided the flatter surfaces aft to give this semi-displacement hull a proper running attitude at speed. A modest keel, cut away aft, added essential tracking abilities.

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My test runs from earlier in the day showed that the twin 300hp Volvo Penta D4 diesels, coupled to their ISP 2 azimuthing pod drives, turned 1500 rpm, cruised along at a comfortable 8.2 knots, and produced a quiet ride at the lower helm of 65dBA. Unfortunately, the Volvo Penta engine display was not showing fuel burn figures, which would have been most valuable. At 2500 rpm and 15 knots, sound levels were still an acceptable 70dBA, rising to 77dBA when I pushed the throttles to 3500 rpm. It is in this range that Beneteau’s own engineering data shows a fairly constant burn rate of 13 gph to 19 gph, and a range of slightly over to slightly less than 1 nmpg. This is an improvement over the performance of the earlier 42, which had twin 370 hp Yanmars.

The Tour

From a distance, it is easy to mistake the new Swift Trawler 44 for its 42-foot progenitor—the family resemblance is strong. Draw closer, and the subtle changes are much more obvious. First, the boat deck runs farther aft, completely sheltering the aft deck, and the flybridge itself is much larger and extends farther forward over deckhouse windows that are vertical, rather than slanted. Second, the small round portholes are replaced by large, fixed portlights with inset opening portholes. Third, the swim platform is much deeper, though still bolted on, rather than part of the running surface. And finally, the deckhouse is much wider, offset now to port.

Options for boarding include an opening gate that is incorporated in the starboard bulwark, although it is now moved so that it is not directly across from the pilothouse door. And then there is the swim platform, adapted from the same platform used on the Swift Trawler 52, deeper by 2 feet for increased safety. There are two hatches inset in the platform, one housing a storage compartment for wet lines, hoses, and the like, the other housing a ladder designed to reach deep and provide handholds that help you climb out of the water easier than before. The inward opening transom door is set to starboard, a nod to safety, rather than directly on the centerline where a crew member might accidentally lurch stepping out onto the aft deck in a seaway.

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Because of the new asymmetrical deckhouse, the starboard walkway is about 12 inches wider than on the 42, protected with athwartship extensions of the flybridge overhead and with thigh-high bulwark extending forward to the pilothouse door. A wing door with tinted glass port on the starboard side helps to seal the aft cockpit from weather, while the port side is sealed with an extension of the optional weather enclosure. Our test boat had the optional flawless teak planking on all the weather decks, making movement for dockline handlers feel secure under foot. There are six mooring cleats, including a handy one on the gunwale just outside the pilothouse door that will make tying up quickly with a breast line easy for the helmsman when he or she is singlehanding. The stainless steel anchor pulpit houses a single anchor, served by a 1,000-watt vertical windlass for chain and rode.

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To starboard on the aft deck, a gently-canted stainless steel ladder with wooden treads leads up through a tinted, shatterproof thermoplastic hatch-covered opening to the boat deck, which has space for an 8-foot inflatable dinghy immediately to port. A white painted mast that mounts nav lights, optional radar, communications antennas, and a deck spotlight is close by, complete with a boom-mounted electric winch for launching the dink to port. There’s seating for up to eight persons with an L-shaped bench seat to port with a removable wooden table, a combination sunlounge/bench seat to starboard, and two swivel helm seats that can pivot to join the crowd when the boat is at anchor. A molded locker with sink, handrail, and storage
add convenience for serving light meals. The helm console is set on the centerline for excellent views in every direction.

A three-panel sliding door makes the opening between the saloon and the aft deck very large, an especially nice feature for those seated in the lounge area immediately to starboard. The general impression is luxurious use of alpi mahogany, loads of windows, and neutral fabrics. Mahogany-planked floors add a contemporary touch. A leather-covered stainless
steel handrail makes moving fore and aft in a seaway much safer in this area. One of the many benefits created by offsetting the cabin to port was the addition of more than 27 cubic feet of storage space in the
saloon and galley.

Immediately to port, there is an overhead electrical panel just at eye level, hidden by a hinged wood panel that needs a hold-open device. The panel houses the starting switch for an optional genset, all the battery disconnect switches, and well-organized switches for systems. Just below it is a recess for an optional 22-inch LED television. Opposite, the standard couch converts to a sleeping double with the added bonus that all the bottom cushions fold away under the mechanism, a system first used on the Swift Trawler 34. And to make this area truly private, there’s a built-in track and screen separating the saloon from the galley and helm. Cruising couples joined by either another couple or family with grandchildren will appreciate this feature.

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The U-shaped galley has beautiful Corian counters, two deep stainless steel under-mount sinks, plus an LPG range and oven. I love the use of wood here, but wonder if there should be a more heat- and food-resistant splash guard behind the range. An electrical range is an option, by the way. By eliminating the portside door that was found on the 42, the designers have made the galley much more spacious and functional, and have added more storage beneath the counters. Our test boat had a small, optional dishwasher below the forward-most counter, a nice touch but one that eats into available storage.

The helm console to starboard, directly opposite the galley, is nicely thought out, with a raised and angled section holding the optional Raymarine multifunction display on my test boat. A Volvo Penta twin-binnacle electronic engine control is set just to starboard, and the single joystick control for the standard bow thruster is just to its left. Should you elect the optional stern thruster, the control is swapped out for a joystick with a boat-shaped handle that controls and coordinates both thrusters simultaneously. Twist it port, and the boat pivots to port, with no need for you to think about which way to move two individual joysticks. The VHF radio was mounted outboard of the vertically-mounted, stainless-and-mahogany wheel, a position that is fairly handy to reach but hard to read when you hear a transmission and want to identify the channel. Personally, I’d like to see it moved up to the overhead cabinet, which has plenty of space for one, if not two, radios, though I’d have to give some thought to how to keep the cords from hanging down. There’s a storage space in the center of this cabinet that’s perfect for stashing charts, with a lip to keep them from sliding out. I also liked the space between the nicely cushioned double helm bench seat and the wheel, which pivots to add seating to the saloon during non-cruising entertaining times. This makes standing while maneuvering much more comfortable, and passing from the interior through the sliding pilothouse door to the starboard outside deck very easy.

A strong handrail leads down four steps, which includes storage, to the accommodations level. There was a cutout in one of the steps on my
test boat revealing manual controls for the engine room extinguisher, as well as cutoffs for the fuel tank supply lines.

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One of the most important changes in the Swift Trawler 44 is the new layout of staterooms and head compartments. Immediately to port, the guest stateroom, which previously only had bunks, now has a large double. Like all the cabins on this level, it has one of the large fixed portlights (there are two in the master) with opening portholes and an opening overhead deck hatch with screen for added light and ventilation—a very nice improvement, indeed. Headroom at the entrance is 6-feet, 6-inches, and there is storage aplenty in a small hanging locker, drawer, cupboards, and under the berths.

Directly opposite is the day head, also with 6-foot, 6-inch headroom, with good looking storage and a molded fiberglass wash basin. The toilet is a quiet-flush-style, freshwater head, and the shower has a telephone-style handle. It is slightly more narrow than the owner’s private head compartment adjoining it forward, but there is an interesting option for cruisers who plan to spend a lot of time aboard and do not have a need for a day head. The shared bulkhead can be removed, creating a much larger single compartment that could, one hopes, accommodate a separate
shower compartment.

The master stateroom forward has slightly less headroom—only 6-feet, 4-inches—but a much larger double that hinges up to reveal excellent storage and easy access to the bow thruster motor. Two hanging lockers flank the berth, along with more storage to port. An optional television can hang on the aft bulkhead near the centerline.

THE ENGINE ROOM

Like its predecessor, the engine room of the Swift Trawler 44 is located beneath the saloon amidships. Access is through sole panels that remove completely, giving great access to all sides of the twin diesels, their service points, and the seawater intakes. Twin 185-gallon welded aluminum fuel tanks are easily reached, though I didn’t see any inspection ports. Most of the eight batteries are also easily accessed as well. The engine room is soundproofed with 40 mm-thick high density foam with heat-resistant inward-facing surfaces.

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THE BIG PICTURE

The redesign of the Swift Trawler 42 is an unqualified success. Better storage and living spaces, improved performance and economy with smaller diesels, and larger surfaces on deck for improved safety and enjoyment all add up to an outstanding step up. Retaining the carefully-designed hull form that gives owners the choice of economical displacement speed capabilities for distance cruising and semi-planing speeds when they are most wanted makes the new Swift Trawler 44 an even more desirable solution for a cruising couple that appreciates contemporary styling and proven performance.

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