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Hunter Channel 31: A sporty, solidly built cruiser

David Harding

  • David Harding
  • February 3, 2022

A solidly built cruiser with a sporty edge and twin-keel option, Hunter’s Channel 31 has been impressing since her launch 22 years ago. David Harding sails one to find out why

One of the few Channel 31s moulded with blue gelcoat, Freya has been given additional vinyl styling at the bow. Credit: David Harding

One of the few Channel 31s moulded with blue gelcoat, Freya has been given additional vinyl styling at the bow. Credit: David Harding

Product Overview

Hunter channel 31, manufacturer:.

Brand loyalty is often strong among boat owners. If you find a boat you like, there’s a good chance that, when you come to move up or down, you will buy another one from the same builder. In Kevin and Maggie Cullimore’s case, it was moving up to the Hunter Channel 31.

Their first family cruising boat was a Hunter Ranger 245, which they bought in kit form at the London Boat Show in 1998.

Kevin fitted it out in the space of a few months and they sailed it for five years before two growing children dictated that a bigger boat was in order.

They were fortunate enough to find a Hunter Ranger 27 that had hardly been used.

Like Kevin, the owner had built it from a kit. Then he found out that his family actively disliked sailing, so it had to go. Kevin re-built much of the interior and it became his family’s boat for several years.

They cruised extensively, crossing to the Channel Islands on occasions, and were more than happy with their second Hunter.

A self-tacking jib came as standard on the Hunter Channel 31. Credit: David Harding

A self-tacking jib came as standard on the Hunter Channel 31. Credit: David Harding

No matter how settled you think you might be, however, life has a way of making you reconsider – and that’s exactly what happened to Kevin and Maggie.

On a visit to the East Coast one day, they stumbled across a Hunter Channel 31 bearing a ‘for sale’ sign.

‘We hadn’t been planning to buy a bigger boat’, says Kevin. ‘I had always wanted a 31 but didn’t think I could afford one. Still, seeing this one, we decided to have a look anyway.’

As chance would have it, they learned from the broker that the owner of the 31 was looking to move to a smaller Hunter.

So Kevin sent all the photos of his 27 – the fact that he had fitted a TV in the saloon proved to be a major selling point – and the 31’s owner visited Poole to have a look.

A deal was done, the new owner of the 27 sailed it back to the East Coast and Kevin sailed his new 31 from Woodbridge home to Poole.

Kevin Cullimore has equipped Freya for self-sufficient, short-handed cruising. Credit: David Harding

Kevin Cullimore has equipped Freya for self-sufficient, short-handed cruising. Credit: David Harding

That was in 2013, since when he – usually with Maggie, sometimes solo or with friends – has continued to cruise Freya widely.

France and the Isles of Scilly have been destinations on longer trips, in between which Freya has often been seen in the Solent and the West Country.

It’s all a far cry from Kevin’s early trial-and-error adventures with his Eclipse that he trailed to the Mediterranean and sailed to the Balearics.

Getting Freya to the condition she’s in now has been an ongoing process.

Hunter Channel 31 Plusher than on earlier Hunters, the interior provides plenty of stowage, handholds and bracing points. Credit: David Harding

Plusher than on earlier Hunters, the interior provides plenty of stowage, handholds and bracing points. Credit: David Harding

When, like Kevin, you’re of a practical disposition, you know what you want to do to your boat and you get on and do it.

This has involved everything from modifications to deck hardware to building new joinery down below and fitting a stern gantry to support solar panels , aerials and a radar.

The process of fitting out and making changes to his smaller boats is largely what encouraged Kevin to stick with Hunters when the time came to move up.

Hunter Channel 31 A stern gantry provides a mounting point for solar panels, aerials and the radar. Credit: David Harding

A stern gantry provides a mounting point for solar panels, aerials and the radar. Credit: David Harding

As he told me: ‘Having had two previous Hunters I was pretty impressed with the way they were built. I’ve drilled through quite a lot of them and found them well made. And no other twin-keeler really compares with them.’

His 245 and 27 were both twin-keelers, as is the Hunter Channel 31.

In places like the Channel Islands and the Isles of Scilly it can open up a lot of options to be able to dry out, and Kevin doesn’t consider it a significant sacrifice in performance terms to sail a twin-keeler.

The difference between the sailing ability of fins and twins is undoubtedly less with the Hunters than with many earlier generations of cruising yachts.

Hunter Channel 31: Boarding gates weren’t fitted originally but have made a big difference. Credit: David Harding

Boarding gates weren’t fitted originally but have made a big difference. Credit: David Harding

David Thomas’s designs earned the designer and builder a reputation for creating boats with twin keels (or twin fins, as they liked to call them) that sailed remarkably well.

The  Hunter Channel 31 and the earlier 32 (which became the 323) were among the larger boats you could buy in twin-keel form, along with some of the Westerlys, Moodys and Sadlers.

The Hunter, however, was distinctly more sporty in nature than most of the alternatives. She was also sportier than most of the earlier Hunters, excepting those conceived as One Designs such as the Impala, Formula One, 707 and Van de Stadt’s HB 31.

David Thomas was conscious that he had probably pushed the performance aspects of the design as far as Hunter would accept, and was half expecting to be asked to reduce the size of the mainsail for the twin-keeler at least.

His design was substantially heavier than many of the Hunter’s Continental competitors: he wanted her to have a good ballast ratio for stiffness, and that in turn called for generous displacement to support the extra weight in the keel(s).

As he told me at the time: ‘You can have the displacement as long as there’s enough sail area to go with it. A cruising boat with a miserable rig is a miserable compromise. So why not have a big rig? It’s what a cruising boat needs. That way you can have good light-weather performance in a heavyish boat.’

In essence it’s the same philosophy that Stephen Jones applied to the Sadler 290 – another powerful twin-keeler that’s heavier than a typical modern cruiser of similar length, yet a good deal faster too.

Hunter Channel 31: Originally the mainsheet was taken to a strong-point on the cockpit sole, but Kevin has moved it forward to the coachroof. Credit: David Harding

Originally the mainsheet was taken to a strong-point on the cockpit sole, but Kevin has moved it forward to the coachroof. Credit: David Harding

By the standards of the day (after a year’s delay, she was launched in 2000), the Hunter Channel 31 has a broad stern, which in turn called for a fuller entry than on many of Thomas’s earlier designs.

It all added up to a boat with a potent performance potential, as I learned on speaking to Thomas about the design and sailing with him on a breezy day in the spring of 2000.

‘It’s right down the middle between a club racer/One Design and a cruiser you can sail anywhere,’ he said. ‘It’s an offshore cruising yacht that will look after the crew.’

Choosing the right compromise

With the standard self-tacking jib, the option of twin keels and a few other concessions towards cruising, the 31 proved popular as a fast cruiser.

Nonetheless, with its slippery shape and relatively narrow waterline, the hull offered potential that Hunter had planned to make the most of with the introduction of a souped-up derivative to be known as the 303.

It was due to have a taller, double-spreader rig with inboard rigging to allow an overlapping genoa, balanced by a deeper fin keel in lead. In the event, the 303 was never developed and few 31s have been raced seriously enough to show what they’re capable of.

The boat I tested back in 2000 was a fin-keeler although, rather incongruously, it was fitted with a fixed two-bladed propeller that caused turbulence over the rudder and would have knocked a good deal off our speed.

Hunter Channel 31: The cockpit is narrow enough for leg-bracing between the seats, leaving comfortable coamings and a wide side deck. Credit: David Harding

The cockpit is narrow enough for leg-bracing between the seats, leaving comfortable coamings and a wide side deck. Credit: David Harding

On the whole I was impressed by the performance in a gusty 15-25 knots of breeze: under full main (with just the flattening reef pulled in) and self-tacker we clocked 5.5 knots upwind with the boat proving to be nicely balanced.

She stiffened up markedly at around 15° of heel, spun on a sixpence when asked to and exhibited few vices. Downwind we clocked 8.5 knots in a squall, provided I could keep her going in a straight line.

Most Hunter Channel 31s have the self-tacking jib that came as standard, but a minimal-overlap headsail can be used. Credit: David Harding

Most Hunter Channel 31s have the self-tacking jib that came as standard, but a minimal-overlap headsail can be used. Credit: David Harding

I couldn’t do that all the time because the rudder would lose grip unless we were almost dead downwind.

As soon as the wind came on to the quarter, she rounded up: the large mainsail combined with the generous sweep-back on the spreaders generated more power from the leech than the rudder was able to cope with: it was a choice of run or round up.

Hunter used the rudder from the HB 31 on both the 32/323 and the 31. I had already sailed the 323 in breezy conditions and found no issues.

Perhaps because of the broader stern and the more powerful mainsail, the rudder – to my mind at least – didn’t work as well on the Hunter Channel 31.

Unlike the demonstrator I sailed, with its fin keel and fixed prop, Kevin’s boat has twin keels and a Brunton Autoprop.

He had an Autoprop on the 27 and, amongst other things, likes the extra knot or knot-and-a-half it provides even on tick-over when he’s motor-sailing. It was one of the first additions he made to the 31.

We also had much less wind than on my earlier sail: a gentle 8-10 knots most of the time.

Since we had to cope with a few late-season whiskers below the waterline, we were never going to break any speed records but the whiskers were at least partially offset by Kevin’s new sails.

For downwind sailing he uses a cruising chute, and two years ago added the cruising equivalent of a Code 0.

He finds this particularly useful, as do many owners of boats with self-tacking jibs. On one memorable occasion, he flew it all the way from Guernsey to Dartmouth.

The Hunter Channel 31 is among the relatively small number of performance cruisers in this size range available with twin keels. Credit: David Harding

The Hunter Channel 31 is among the relatively small number of performance cruisers in this size range available with twin keels. Credit: David Harding

‘We had one of the most beautiful sails with the Code 0. We put it up and didn’t touch it all day, making 5.5 to 6 knots on a flat sea, in glorious sunshine and surrounded by dolphins.’

On the day of our sail, it nudged us along at up to 6.8 knots with the wind on the beam.

Even in these lighter conditions I was reminded why I had reservations about the rudder, the blade needing a little more balance to my mind and stalling occasionally if asked to do too much out of the ordinary.

That said, a rudder’s feel is a very subjective issue, and one on which I had lengthy conversations with David Thomas.

Verdict on the Hunter Channel 31

It’s easy to see why the Hunter Channel 31 hits the spot for many cruising sailors who enjoy sailing a boat that looks after them and really does sail.

She combines performance and robustness with a much more stylish arrangement below decks than found on earlier Hunters.

That’s because Ken Freivokh was commissioned to design the interiors on the later models.

He transformed them from basic and functional to still-functional yet infinitely more appealing.

A Hunter Channel 31 dried out on the Isles of Scilly

Freya demonstrating the benefits of twin keels, dried out on Bryher in the Isles of Scilly. Credit: Kevin Cullimore

Structurally, Hunter kept things simple with solid laminates and a single interior moulding forming the companionway, the engine tray and bearers, the heads and the base of the galley – ‘all the messy bits’, as Hunter put it.

Everything else was in timber and bonded to the outer hull.

On Kevin’s boat, the joinery is in cherry but there’s much more of it than on a standard boat.

Hunter Channel 31 A wet locker lives abaft the heads, the inside of the door providing handy tool stowage. Credit: David Harding

A wet locker lives abaft the heads, the inside of the door providing handy tool stowage. Credit: David Harding

Kevin has added lockers each side in the saloon above the back-rests where originally there were simply fiddled shelves.

He has blended them in so well that you would have no idea they weren’t original, and has done the same in the aft cabin.

He has even fitted several small drawers and made sure that not a cubic inch is wasted.

The time involved for a yard to do something like this would make it prohibitively expensive, but Kevin’s work shows what you can achieve if you have the skill and are prepared to devote the time to it.

‘I like messing around with woodwork’, he says.

Since he’s also more than adept with electrics, he has fitted three solar panels on the stern gantry – a total of 200 watts that will generate 67 amps on a sunny day.

Having owned Freya since 2013, Kevin has spent nearly 10 years refining her to create the cruising boat he has always wanted.

‘I don’t think we will ever change boats now,’ he says. ‘I’ve got this up to where it’s got to be, and if I bought another one I would have to start all over again. I’ve been through all that before.’

When you have a capable and well-sorted boat like this that will take you anywhere quickly and comfortably, dry out upright when you get there and look after you whatever the weather, why would you want to change?

Expert Opinion on the Hunter Channel 31

Nick Vass B,Sc B,Ed HND FRINA MCMS DipMarSur YS, marine surveyor www.omega-yachtservices.co.uk

The first thing that I notice when surveying British Hunter yachts is the spacious and airy interiors and the Channel 31 is the best of the lot, having been designed by Ken Freivokh, who was responsible for the stylish later Westerly Regatta interiors.

The 31 has a particularly large aft cabin. These are underrated yachts that suffered a kit boat stigma let down by some poor home finishing.

With the tiller mounted well aft and the mainsheet moved to the coachroof, there’s plenty of clear space in the cockpit. Credit: David Harding

With the tiller mounted well aft and the mainsheet moved to the coachroof, there’s plenty of clear space in the cockpit. Credit: David Harding

If you do buy a home-completed version, interior trim can easily be put straight, and the factory finished boats were well made and so easily comparable to the Sadler 290, Westerly Regatta 310 and Moody 31MkII.

A joy to survey, and to maintain, as access to critical items such as seacocks, stern gland, tanks and keel bolts is so easy.

Keel bolts are substantial and don’t tend to give trouble and Hunters don’t tend to get osmosis.

Hunter rudders were of a strange resin construction over a steel frame without a GRP shell. I have found several where the steelwork rusts but this has not led to failure and at least they don’t blister or come apart.

The Hunter Channel 31 was introduced in 1999 as a replacement for the 32 which had replaced the Horizon 32.

However, the 31 was designed as a lighter faster cruiser/racer and came as a One Design racing version called the 303 which had a deep lead fin keel.

The Hunter Channel 31 was offered with fin or twin keels. Yanmar 2GM20 engines are reliable and there are plenty around.

Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, marine surveyor and full member of the Yacht Brokers Designers & Surveyors Association (YDSA) www.bensutcliffemarine.co.uk

Like all of David Thomas’s Hunter boats, the design of the Hunter Channel 31 concentrated on structure and build; the use of woven rovings over normal chop strand hold testament to the longevity and strength of these craft, which do hold their value well.

At the time of build, Hunters were certainly not the cheapest boats available for their size.

A common issue I’ve had when surveying these vessels is the moulding arrangement for the tiller area. It can suffer from wear and some light stress.

Some of the moulding returns have air voids in them from build, as woven rovings are not as easy to tuck into tight corners.

Outboard rigging leaves the side decks clear. A moulded upstand along the gunwale takes the place of an aluminium toerail. Credit: David Harding

Outboard rigging leaves the side decks clear. A moulded upstand along the gunwale takes the place of an aluminium toerail. Credit: David Harding

I have seen issues where owners have added extra batteries but have not thought through the right location for them.

Engine maintenance is also sometimes lacking due to the tight access. Many have the deep sea shaft seal so be aware of their age.

They usually need replacing after seven years so make sure you check them and the service record.

The decks are normally a foam core so don’t tend to suffer in the same way as yachts with a balsa core, but still be aware of deck fittings and stanchion points; check for overloading which can be common.

The Hunter Channel 31 has ring beams and yard staff can struggle to identify the correct points to locate cradle supports.

I have seen a few boats with small areas of delamination where the boat was incorrectly supported ashore.

Alternatives to the Hunter Channel 31 to consider

This exceptionally roomy and powerful twin-keeler is shorter than the Hunter but extraordinarily spacious and a remarkable performer too.

Her twin keels are cast in lead and bolted through moulded spacers to ensure a particularly low centre of gravity.

This enables her to carry a generous rig for good performance in light airs despite her relatively heavy displacement, while the slim profile of the keels contributes to a degree of hydrodynamic efficiency rarely seen in the twin-keeled world.

The Sadler 290 performs well in both light and heavy airs. Credit: David Harding

The Sadler 290 performs well in both light and heavy airs. Credit: David Harding

It’s also rare for boats under 9m (30ft) to achieve RCD Category A status, the Sadler’s AVS (angle of vanishing stability) of 140° being a major factor.

She was designed by Stephen Jones and launched three years after the Hunter by a Sadler company unrelated to earlier incarnations of Sadlers.

Jones gave her an exceptionally fine entry, with reserves of buoyancy forward being ensured by the high freeboard.

Her stern is even broader than the Hunter’s and her twin keels mounted further down the hull. This almost eliminates the banging and thudding that can afflict twin-keelers upwind in heavy weather, while minimising the additional drag caused by a root breaking the surface.

The large rig is of high-fractional configuration with an overlapping genoa to maintain drive in light airs.

The Sadler 290 A broad stern for powerful downwind performance. Credit: David Harding

A broad stern for powerful downwind performance. Credit: David Harding

On deck, the fine bow limits foredeck space but the wide sidedecks run all the way to the transom. The long cranked tiller is the dominant feature in the cockpit.

The layout below decks is unusual for a modern design in placing the heads between the saloon and forecabin, harking back to the arrangement widely seen in the 1970s and early 1980s.

That allows the galley to be moved well aft, alongside the companionway steps, where it’s right out of the way and not in any thoroughfares.

It’s probably one of the most practical and secure galleys on any boat under 40ft.

The detailing varies according to where the boats were fitted out: various yards were involved at different times.

Westerly Tempest

Westerly’s smaller sister to the Storm 33 was launched in 1987, overlapping with the popular and long-running Fulmar. All were designed by Ed Dubois.

Both the Storm and Fulmar had been conceived as cruiser-racers but, since few Storms were ever raced, Westerly realised that a change of emphasis was needed for the Tempest and aimed her firmly at the cruising market.

A fin keel was standard, though some owners reckoned it needed to be heavier and that the twin-keelers were stiffer.

The Westerly Tempest is slightly quirky but a good performer. Credit: David Harding

The Westerly Tempest is slightly quirky but a good performer. Credit: David Harding

Either way, the Tempest is no slouch. She has a gentle, easy motion combined with a respectable turn of speed for a relatively heavy boat.

Handling qualities are widely praised and the long cockpit, combined with a companionway that extends well forward, means you can almost reach the mast without having to go on deck.

The accommodation is unconventional and not for everyone. Westerly used the broad stern to fit-in twin double aft cabins, moving the heads to the bow abaft a large sail locker that opens into the heads via a door and to the deck via a hatch.

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With this locker in the bow and the aft cabins being well forward of the transom, the total cabin space is relatively short and the saloon too small for some tastes.

Cockpit stowage is also restricted by the stern cabins. A few boats were later built with a conventional forecabin.

From 1993, the Tempest evolved into the Regatta 310 with a re-styled interior designed by Ken Freivokh, but very few were sold.

Newer, lighter, sportier and more expensive than the British twin-keelers, the French-built RM is a boat that does things differently.

Plywood is used for the hull because of its strength, light weight and durability among other qualities.

The deck and coachroof are moulded, largely because plywood would give a very angular finish.

The RM 890 is light and fast with a plywood hull. Credit: David Harding

The RM 890 is light and fast with a plywood hull. Credit: David Harding

Everything about the RM 890 is geared around ruggedness, sailing ability and functionality.

She comes with a choice of bulbed, high aspect-ratio twin keels paired with a single rudder, or a deep T-bulb fin with twin rudders.

The keels are bolted through a steel frame inside the hull. Rigging arrangements can be varied, but the 890 typically carries a staysail set on a forestay secured to the anchor well bulkhead.

A genoa on a stemhead-mounted outer forestay can simply be rolled away rather than reefed when the wind picks up.

Like Westerly’s Tempest, the RM has a mainsheet traveller across the stern.

The tiller places the helmsman forward and close to the headsail winches for easy singlehanded sailing . Below decks the finish is painted plywood.

Privacy isn’t a priority – a few curtains are the order of the day – but the RM’s famous utility room to starboard, where many boats would fit another aft cabin, tells you exactly where the priorities lie.

A large forward-facing window gives an excellent view out. Just mind your footing on deck.

Sailing performance is hard to fault and the handling crisp and responsive.

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Full Chapter One

by David Pascoe

Hunter28-1.JPG (41382 bytes)

First impressions are often lasting ones, especially when they are negative impressions like my first experience with Hunter in the early 1980's. Back then I had been hired by an unfortunate Hunter owner who had a forty footer with a grid liner that all came apart, causing some serious structural problems. At the time, Hunter had just converted to the use of grid liners (one of, if not the first to do so) and were far from perfecting the method, once again proving my point that far too many boat builders perform their experimentation in their product line, at the expense of their customers.

After much haggling we finally got that straightened out, but when you see stuff like that, you don't soon forget. Your opinion of a builder is ever afterward tainted. So we weren't too surprised to see that Hunter had finally got the grid liner right in this 1991 model. While this is unquestionably a low price boat, overall it seemed to be fairly well built and there were no problems with the framing system at all.  

The interior has a complete fiberglass liner that is well executed.  With the mast stepped on deck, there was no sign of the structural weakness in the cabin to as is so often the case with this type of boat.We were also suprised to find that there were no significant leaks inside.   The deck is bolted on a horizontal flange joint with bolts every 3", but it couldn't be determined if the joint was glassed over since nowhere in the boat could the deck joint be seen. The decks and cockpit area seemed sturdy enough and there were no stress cracks anywhere on the exterior decks, except in way of the poorly designed bow pulpit leg bases where there was considerable crazing.

Hunter28-4.JPG (20362 bytes)

With the sole angled at 45 degrees and the standup space only 20" wide by 5' long, this is not exactly good design.

The interior layout, like most boats this size, attempts to cram too much into too small a space. Despite it's 10'6" beam, its pretty cramped inside, mainly owning to faux "aft cabin" that is just a cave behind the engine with a cushion on the floor. The cushions being vinyl over foam rubber, this might lead to a rather sleepless nights in warm weather. Like wrapping yourself in insulation. The aft cabin area cuts into the main cabin area, rendering it somewhat less than useful. In fact, judging from the pristine condition of the galley stove, icebox and other interior components, this boat looked like it had been used as a day sailor only. It was now going on its third owner in 9 years. After spending a few hours aboard her, we could understand why.

We can understand that because the sole in the head is above the turn of the bilge so that it is steeply angled and one can hardly even stand up in there. The ladies will love it since to sit on the head, you sort of have to fall down onto it because it is very low, not at normal height. Ouch! And the guys will love trying to stand up on the 45 degree angled sole.  The area is also a deep rectangle, making it very awkward to enter, altogether a terrible layout in my view. The entrance to the "aft cabin" is the same way with the steeply angled sole, causing your feet to slip every time you step on it. Add to this the fact that the aft-facing, U-shaped settee in the main cabin has a seat width that is too narrow to sit comfortably, and we think the overall layout is a flop. With a drop leaf table in the center, the only place anyone will sit is at the ends, rendering the main part of the settee rather unuseable. So the effective interior seating capacity is two. The only thing we found convenient to use was the galley area. The interior is under-scaled for anyone over about 5'6" and a trim build.

The hull-recessed swim platform is a nice feature on larger boats, but this boat is too small for it. Basically it just allows a swimmer to get aboard, but at the considerable expense of interior and cockpit space. Sacrificing two feet of space for a steeply reversing transom on a 28 footer is an unreasonable  price to pay for style in our view. One really nice feature was the bow anchor locker which is one of the few that we've seen that is well designed.

Yes, we recognize that you're not going to get perfection in a budget priced 28 footer, but you can do a lot better than this. Here we go again with the rigging going down through the deck right in the middle of the traffic pattern. Getting around the rigging is a real pain. That's because to keep the price down, they went with a 3/4 instead of full head rig, with extraordinarily light rigging with only single lowers. The uppers were only 0.20" and the lowers and wishbone backstay a mere 0.15" wire! Would you want  to sea in a boat rigged like that? Not me, no thank you. Time has made of me a believer in safety margins.  Every time a gust of wind would come up, I'd have to wonder if the rig was going to fall down. Yike!

This is one of the major problems of the so-called racer-cruiser. It is the ultimate compromise of everything that leaves you happy with nothing. You want to win races and cruise, but its poorly suited for either.

Nor will you likely appreciate the very small deck hatch that makes stowing a sail rather difficult but, then, this one had roller furling that, unfortunately, couldn't be tensioned adequately because of the lightness of the rig. Wishbone back stays are not exactly the best arrangement for roller furling gear. Going racing with roller furling? Don't think so.

Next, lets talk about cockpit design. It had the large 30" destroyer wheel, which is fine except you have to crawl over the seats to get to the helm. That's the price you pay for a large wheel in any small boat. But what really ruins this cockpit layout was the sheet winch islands which are shallow and steeply sloping outboard, with no horizontal surface. Okay, so it makes the winches more or less level when heeled. Problem is that when you're tacking, the boat is not heeled over so much, and the winches would be more level if they were mounted in the normal manner. But in addition to this, you no longer have any back support while sitting in the cockpit, so that you cannot sit on the leeward side at all without continuously hanging on for dear life when heeled over even just a bit. When I leaned back against it, it hit me right in the small of my back, making it very uncomfortable. My feeling was that the lack of any raised coamings to lean back against was just plain ridiculous. Sail boat cockpits tend to be uncomfortable anyway, but this is one of the worst I've seen.

Plus, this design has also created a steeply sloping deck section in way of the winch island that about wants to break your ankle when you step on it. With a Bimini top, getting in and out of the cockpit is something of a Houdini trick as it is on most boats. But constantly climbing over the lifelines because there is no life line gate there didn't improve my disposition much. The owner had to install a small aluminum step on the outside of the rail just to climb aboard. By saving a few dollars, you get to risk slipping and falling on your face.

Hunter28-2.JPG (37839 bytes)

A winged, bulbous keel? Ought to be fun trying to get unstuck when you  run aground in this one. Especially in mud. The bottom of the thing is shaped like a giant suction cup. A winged keel made of cast lead? Wow, what a great idea! Oh, well, maybe you'll have fun hammering it back in shape every time you run aground. Does that oddly shaped hunk of lead reduce resistance and makes it go faster, too? Not likely. But it certainly had the effect of making her unusually tender. You notice that the moment you step aboard.   Heading around a sharp bend in the river under power, the boat heeled over at least 20 degrees, which I thought was ridiculous. It may stiffen up under sail, but with a complete lack of wind, we didn't get to find out.  Fads are cool, until you find out that's all it is.

Unfortunately, there were other problems that continue to prove the point that very low cost usually translates to very big problems. It was not until she was hauled that we could understand why this boat sells at such a low price. The fiberglass content of the hull is about as little as it could be without falling apart. The hull bottom was so thin that it  frightened me. In just about any place there wasn't a frame, you could push in the bottom with your thumb. Tapping on it with a hammer, it would vibrate. In the unsupported aft quarters, it dimpled as easily as an oil can. Granted, there were no signs of immanent structural failure, or even stress cracks on the bottom. But everything I saw on this boat suggested that it hadn't been used much,  so I doubt that the hull has ever been seriously stressed.

Some people don't think that a weak hull on a boat is much to be concerned about. The attitude is that as long as it doesn't fail under normal conditions, then its okay. My view on that is that people who hold that attitude have never been out to sea in a storm. I've sail raced all over North American, and I've seen my share of hull failures, including some that have cost lives. In one case, a knock down with the spinnaker up resulted in the deck pulling right off the hull. In another, the hull side caved in when hit by a wave broadside. And these boats were built far better than the Hunter 28. Of course, many people rationalize by saying that they only go sailing on nice days. Okay, its you're life. But add to this the fact that this very thin bottom was badly blistered and you have plenty of reasons to take a pass on the Hunter 28.

The list grows a bit longer when we discuss the large soft spots found in the rudder, but we have no idea what's going on there, just that its getting a little mushy. We might surmise that like a lot of rudders, its just some fiberglass laid over a foam core, as a lot of cheap rudders are.  We can add to the long list of Yanmar diesels with flubber engine mounts that are so soft and loose that the engine does the Watusi when you start it up. An engine that won't hold still and oscillates by as much as 1/2" is going to cause damage to the drive system sooner or later. Start with rapidly wearing cutlass bearings and packing glands and graduate eventually to transmission damage.

There are no gauges for the engine, and the control panel is down near the bottom of the cockpit where you can easily reach it by bending over in a space where there's not enough room to bend over. Why builders continue to place the engine controls in locations like this just beyond me. I guess the scuppers will never get plugged up and that electrical stuff will never get wet. At the bottom of the cockpit. The plastic throttle level on the steering pedestal felt like it was going to break off in my hand, it bent so much. Then there is a   plastic fuel tank  held in place with packaging straps and steel clips that will rust and fall apart as soon as they get wet a few times. The boat comes with a Mayfair bilge pump that is smaller than most coffee cups, and the single, small  12 volt automotive battery is sure to keep it running for a long time. Of course, small boats never get big leaks, so why worry?  This is getting kind of sad, isn't it?

Anyone who peruses the various sailing publications these days can't help but notice the inordinate number of boats that are either breaking apart or being dismasted, as well as the increasing number of fatalities. Instead of using the word dismasted, which implies the connotation of some external force as the cause of the dismasting, perhaps I should just say "masts falling down." Far too many of these dismastings ARE simply a matter of ultralight rigs toppling over because the designer pushed the safety margin to the limits, or beyond. Its not the weather conditions that were the cause; no, its hot shot design that pushes the bounds of sensibility. Far too many rudders and keels are falling off, deck joints separating and hulls splitting open. The average weekend sailor, lacking much heavy weather experience, has no idea of the terror he may be in for when he makes the mistake of venturing far from shore in what is nothing more than a day sailor. Those of you who get ideas about "bluewater voyaging" in a bargain boat like this would do well to reconsider that the ocean remains a dangerous place.

This could have been a nice, well-made boat. Parts of it are, but the builder didn't have his priorities straight. If all you're going to do is sail around the pond on balmy days, its probably fine for that. A serious deep water sailor she's not.  This is a price boat, and there's altogether too much that you don't get for what you don't pay, for any serious sailor to take the Hunter 28 seriously. There's a good reason why first impressions should be taken seriously, too. What you don't pay for up front will surely be heavily loaded on the back end. Count on it.

If  you wonder why people are leaving sailing like the plague just arrived, possibly this boat offers some reasons. There are too many just like it.

star.jpg (4935 bytes)

Posted August 1, 1998

hunter yachts review

David Pascoe - Biography

David Pascoe is a second generation marine surveyor in his family who began his surveying career at age 16 as an apprentice in 1965 as the era of wooden boats was drawing to a close.

Certified by the National Association of Marine Surveyors in 1972, he has conducted over 5,000 pre purchase surveys in addition to having conducted hundreds of boating accident investigations, including fires, sinkings, hull failures and machinery failure analysis.

Over forty years of knowledge and experience are brought to bear in following books. David Pascoe is the author of:

  • " Mid Size Power Boats " (2003)
  • " Buyers’ Guide to Outboard Boats " (2002)
  • " Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats " (2001, 2nd Edition - 2005)
  • " Marine Investigations " (2004).

In addition to readers in the United States, boaters and boat industry professionals worldwide from nearly 80 countries have purchased David Pascoe's books, since introduction of his first book in 2001.

In 2012, David Pascoe has retired from marine surveying business at age 65.

On November 23rd, 2018, David Pascoe has passed away at age 71.

Biography - Long version

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Mid Size Power Boats

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Surveying Fiberglass Power Boats (2E)

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Mid Size Power Boats

Published by: D. H. Pascoe & Co., Inc. Articles, Images: Copyright © 1997 - 2018 David H. Pascoe All rights reserved. Articles, Images: Copyright © 2019-2022 Junko A. Pascoe All rights reserved. Web site design & developement: Copyright © 1997 - 2023 Junko A. Pascoe All rights reserved. Web site: Maintained by Junko A. Pascoe

hunter yachts review

Are Hunter Sailboats Any Good? (My Honest Experience)

hunter yachts review

There are a ton of different sailboat brands in the world today. Trying to decide which one is best, is no easy task. It comes down to a bit of fact and personal opinion, but that’s my opinion.

Hunter is a very well-known brand of sailboats. Hunter sailboats are a good boat depending on your needs and what you will be using your boat for primarily. They were designed as a more budget-friendly boat with all of the basic features needed for good coastal cruising.

The debate about whether a Hunter sailboat is good or not has been going on since the company started and there are a lot of pros and cons out there on the sailboat forums. This article is going to go over Hunters and cover as many of the pros and cons as possible. There will be facts and my personal opinion throughout this article. I just want to cover as much as possible so you will have the knowledge you need when considering a Hunter.

hunter yachts review

The History Of Hunter Sailboats

In the 1800s Henry Luhrs, a German immigrant, outfitted trading ships. He continued to work on boats his whole life and eventually passed the skills on to his grandson. His grandson was also named Henry and continued the family trade on the Jersey coast, building and repairing recreational and fishing boats. After a while, Henry and his sons started the Hunter Company in 1973 in Alachua, Florida, as a sailboat manufacturer.

Luhrs was the owner of the company, but the early boat designs were done by a man named John E. Cherubini. One of the most recognizable boats of the Hunter legacy is the Cherubini Hunter 30. In my opinion, this is a fantastic boat.

Towards the end of the 1980s, the company did run into trouble. Luhrs was not necessarily running the company at this time, he was out sailing the world and had let a board of management take over. The management team had started to run the company into the ground. They did this by only offering a 1-year warranty, poorly built boats, and terrible customer service for its customers. This would be sure to end any company. Luhrs, with fear his company would go under, decided to return immediately and address the issues at hand. He decided to do a whole restructuring of production and decided extending the warranty from one year to five years would be a good start. Luhrs also hired Canadian designer Rob Mazza in 1991 to take over the design and coordinate the production process. These many steps and others helped get the company back on track.

Hunter is responsible for several market innovations, including their trademark stainless steel cockpit arch and their use of the B&R rig. The B&R rig uses swept spreaders that are usually angled aft, together with “stays” running diagonally downward from the tip of the spreaders to the attachment of the next pair of spreaders to the mast or to the intersection of the mast with the deck, that facilitates a pre-bend of the mast (curving aft).

In 2012 Hunter Marine entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company was sold in August 2012 to David E. Marlow, owner of Marlow Yachts and the name changed to Marlow-Hunter, LLC.

Marlow-Hunter continues to produce sailboats to this day and I must say….they are beautiful designs.

Before we start the debate about whether Hunter sailboats are good or not, let’s look at one or two of their better models.

Cherubini Hunter 30

hunter yachts review

The Cherubini Hunter 30 is one of the most recognizable Hunters out there today. They were first built in the year 1973 and were made until the year1983. Roughly a thousand of these boats were made and you can find them all over the world.

Here are some more facts about the Hunter 30.

  • Hull Type: Fin with rudder on skeg
  • Rigging Type: Masthead Sloop
  • LOA: 30.40 ft / 9.27 m
  • Displacement: 9,700 lb / 4,400 kg
  • Beam: 10.17 ft / 3.10 m

I have personally sailed on this boat and I found it to be very solid and a great all-around boat. I sailed it in the Gulf of Mexico and the bays around the area and it was always a great experience.

When sailing it felt very sturdy in the water. I never got the feeling that we were being pushed off course in the slightest. There were also a few times that we heeled over and put the rails in the water and it handled that just fine. From the outside, the boat is very recognizable with its unique design, but the cabin below is quite a common layout and design.

I feel like the cabin resembles most 30-foot boats of that time period. There might have been a touch more space in the overall design than other boats but the look and feel are all the same if you compare it to a Catalina or O’Day of the same time period. That is my personal opinion of course.

Would I purchase one of these for myself? I would definitely consider it. They are a great design and very solid. I don’t think I would have any problems with this boat, whether I was sailing it on a lake or across the Atlantic. Some will say it is not a bluewater boat, but I have read plenty of articles about people actually sailing in the bluewater. It just comes down to the captain and what you are comfortable with.

Let’s look at another type of Hunter, the Hunter 37 Legend!

The Hunter 37 Legend

This boat is a less commonly seen Hunter but still a very impressive one. Warren Luhrs was the designer of this vessel. It was not in production long just from 1986 to 1988, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good design. This design gets great reviews from the internet and has a great design for speed and comfort. I have only researched this one and watched videos about it. I would very much like to sail one of these someday, but they are not very common as I mentioned.

  • Hull Type: Fin w/spade rudder
  • Rigging Type: Fractional Sloop
  • LOA: 37.50 ft / 11.43 m
  • LWL: 31.33 ft / 9.55 m
  • Beam: 12.83 ft / 3.91 m
  • S.A. (reported): 704.00 ft 2  / 65.40 m 2
  • Draft (max): 6.67 ft / 2.03 m
  • Displacement: 14,900 lb / 6,759 kg

To get a better look at this boat please take a look at the video below. It is a quick overview of the boat itself.

After researching this boat, I would very much like to have it. This one has a ton of great features and would be perfect for some long weekend sail trips with a good group of friends. If you find a good deal on this one, I would take a second look.

Let us address one of the bigger issues in the next section, which is the bad reviews Hunter sailboats get.

Why Do Hunter Sailboats Get Such Bad Reviews? Personal Opinion

I have done a lot of research and read a lot of forums about Hunter sailboats online and they tend to get a bad rap. There are a lot of discussions about how they are cheaply made and won’t handle open ocean sailing, but I have seen videos of them handling it just fine. Maybe people have had bad experiences with a Hunter before?

There are also bad reviews on certain designs which make sense. Not every sailboat that Hunter has produced, is something I would consider. That can be said about every boat company. I’m sure even Catalina (my favorite brand) has a bad design here or there. One of the complaints was a Hunter sailboat designed without a backstay. This is very upsetting to some sailors and I would have to agree.

The backstay is what helps hold up the back end of the boom when sailing. Technically the mainsail does this as well but the backstay helps keep the shape much better. I have lowered the sail before without a backstay and you have to be very careful because your boom is going to drop right into the cockpit if you don’t have some other means of support. Some people may have a good reason for no backstay, maybe in a racing condition, but for casual life on the water, I definitely want one.

I wouldn’t rule out Hunters just for this or maybe one bad experience on one, you need to give the Hunter brand a chance. Everybody has an opinion on the internet and a lot of them will be against Hunter sailboats. That’s the internet for you though. The internet can say whatever it wants about anything in this world, even if it doesn’t have good evidence. That’s why I think personal experience is the best evidence here.

Take car brands for example. So many people will say don’t buy a ford or a chevy or dodge because it will break down on you. To be clear, every brand of car has had models broken down on them. It is not necessarily the brand, it’s the improper care of the vehicle or a random breakdown of an engine part. The brand itself still makes good vehicles you just had bad luck.

That is why I say you need to try out a few Hunters before claiming them to be a terrible boat.

The last thing I will say about this subject is that I have met multiple Hunter sailboat owners and they have loved their boats. I have not met one captain who owned a Hunter and did not like it. I only found out about their bad reviews by going online and researching them. Take all of this with a grain of salt though, I am just giving you my honest opinion. Check out the video below for another opinion on Hunter sailboats. This is a great video, be sure to check out his channel as well.

Final Thoughts

This article talked about Hunter sailboats and if they are any good. The history of the Hunter brand was discussed and is currently named Marlow-Hunter because the Marlow Yacht company purchased Hunter in 2011. We discussed the Cherubini 30 and the 37 Legend, both of which are great boats in my opinion. That was a big topic in the last section of this article, opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that’s what keeps these great sailboat discussions going. We need these great discussions to keep going and fill our minds with as much knowledge as possible. Get out there and talk to people with Hunter sailboats to get the most information you possibly can. I hope this article provided you with some Hunter knowledge to help you in your sailing life. Cheers!

hunter yachts review

Boatlifehq owner and author/editor of this article.

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Just How Good Are Hunters?

  • Thread starter Caribbeanknight1
  • Start date Aug 1, 2013
  • Hunter Owner Forums
  • Ask A Hunter Owner

Caribbeanknight1

I realize I am asking a biased audience but I know many here have owned other makes of sailboat. I have only limited sailing experience but I have been so impressed with my H240 vs the other boats on the lake. I know Hunter are considered "production boats" but you get so much boat for the price and they seem to sail as fast as anything in the same class yet the simplicity of the boat allows a beginner like me to sail like a pro. What am I missing? Where do Hunters not stack up to the much more expensive competition?  

Sailgunner

When crossing an ocean. Hunters can do it and do but most prefer a blue water boat. Many can argue this subject but Hunters are not "blue water boats." I love mine and it is great for coastal cruising. However, I would not want to cross an ocean in it.  

Les

Consider this that Ferrari cars are "production cars" even though they may make only twenty-four of that model. I'm in the September of my years now and have grown up with sailboats since the late nineteen fifties. I've had ten new boats, the last five have been Hunters because of the quality of construction that I have observed. They are a good company and made in America. Years ago at the beginning of the dawn of fiberglass right after WWII, sailboats were hulls with decks and minimal interiors. When you looked under the interior seats of the Cal there was raw fiberglass. The hot boat at that time was the plywood Thunderbird or T-bird, an excellent 26 footer that could be built at home. It took a while for sail boat companies to learn how to design and use fiberglass. And building the interior was a work of art with each piece of wood being measure for that individual boat. Some companies still build their boats that way but it is labor intensified. Some of our boat companies couldn't compete with the Asian boat companies with their cheaper labor and we began to import Fugis, Yamaha's, etc. So our boat companies responded with learning how to build boats like old Ford cars with every piece fitting every boat on the line. A company could cut ten pieces for ten boats at one time and have them all fit. Hunter was one of those companies that lead the way in modern day boat construction. But one of the things that convinced me to buy Hunter was their program of checking back with owners and asking what is working--what is not working. Then they would make adjustments in the plant and construction of their new models. I have watch improvements on all of my five Hunters. I suspect the new models are even better and have passed me by. "How can we make it better" seems to be the mantra of Hunter company and indeed, they have been one of the most innovating boat companies during the past twenty five years. Look at the B and R rid, roller furling mains and jibs, sugar scoop sterns, "tourist" seats in the stern, and the list goes on. Even where you can't see things they made improvements such as all plastic tankage or all through hull fittings in one place accessible for checking. Some of these same innovations and/or improvements you cannot find on some of the more expensive boats....however individual perception is a fascinating study. To complete my point, I drive a Subaru Forester which gets me to the store quite well. Would I like a Ferrari? I'm sure I would have fun going to the store in one but I doubt if it would get me there quicker (we have stop lights in my town) or anymore comfortable..... I suspect I would enjoy the purr of the Ferrari motor or the smell of the interior. I suspect I could enjoy sailing an Oyster sailboat but quite frankly I am in love with my Hunter 27. At my age it is a delight to sail and I can sail it by myself. And I don't have to repair or add items to make it sailable. It may be that the owner of a Ferrari will look down at me as might the owner of an Oyster. But the end result is that I'm having as much fun as they are sailing. So if you think your H240 is well made, you are correct. If you think your H240 is a good investment, you probably are correct as well. The end result is how much you enjoy sailing and cruising in your boat. I hope you get as much satisfaction from your Hunter as I do mind. I wish you well. By the way, I'm eighty in years and have sail many, many boats over the years. I still think of my Hunter 27 as a MGA of the boating world....a fun boat.  

I am new here and just purchased a 2006 Hunter 33.1. I have owned an ODay 25, a Hooks Marine Custom 34,Heavy Bluewater Boat. and also own a Nimble Nomad. Sailing for over 20 years. I do my own work and have read several books on boat construction. I was a Machinist Mate in the Navy and operated a 1200 lb Super Heated Steam Main Propulsion engine room. A Hunter is a production boat which seems to have it's fair share of detractors but from what I have seen and inspected it is a well built boat. The boat I bought had a owners manual which detailed every system on board in detail, which is not something I saw on any other boat, I also found the manual on line. All thru hulls are centrally located easy to close which is what you should do when you leave the boat. I found all the equipment installed up to the intended and installed properly. BTW I am perfectly qualified to survey the boat myself but hired a qualified survey to do a survey and he found no construction issues and only minor gear issues. I had used the same surveyor last week on a Catalina 30 which I walked away from at a cost of $800.00 for survey and lift, money well spent. Bang for the buck the boat is a great boat. As on all boats you have to balance the boat you buy with the intended use and your skill level. Good luck on your hunt for a boat, sometimes it takes time to find the boat that loves you. Jim  

Les said: I still think of my Hunter 27 as a MGA of the boating world....a fun boat. Click to expand

The Italians do not use Ferraris to go to the store either, they keep them in the garage and drive a Fiat. Each engine is hand assembled by a single highly trained and experienced individual. The seats are hancrafted from selected cuts of leather. That is not a production automobile. The use of computers has revolutionized manufacturing processes, we can now reach tolerances that before were to expensive to achieve. The difference observed between specialty builders and production manufacturers mostly rest in the quality of the materials being used and the quality controls. While the first may accept the cost of having to redo a job the other may decide to overlook it. Ferrari engine blocks undergo rigorous testing with a rather large percentage being scrapped and the metal recycled. The quality on production automobiles and boats has been improving but there are still a number of lemons reaching the marketplace. Don't get me wrong Hunter puts out a "Ferrari" of a design, uses good matrials and good components and price the boats fairly. Production errors that do not affect the safety of the boat are routinely overlooked but that is the tradeoff we are willing to accept between Price and Quality.  

Crazy Dave Condon

The Hunter water ballast sailboats were designed for the trailerable sailor as I was very much involved with them from the start. The 23.5 is my baby and I outsold all other dealers of the 240. I also sold Catalina, Beneteau, ComPac, Precision, MacGregor and many others over the years. I have heard all the Fiddlesticks about boats and so on. All to include the Hunters have their good points. When you say this is a blue water boat of course referencing the 240, it was not designed to cross an ocean. As to a productin boat, well guess what, so are the rest of the crowd as I have been in all the plants except for the MacGregor. If the two of you want to contact me, please feel free thru the forum email and I will be glad to help. My info is based on information and experience. crazy dave condon  

Not "blue water boats"? Don't know about the newer Hunters, but I bought a Cherubini 37-C specifically to be my "blue water boat". It's built like a tank and reported by far-too-many-to-ignore owners as surprisingly fast. I wouldn't think twice about cruising the oceans in Fred V - the boat is fine, it's the captain that's questionable!  

Bill1565

FredV said: Not "blue water boats"? Don't know about the newer Hunters, but I bought a Cherubini 37-C specifically to be my "blue water boat". It's built like a tank and reported by far-too-many-to-ignore owners as surprisingly fast. I wouldn't think twice about cruising the oceans in Fred V - the boat is fine, it's the captain that's questionable! Click to expand

Hunter Quality I spent the last year repairing and replacing parts on my 2002 H456. Eighty percent done by professionals and everyone of them from the diesel mechanic to the electrical engineer to the plumber has commented on how well this boat is built and with quality parts. Just be prepared to add 50K of offshore equipment and go where you want to go.  

wifeofgonzo

A Biased Reply I have a 2005 Hunter 36. In my opinion, the 36 is one of the best designed boats Hunter has made. I agree that the company does listen to owners and make changes. Lately it is their downfall. Go to the sail show - I don't think anyone leaves the dock. No storage space, difficult to do things underway, all designed to be at the marina not on the hook. Finding the right boat boat is like buying house. You know when you're "home". New is just as much of a pain as not, still bugs to work through. Our friends spend more time fixing their brand new Beneteau than sailing. I also agree I would not take our boat blue water. Not because she isn't seaworthy, but because of the keel. She is perfect for the coastal cruising that we do. Easy to single hand, perfect for two to be very comfortable, but big enough for friends to join us every now and then.  

John Murphy

CRBKT 1, I looked at all kinds of boats from Fla,to Apls, to New Eng. in the 37-40 range. I stayed away from Hunters 'cuz of my late 70's experience w/ them where they were a "Package Boat": carpeting not only on the cabin sole but UP THE BULKHEADS & ACROSS THE CEILING !!! REALLY!!, & a plastic "garbage bag" filled w/ 2 PFDS, some lines & a couple other items that made it; "Ready To Sail". I bought an Ericson back then & loved the John Holland designs & quality materials ( real, thick teak not vinyl over plywood ) & craftsmanship. Had it 30+years. Anywho, I had to swallow my pride & got a rude come-uppance. I bought a 1997 Hunter 376!! : o Learned it had been The Boat of the Year!! I am constantly comparing it w/ similar Catalinas ( who also have come a long way since the 70's) & Benateaus,etc. $ for $, spaciousness, brightness below ( Benateaus are "bat caves"), comfort, ( the pass-thru stern stateroom ( 2 doors, to galley & head ) surpass the other boats. I'm a USNA Offshore Instructor & USPS Safety Officer. I agree w/ my fellow sailors that Hunters are NOT Offshore boats, but Coastal Cruisers. Mine has been to Maine & back & all over the Chesapeake Bay, whose summer squalls can get pretty nasty. They're not Tartans, nor Sabres, but if you're not going Offshore, they're a GREAT boat. "Fair Winds & Following Seas...." " Murph "  

I have one of those 1970's package Hunters, a 1977 30 with the carpet everywhere. These boats were built to meet a price point and they did. They were well made and still do what they were intended to do. Amazingly much of that carpet is intact and as she is a dry boat not moldy and while not as attractive as teak, its ok. I sail the boat not its interior and more than 36 years after she left the factory she is still a fast boat for her class. My crew member who owns a Catalina 30 marvels over the standing room and comfort below. She is no Ferrari, she will never cross an ocean but she gets me a round the Cheaspeake and the Delaware and that's what I bought her for.  

My first boat was an 85 Hunter 25.5. I also looked at the 24 foot ODay but liiked the separate bulkhead going into the V berth on the Hunter, making it seem bigger. . It only drew 3'3', you needed a porta potty but it sailed well. When looking for a newer boat, I was directed to both Catalina and Beneteau. Both nice boats but I liked the style and the amount of light coming thru on the Hunter along with the lighter wood. The boat sails great, even in higher winds and the in-mast furling doesn't cost you a lot of speed. I frequently get over 7 knots and topped out at 8.4 kts. It does have the North Sails. Boats are personal preference but I'll put the Hunter up there with the other producton boats anyday.  

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  • By Mark Pillsbury
  • Updated: May 15, 2013

hunter yachts review

When Hunter Marine arrived last fall at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, the company came with a new name, a new owner, and a new 40-foot sloop to celebrate 40 years of boatbuilding in the United States and a renewed lease on life.

Purchased by Marlow Yachts, based in Palmetto, Florida, in the middle of 2012, the sailboat company founded by Warren Luhrs is now called Marlow-Hunter but continues to produce its line of small trailerable sailboats and midsize to large cruising models at its yard in Alachua, Florida.

The Hunter 40 introduces an updated look to the Hunter lineup, and according to sales director Greg Emerson, more models with similar styling will follow. The boat was designed by Glenn Henderson, who’s long collaborated with the firm’s in-house designers, and with input from Marlow Yachts owner David Marlow, as well.

hunter yachts review

With its hard chines, a slightly reverse transom, and a plumb bow, the 40 has a sporty appearance, enhanced in the case of hull number 1 by its deep blue topsides, gold cove and boot stripes, and two-tone deck with tan nonskid and white gelcoat trim. Windows shaped like knife blades run the length of the wedge-shaped cabin top; I did a double take when I first spotted them on the boat sitting dockside at the show.

Belowdecks, the H40 has a quite roomy layout. White panels, offset by either mahogany (standard) or teak woodwork, give the interior, especially the saloon, an airy and bright feel. The boat I inspected came with the teak interior, an option package that also includes Dura-Leather upholstery and upgraded fixtures. With the upgrade, the owner also has the choice of a hard bimini over the cockpit, a feature with which our test boat was equipped. To be honest, unless I was in the tropics, I’d prefer either a canvas bimini or none at all, but perhaps that’s because I thought that the hardtop had head-knocking potential. Based on customer and dealer feedback, the layout in the forward cabin has been changed from the boat we sailed. A separate head and shower, located on either side of the cabin, have been combined to starboard,making room for a bench seat between the hanging locker to port and the queen-size V-berth.

hunter yachts review

Aft, a buyer has a choice of either two cabins or one large owners cabin; I saw the latter. Headroom over the island queen seemed cramped, and apparently others thought so, too. Emerson said the company has modified the cockpit-table base and the mold for the cockpit itself to gain more space below.

Emerson said that the original H40 transom has also been changed to make the fold-down swim platform smaller and lighter and, hence, easier to raise and lower. As a result, production models have a step on the stern to make boarding from a dinghy easier when the platform’s up. Like all modern Hunters, the H40 has a B&R rig with swept-back spreaders and no backstay. Customers can choose between a conventional mainsail or an in-mast furling main with vertical battens. The boat comes standard with a 110-percent headsail, although a 120-percent genoa can be ordered for light-wind cruising grounds, and the anchor roller includes a padeye for setting downwind sails. A traveler is incorporated into the stainless-steel cockpit arch; it can be adapted to include either a canvas or hard bimini. One end of the double-ended mainsheet is led to the cabin top, and the other down the side of the arch to a winch by the port helm station. This arrangement makes a boat the size of the 40 quite easy for a couple to sail.

Speaking of sailing, the 40 delivered a comfortable ride during my somewhat short time on the wheel in conditions that favored foul-weather gear. The Lewmar steering provided good feedback as we notched closehauled speeds in the 6s and a knot better when we cracked off to a reach in 10 knots of breeze.

Given the one-year stem-to-stern warranty and five-year guarantee on the hull—not to mention the long list of standard equipment—the sailaway price of $240,000 makes the Hunter 40 definitely worthy of inspection or, better yet, a test sail.

  • More: 2011+ , 31 - 40 ft , Coastal Cruising , marlow-hunter , monohull , sailboat review , Sailboats
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Hunter Ranger 245 on test – a boat for our time?

  • January 17, 2021

David Harding reports on the Hunter Ranger 245, which later became the Channel 245

Back in 2012, I went for a spin on the Hunter Channel 245 – a robust and chunky little cruiser that punched above her weight in lots of ways.

hunter yachts review

Here was a boat with a hull length of just 23ft (7m) that offered up to six berths, an enclosed heads, a separate aft cabin, a chart table (often not found on much larger boats these days), full standing headroom for a six-footer, a respectable galley, an inboard engine, a choice of fin or twin keels and, despite so much accommodation, a remarkably good sailing performance.

What’s more, she met the requirements for Category B under the RCD (Recreational Craft Directive).

While it might be debatable just what a boat’s RCD classification actually means in practical terms, Category B signifies that it’s deemed to be an offshore cruiser. In the case of the Hunter, this status is backed up by qualities that undoubtedly do mean something, such as her impressive AVS (Angle of Vanishing Stability) of 140° with either keel configuration.

hunter yachts review

The Hunter Ranger 245. Photo: David Harding

There was a lot to like about this spirited little ship back in 1996 when she had just been launched as the Ranger 245. Andrew Simpson, PBO’s associate editor at the time and not one to lavish praise on a boat unless it was well earned, concluded his test in 1997 with the words ‘a cracking little winner if ever I saw one.’

And a cracking little winner she still was 15 years later when, having been out of production for a while, she returned as the Channel 245 with a new builder and a new look.

Ranging freely

The Ranger was designed by the late David Thomas as part of a new range of Hunters introduced in the mid 1990s. Until then, Hunter had been best known for race boats and performance cruisers, many of the latter being modified versions of the former.

For example, the enormously successful One Design Sonata that I tested in 1997 became the twin-keeled Duette, then the Horizon 23 (tested in 2005) and Horizon 232.

Similarly, the Horizon 26, 27, 272 and 273 were based on the hull of the Delta 25 (tested in 2003) and the Horizon 30 was a stretched Impala 28.

Hunters and Thomas were past masters at creating fast but unextreme designs that acquitted themselves well on the race course before adapting equally well to life in the cruising lane, often having been given extended sterns, raised decks and higher coachroofs.

Come the 1990s, however, designer and builder were conscious that times were a’changing. The cruising market was much bigger than the racing market and there was a limit to how many cruising comforts could be squeezed into a slim racy hull.

The new generation of cruising sailors wanted more space and plusher surroundings. Heaters and hot running water were considered almost essential.

Performance still mattered but, even 25 years ago, it was clear that the market for the true cruiser/racer was shrinking.

Hunter’s new range bypassed the racing phase, being designed from the outset as pure cruisers. The Ranger 245 followed her big sister, the Ranger 265 and, although extraordinarily roomy for her length, she was considered by some Hunter aficionados to be a little sportier than the 265.

‘My 245 was terrific!’, said one, who later moved up to a Channel 31. ‘It’s a bionic boat, especially upwind in a bit of breeze.’

What’s the difference between Ranger and Channel models?

Most 245s you see will be of the Ranger persuasion. Early models had a single long window each side in the coachroof, whereas later ones can be distinguished by their three smaller windows.

When the Hunter name was bought by the Select Yacht Group in Cornwall in the early 2000s, some of the designs lay fallow for several years and only the odd 245 was built before the moulds were bought by Lauren Marine in Southampton.

And it was with Lauren Marine that I tested the Ranger in her new guise as the Channel 245. After all, the Ranger 265 had become the Channel 27 some years earlier (I tested it in 2004) and this change with the 245 restored some consistency in the nomenclature.

Giving her the ‘Channel’ look were the new windows (two each side this time) in the coachroof.

Otherwise she was fundamentally the same boat, and the one I tested had been bought by an owner for whom a boat like this was ideally suited. He wanted a cruiser that was small, robust, roomy and capable. So many 23-footers today are shallow-hulled weekenders more in the style of a big dinghy, whereas the 245 is very much a small yacht. Finding the qualities offered by the 245 in another boat would normally mean buying something appreciably longer, heavier, deeper in the draught, more demanding to sail and more expensive to run. You could buy something older for the seakeeping qualities and rugged construction, but it would almost certainly be smaller down below and quite possibly in need of more work.

When it comes to handling under sail, earlier designs will also be less likely to have a self-tacking jib. Self-tackers were seen on Hunters before they became fashionable among the big Continental builders and they were undoubtedly an attraction to many owners. Of course a self-tacker on a boat of this length will leave the sail area/displacement ratio on the low side for performance in light airs, though I found on my first outing that the 245 slipped along surprisingly well in a zephyr. That was on flat water; the challenge would be in light airs and a chop.

hunter yachts review

This was one of the first production cruisers of her era to sport a pronounced chine. Photo: David Harding

One way to keep moving would be to fly a lightweight Code 0-style sail on a furler, and indeed Hunter used to offer a ‘scooper’ for just that reason. Alternatively you could fit tracks on the side decks for an overlapping genoa. Not seen on many 245s, it will make an appreciable difference to all-round performance.

Apart from the self-tacker, another way in which the 245 was ahead of the pack was in sporting chines running aft to the transom. Thomas used them to improve form stability, directional stability and water-flow around the stern. ‘They tell the water where to go’, he used to say.

Chines will inevitably play more of a role as the boat starts to heel in a fresher breeze, as we had on my second outing.

Whatever difference they make, there’s no doubt that the little Hunter does sail very nicely for a chunky boat. We clocked 4.5 knots upwind, pointing respectably high, and hit 6.5 knots under asymmetric spinnaker.

Given her modest sail area and 40% ballast ratio, we weren’t exactly pushing her in 12-15 knots of wind and, as you would hope she exhibited no wayward tendencies. In fact I found her nicely responsive and rewarding to sail for a boat of this nature. Andrew Simpson’s earlier test had been on an altogether brisker day, and he commented on the need to be prepared to dump the mainsheet in the gusts to stay on track.

Another of my outings with the 245 was with David Pugh and Ben Meakins when we borrowed one of Southampton Solent University’s two Ranger 245s (which, incidentally, have overlapping genoas) for a feature on broaching. When we pressed her too hard in a bit of breeze, she broached. Most boats will, especially when they have generous beam and a transom-hung rudder. You have to learn when to throttle back.

Practical handling

Knowing when and how much to ease off in a breeze is something that comes from experience with your boat. But are there any other issues with the 245? Some, inevitably. One or two relate to my personal preferences; others have been echoed elsewhere.

I like rudders with enough balance to give a finger-light helm, and David Thomas’s rudders usually felt to me as though they could have done with a little more balance. It’s a subjective issue and I had discussions with him about various aspects of rudder design.

Then there’s the lack of space between the cockpit coamings and the guardwires: if you sit on the coamings when the boat’s heeled, you can’t incline your torso beyond the vertical before you hit the guardwires. This means you’re continually fighting gravity to stop yourself falling inboard. Even some of Thomas’s racier designs like the Impala are similar in this respect.

Since most 245 owners will probably sit in the cockpit, that’s unlikely to be an issue. Nonetheless, they might still find the mainsheet block’s attachment point, on the cockpit sole, too low for easy release of the sheet. I would rather have it raised on a turret, both for convenience and for a more efficient sheeting angle. At least one owner has had this done. It would be nice to move it further forward, too, so you can reach it when helming from the forward end of the cockpit. As a bonus, that would leave more space between the sheet and the tiller that you can squeeze through when tacking.

hunter yachts review

The deep cockpit has high coamings, but space between the tiller and mainsheet is tight. Photo: David Harding

Some people have expressed reservations about the challenge of reaching the lines led from the mast to the winches and clutches on the aft end of the coachroof when you’re at the helm. That’s the same with many boats, and at least with one of this size nothing can be that far away.

When you have to leave the cockpit and move forward, you will find the side decks on the narrow side and a few areas without non-slip that are best avoided in the wet. Similarly, you might choose to avoid stepping on the two windows (not fitted to every boat) and the opening hatch on the forward end of the coachroof.

Helping keep your feet on the deck is the raised moulded toerail, interspersed with flat mounting points for the stanchions. A plastic rubbing strake caps the joint where the deck moulding meets the hull.

There’s precious little timber (some early boats had wooden grabrails on the coachroof) and nothing remotely complicated.

Deck hardware is secured with bolts that can be reached from the inside without major surgery.

In keeping with the theme of simplicity and ruggedness is the hull’s solid laminate. If you have a twin-keeler, particularly if it lives on a drying mooring, strength in the bottom of the hull is rather important. In this case, as is the Hunter tradition, the solid laminate extends all the way up the topsides.

Most Ranger 245s have the twin fins, as Hunter liked to call them, and inboard engines too. The budget option was an outboard in a well in the port cockpit locker that allowed it to be lifted clear of the water.

Having an inboard (typically a 10hp Yanmar 1GM10) made life easier, moved the engine’s weight forward and down and gave you an enormous cockpit locker to boot.

There are boats that are like the Tardis below decks – and then there’s the Ranger/Channel 245. The interior is welcoming and well-appointed as well as spacious, boasting generous quantities of timber trim. It’s also light and airy, thanks to the combination of an open-plan layout and plenty of window area.

hunter yachts review

A plush and extremely roomy interior for a boat of this length, complete with a workable galley and even a chart table. Photo: David Harding

You know you’re in a big little boat as soon as you reach the bottom of the companionway steps, because you have full standing headroom unless you’re over 6ft 1in (1.85m) tall. An enclosed heads compartment is to port (it’s perhaps a tad cosy for those with big bones) and a peninsular galley to starboard. A useful handhold is incorporated in the raised fiddle on the galley’s nicely rounded inboard end. On the forward side of the heads bulkhead is a small chart table with stowage beneath.

The interior to either side and immediately forward of the companionway is formed by a tray moulding, which makes sense given that this is where you’re most likely to be dripping in wet waterproofs. Further forward and away from the principal ‘drip zones’ the 245 is remarkably plush for a boat of this size, with carpeted hullsides and a vinyl headlining.

Flanking the saloon table on the compression post are a pair of settee berths that extend into trotter boxes running beneath the raised V-berth in the bow. All are over 6ft (1.83m) in length, even though the pointy forward end of the V-berth shortens its effective length if two people are competing for foot-space.

And then there’s the aft cabin, abaft the galley, which is a separate den despite not actually having (or, arguably, needing) a door. Few people would choose to sleep six on a boat of this size for any time but the settees in the saloon are needed anyway and it’s nice to have a choice of where to lay your head.

In terms of finish, there’s not too much to complain about even allowing for the fact that margins on boats of this size don’t allow builders to spend hours refining the joinery to the nth degree. On the whole it’s functional at worst and pretty tidy at best. Hunter continued to offer part-complete boats long after other builders, so be mindful of this: standards will inevitably vary, though some may be very good indeed. On a 245 that was built in Cornwall during the Select Yachts era, you might even find a Crabber-style finish with white tongue-and-groove woodwork edged by varnished timber trim.

PBO’s verdict

If you want a boat of this size that’s roomy, capable of handling wind and waves, available with twin keels and young enough in all probability not to need a lot of work (though they’re not immune to the odd hull blister), the Ranger/Channel 245 has little competition. Some of what might be seen as her flaws, such the mainsheet position, can be changed. Most others are an almost inevitable consequence of trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot. All too often, this sort of squeezing simply doesn’t work. In the case of the Hunter it works remarkably well.

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  6. 2009 Hunter 36 Sailboat for sale in San Diego, California By: Ian Van Tuyl

COMMENTS

  1. Boat review: Hunter Legend 36

    Although her wide, open cockpit and shallow coamings wouldn't inspire confidence in extreme conditions, as a marina-hopping weekender she offers all the comforts of a modern, spacious seaside apartment with bags of room for guests. Guide price (2004-2010 boat) £59,000-£114,000. LOA 10.85m (35ft 6in)

  2. Boat Review: Hunter 37

    Aug 21, 2017. Original: Aug 22, 2014. A Big Little Sistership: An able 37-foot cruiser with lots of space and an easy-to-handle rig. The Hunter 37 is effectively a smaller sistership to the Hunter 40, which was introduced in something of a rush in 2012 as Marlow Hunter—formerly Hunter Marine—celebrated its 40th birthday and a change of ...

  3. Boat Review: Hunter 40

    Aug 4, 2013. Hunter Marine—now known as Marlow Hunter —celebrated its 40th birthday and a recent change in ownership by introducing its latest mid-size cruising boat, the new Hunter 40, in something of a hurry last fall. The rush from design to production took all of eight weeks, and hull #1 made it to Annapolis just in time for a ...

  4. Hunter 30: Still the Affordable Fantasy

    The Hunter 30. Designed by John Cherubini and built from 1974 to 1983, the Hunter 30 is a coastal cruiser that was designed to offer a lot of boat for little money. With a focus on streamlining construction to boost production volume, Hunter aimed to offer an affordable coastal racer-cruiser.

  5. Hunter Channel 31: A sporty, solidly built cruiser

    The Hunter Channel 31 was introduced in 1999 as a replacement for the 32 which had replaced the Horizon 32. However, the 31 was designed as a lighter faster cruiser/racer and came as a One Design racing version called the 303 which had a deep lead fin keel. The Hunter Channel 31 was offered with fin or twin keels.

  6. Hunter 38 Sailboat Review

    Under engine, the boat kept up its good manners and maneuverability. With the optional 40-horsepower Yanmar, it managed an average speed over ground of roughly 6.5 knots at 2,500 rpm and 7.2 knots at 3,000 rpm. In the end, the hunch about the Hunter 38 proved to be correct.

  7. Hunter 27

    The Hunter 27 is a popular boat with first-time sailboat buyers, and with small-boat sailors purchasing their first auxiliary cruising boat. Since the boat was introduced in 1975, thousands have been built. Hunter 27 Specs. Like other boats with a reasonably long production run, the Hunter 27 has gone through minor changes since its introduction.

  8. Hunter 34

    Hunters are mass-produced boats at the low end of the price scale. The Hunter 34 was the first "small" Hunter to be built with a molded hull liner. A molded liner can add considerable strength to a single-skin boat, and the use of integral molded furniture components can greatly speed assembly.

  9. Hunter 33 Sailboat Review

    Hunter 33. Fine performance and vast amenities abound in this versatile, upgraded 33-footer. Boat Review from our November 2012 issue. The boatbuilders at Marlow-Hunter, formerly known as Hunter Marine, may have been too successful, if that's possible, with their prodigious production run of more than 600 Hunter 33 s.

  10. Boat Review: Hunter 27e

    The Hunter 27e just may be the quintessential "new-old boat." The hull, deck, appendages, rig and interior have been sailing aboard the Hunter 27 since 2006. ... Review: Hanse 410, SAIL Top 10 Best Boats 2025 Nominee. I first saw the new Hanse 410 at the Annapolis spring boat show in April. Like her big sister the 510, which I had sailed ...

  11. Hunter 33: A Stronger, Roomier Production Sailboat

    The interior finish adds to the richness with tongue-and-groove flooring and a high-gloss cherry veneer. The grain has been laid out on the bulkheads horizontally, which gives the salon a larger feel. The base price of the Hunter 33 with freight and commissioning is $120,000, and if you add the Mariner package, it goes up to $130,000.

  12. Hunter 28

    On November 23rd, 2018, David Pascoe has passed away at age 71. Biography - Long version. Hunter had finally got the grid liner right in this 1991 model. While this is unquestionably a low price boat, overall it seemed to be fairly well built and there were no problems with the framing system at all.

  13. Classic Plastic: Hunter Legend 37 Sailboat Review

    This was followed by a series of cruisers designed by John E. Cherubini, of Cherubini Yachts fame. As the company grew, an in-house team became responsible for all sailboat designs, including the Legend 37, which was built from 1986 to 1988. Today, Hunter boats are known for their Bergstrom & Ridder rigs, traveler arches, Euro styling, and low ...

  14. Hunter 22

    The new Hunter 22 is directly derived from its predecessor, the Hunter 216, which was built out of thermoformed Luran-S plastic. The 22 retains the 216's hull, which features a large cockpit and open transom. ... Review: Hanse 410, SAIL Top 10 Best Boats 2025 Nominee.

  15. Hunter Boat Reviews

    Hunter Boat Reviews. All Boat Classes ... and new ownership for Hunter sailboats looks like a step in the right direction for a sailboat builder that has been around since 1975. …Read More. Advertisement. Reviews / Cruiser (Sail) Hunter 33: A Stronger, Roomier Production Sailboat.

  16. Hunter 25

    1. By the mid '80s, after only ten years in business, Hunter Marine had become one of the two leaders (with Catalina Yachts) in the volume of auxiliary-sized sailboats on the US market. And, like Catalina, the corporate philosophy at Hunter was to mass produce low priced boats with as few changes in tooling, hence design, as possible. Hunter ...

  17. Are Hunter Sailboats Any Good? (My Honest Experience)

    It comes down to a bit of fact and personal opinion, but that's my opinion. Hunter is a very well-known brand of sailboats. Hunter sailboats are a good boat depending on your needs and what you will be using your boat for primarily. They were designed as a more budget-friendly boat with all of the basic features needed for good coastal cruising.

  18. Just How Good Are Hunters?

    The Hunter water ballast sailboats were designed for the trailerable sailor as I was very much involved with them from the start. The 23.5 is my baby and I outsold all other dealers of the 240. I also sold Catalina, Beneteau, ComPac, Precision, MacGregor and many others over the years. I have heard all the Fiddlesticks about boats and so on.

  19. Hunter Sailboats, Hunter 40 Sailboat Review

    Hunter 40 Billy Black. When Hunter Marine arrived last fall at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, the company came with a new name, a new owner, and a new 40-foot sloop to celebrate 40 years of boatbuilding in the United States and a renewed lease on life.. Purchased by Marlow Yachts, based in Palmetto, Florida, in the middle of 2012, the sailboat company founded by Warren Luhrs is ...

  20. Hunter Sailboat Reviews

    All Multihulls New Sailboats Sailboats 21-30ft Sailboats 31-35ft Sailboats 36-40ft Sailboats Over 40ft Sailboats Under 21feet used_sailboats. ... And that's important when you are buying a Hunter or any other boat. ... And that goes for its acclaimed boat reviews. Over the years, we've reviewed the Hunter 27, 30 and a dozen other Hunter models. ...

  21. Hunter Ranger 245 on test

    Practical Boat Owner. January 17, 2021. 0shares. 0. David Harding reports on the Hunter Ranger 245, which later became the Channel 245. Back in 2012, I went for a spin on the Hunter Channel 245 - a robust and chunky little cruiser that punched above her weight in lots of ways. Here was a boat with a hull length of just 23ft (7m) that offered ...

  22. The Hunter 18

    the new Hunter 18 replaces the Hunter 170, which for several years was a mainstay in Hunter's line of small daysailers. Like the 170, the 18 can serve as both an easy-to-manage family daysailer and as a lively performance boat for those with more experience. At a glance the two boats look quite similar, sporting open transoms, centerboards and small sprayhoods forward.

  23. Hunter 42 Passage Review: Caribbean Cruiser

    As a Bahamas and Caribbean cruiser, you will not find many yachts that offer a more compelling value than a Hunter 42 Passage. Hunter 42 Passage. Hunter Marine has roots in the 1800's when Henry Luhrs, a German immigrant to New Jersey, USA began outfitting trading ships and owned his own ship, the Sophia R. Luhrs.