The semi-displacement hull has always seemed a good idea to me because it presents the concept of being easily-driven and of being happy to be driven slowly if the skipper wants. This is a personal thing, perhaps because I, too, like to be driven slowly.
Over the years, the idea of the semi-displacement hull has become a bit blurred. Actually, with this craft I am not even sure if the term ‘semi-displacement’ really applies. Here is a fully-equipped 17m motor yacht, which is capable of over 45km/h and also boasts three cabins, two heads and a flybridge. It will also cover 800 nautical miles on a 4000lt tank of fuel. The ST 52 is really a small ocean liner that can also tow a water skier. It is also the most relaxing boat I have ever been on.
There are actually two hearts to this boat. One is the owner’s stateroom, which spans the full width of the hull and includes those wonderful windows in the hull sides. The ensuite bathroom has a terrific shower, with two-part doors, which close and seal to eliminate the splash. All sorts of lighting is here, including ‘mood’, and there is all the storage and lockers you could need.
The 52’s other heart is the pilot house – otherwise referred to as the “bridge” on an ocean liner. From here, you steer the boat, navigate from the dedicated table to port, and you can even switch on the autopilot, sit at the table behind the nav station and drink coffee as your mini-liner proceeds on its merry and relaxed way.
SAFE AND SOUND
You can step out of the sliding side doors onto the side decks and stroll around the Portuguese deck – the gunwale extends right around the boat, including the front of the pilothouse. Everyone feels very, very safe on this boat.
The rest of the accommodation is well-conceived. The VIP cabin forward has a vee berth, with an infill cushion to complete the double. The day head is fitted out the same as the master en suite. The third cabin, on the port side, has two very long bunks. This room can be set up as an office, with a door straight off the master bedroom.
And then there’s the European-style flyridge, protected only by a bimini. You can seat six to eat, and there’s a hotplate and sink. The tender is stowed on the after deck, with the crane located on the port side.
The galley is great. The fridge is big, as is the freezer, which has three large drawers for easy storage. The electric cooktop has three elements and there’s a convection microwave. The U-shaped galley is laid out to make working in a lumpy sea easy and safe. It is on the same level as the saloon (where the dinette can easily seat seven) and the cockpit. The saloon can seat seven for dinner, using the two loose chairs. There’s a Bose entertainment system, pop-up TV, and drinks cabinet aft, within easy reach of the cockpit.
Beneteau has always come up with neat kitchen ideas. On the 52, the lid to the rubbish compartment is set into the benchtop. Immediately outside, set into the superstructure, are two small doors. One provides access to the garbage bag to allow it to be removed and replaced, while the other is for bag storage.
The north-east of France is fiercely aware of its maritime tradition, but this Beneteau Trawler is most definitely not a product of misplaced nostalgia. The company has spent a lot of time and money to make this a modern hull. Designers have given it a pronounced chine lip just below the static waterline (which keeps spray down and presumably adds to lift) and complex flaring aft clears the water from the transom. She has a hint of a keel, and the props run in semi-tunnels. Using only the helm, she will turn in little more than her own length, and if splitting the throttles doesn’t get you where you want to go there are bow and stern thrusters for real precision.
But what ultimately matters is not how she goes, but the way she goes. Push forward the electronic throttles and you catch the attention of the two 9.4lt, 575hp Volvo Pentas. At only 20km/h and 1500rpm she is starting to plane. Actually planing is not really what the Beneteau does; she starts to lift, or something like it, and runs quickly up through the rev range. At 1800rpm, she is running at just under 30km/h and you could run all day at 2000rpm, which is a touch over 30km/h. Beneteau quotes a top speed of 43km/h, but we saw a touch more than that over the ground at 2500rpm.
She runs quiet, too – at full speed we chat normally, even with the rear door open. And she runs very, very dry. If you get water over the bow in a sea, the heavily-cambered deck helps clear it fast through the large drains.
As I said earlier, what surprises is the manner of her going. You sit high inside that pilot house, the captain of your ship, and so quiet and dry is the 52’s progress that 30km/h seems more like 15km/h.
John and Adam Waters, from Australasian Beneteau importers and distributors, JW Marine, have both single-handed this boat (a remote for the controls is an option) and it would be fine for a married couple.
“You can do it all by yourself,” says John. “You’re not putting pressure on your wife to get that line, to pull or to reach for things.”
This is important as the ST 52 is probably intended for the more mature boatie. But there is no reason why it should be exclusively so. This is a proper sea boat, which is fast enough to run for cover if trouble threatens, but is just as easy to handle for social outings.
I was left with the thought that the ST 52 is a very nice way to travel while showing the sea the respect it deserves.
SPECIFICATIONS: BENETEAU TRAWLER ST 52
Length overall: 17.00m
Hull length: 15.24m
Light displacement: 20,000kg
Air draught: 6.40m
Fresh water: 800lt
Maximum power: 575hp
Number of cabins: 3 plus 1
Number of berths: 6 to 10
Fuel consumption: 1400rpm/19.4km/h/47.5lt/hr; 2000rpm/29.8km/h/116lt/hr
Price as tested: $1,650,000, including genset, aircon, bow and stern thrusters, teak cockpit and side decks.
Test boat supplied by: J W Marine, Pyrmont, Sydney. Phone (02) 9518 6977. Web: www.jwmarine.com.au.