Swan 36

By Jack Hornor

Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012

Principal Dimensions & Specifications
Measurements should be considered approximate and the manufacturer's specifications may be relied upon. Bow & stern appendages are generally excluded.
Length Overall36’ 7"
Waterline Length29’ 8 1/2"
Maximum Beam11’ 11 3/4"
Maximum Draft6’ 11"
Displacement/Weight12,600 lbs
Fuel Capacity31 Gallons
Water Capacity63 Gallons
Sail Area 100%
Fore triangle
624 Sq ft.

Among sailors, the name Swan is well known for level of quality and workmanship considered to be among the best of any production boat built. This is a reputation that is well deserved and one recently reinforced when I had an assignment to inspect a damaged Swan 53 being repaired at an Annapolis boat yard. This 44,000 lb. boat had fallen over in a boat yard in Italy and three boat stands had punctured her port side. Subsequently much of the interior joiner work was removed to reveal the extent of damage and eventually the boat was sold as is, loaded on a ship, transported to Baltimore, patched, launched and delivered to Annapolis where it was hauled and blocked ashore. When I first inspected the boat I found considerable damage, in particular, one boat stand had punctured the galley, splitting the structural bulkhead forward of the aft cabin. With substantial damage less than six inches away, a precisely fit locker door opened and closed without as much as a scuff. In fact, after all the damage and abuse, there was not a door or locker on the boat that bound. I was impressed. Now, I know that a 53' boat that costs about a gazillion dollars and draws ten feet of water is not likely to interest a lot of readers. And, perhaps a 36-footer that draws nearly seven feet and can set you back $200,000 or more is no better, but here goes anyhow.

The Swan 36 was introduced in 1988 and was truly an international collaboration between the Finnish builder, Argentine naval architect German Frers and English designer Andrew Winch, who was responsible for styling. The design was a departure from the wedge-shaped decks styles that had become a Swan trademark. The 36 features a fin keel and partially balanced spade rudder and length overall is 36' 7".

The hull of the 36 is a single skin fiberglass composite of fiberglass cloth and resin and is reinforced longitudinally and athwartships with foam filled, hat-section stringers and frames. The deck and cabin trunk use core material for strength and rigidity. The forward and side decks are overlaid with teak decking, glued rather than screwed, to the subdeck to avoid the deteriorated deck core some older Swan models are noted for. In order to keep weight down, the teak decking is quite thin and harsh abrasives and repeated pressure washing will eventually waste the teak to the point it requires replacement.

The raised cabin trunk is perhaps the most notable styling departure from previous Swans but gone also is Swan's conventional extended bridgedeck in favor of a more conventional cockpit with a sill at the companionway. There is an anchor locker on the foredeck, one large and two small opening hatches in the cabin top and stainless steel handrails and lifelines. Another distinctive feature is a pair of large cabin skylights that start inboard of the centerline of the cabin top and wrap around to extend down the cabin sides. This is a styling feature I don't particularly like but it does provide lots of light for the cabin below. The transom has a small sugar scoop platform and ladder for easy boarding from the water or dinghy.

The cabin of the Swan 36 is a straight forward, efficient and the quality of the joiner work and finish is near perfect. There is a V-berth cabin forward followed by a head to port and hanging lockers to starboard. The head with integral shower is a bit cramped for a boat of this size. There are opposing settees in the main saloon with a centerline drop-leaf table which four people can dine at comfortably. The galley is aft to port and there is a starboard side navigation station and starboard quarter berth cabin with double berth.

Auxiliary power is provided by a 28 hp Volvo diesel engine installed in a rather cramped engine box below the companionway. This is a good engine with well-established service worldwide and plenty of power for this size boat. Quick access is not particularly good for routine maintenance and inspection but the engine box joiner work is quite easily removed if it becomes necessary for more serious maintenance or repairs.

The Swan 36 was delivered with a fully battened mainsail and roller furling genoa as standard equipment although most have added sails to this inventory. The 36, unlike many Swans, was conceived as a family cruiser rather than an comfortable race boat yet she sails very well on all points of sail. Nothing helps sailing ability quite as much as the advantage of a well designed deep draft keel. The Swan 36s 6' 11" draft has its drawbacks in the Chesapeake, however the sail area to displacement ratio of 18.4 and displacement length ratio of 214 are near perfect for the varying conditions encountered on the bay.

Only 55 Swan 36s were built between 1988 and 1996 when the model was discontinued and used models are popular and scarce. 

I have to admit that this is not my favorite Swan model but then I can't afford any so if I am going to dream, I might as well dream big. I want a Swan 60. But, I could be very comfortable in a Swan 36. After all "it is a Swan".

Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

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