Your Brilliant Traveling Companion

Darned clever those Beneteau people! Rather than just showing their Swift 34 at boat shows or in ads, the company rigged out a boat, named it “The Greatest Loop” and sent it on a 5,137 nautical mile journey of nearly four months traveling the circumnavigation of the Eastern U.S. and Canada commonly referred to as the “Great Loop”.

This was no vacation though.

According to Laurent Fabre, president of Beneteau in North America, “The success of The Greatest Loop’s adventure is quite remarkable especially given her achievement of such an ambitious schedule which began on May 15, 2012 and successfully concluded on September 6, 2012. When we first consulted experts about our planned journey on the Great Loop, we were cautioned our schedule might be somewhat unrealistic, but we were fortunate no significant hurdles impaired our travel plans.”

Beneteau’s The Greatest Loop boat stopped in the Toronto area during the Great Loop trip, and our Canadian Yachting magazine team jumped on board and ran the boat all around the Port Credit area, taking notes and shooting video...and getting a pretty good feel for a now well used Swift 34!

In all, twelve different crews had come onboard to run the boat through various segments of the Great Loop trip, so the boat had experienced many drivers, many dockings, had been run a long distance at an aggressive pace and had accommodated many people in its short life to that point. But, apart from having “things” stuffed in every nook and cranny and an over-the-top inventory of accessories and equipment, the boat ran like brand new, showed no sign of wear and was clearly ready for the next leg of the trip.

She was outfitted with equipment and products supplied by Beneteau partners Cummins, Cummins Onan, Raymarine, Dometic Group, Interlux, DeLorme and Zodiac. Other industry partners lending support for the journey included ValvTect, SGB Finance, BoatUS, Weems & Plath, America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association, Marina Life, Trawler Fest, Dozier’s Waterway Guide, T2H Advertising and Annapolis Yacht Sales in addition to other Beneteau dealers around the country.

Overall, the Swift 34 is actually almost 37 feet long on a 13 foot beam and with a full and spacious flying bridge, so there is a lot of living space in a comparatively short length. That’s desirable so you can more easily find a slip when traveling, or at your home marina for that matter.

This is a modern “ fast trawler” design so it has the accommodation and seakeeping qualities of a traditional trawler yacht but instead of a top speed of 10 or 12 knots, the Swift 34 tops at about 24 mph and cruises very economically at about 17 mph.

That’s how you race through the 5,137 nautical mile Great Loop in under 4 months!

The boat is powered by a single Cummins QSB 5.9 diesel engine of 425 hp with common rail fuel injection, electronic controls and it delivers effortless and quiet performance at all times. In fact, you can barely hear it from the flying bridge helm. That’s where I’d run the boat almost all the time, but there is a full lower helm in the saloon to drive through inclement weather or scorching heat in comfort.

The upper helm includes a single helm seat that adjusts and swivels, so that you can turn around to join your friends at the dining table. The port side of the bridge has built-in seating for 4 or 5 people and we would guess that most people will have their meals up top in the breeze where there’s a nice view. The reverse flow venturi windshield does a good job of deflecting the winds up and over the passengers. The helm has MerCruiser SmartCraft controls, Lenco trim tabs, MaxPower bow thruster, Raymarine multifunction display and autopilot. The test boat also was equipped with FLIR night vision, a Raymarine VHF radio and a Plastimo compass.

The flying bridge covers the whole cabin top and carries all the way back to the transom providing a tremendously spacious upper level. The boat included a mast arrangement with Newmar and Harkin winches and hardware so that you could lift the Zodiac dinghy right up to the top. Incidentally, the Zodiac was equipped with a Torqueedo electric motor with lithium-ion batteries.

The hull design is a vee-shape with a partial keel so it can handle surprisingly rough conditions and tracks well over a long leg. The same features cause it to lean out a little on tight fast turns or steer itself down steep waves but that’s how these boats run so relax, engage the autopilot and sit back in comfort. The Raymarine nav suite will guide you to your destination and the big bridge with a Bimini top is the place to ride.

If the sun is still too much, move to the cockpit sheltered by the bridge overhang. Once moored, this is the best spot to be. We liked the liberal use of teak surfaces and there’s a big hatch leading to the lazarette for storage and service access. There’s also a large aft bench seat accommodating up to perhaps 5 people.

The swim platform is generous and the teak surfaces are smooth and usually offer safe footing. There is a great folding ladder but it’s secured where a man overboard could not reach it. That’s a little thing we don’t like on most new boats. I’d like to see emergency MOB ladders  on every boat. The transom door has a spring-loaded latch which struck us as a very secure mechanism and there is a transom shower plus a serious manual bilge pump there too.

The three-section glass cabin door opens wide and latches open for safety. Opening screened side glass and a cabin side door to the starboard walkway lets the breezes flow through the cabin. The starboard side deck is protected under an overhang and there is a hull side gate which is sometimes the better way onboard, depending on the docks.

The lower helm features a double wide sliding helm seat, a wooden ship’s wheel another set of SmartCraft controls, Raymarine Hybrid Touch MFD, Raymarine autopilot and controls for the Cummins Onan generator. The boat was air conditioned too.

In the saloon, having the galley up is a nice feature and the cook gets double stainless steel sinks that are deep and big enough for dinner plates and pots - great! We also liked the ENO stove which is propane and has a glass cover that becomes a backsplash when you’re cooking - clever! Also there’s an oven so you could bake a cake or even cookies.

The cutlery and utensil drawers are appreciated and pot bin even more so. There is a garbage container with an automatic lid and ample counter space but we noticed there was no built-in for the microwave. Perhaps the Greatest Loop boat had lost some counter space when it was outfitted.

There are window blinds for privacy but the cabin is very airy and open. The Greatest Loop boat had sisal fiber mat that snaps down to protect the floor.

We really liked the clever dining table that slides open with a center leaf that slides out. It’s a high low table and the top tilts so it stays out of the way when you’re going in and out.

Moving forward, it’s four steps down to the staterooms with the quarter berth to the port side.  That has two singles, a mirrored locker door and two opening port holes.

The master has a shaped queen berth and an opening overhead hatch. The berth lifts up to reveal a major storage area underneath. There are two side bins, a starboard side locker and the portside hanging locker. We especially liked the storage bin underneath the dressing seat.

In the head there is a Jabsco Rule MSD with level indicators for the holding tank as well as gray water tank. We felt there was plenty of storage available under the vanity for towels, toilet paper and more. The head is set up with a curtain and a hand-held shower which results in a pretty large area and there is a side porthole as well as a deck hatch to help dry things out after use.

The mirror is positioned nicely for shaving or doing makeup and there is an access hatch for plumbing under the dashboard instruments.


SPECIFICATIONS

Test boat engine: Single Cummins QSB 5.9 diesel, 5.9 liter / 359 ci four stroke diesel, electronic fuel injection, turbocharged and aftercooled, 425 hp with ZF transmission.

ENGINE RPM    SPEED MPH
Idle 600 4.2
1000 6.2
1250 7.9
1500 8.2
1750 8.9
2000 9.1
2350 15.1
2500 16.9
2750 20.1
3000 23.2
3100 23.8

CRUISING SPEED rpm / mph
2500 / 16.9

SPECIFICATIONS:
OVERALL LENGTH: 36’7” / 11.14 m
BEAM: 13’1” / 4 m
WEIGHT: 16,356 lbs / 7,471 kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 211 gals / 800 L
WATER CAPACITY: 85 gals / 320 L
PRICE AS TESTED: $423,998 USD

Test boat, Performance data and specifications by: Beneteau Groupe - www.beneteau.com

Price quoted by: Anchor Yacht Sales, www.anchoryachtsales.com

By Andy Adams

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