By Duart Snow

The first example of Beneteau’s Swift Trawler 52 on North America’s west coast is berthed just off the seafront walkway in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. Her shippy good looks – a clean, contemporary take on traditional passagemaker lines – invite passers-by to dream of smooth passages and far-off destinations.

But her pride of place is also just about the tightest spot in the marina, and extracting her for a test ride is complicated by the pair of brand-new Oceanis sailboats tight against her starboard hip, her smaller sister, the ST 34, moored off her starboard bow, and a float with a sharp corner to port. Does this sound like a boat-handling challenge to you?

No problem, assures Adam Thomson, our driver for the day. He has confidence – plus twin engines and thrusters bow and stern. And sure enough, he makes it look…well, maybe not easy but definitely dignified. With a series of taps forward on the starboard engine and the occasional tap aft on the port, he nudges us ahead and swings the bow to port. The image from the standard stern-mounted video camera, displayed on-screen at the helm, tells him where the stern is in relation to those sailboats. When he has room to swing, a burst on the thrusters pivots the boat in this cramped space and swings the bow into the fairway. And we’re outta here…

Today, Thomson has Westerly Yacht Sales staff JP Cardinal and James Ritchie spotting the corners for him. But given the propulsion mod-cons and near 270-degree visibility from the bridge, it’s clear that a cruising couple with a little training and experience could handle this boat comfortably in most dockside situations. And that’s just the first clue that despite its size, the flagship of Beneteau’s trawler line is particularly well-suited to a couple with serious cruising plans.

Can a 52-footer really be a couple’s boat? Once, we might have scoffed. But our expectations of space and comfort have kept pace with advances in technology that make handling boats of this size easier than ever. Further, the 52’s layout flows smoothly through all three levels of accommodation so, despite generous proportions, including a 16’ 1” beam, it feels more compact and, well, cozy, than one would expect. In fact, the layout would suit a couple who plans to cruise regularly with family or friends, but values time on their own as well.

The ST 52 also exemplifies the firm shift in the world of passagemaking powerboats away from the 10-knot displacement trawler to address buyers who value speed and leisure time over fuel-sipping performance and long range. With its semi-displacement hull and generous power (twin Cummins QSC 600-horsepower diesels in our test boat; twin Volvo D9 575-horsepower engines optional), the ST 52 cruises comfortably at 18 or 19 knots and tops out at 25. Truth is, it’s more “swift” than “trawler” – and, says Cardinal, Beneteau is about to drop the “trawler” moniker from this line altogether to emphasize its performance capabilities.

On Deck
On deck the ST 52 feels substantial and safe. Deep bulwarks enclose the aft cockpit and side decks which are covered Europa-style by the upper deck. Two doors close off the side alleyways to protect the cockpit from wind and spray. A Portuguese bridge provides a secure walkway across the front of the house. A generous settee with storage underneath is set into the forward wall of this bridge; it overlooks a wide foredeck that’s uncluttered except for a hatch to the guest cabin and a Lofrans Falkon windlass. The glued hardwood deck is a very good facsimile of bleached teak.

Entry to the aft cockpit is via a large transom door; midships doors provide access on each side of the vessel. A hatch in the cockpit floor opens to provide ladder access to a large lazarette, which holds a standard Cummins Onan 11 kW genset (13.5 kW optional). This space also opens forward to the engine room and aft to a crew berth, which in our test vessel was fitted with washer and dryer. The engine room is a crouching space but the hull’s generous beam allows plenty of room for service access between and around the power plants.

From the cockpit, a two-leaved sliding door in a substantial stainless frame opens into the salon. From here the layout invites the visitor throughout the accommodation: through the salon, past the U-shaped galley to port and up four steps onto the bridge. From the bridge, staircases curve down to the sleeping cabins and up to starboard onto the flying bridge. It all connects and feels very liveable.

The salon has a U-shaped settee to port with storage underneath, wrapped around a folding, electrically adjustable dinette table. An entertainment centre flanked by two movable armchairs lines the starboard wall of the salon. With aft doors open, this space reaches out into the cockpit to accommodate crew and guests particularly well during extended stays at anchor, says Cardinal.

The galley is open to the salon over a wooden shelf at bar height, and is fitted with an electric cooktop, a convection oven, and a cast resin countertop that feels absolutely bulletproof. There are cupboards above and below the appliances and the sink, while a dishwasher is tucked under the after counter. A clever feature here is a trash bin under the counter: drop rubbish through a round lid in the counter and remove full bags via a door from the alleyway outside. A fridge, freezer and icemaker are located across the passageway from the galley.

The interior is finished throughout in Alpi-laminated wood veneers, a material that is less expensive and more efficient in its use of wood than pure hardwood while providing consistent colour and grain, even when cabinetry is added after manufacturing. The test boat was finished in a mahogany stain with a gloss coating; lighter and darker stains and a matte finish are also available. Floors throughout are hard-wearing matte-finished wood laminate with optional snap-in carpets. With stainless steel and glass accents and beige vinyl headliners, the overall look is more “bright contemporary condo” than traditional yacht interior.

The bridge is another social space, with the helm to starboard and a raised settee and table aft to port. The crew can keep the helmsman company and enjoy lunch or the view underway; this would also be a delightful spot for dinner for two with a view of a sunset or an anchorage outside.

The helmsman can tailor the fit of a power-adjustable Besenzoni helm chair, while engine and thruster controls cluster close to his right hand. The dashboard holds includes a pair of Raymarine E120 multi-function displays as well as engine instruments. A full chart table with chart storage underneath is located on the port side of the bridge. The staircase down to the staterooms cuts through the centre of the bridge forward. To starboard in this passage a door provides outstanding access to instruments and wiring inside the helm dashboard, while the electrical panel is behind a door to port.

The guest stateroom forward and the owners’ stateroom under the bridge take full advantage of the boat’s generous beam; both are fitted with island queen berths. A pair of heads is located side-by-side: one for guest or day use is entered at the bottom of the stairs while the other is a dedicated owners’ ensuite.

Thanks to large oval-shaped windows in each side of the hull a foot or so above the waterline, the master stateroom is a truly spectacular space. The windows admit lots of natural light and offer super views of surroundings or weather outside without leaving the comfort of bed! And the dressing table/desk to starboard would make a wonderful workspace – if you could get anything done while admiring the view.

In our test boat’s three-stateroom layout, a small cabin to port between the guest and owner staterooms holds upper and lower bunks; in the two-stateroom version this space becomes a dressing area for the owners.

The flying bridge offers yet another gathering space. The central helm station is fitted with a second Besenzoni pilot chair, while a U-shaped dinette curves around aft to port. A worktop with sink and hot and cold water is located to starboard aft, with space for storage and an optional refrigerator and electric grill. Our test boat had an impressive enclosure by local supplier La Fabrica, with a robust welded stainless frame and canvas laced into place.

There is generous deck space behind the flybridge for a tender, with a molded pedestal for a crane to port. Boats delivered locally can be fitted with cranes from Langley, BC manufacturer Seawise.

Designed by Beneteau Power and naval architects Joubert-Nivelt, the ST 52’s hull blends traditional trawler lines with features of planing hulls. A relatively deep forefoot extends into a shallow keel that terminates about two-thirds of the way aft. Hard chines, spray rails and vee sections aft complete the semi-displacement form.

On our run in Vancouver Harbour, the 52 climbed smoothly onto a plane and up to its top speed of about 25 knots at 3100 RPM, where it charged along without fuss. You might not run all day at this speed but a short dash to beat weather or catch a tide is at your fingertips.

Cruising speed is more like 18 to 19 knots at about 2600 RPM. It’s quieter (sound in the pilothouse is well below normal conversation level) and feels more like an “all-day” pace at a fuel burn of about 19 Imperial gallons an hour, for a range of about 375 miles with twin 2000-litre (440-Imperial gallon) tanks. (Beneteau states that the twin Volvo package is more fuel-efficient at all speeds.) And if you plain prefer the unruffled progress of a traditional trawler, both engine packages will cruise comfortably at 10 knots, burning about 10 gallons per hour.

Beneteau has significant competition in this niche from some very well-established brands. But the ST 52 stands out as a fresh, attractive take on the semi-displacement power cruiser, with lots of comfort for a couple or a crowd, and the performance to get you where you want to go at just about any speed you like.

LOA    55’ 9”/17 m
Beam    16’ 1”/4.9 m
Light Displacement    44,080 lb./20,000 kg
Draft    4’ 3”/1.3 m
Fuel Capacity    880 gal./4000 l
Water Capacity    176 gal./800 l
Base Price    $1,215,000 CAD
As Tested    $1,450,000 CAD

Engines: Twin Cummins QSC 600-hp diesels, inline 6-cylinder, 4 valve per cylinder, 4-stroke diesel engines, 8.3 L/505 ci, high pressure common rail injection, turbocharged and aftercooled.
RPM    Speed (knots)
800    4.5
1000    6.3
1200    7.3
1400    8.3
1800    10
2200    13
2400    15
2600    18*
3000    23.5
3100    25
* Cruising Speed
Test boat provided and price quoted by Westerly Yacht Sales
Performance data provided by Beneteau

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - The flagship of Beneteau’s trawler line delivers comfort for a couple or a crowd and performance to spare.
Photo 2 - The helmsman can tailor the fit of a power adjustable Besenzoni helm chair, while engine and thruster controls are close to his right hand. The dashboard holds a pair of Raymarine E120 multi-function displays as well as engine instruments.
Photo 3 - The salon has a U-shaped settee to port with storage underneath, wrapped around a folding, electrically adjustable dinette table.
Photo 4 - The galley is open to the salon over a wooden shelf at bar height, and is fitted with an electric cooktop, a convection oven, and a cast resin countertop that feels absolutely bulletproof.