Sip and See
A word of advice: If the boat you sign up to test has a name like The Greatest Loop, which was the name of a new Beneteau 34 Swift Trawler, chances are you should stop delivery of your morning paper. You’re going to be gone a while.
Our voyage on The Greatest Loop was the Midwest leg of the Great Loop, a 6,000-or-so-mile circumnavigation of the eastern half of the United States. This particular loop started in Annapolis, the U.S. headquarters of Beneteau powerboats (and of Annapolis Yacht Sales, their local dealer); the route then took the boat up to New York, and on to the Hudson, then the Erie Canal, up through the Great Lakes, down to Chicago, down the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico, around Florida, and back up the east coast to Annapolis.
Beneteau, the century-old French builder, is the leading manufacturer of 30-foot-plus sailboats in the world. It now is also making powerboats, and, according to Laurent Fabre, vice president of sales and marketing for Beneteau Powerboats, looking for exposure in the U.S. market for its line of Swift Trawlers.
Designed by the team at Beneteau Powerboats, the hull of the Swift Trawler 34 provides responsive handling and good performance in a variety of sea conditions. The hull uses large chine surfaces to direct spray away from deck areas.
Built for cruising with a couple or small family, the boat has a generous master and a small guest stateroom (with over and under berths), and a large head (more than large enough for me, and I’m almost 6 feet 2 inches tall).
On the main deck, there’s a user-friendly helm station, a galley, a saloon equipped with a sofa bed that can sleep two adults, and, of course, a comfortable cockpit, all on the same level. In addition to these interior arrangements, there’s a flying bridge, high bulwarks, a gently flared bow, and French-designed contemporary-trawler lines.
The engine room is under the aft half of the saloon. To get to it we had to move the two directors chairs and the saloon table out to the cockpit, pull up the carpet, and dive in. (Not a big deal but not something you want to do in an emergency in a seaway.)
Below the waterline is a slippery hull that a single, fuel-sipping 425-horsepower Cummins common-rail diesel drives to a comfortable 16-knot cruising speed (and 20.4 knots flat out). Traversing Lake Michigan after leaving Saugatuck, we found the lake reverted to its meaner self, the wind picked up to 25 knots with much higher gusts, and the waves came in trains from the southwest, just off our bow. We dialed back and settled in. But even in these conditions the boat performed well; we were grateful for a well-designed hull, not to mention the smooth, quiet, and smoke-free Cummins QSB 5.9 diesel. All in all, an inviting package at a very reasonable price.
: 16,356 lb.
: 211 gal.
: 85 gal.
: 1/425-hp Cummins
1,000-watt electric windlass, Double station stern thruster, Raymarine e97 MFD with chart plotter and color depthsounder, 7.5 kW Onan generator.
Temperature: 92°F; seas: flat water on the Illinois River just south of Hardin, Illinois; load: 93 gal. fuel, 43 gal. water, two persons. Speeds are two-way averages measured with GPS; GPH taken via SmartCraft display. Range is 90% of advertised fuel capacity. Sound levels measured at the lower helm. 65 dB(A) is the level of normal conversation.