A New York Minute
There’s something to be said for getting where you need to go, and that kind of hustle has never been a problem for the Beneteau Swift Trawler 50, a second-generation design that leads an ambitious line of cruising boats.
Here’s a confession: I sometimes find it rather diverting to sit up on a flying bridge when the weather is unseasonably pleasant. I have discovered I really like to have a long course stretching out before my sunglasses, a wake (electronically straightened by autopilot—remember, this is a confession after all) behind me, a friend or two coming up occasionally and sitting for a spell to keep me company, either with good conversation or a comfortable silence, an offer of relief or refreshment.
If you’ve never transited Delaware Bay on a glorious late-September day midweek, it may just be the ideal spot to give it a try for yourself. Not much to look at, unless a tug and barge or freighter comes along, and the general rule is just stay out of the way and enjoy their presence as they slip by. Otherwise there’s not much to bother you, and very little to cross up. Really all you need—just stick to the proper channel.
It’s generally pretty fun to be invited to go somewhere on a boat. The destination doesn’t usually matter to me. Neither does the starting point, now that I think about it. And so it was that I could join Justin Joyner, sales manager for Beneteau Powerboats in the U.S., along with his cruising-savvy Aunt Sooty and Uncle Spencer (they own a powercat to which they have done substantial modifications and that they offer for charter in the Caribbean), on a delivery of the Swift Trawler 50 from Connecticut back to Beneteau’s American headquarters in Annapolis.
The crew was to collect me from the fuel dock at Norwalk Cove Marina in Norwalk, Connecticut, and as I waited on the dock with my trusty sea bag I peered around the cove to see if I could make out the Swift Trawler. It was a quiet day, and September had seen the Newport International Boat Show (just up the road a piece) come and go. The boat and her crew were on the way back to Annapolis and a free berth spelled opportunity for me.
When she did appear, the brilliant morning sun glinted off her white house, nicely contrasting with her gray hull. The paint scheme made her appear even more shippy, not a small thing since her slab-sided hull rises proud from the bow to a salty sheerline break at the cockpit. The crew tied up and we made introductions. Joyner began taking on fuel as a lone skipper on a Zeelander 44 tied up and filled his tanks as well.
The Zeelander’s delivery captain asked about the Swift Trawler, but before Joyner could get very far with the details, he delivered a cursory, “Pretty cool.” He then went on to rave about the performance of the Zeelander’s twin Volvo Penta IPS600s. “She really flies right along, man,” he exclaimed, his animation seeming to be equal parts exhilaration and caffeine.
“That’s the same engine package this boat has,” Joyner noted, matter of factly. “We get 23 knots out of her.”
“Out of this…?” the Zeelander captain said, his voice trailing off as his eyes moved upward and all over our little ship.
We soon made ourselves very comfortable on board the 50—it’s apparent that the idea of what cruisers need came to the fore in the interior, which is the brainchild of Pierre Frutschi, a designer of sailing and cruising yachts, who also did work on the Swift Trawler 44 as well as the boat that the 50 replaced, the Swift Trawler 52. The Swift Trawler lineup, by the way, ranges from the 50 to a 44, a 34, and down to the new 30-footer, and, as with many smart cruising boats that emphasize long voyages, they are all informed by the company’s huge sailing portfolio. After all, that’s long been the market for trawlers: passagemaking folk who know about making the most of displacement speeds but are switching from sail to the consistency of diesel power, primarily to avoid the rigors of wrestling sheets and ducking booms. Swift Trawlers, however, stretch the genre a little beyond the basics. Sure they can go slow efficiently, but they also have a nice turn of speed with good efficiency thanks to a semi-displacement hull designed by Joubert-Nivelt.
I’m not overstating it when I say that having that speed available changes the game, whether you’ve got somewhere to be (as many busy people do) or just want to get more from your time away (who doesn’t?).
Our boat had three double staterooms belowdecks, with Sooty and Spencer securing the amidships master. I took the forepeak VIP while Justin graciously took the portside bunkroom. The cruising routine came on fairly quickly and easily to us, a good thing since we had a time frame to keep. The plan was Norwalk to Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, stopping for the night, and then a morning making the most of Lady Liberty and the New York City skyline to position the boat for expert marine photographer Billy Black, before continuing on to Atlantic City—America’s Playground. From there we’d see how it went, pressing on to Annapolis proper if the weather cooperated.
As we got underway, it was clear we would forgo the slower speeds. After all, we were on a delivery schedule rather than a leisurely cruise. We kept it right around 19 knots, a number that felt very comfortable for both the crew and the boat.
Fortunately, Long Island Sound was glorious and we sat on the flying bridge as we passed familiar towns on our way into the big city. Entering the East River and passing Rikers Island we watched as things got decidedly urban. On to Hell Gate! Here’s a prime example of how the range of the Swift Trawler’s speed gives you cruising options. Since the East River tides can send 3 knots or more of current through this narrow section, sometimes accompanied with whirlpools, standing waves, and more, 8-knot trawlers and other slow cruisers wisely pick their spots to transit. The Volvo Penta IPS allowed us to pass with no trouble, and as I said it was a beautiful day with splendid visibility. Fortunately, the forces of homeland security seemed to be standing down for our passing. But security can be tight depending on what’s happening at the United Nations on Manhattan’s east side—know before you go.
The towers of Manhattan glistered in the afternoon sun as we rounded the Battery at Manhattan’s southern tip, enjoying the excitement of ferries, water taxis, and other vessels, all criss-crossing and roiling the waters into a confused stew (actually when you consider this is the spot where the East and Hudson Rivers meet, the confluence may be the real source of much of the excitement).
We tied up at Liberty Landing and scrubbed the boat clean in preparation for the photo shoot in the morning—and that’s when I realized just how slab-sided this hull really is. She’s got huge amounts of near-vertical surface area from sheer to waterline. When we had cleaned up a bit, we found our way to an outside table at Liberty House, where a bite of seafood and a glass of wine were just the thing. After all, in accordance with Mr. Black’s instructions, we needed to be in position on the eastern side of Manhattan at daybreak, to catch the angling light on the buildings, as well as the topsides.
After the shoot, we were back en route, hitting the open sea. I was curious to make our way south along the coast of New Jersey and see how Swifty, as we had christened our little ship, would fare on that passage. Now, I admit I’ve never laid eyes on the original Jersey (the island off the coast of France), but there were stretches of the New Jersey Shore on our side of the pond that made me long to have seen this stunning coast before the New World was discovered.
Our crew got to talking, as they do, about our craft, and what she has to offer. Spencer and Sooty had some interesting insights into aspects of the boat, whether they entailed the head configuration (the master has a split head, with shower to starboard and MSD to port), and how the full Raymarine helm setup (including that heaven-sent autopilot) kept us on course, but Spencer was never far from his iPad in a waterproof case, running a Garmin BlueChart app. In fact, Justin worked with Sooty and Spencer to spec out a boat.
Our crew had a lot to offer, and Justin managed us very gently. Basically we covered the helm watch for the long and blissfully uneventful legs, with Sooty, Spencer, and I switching off, though it was so pleasant on that flying bridge that often we would all be up there. Justin would set our route on the lower-helm plotter, and where bigger decisions needed to be made, he would take the helm.
The layout of this boat had a lot to offer too. The saloon has an L-shaped dinette to starboard right off the cockpit (and on the same level) and I sat there underway to take a conference call. Stools stow beneath the table to round out the seating. No worries about noise levels incidentally, even at fast cruise, though I was careful to shut the cockpit door before dialing in. The house is offset slightly to port to widen the starboard side deck and ease access to the foredeck and the pilothouse door.
Up two steps there’s a U-shaped galley to starboard, with a cozy feel and good stowage in lockers high and low, and easy-to-use counter space for making lunch underway. Because we were on a delivery we were big on the disposables, so it was paper plates and paper napkins, and all trash was easily tossed via a covered, in-counter receptacle that is emptied from the side deck through a house-side hatch. A detail like that makes it simpler for a delivery crew trying to keep a new boat clean—and it will work the same way for an owner with the same goal.
The lower helm station was comfortable but with the weather being so fine, it made more sense to spend most of our time on the flying bridge. Nevertheless, the lower helm made a pleasant getaway for some of our number now and again, with its huge curving expanse of vertical glass windshield and a two-seat dinette to port for companion seating, with some ultraleather upholstery that was a little slippery. Let’s just say it “encouraged relaxing” as you slid into a slouch if you weren’t paying attention (the genuine leather is a good option).
Soon we were all paying attention, however, when we spied a bit of activity just off the Jersey coast: A U.S. Coast Guard HH-65 helicopter and a motor lifeboat seemed to be rehearsing maneuvers. Indeed, their important work should make anyone sit up and take notice.
As we approached the channel for Atlantic City, a big Sunseeker came on strong on an intercept course, running fast from offshore and trailing a plume of mist in the bright sunshine. We fell in behind her as she pulled away. Swift as we were, the design mission of our boat is a bit different, and we were glad of it at the fuel dock the next morning where we topped off in preparation for the long leg to Annapolis.
In Atlantic City we saw the sights. But thanks to the combination of our early start, a day full of flying-bridge fresh air, and the prospect of an early morning departure, we hit the first free table we saw—dining that is, not gaming. After a solid night’s sleep, with Swifty rocking gently at the Frank S. Farley State Marina there, I noted that the crew of a Grand Banks 72 Aleutian in the next slip was casting off lines early and I could see our boat’s reflection in the deep, dark-blue hull as she maneuvered away from the dock—a pretty sight. Considering the similar speeds at which each boat could cruise, the appeal of such flexibility in these modern times was hard to deny. Of course, the 72 was a much larger boat and as such had a set of 1,200-horsepower engines at least.
We would run across that Grand Banks along the way, passing her as her crew enjoyed a dockside lunch in the C&D canal. And when we found our way into Chesapeake Bay, and the approach to Annapolis, it was interesting to see the boats that were out for a late-afternoon rip, sailboats and go-fasts enjoying the day. Who could blame them? As Swifty had shown us at each and every turn, if you have the right boat for the job, you feel like you’re always heading for a sunny place.
30 and Single
The Swift Trawler 30 is the latest addition to a long line of cruising Beneteaus and she’s got the cruising chops to create the same vibe as her sisterships, but in a smaller footprint. She made her U.S. debut at Yachts Miami Beach in February. Tinted glass all around combines with a flying bridge (components up there fold to reduce air draft) to make the most of cruising views, while furniture converts to provide comfort for your complement.
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This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.