When Beneteau’s Swift Trawler line first emerged in 2003, it was marketed as an attempt to “reinvent the trawler concept”. The ST recipe was all about safe, seaworthy, semi-displacement cruising boats that would sidestep inherited traditions in favour of optimised solutions for extended (or even liveaboard) adventures. The intervening 13 years has shown that concept to be one that the buying public appreciates – and now, Beneteau has added a compact newcomer called the Beneteau Swift Trawler 30 (ST30); a boat designed to offer the same qualities as the established fleet but on a smaller platform than ever before.
The traditional trawler-style craft tends to place the design priority squarely on the demands of the enclosed and sheltered spaces - and you can understand why. After all, the trawler’s general purpose as a long-distance passage maker means that guests are often in need of comfortable refuge during extended or exposed sea passages. But here, the Beneteau Swift Trawler 30 seems to lavish an unusual degree of care on its external offering.
For instance, at the aft end, the cockpit doesn’t look especially generous or versatile until you swing open its wide transom gates and fold down the integrated seats. It takes perhaps five seconds to achieve and once done, the entire space opens up into an unbroken, single-level expanse, from the aft end of the wheelhouse to the back end of the big swim platform. It expands the cockpit space by five square metres, making it a very attractive asset, with plenty of potential for freestanding furniture, for lounging or for watersports.
The steps to the flybridge also make excellent sense. In place of the big, fixed mouldings so often seen on flybridge cruisers, the Swift Trawler 30 uses a simple steel and teak ladder, mounted on an upper hinge, enabling you to push it flush with the vertical panel of the main superstructure. Of course, it means there’s no way for the designers to generate a fully opening set of doors to connect the internal saloon and the external cockpit, but for a platform with such a modest footprint, this aft layout is outstanding.
From here the starboard walkway is precisely the broad, deepset, sheltered passage you would expect of a proper trawler. It takes you forward to a flat, easily navigable foredeck with the greatest of ease and it also enables you to access the helm directly, via the Skipper’s sliding door. Unlike a lot of compact leisure cruisers, however, the foredeck enables two to four people to relax on the sunpad with great confidence, securely orbited by the broad non-slip walkways and the gratifyingly elevated rails.
And then of course, in addition to the cockpit and the foredeck, there’s the flybridge itself; the third and largest alfresco space and one with surprisingly unstinting dimensions both in terms of breadth and length. However, a 30-foot vessel has to make compromises somewhere, so in a bid to preserve headroom on the lower decks without critically increasing windage, destroying aesthetic balance or compromising bridge clearance, the fly deck does feel much flatter, more shallow and more exposed than most. And similarly, in order to avoid reducing the internal width of the offset wheelhouse, the port walkway is also compelled to offer much narrower dimensions than you might expect. Plainly, neither compromise is ideal – and yet, given the overall generosity of the ST30’s external offering, it’s difficult to argue with the design choices Beneteau has made.
The new Swift Trawler 30 uses a semi-planing hull form with an attractively steep stem and pronounced bow flare, which has been tried and tested on both the Swift Trawler 34 and 44. The aim here is a user-friendly combination of seakeeping acumen and fuel-friendly running efficiency. Having only seen the boat on the show stand at Dusseldorf, I certainly can’t vouch for the former, but as regards economy, Beneteau’s quoted range of 200 miles on a 720-litre fuel tank suggest optimum running efficiency (accommodating a 10 per cent reserve in the fuel tank) of 3.24 litres per nautical mile. Not astonishing but certainly good enough to bare favourable comparison.
The user-friendly practicalities also look well considered. The steep sides of the superstructure generate a spacious saloon with good visibility and lofty headroom; there is excellent access, both to the engine bay and the wiring behind the electronic equipment on the hinged dash; and with plentiful handrails, allied to high pulpits and a large well-protected starboard walkway, safety of movement on the main deck is very striking.
As for the sleeping arrangements on the ST30, they also look uncommonly versatile. You can spec a single master cabin with sizeable starboard heads and large, separate shower compartment to port. Or you can buy it as a two-cabin version with the shower shifted to starboard and a compact double bunkroom inserted in the vacated region to port. In either case, the convertible saloon seating can be reconfigured to provide an additional double berth, taking the potential sleeping capacity for the ST30 to no fewer than six people.
Although the ST30 is the smallest of the four Swift Trawler craft, it’s tough to contest the veracity of Beneteau’s clams regarding its credentials as a trawler. More to the point, it provides almost everything the larger 34 offers but with far more modern and dynamic aesthetics and at a price that undercuts it by more than 20 per cent. True, given its limited length, it is forced to make compromises, not least in the port walkway, the limited cruising range and the shallow flybridge. But with its combination of a big aft terrace, a spacious saloon, a forward sunbathing space and sleeping capacity for up to six people, it represents a compelling fusion of seamanship practicalities and recreational versatility.
Beneteau Swift Trawler 30 specifications
Fuel capacity: 720 litres
Fresh water capacity: 300 litres
Engine: D4 300 or D6 370
Max people: 8 (Cat B)