After dreaming about boats for 10+ years, we’ve finally begun the search for our first “big” boat. When we moved out of New Hampshire to someplace “warmer”, one of our requirements was to be close enough to the ocean, to be able to have a boat big enough to take some trips. In 2013,  we decided on Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. Our home is on a creek that connects to the Waccamaw River, part of the Intracoastal Waterway. Just around the corner, is a deep water marina capable of handling boats MUCH larger than any we’d need. So, the perfect place to begin our dream. At first, we were just looking for a 20 foot day boat, and have had a 16′ and 22′ bowriders. When we discovered the Great Loop, we decided that a bigger boat was in our future. Fortune has smiled upon us, and we are finally in a position to begin to realize our dream! So, in December 2016, we started our search.

There are many types of boats, and even more styles. We’re not the “sailing” type so the decision to go with a power boat not a sail boat was an easy one for us. As our plans include doing the Great Loop, there are some limitations to size that need to be taken into account. First, there are many bridges and locks that the route passes through. Also, much of the route follows canals which have size and draft (depth) restrictions. Finally, there’s the economic factors. Boat cost, fuel economy, docking fees (marinas charge by the foot). On the other side, we didn’t want a boat so small that there would not be room to move around, and we wanted something large enough that it would be fairly stable in choppy seas. So, after a lot of research, we decided that we would look for something in the 35 foot to 45 foot range.

After visiting a few boat shows and marinas, we quickly narrowed our choices by defining what was important to us from a lifestyle standpoint. Our “want” list included:

  • Two berths (bedrooms) so that we can invite our friends and family to join us
  • Open and airy. We want something with lot’s of natural light, open views all around and glass sliding doors to the cockpit (back deck) of the boat.
  • Covered cockpit (back deck) with enough space for a few chairs.
  • Flybridge (Upper and lower steering locations). In order to let us see as much of the countryside as possible, and as much of our boating will be done in the south, (where it’s hot!), we wanted a boat with a flybridge (upper steering location) to take advantage of the breeze, and also had enough room to comfortably seat at least 4 people.
  • Two engines. While this is a HUGE point of debate, we want something that had enough speed to get away from weather if necessary, and had some redundancy. (I’ve had a bad experience involving a failed single engine, current, and rocks!)
  • At least one head (bathroom) with a full shower. In many boats you sit on the toilet to take a shower, call it a “showerlet”.
  • Functional kitchen. In order to control costs on the loop trip (and not to end up putting on so much weight eating out all the time that we sunk the boat), we wanted a functional galley.

So, given our “want” list, that further narrowed our search to basically two styles. Tugs and Trawlers.

Nordic Tug 49

Beneteau Trawler 44

Both styles have models that meet our basic requirements. We’ve looked at a number in both categories, and while the Tug Boat style is cute, it’s a little, well, too “tugboaty” for our taste.

In the interest of equal time, it must be said that people that like the Tug style, and the more modern Cruiser styles, feel that trawlers look too “fishingboaty”.  

As with car styles, it’s all a matter of functionality and individual taste!

We’ve been on two of the Nordic Tugs, and taken one, a 34′, out in unfortunately rough weather, which sort of turned Brenda (green) on the idea of a smaller boat.

Having had the opportunity to see many boats at the London boat show, I sort of fell in love with the Beneteau Swift Trawler for it’s clean lines and modern interior, and, it has pretty much everything on our want list. As with cars, a boat loses a great deal of value as soon as you drive …err… float it off the lot …err… dock. Where we are new at this (and yet to see just how much we REALLY like it), we have decided to purchase a used boat. There’s good value and as long as it’s been maintained well, these boats last a very long time. There’s boats 40 and 50 years old that look almost new.

We started looking around for a used Beneteau Swift trawler in the 35-45 foot range, there are two models that fall into that category, the 30/34 and the 42/44 (the length difference depends on the age, the newer models are slightly longer). The 30/34 is a bit smaller than we wanted and missed out on the twin engine and showerlet wants, so we’ve decided to see if we can find a 42/44 foot model. We found a broker that is listing 3 of the 42 foot Swifts and have been working with them. We’ve also chatted with quite a few Swift owners from 34 to 50 foot and all speak highly of their boats ride, comfort, and reliability.

At the end of this month (January 2017), we are going down to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida to see and test drive the two in the best condition. This will also give us the opportunity to take our first Swift out for a test cruise and get a feel for how well it rides for ourselves.

Tom & Brenda