Tested: Beneteau Swift Trawler 47

Station 46087 of NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center floats north of Washington’s Cape Flattery at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, about 85 nautical miles from Port Townsend’s Blue Moose Café, the hippie-meets-shipwright breakfast and lunch joint hard by the town’s working quays. We had just enjoyed their fine breakfast and as we lingered a bit over coffee, Capt. Jackson Willett spied the latest report from the buoy and nonchalantly read aloud the detailed summary: “Southwest wind 15 to 20 knots. Wind waves 8 to 10 feet, with a wind-driven swell of 8 feet at 8 seconds.” He took a last sip of his joe, stood up and declared, “Gonna be sporty!” With that, we exited the establishment, made our way to the Beneteau Swift Trawler 47 and prepped for the run to Neah Bay just off Flattery where we planned to top off on diesel before heading offshore into the Pacific.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 47

Beneteau Swift Trawler 47

I had first seen the 47 at last fall’s Ft. Lauderdale boat show snarled in among her siblings and the many temporary quays. Her salty looks beckoned us to throw off the lines and chase the sunset and when the opportunity arose several months later, we jumped at it. The Power & Motoryacht team was thrilled to be the first journalists aboard for the kickoff leg of Beneteau’s Swift Pacific Adventure, a near-400-mile journey from Seattle to mid-coast Oregon.

Beneteau couldn’t have timed our start better. The previous afternoon, I stood on the 47’s flybridge at Seattle’s Denison Yacht Sales and took in my surroundings with equal parts enthusiasm and awe. On a cloudless, 72-degree day the scene on the Emerald City’s Lake Union was stunning: Kayakers and stand-up paddleboarders weaved around sailboats, a smattering of gorgeous classic yachts and an armada of surrey-topped Duffy electric boats. Fireboats shot their cannons high in the air in celebration and every few minutes or so, a seaplane lifted off its pontoons, the noise of its props filling the air as it banked away from the city. Across from the marina, hundreds of picnickers dotted the grassy slope at the waterside Gas Works Park. On behalf of the Seattle Yacht Club in a tradition that dates back over a century, it was Opening Day of the 2019 boating season.

After loading up gear and sundries, Digital Director John Turner and I went over the 47’s systems—including the brand’s intuitive Ship Control interface where essentially all onboard functions can be monitored—with Willett and some of the Beneteau crew. Right on schedule, we pushed off promptly at 1400 hours, escorted by a few of the 47’s smaller siblings and admired by a robust contingent of revelers on the lake, including a duo of Amphicars with crew decked out in Hawaiian shirts and captain’s hats. We bid au revoir to our mini French armada at Fremont Cut and awaited the green light to enter the Ballard Locks. Once through, the 47 got her first taste of the Salish Sea and we started our journey in earnest to Port Townsend.

On the first day’s five-hour leg, the three of us spent the bulk of the time on the flybridge, taking shifts at the centerline helm and opening the optional ($7,080), electrically retractable flybridge bimini for warmth—the cool air off the 50-degree water kept things chilly. The city faded away, porpoises surfaced here and there along the route and the mountains came into sharper detail: first, the looming caldera of Mount Rainier and as we motored closer to our destination, the craggy, snow-laden Olympic coastal range with its highest peak, Mount Olympus towering out of the clouds off our port-side bow. Save for some commercial traffic it seemed like we had the waters to ourselves.

A favorable outgoing tide and 2- to 3-foot seas equaled a 22-knot cruise at 2600 rpm. I used the opportunity to run numbers and was impressed with the semidisplacement hull’s ability to run efficiently at all speeds. With the 425-hp Cummins diesels spinning at 1500 rpm, we averaged 9 knots and reaped the benefits of a trawler’s fuel economy, burning just over 7 gph for a 629-mile range. The sweet spot was 2250 rpm, where we got over the hump and on plane at just under 16 knots and averaged .75 mpg. She topped out at 25.8 knots with the throttles pinned—good to know when you need to outrun ominous thunderheads or just for the hell of it.

The author at the helm

The author at the helm

We spent the first evening amongst a yachty mix of wooden sailboats and working craft at Port Townsend. The crew had turned in early, knowing we’d be likely sleeping in shifts on the Pacific for a nonstop, overnight leg, but it wasn’t until just before departure that we got the aforementioned snotty forecast. With that in mind, Turner and I used the starboard side deck to untie the lines and free us from the quay. (Like all Swift Trawlers, the 47 has an asymmetrical layout, with the starboard side being wider and easily accessed from the aft deck or the salon via a sliding door next to the lower helm.) As Willett maneuvered us from the harbor with an occasional goose of the bow and stern thruster, we prepped the salon and the three staterooms below decks for what was to come.

Five hours later, the Neah Bay refuel was a welcome relief from taking the closely spaced 10-footers directly on our bow. As uncomfortable as it was, the 47 took it all in stride, with little pounding save for those times when the sets were so closely spaced we had little choice but to launch into the trough. We didn’t discuss it much as we refueled, probably because we were so taken with the surrounding Makah Reservation and harbor hemmed in by snow-capped mountains, rugged coastline and temperate rainforest. The cacophony of seabirds along with the barking of sea lions begging the fishing fleets for the cleaned halibut carcasses was nonstop. A pair of bald eagles eyed us as Willett topped off the tanks and I kept an eye on fuel levels on the MFD, knowing that we still had to contend with a nasty head sea before rounding Cape Flattery and heading south on the Pacific.

Capt. Jackson Willett

Capt. Jackson Willett

Those last few miles proved to be the hardest of the trip, with steep seas and swirling clouds spoiling our view of the Fuca Pillar, a tall, rectangular rock outcropping that sits at the farthest point of the cape—the northwesternmost point in the Lower 48. Huddled on the flybridge, we could just discern the traffic separation lighted buoy, our informant, Station 46087 off in the distance. With that, we turned to port and headed south along the craggy Washington coast. On cue, the sea began to follow us and just a few minutes after I pushed the throttles to a very comfortable 19-knot cruise, the ocean exploded just off our starboard-side bow. A humpback whale fully breached from the sea and came down with a massive splash. It was a fine harbinger of what was to be the rest of the voyage.

We prepped quick meals at the amidships galley with the late afternoon light streaming through the large windows on three sides and the aft pocket door, trying to spend as much time on the bridge as possible. We spotted several more whales and a few more breaches, with one curious humpback “spy-hopping” out of the water just off our bow before diving deep with a final wave of its tail.

As day turned into night, we rotated shifts at the lower helm and kept a diligent log, with each helmsman responsible for an engine room check before heading into the salon or below decks for rest. After a post-midnight jam session with Turner under the helm’s sole red LED, enjoying Neil Young and Elton John tunes via the Bluetooth-equipped Fusion stereo, I had some quiet hours to myself. I opted for 9 knots and Miles Davis Quintet’s “Round About Midnight,” the modern jazz a cool counterpoint to the blackness outside our windows. I tracked the ships that I had seen during my time at the helm on the chartplotter for their closest point of approach (CPA) and time to closest point of approach (TCPA), relinquishing my shift to Willett and gladly obliging his request for a fresh carafe of coffee.

As the sun rose, we bumped up to 20 knots after learning from the USCG that conditions at the Yaquina Bay cut were quickly deteriorating, making it into the Newport, Oregon harbor approximately 26 hours after we left Port Townsend on a windswept morning. If it were not so early in the morning and Willett wasn’t off on the next leg of the Swift Pacific Challenge that would eventually end in San Diego, I would’ve insisted on a fitting end: A walk over to the nearby Rogue Brewery, where we could look down on the Port of Newport marina at our steed. We’d raise our glasses to not only the 47 but the entire fleet of 1,500 Swift Trawlers ranging from 30 to 50 feet—the 47 being the fifth vessel in the model line. I’d toast the 47’s comfort, safety and surefootedness over the last 385 miles and declare the line of vessels as a classic quintet, much like the jazz band that provided our soundtrack over the previous night’s journey.

The 47’s airy salon. Note the beefy handrails on the ladder to the flybridge.

The 47’s airy salon. Note the beefy handrails on the ladder to the flybridge.

Beneteau Swift Trawler 47 Test Report

swift-trawler-47-test-report

Beneteau Swift Trawler 47 Specifications:

LOA: 48'4"
Beam: 14'9"
Displ.: 27,958 lbs.
Fuel: 510 gal.
Water: 169 gal.
Standard Power: 2/425-hp Cummins QSB6.7s
Base Price: $733,000

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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