Beneteau Won’t Rest on a Good Thing

Passage Maker - - Seamanship -

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.

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