It was a pristine spring morning in Norfolk, Virginia, as we slipped the dock lines and motored into the glassy Elizabeth River. By the time 7 a.m. rolled around, Naval Station Norfolk’s aircraft carriers, guided-missile frigates and other support craft were passing our starboard side, the rising sun backlighting their jagged outlines. It was the kind of morning every boater dreams of, but we knew it wouldn’t last.
A staticky, synthetic voice barked gale warnings over the VHF radio as we passed Hampton, Virginia, in a brand-new Beneteau Swift Trawler 34. We were on a delivery timetable, so we pushed into the Chesapeake Bay. A few hours later, sheets of wind-driven water washed over the pilothouse as we motored across the exposed mouth of the Potomac River at 13 knots. Every fourth wave or so, we’d crash into a menacing 6-footer, launching a wall of spray over the top of the flybridge. (I have the video to prove it.)
After five hours in the wash and spin cycle, we arrived in Annapolis, Maryland, safe and relatively unshaken, in time for happy hour. We averaged just under 13 knots in truly wretched conditions, but none of us felt as if we’d taken a beating. The Swift Trawler 34 exceeded my expectations. The boat was so enjoyable on that trip that I told my spouse I’d found our perfect cruising boat.
A lot of people agree with me. Beneteau sold more than 450 of the hulls, and could have continued building the Swift Trawler 34 with small tweaks and improvements. Instead, the French builder decided to start over with a new version.The result is the Swift Trawler 35, which I recently ran near my home on the Chesapeake Bay.
One thing I liked about the Swift Trawler 34 was its salty good looks, which Beneteau softened and raked back in the new 35—especially on the flybridge. Fortunately, the 35 still looks the trawler part. From a nearly vertical three-panel pilothouse windshield to round portlights in the hull and cabin house, this boat is not going to be mistaken for a cabin cruiser.
The 35’s extra length is most visible in the cockpit and swim platform, which are larger than the 34’s and blended into a single level. Most noteworthy is the 35’s transom, which is hinged in three places so it can swing open like an accordion to expand the cockpit’s space. Inside, the saloon’s teak table is portable, so it can be moved to the cockpit with chairs for alfresco dining. Another nice change from the 34 to the 35 is the option of two telescoping dinghy davits, which can haul and stow a dinghy and motor as heavy as 400 pounds.
Side decks lead forward from the cockpit. The one to starboard is recessed well below the gunwales and under an extended flybridge deck, providing passage that’s mostly out of the weather. A door near the lower helm should make it easy for the skipper to step out onto the side deck and communicate with crew when docking.
Access to the 35’s flybridge, as with the 34, is from the cockpit via teak steps with stainless-steel rails that lead to a hatch. Opening the hatch exposes the flybridge, which has the upper helm and a C-shaped lounge that feels more spacious than the 34’s. Stainless-steel rails give the area a secure feeling. The 34’s steadying sail and mast are unfortunately gone; the 35 has a radar arch. Also on the flybridge is room for a dinghy, or a teak table and chairs.
Walking through the 35’s cockpit sliding doors to the saloon reveals virtually the same layout that was aboard the 34. A couch that
expands into a bed sits behind a portable teak table and opposite a bank of cabinets that are below a bulkhead-mounted, flat-screen television. Sole-to-ceiling glass behind the couch replaces the square window found on the 34, and while the couch covers some of that glass, the pane does impart significant light into the saloon.
Forward, the U-shaped galley has a two-burner stove with pot holders and deep fiddles; a knee-level, standalone oven; a double sink with a freshwater mixer; and a refrigerator beneath the adjacent helm seat.
An optional pullout freezer/ice maker is in the saloon, close enough for convenience. An improvement from the 34 is a side galley counter that converts to companion seating for the helm.
That lower helm has the same excellent visibility as the 34’s did, but with a few neat tweaks. The helm dash is now hinged and flips to provide access to the back sides of the instruments, electronics and control switches. Additionally, Beneteau improved the helm seat, which slides forward and aft and has a flip-up bolster. Perhaps most clever is a panel beneath the steering wheel that flips down to create an elevated standing platform; it also stows vertically to form a small footrest. Still on board is the same large, vertically mounted ship’s wheel that I loved on the 34.
Below is a two-stateroom, single-head layout. The master is in the bow with an island berth, hull-side windows and enough hanging-locker and under-berth stowage for liveaboard cruising. Abaft the master stateroom to port is a double-bunk guest stateroom. Across from the guest stateroom to starboard is the head with shower.
Beneath the saloon’s teak-and-holly sole on the 35 is the same 425-hp Cummins QSB6.7 diesel mated to a 24-inch, five-bladed prop that’s found in the 34. Bow and stern thrusters on the 35 should make getting in and out of narrow marina slips a breeze.
We had a much more tranquil day running the 35 out of Bay Bridge Marina in Stevensville, Maryland, than I did running the 34 back in 2012. Engine performance was nearly identical. Top speed at wide-open throttle on the 35 was just under 18 knots, and she settled into an efficient cruise around 13 knots with a 14-gph fuel burn. Most folks will likely run the 35 between 10 and 13 knots on extended passages. Running at just under 10 knots reduces fuel burn to 11.7 gph.
I ran the 35 through her own wake a few times after making a series of S-turns. The conditions weren’t the gnarly 6-footers we experienced six years ago, but the 35 sliced through the 2- to 3-foot wakes without a fuss. I told Justin Joyner, the powerboat sales manager for Beneteau, “Call me when it’s blowing 30 so we can have some fun.”
Virtually every area of the Swift Trawler 35 received an upgrade from the 34 it replaces, improving on a capable cruising boat that was already a solid value.
When I got home from testing the 35, my spouse asked, “Well, is it still the boat we’ll buy to cruise away from it all?” I responded, “It’s as much a contender as the first.”
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue.