Tak­ing Flight

The Fin­nish crafts­men at Nau­tor’s Swan have been build­ing heir­loom sail­boats for more than 50 years, and with the new SWAN 54 , they’ve pro­duced an­other blue­wa­ter cruiser ready to soar.

Cruising World - - Contents - By Herb Mccormick

The finely crafted Nau­tor’s Swan 54 re­mains true to the builder’s lin­eage.

Spark­man & Stephens. Ron Hol­land. Ger­mán Fr­ers. In the sto­ried his­tory of Nau­tor’s Swan, one of the world’s most es­tab­lished and re­spected brands of pro­duc­tion cruis­ing boats, with the ex­cep­tion of sev­eral race boats in the Club Swan line, the com­pany has em­ployed the ser­vices of pre­cisely three naval ar­chi­tects, le­gends all. Since the 1980s, though, the prin­ci­pal de­signer has been Fr­ers, and dur­ing that time, the com­pany has per­haps be­come best known for its line of “maxi” yachts, rang­ing from a rel­a­tively mod­est 60-footer to the whop­ping Swan 132.

And I thought my first mem­o­rable Swan ex­pe­ri­ence, decades ago, on the very cool S&sde­signed 44, was one sweet ride.

With the launch­ing last year of the new Swan 54, how­ever, both the builder and the cre­ator have re­turned to their roots (Fr­ers’ first Swan, in 1981, was the 51). How­ever, if you’re look­ing for an ex­am­ple of how de­signs have evolved over the past few decades, con­sider the ini­tial, very dif­fer­ent, ap­pear­ances of the 51 and the 54.

Nowhere is this more ap­par­ent than in the deck lay­out. The 51 was a ver­i­ta­ble winch farm (there were at least a dozen of them, scat­tered hither and yon from the mast to the wheel); the 54’s spank­ing clean decks are com­pletely un­clut­tered (there are but four elec­tric winches, grac­ing the cock­pit coam­ing, and even the run­ning rig­ging is stashed in con­duits be­neath the deck). As with many big early Swans, on the 51, there’s not one ded­i­cated cock­pit but two, one for the sail han­dlers (and the com­pan­ion­way) and the other for the driver. The 54 has but a sin­gle ex­pan­sive one. And of course, the 54 has twin wheels, a ubiq­ui­tous fea­ture on today’s con­tem­po­rary cruis­ers, and an unimag­in­able one in the early 1980s.

Yet it’s in the ends of the new boat that we see the great­est changes and in­no­va­tions, and they’re strik­ing. For­ward, the self-launch­ing an­chor is be­yond nifty, and cou­pled with the gar­gan­tuan sail locker, that’s one in­ter­est­ing bow. Aft, the board­ing plat­form cre­ated when the wide, elec­tri­cally con­trolled tran­som is low­ered is noth­ing less than a sweet pri­vate sun deck (take that, pinched sterns of yore!). Both of these fea­tures are su­perbly ex­e­cuted.

Ac­tu­ally, the same could be said of the en­tire ves­sel. Like ev­ery bul­let­proof yacht ever con­structed in the rugged Fin­nish town of Pi­etarsaari, the 54 is built like a ver­i­ta­ble brick out­house. Closed-cell foam is em­ployed through­out the cored, vinylester-sand­wich layup: in the hull, the struc­tural bulk­heads and the teak

deck. Water­tight bulk­heads sep­a­rate the lazarette and fore­peak from the cen­tral in­te­rior space. Our test boat was equipped with the fixed deep (8 feet 1 inch), stan­dard lead keel and a sin­gle rud­der, though a “vari­able draft” dag­ger­board ver­sion with twin rud­ders is also avail­able for those seek­ing more range, in skin­nier wa­ters, from their prospec­tive cruis­ing grounds (it draws 4 feet 6 inches with the board down).

The oak in­te­rior is hand­some and well fin­ished. There are three sleep­ing cab­ins: the master state­room all the way for­ward, with an ex­pan­sive is­land berth; a guest cabin just for­ward of the beam, to port, which may of­fer the co­zi­est sea berths on pas­sage; and an­other cabin to port, aft of the com­pan­ion­way, which can be spec­i­fied as a dou­ble or with two sin­gle berths. An aft util­ity cabin to star­board is an ideal space for a work­bench, the gen­er­a­tor and even a wash­ing ma­chine, though the room could also be set up as a crew cabin, as it was on our test boat. The cen­tral din­ing area is to port; to star­board lies the L-shaped gal­ley, loads of counter space and a for­ward­fac­ing nav­i­ga­tion ta­ble. A pair of heads on op­po­site sides of the boat flanks the for­ward and aft sides of the cen­tral sa­loon, re­spec­tively. All in all, it’s a straight­for­ward but very ef­fi­cient use of space.

Back top­side, there’s a rather in­ge­nious dodger built right into the cock­pit coam­ing, which is eas­ily raised or stashed when needed (you’d want to lose it when club rac­ing, and this would be a grand boat on which to do Caribbean events like the St. Maarten Heineken Re­gatta and An­tigua Sailing Week). The sloop rig fea­tures a dou­ble-spreader car­bon Seldén spar and a split hy­draulic back­stay; a pair of pad eyes on the bow are set up for the tacks of asym­met­ric spin­nakers. There’s no trav­eler for the dou­bleended main­sheet, led to a pair of winches just for­ward of the helms­man. All other sheets and reef­ing lines are led be­low deck to an­other set of cock­pit winches and a suite of at­ten­dant con­trol clutches. A handy cou­ple will have no wor­ries tam­ing this steed.

Sadly, on the day we took the 54 for a spin on Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, we did not have the breeze nec­es­sary to put the boat through its proper paces. With a wimpy 3 knots of early morn­ing au­tumn winds, we man­aged a cou­ple of gasp­ing knots of boat speed both on and off the zephyrs. It was dis­ap­point­ing be­cause we had no doubt the boat would get up and gal­lop in any sort of rea­son­able blow. Un­der power, we were a bit sur­prised that the 110 hp Yan­mar (on a tra­di­tional straight-line shaft — no saildrive) didn’t pack a bit more punch, yield­ing un­der 9 knots when opened up. It was the only ques­tion mark in my note­book at day’s end.

In other words, I was pretty darn smit­ten with the Swan 54. It not only joins the legacy of a proud and pros­per­ous en­ter­prise, it more than holds its own.

Nat­u­ral light pours into the oak in­te­rior thanks to an abun­dance of ports, hatches and win­dows (top). The master state­room fea­tures a wide is­land berth (above).

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