With the boat closehauled and with sails balanced, fingertip steering was a breeze. Gusts occasionally dunked the rail, but the ride through the Chesapeake chop was smooth and dry. Settled in against the lee cockpit liferail, I could envision many comfortable hours spent sailing toward a somewhat warmer and more southern clime.
Below, the Swan 46 is open, comfortable, and organized, even with all of the Holstons' gear aboard and stored away in the boat's ample locker space. White fabric and honey-colored teak woodwork create an interior that's light and feels spacious. It should. According to Barker, the 46 has about 10 percent more volume than a Swan 48. Similarly, the new Swan 53 has 7 percent more room than the 56, and the interior of a Swan 70 could fit in the hull of the new 66. These are, as they say, big boats for their size.
With several options to choose from, the Holstons went with an aft cabin to port and a head and shower just forward; to starboard, they allocated space that might have housed another cabin to install a second freezer and a washer/dryer just aft of the galley. Controls for the 24-volt electric system are enclosed in panels across from the outboard galley cabinets, in a partition that makes up one side of the companionway. The main saloon is set up with a fixed table off the centerline to port and a chart table/game table with seating for two to starboard. Over the nav table is a pullout flat-panel display that serves as chart plotter, radar screen, and DVD.
The cavity for the daggerboard does take up a chunk of space amidship next to the dining table, but this arrangement allows for on-deck access to the daggerboard well; in an emergency, the main halyard can be used to lift the board or remove it for servicing. Van says it's space he was willing to trade in order to gain access to many more anchorages.
An owner's cabin is just ahead of the mast and daggerboard box, with a double berth to port and a vanity/desk to starboard. There's a shower and head far forward, just before a bulkhead that separates the cabin from the anchor locker.
From the double bed forward to the aft cabin, with its bookshelves packed with owner manuals detailing all its systems, Fierce Pride is a boat that a couple on an extended cruise could easily call home.
Forward on deck, the anchor locker, accessed through a locked-down hatch, had ample room left over even after a life raft, hose, fenders, dock lines, and ground tackle had been stowed there. There are both freshwater and saltwater wash-down pumps in the locker, as well.
The foredeck is uncluttered, thanks to a Harken roller-furler drum that's recessed below the teak deck. A walk forward of the mast on relatively flat seas was quite comfortable, but handrails could have added a bit more of a feeling of security to the long, fiberglass, wedge-shaped cabin top, a Swan signature.
Creature comforts in the cockpit include dodger and optional bimini, foot stops that can be screwed into various locations during long periods of heeling, a removable table, winch-control buttons that are lighted so they're easily found at night, and a speaker kill switch to cut off the tunes from the helm.
The hull of the 46 is of solid construction using fiberglass-reinforced isopolyester laminate with a vinylester skincoat. Multiaxial or unidirectional fibers are used in selected areas. The deck
is of sandwich construction, using multiaxial fiber-reinforced isopolyester laminate and a low-density foam core, and it's bonded to the hull with 3M 5200 and fasteners. All winches and the windlass are from Lewmar. Standing rigging is Navtec rod.
The sailboat is pushed along by a 53-horsepower Volvo Penta diesel, saildrive, and Flex-O-Fold 3-bladed folding prop. In tests by Cruising World of the 26 models in its Boat of the Year contest, the Swan was tied for quietest boat under power.
Yeoman noted that he's continuing to work with the Holstons to make a few improvements to the boat, pointing to Swan's reputation for remaining in contact with owners long after the deal has closed (see "Nautor's Swan's Three Nests: Cruising, Racing, Custom Builds," page 72). Dodger windows, for instance, were difficult to see through, and a local canvas maker was designing a fix that would include new, heavier, and clearer panels. And repairs were being made to fix an electronics problem that blocked information about the up/down position of the daggerboard from appearing on a helm-station instrument panel reporting onboard data.
A couple of features of the 46 that definitely can't be seen— but are a hoot to experience—stem from its handling ability under power. With Yeoman at the helm, we powered up to full ahead, 7.5 knots. Then he shifted quickly into reverse, bringing us to a standstill in 14 seconds. It took just 13 seconds to get back to cruising speed. (Who'd've thought of speed drills on a 37,500-pound-displacement hull?)
More impressive was the turning ability of the 46. With the helm spun hard over at full speed, Yeoman advised us to hang on. The boat remained level and turned a full circle in about its own length—thanks to the dynamics of the twin rudders and the deep daggerboard. Yeoman grinned while we fought the temptation to succumb to g forces and go for an ill-timed swim.
"They did a super job on the Swan 46," noted Bill Lee, Cruising World Boat of the Year judge and veteran boat designer, in correspondence when all the evaluating was over and the judges were back at their day jobs. "Good shoal-draft boats that are designed to be that way from the ground up are hard to find."
Compliments from the judges are nice, of course, but it's the owners whose approval must stand the tests of miles and time.
Sailing back to the Chesapeake from Newport in September, the Holstons decided to make a stop in New York. By then, Van was getting pretty used to coming about and not having much to do to trim the boat's one small headsail as they tacked through the wind. And he didn't miss fiddling with the traveler nearly as much as he thought he might. Still, Mary had loved their 44, and she was upset when it was sold.
They wanted to visit City Island, so they picked the first marina that was listed in the cruising guide and pulled up to the dock at about 1600.
"There's our old boat," Van told Mary, pointing to another sailboat a couple of slips away. She pooh-poohed him, since he often said that when seeing a Swan 44. "No, it really is our old boat," he said.
So there was the old 44. Mary ran over, spoke with the owner, got on board, and went below.
And then she returned to Fierce Pride.
"Ahh, I don't miss that boat," she told her husband.
Mark Pillsbury is a Cruising World associate editor.
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