Initially, I had thought the delay was fortuitous. But as the clock ticked past 2 p.m., the atmospheric change aboard the Beneteau Swift Trawler 48 could not be solely attributed to an improving forecast. The crew was overcaffeinated, a bit anxious and ready to cast off lines.
I had arrived in South Florida the previous afternoon and noted a far-from-ideal, howling north wind. It had been blowing stink for a few days, but the wind was slated to swing around out of the south once a mid-March, late-winter cold front reached us. “Slated,” the forecast read. Nothing to hang your hat on.
Our plan was to head out of Dania Beach to Bimini, take some photos, snorkel a bit and perhaps run the grill on the flybridge at an afternoon dive spot. But all I kept thinking was, Wind against current equals big, ugly, square waves. The current sea state in the Gulf Stream would mean a slow, uncomfortable ride across.
At the same time, I was in a somewhat unique position that provided some solace. If the weather continued to improve at a snail’s pace, I knew from experience that the 48 was up for the task.
Back in 2019, I had embarked on a 385-nautical-mile trip from Seattle to midcoast Oregon on the Swift Trawler 47, which shares a hull with the 48. We encountered myriad sea conditions, including several hours of 8- to 10-foot waves on the nose in the Strait of Juan de Fuca before we rounded the northwesternmost point in the contiguous United States and headed south. Our last, 26-hour leg was just about as blissful as could be, with breaching humpback whales, favorable following seas and a clear night sky with billions of stars. The 47 performed adroitly, returning comfortable and economical cruise speeds, and showcasing her swift moniker when we jumped to 22 knots to make the Yaquina Bay bar crossing before it closed in poor conditions. No speed anxiety here.
I thought about that trip as our Swift Trawler 48 finally left Dania Beach’s Harbour Towne Marina near 3 p.m., well behind schedule. We cruised into the Stranahan River and rounded the bend into the Port Everglades Inlet. The mess of whitecaps caused no dismay; I felt confident in the 48’s abilities.
Once we were up on plane, the 48 smashed through the first wave of 4-footers. Her optional twin 425-hp Cummins engines (standard power is 380-hp Cummins QSB6.7 diesels) pushed her quickly to 18 knots. We made our way to the flybridge to get settled in for the trip across, and to keep tabs on the details via twin Raymarine multifunction displays.
It soon became clear that the conditions would not allow us to comfortably keep this pace—and stay dry on the flybridge—we retreated to the salon. The boat slowed to more managable 9 knots. Nothing was said, but we all knew that a six-hour trip across would have us arriving exhausted and punch-drunk in the ink-black Bahamian night. We headed back to port; we’d try again tomorrow.
The delay did give me more time to take in the changes that now define the Swift Trawler line. A number of updates on the semi-displacement vessel are inherited from the recently launched ST41, which the builder found resonated more with cruisers than the ST47. “The success of the ST41 emboldened us to use some of those elements,” says Beneteau America Powerboat Manager Justin Joyner.
Joyner calls the new galley and salon arrangement the “optimal layout,” and I agree. As on the 41, the galley is aft and to port, allowing for quick service to the aft deck and flybridge. With additional cabinetry and a nearly full-size refrigerator and freezer, the space exploits every square inch for stowage.
This galley location also frees up the area adjacent to the starboard helm (which moves from centerline on the 47) for a C-shape settee with nearly 360-degree views of the action. With seating for five, perhaps six in a pinch, it’s an ideal, elevated spot to keep the captain company or just enjoy the passing scenery. The settee converts to a double berth and has a privacy curtain that retracts out of view when not in use. It’s a nice touch. I’ve been that extra guest, and you’re the first to rise as the salon fills with morning light or someone comes abovedeck for coffee.
Several other features from the ST47 remain aboard the 48: a three-stateroom, two-head belowdecks layout; full walkaround decks with high bulwarks; beefy grabrails in all the right places; and an asymmetrical layout. The 48’s starboard side deck is much wider than the one to port and is accessible from the aft deck or the salon via a sliding door next to the lower helm.
I also noted what options I’d keep, and which I’d jettison. The hydraulic swim platform with dinghy chocks is a winner. However, I had an issue with the fiberglass hardtop and its built-in, electrically retractable roof: It wasn’t high enough. I’m 5-foot-10, and I had less than a quarter inch of clearance while standing at the helm. For me, the furling Bimini for the flybridge would be a better choice.
I’d also have to get used to the deck fills for the diesel tanks. The fills are behind a tiny FRP door, just abaft an amidships slider that leads to the salon. When the salon door is open, it blocks access to the fills. We did find a happy medium: The door could be open a foot or so, allowing a crew member to keep an eye on the gauges and communicate with me when we topped off the tanks.
There was nothing to nitpick about the 48’s performance when we finally made the crossing the next morning. We blasted across a slightly rumbled Atlantic Ocean at an average speed of 20 knots, hitting just under 25 knots for a spirited celebration as Bimini came into view on the horizon. At these speeds, fuel burn was naturally higher and range lower—at 21.5 knots, her range is 335 nautical miles. Joyner says her sweet spot is just under 8 knots, where testing showed a return of 1,045 nm.
I appreciated the relative quiet in her salon throughout her rpm range, an impressive feat with nearly 3,000 pounds of common-rail diesel beneath our feet (the mains are accessed via panels in the salon sole). I did not have a decibel meter, but several of us were able to carry on conversations without having to compete with rumbling engines. That ability makes a world of difference, as battling contentious noise can beat you up as much as wind, sun and waves.
We were idling outside Bimini’s Big Game Club Resort and Marina in just less than three hours. With wind against tide, her joystick (another option I’d keep) proved perfectly matched to the vessel, and we were tied up in no time. It was on to customs and a day of fun.
Later that night, as the sun set off our port quarter and a dinner-plate full moon began to rise on our other side, I fully understood why the Swift Trawler line has been a leading product for Beneteau. Nearly 1,500 have been built since the first model launched nearly two decades ago, and the 48 is a refined version of everything Beneteau has learned since then. Along with last year’s Grand Trawler 62, it will be interesting to see how the builder continues to evolve its offerings for the coastal trawler and explorer market.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 issue.