Beneteau Won’t Rest on a Good Thing
I’ve always liked the look of Beneteau’s Swift Trawlers. While some may scoff at these boats as “not real trawlers,” I appreciate their lines, look, and thoughtful layout and function. Sure, I won’t be taking one to the South Pacific on her own bottom, but on my Northwest doorstep there’s enough coastal cruising for a lifetime—and I wouldn’t mind doing the bulk of it on a boat like the Swift Trawler 35. I’m not the only one who appreciates these boats; Swift Trawlers are the number one trawler sold worldwide. They’re such a hot commodity that here in Seattle we’ve been trying to get on the new 35 since Denison Yacht Sales ordered their first one earlier this year. The brokerage just ordered their fourth boat, hoping to have one in stock as the other three had sold before they arrived.
We did manage to get aboard their third boat for a quick sea trial before it was delivered to the customer, and it didn’t take long to see why the new 35 is already a hit. The new model replaces the Swift Trawler 34, which had been Beneteau’s most popular. Incorporating feedback from customers, Beneteau has built on the success of the previous model. It takes a genuine dedication to quality for a boatbuilder to take their most popular boat and search out areas for real improvement, and Beneteau has done just that. Previous models featured a wet head that you constantly had to wipe down after a shower (a constant bane to cruising families). The forward berth, which had been fairly difficult to climb into, has been made more easily accessible with steps up on both sides of the berth, a trait common in much larger vessels. The mast and boom that often went unused have been removed and dedicated dinghy davits have been added to the swim step.
I stepped aboard the 35 through a small starboard-side bulkward door, just abaft amidships. Just like on the 34, the deck is asymmetrical. A narrower port side deck allows for easier maneuvering on the starboard side. But even the smaller deck is easy enough to manage with a hand on the upper coaming that is secured with a stainless tube railing over three feet high. The side door that opens to the helm is large and now features full glass, allowing for great sightlines to monitor vessel traffic or dockside approaches. The door even slides open so the operator can stand on the side deck, position the boat, and then step off through the small bulwark door to the dock. This thoughtful arrangement makes shorthanded and single-handed docking a breeze.
The forward deck sports a sunpad and chaise-style backs that fold up from the deck for enjoying an afternoon on the hook. The aft deck is quite roomy with enough overhang to allow you to step outside in the rain without getting wet. Similar to the Beneteau ST30, the entire aft part of the cockpit opens up to the swim step with French door-style openings. Whether open or closed, the seats built into these transom doors allow for lounging outside or dining al fresco. To create the real indoor/outdoor living environment, the aft doors to the cabin open wide, sliding to reveal a grand twothirds opening from the cabin to the aft deck.
The other key new feature of the cockpit is stowable dinghy davits. Two telescoping arms can be raised out of the aft hull structure to provide pickup points for a tender. When towing or leaving the tender behind, these arms can be easily stored in a low-profile position.
With the dinghy storage moved to the swim step, the flybridge, which is accessed via an aft deck ladder, boasts even more space to relax than the 34. There’s a large U-shaped settee around a table for an additional dining option. The flybridge command chair rotates to increase seating when the table is fully unfolded.
What most impressed me was that the upper helm had all of the electronics and controls of the lower helm, an oftenoverlooked addition that is priceless since you will want to spend most of your time driving from up top, weather permitting. Beneteau has replaced the mast of the 34 with a radar arch on the 35. It’s such a compelling fit with the lines of the boat that I had forgotten the 34 had the tall mast until I sat down to write this review. This change will be especially useful for those looking for a Great Loop boat (which is a trip on many Swift Trawler owners’ bucket lists) as it reduces the bridge height a full seven feet (from 25 feet on the ST 34 to just 18 feet on the ST 35). You’ll have room to spare since the lowest fixed bridge on the Great Loop is 19 feet.
The interior of the 35 is similar to the 34, but again, some small changes here make a big impact on functionality. The main cabin is bathed in bright natural light through expansive windows that seem to wrap around the entire house. With narrow window bezels and thin support posts for the flybridge, you have great visibility from the helm. The interior has been updated. There’s less wood in this interior, and it uses a lighter color palette, though it maintains that warm, trawler-like feel.
Stepping in the side door puts you at a small but organized helm. Opposite the helm is a utilitarian U-shape galley with sink, stove, and oven. A large fridge is located across the centerline under the helm seat. Just aft of the galley and hidden behind some cabinet doors is a drawer freezer for frosty drink ice and provisioning for longer trips. Beneteau has moved away from the gimbaled stove-and-oven combo and replaced it with a built-in stove and separate cooktop. The double basin sink is forward and has countertop covers to use while prepping meals. The outer section of the aft end of the galley can either serve as additional
counter space or be fitted with a cushion so that someone can sit and look forward, next to the helm, while underway. This is a standard configuration.
Moving forward from the galley and helm area, you descend three steps to the forward cabins and head. Under the top step you will find the battery switches. Though this is a traditional location for battery switches, I found it a little cumbersome for opening up the boat and would have liked to see a more easily accessible battery compartment in the main cabin. The forward area of the boat is made up of the “master VIP” forward in the bow of the ship, with a guest stateroom to port and the head to starboard.
With a centerline queen-sized bunk and slight walkaround, the master stateroom is a significant improvement over the 34 where one had to climb in at the foot of the bed over a shinbruising coaming. The forward cabin has larger portholes than its predecessor, which makes the cabin feel larger and lighter. The guest stateroom has two bunk beds and is spacious enough to not feel cramped even with two adults. The accommodations are perfect for the cruising family with children or owners who like to have occasional guests.
Across from the guest stateroom is the head that opens to a common hallway. The head feels large with plenty of storage by the sink; the after part of the head contains the toilet and shower. A major complaint that Beneteau got about the head on the 34 was that when the shower was used, everything in the head got wet and, as it does on a boat, stayed wet. Reconfigured for the 35, the head now features a shower door that can be closed using magnets to separate the toilet and the shower from the rest of the head. A bench lowers to cover the toilet, keeping it from getting soaked in the process, to further minimize after-shower cleanup.
Back in the main cabin, to aft is the saloon area; instead of a
built-in settee, the 35 features a contemporary couch as well as a saloon table. As it is on the 30, this saloon table is not attached to the floor. Rather, it is on a heavy pedestal so it can be easily moved to the aft deck for dining outdoors. The couch, located behind the helm on the starboard side of the boat, is comfortable with a dash of squared-off European style. It bolts to the base of the starboard wall to keep it from moving and folds out into a fullsize bed with a memory-foam mattress. which is a handy feature for additional occasional guests. A typically underappreciated feature on boats is the privacy curtain for the main saloon. On the 35, simply untether the curtain in the aft port corner, and pull the curtain dowel all the way around to the helm door on the starboard side. The continuous curtain eliminates light leaks that you get, and offers a cleaner look than a bunch of individual curtains and snaps.
I found the Swift Trawler 35 as appealing to service professionals as to owners. Behind a cabinet door at the aft end of the saloon you will find the main electrical panel, generator start, and inverter controls. The generator has easy access for service in the aft cockpit locker, and its location outside the cabin should make for quieter running times.
The engine room sits below a hatch in the saloon floor along the starboard side. Large lifts on struts provide easy access to the Cummins 425-horsepower QSB6.7I engine and service points (oil, radiator, raw water filter, etc.). If major service is needed in the engine compartment the couch is easily removed with two handtwist bolts along its back. Once the couch is removed from the boat, a second, equally large access hatch can be lifted, opening up virtually the entire engine compartment.
Simply put, the Swift Trawler 35 felt good underway. She tracked perfectly and was a joy to drive. While getting up on plane she had very little bow rise, and the expansive glass in the saloon made for optimal visibility. She tracked solidly through the water with little need for adjustment. The double helm seat is nice for cruising with a partner or children. Additionally, the forward end of the seat folds up into a nice bolster to lean on when at the helm. There’s even a fold-down step to raise your height at the helm or rest your feet on while sitting on the seat—just another one of those small yet thoughtful changes that makes the Swift Trawler 35 a significant improvement over her predecessor.
We only had time for a quick sea trial due to the boat’s delivery schedule, but we managed to get out on Lake Washington to put her through her paces. At wide open throttle the 35 clipped along at an easy 19 knots. Where some other lighter outboard-driven, trawler-style boats can feel a bit squirrely at such a speed, the 35 sat solidly in the water, was responsive at the helm, and took to a tight turn without slipping or throwing anyone about the cabin. It was a calm and beautiful day, but I was surprised at how well she cut through her own wake. Even at a fast cruise and wide open throttle she tracked straight enough that you could take your hands off the wheel. Not that we recommend practicing such poor seamanship, of course, but the knowledge that she tracked well made me loosen what would have been a tighter grip on some vessels. The Swift Trawler 35 could run economically around 1000 rpm where it got a comfortable six knots burning about a single gallon per hour. But it felt most comfortable up on plane at about 2000 rpm where she burned about 7 gallons per hour.
As we pulled back into the dock, I took the helm. The ST 35 was nimble at idle and the bow and stern thrusters meant she was easy to pivot in the fairway. I spun the 35 around and easily backed into a tight slip. Standing with one foot at the helm and one on the starboard side deck, it was easy to see all the angles of the boat and know where I was in the water as I backed into an unfamiliar berth. As I made my final adjustments, I was able to step away from the wheel, through the small door cut into the hullside and onto the dock with two lines in hand.
The day after our sea trial I posted a quick video of some drone footage we took while we were underway. The only comment made on the video was from someone claiming that the Beneteau Swift Trawler 35 “wasn’t a trawler.” As I mentioned before, this seems to be the main critique of these boats. But if I reflect on what made the 35 stand out to me, it was indeed its “trawlerness.” Though the definition of what a trawler is can be subjective, one of the most commonly agreed-on characteristics of a trawler is that its form follows function. Evolving from workboats to pleasure boats, trawlers have retained this core element. The placement of the boarding door to assist in docking, the fold-down step at the helm, the simple shower door to prevent spray, and the reshaped master bunk are all evolutions of that mantra. And just like workboats of old where captains and crew would edit and change the form and function of the boat to meet their cruising needs, Beneteau continues to study and tweak their most popular design to create what is certain to be another best-selling trawler.
Opposite Left: The spacious main saloon is open and airy with windows all around and a great privacy curtain (not shown here). Above Left: The saloon sofa folds out into a suprisingly comfortable bed to accommodate two additional guests. Above Right: The master continues the open and airy feeling with large portlights surrounding a low-profile, centerline queen.