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Old 07-23-2003
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Got religon...but a Hunter??

This is not a simple question. Hunter is the most maligned and controversial of the big three boat builders. Hunter Marine marches to the sound of their own drummer and a lot of people don''t like the tune. Their aesthetics are very much an acquired taste and to many of us, who grew up with more traditional designs, we would prefer not to buy their look. They tend to be over marketed and many of us are somewhat put off by the implication of the "Goes the Distance" motto.

Still looking at them objectively they are reasonable performers for coastal cruising. They offer a lot of accommodations and features for the money. They tend to be sold amazingly well equipped. According to the surveyors that I have talked to Hunter does an excellent job at designing and building boats that meet the various safety standards. Most of the larger older Hunters have a CE ''B'' Classification, which means that they are not certified for Open Ocean usage but the more recent bigger boats have a CE ''A'', which is an open ocean rating.

On the flip side, few builders seem to draw the heavy fire in the court of "common knowledge". Some of this is just plain unwarranted but quite a bit reflects the reality of these boats. They are designed for a very specific clientele. This clientele typically are not circumnavigators but a family that is going to weekend and overnight. Hunters are not really set up with sea berths or offshore galleys but the interiors work well on the anchor. They have narrow side decks and rigs that are at their best reaching but give up a bit beating (headstay sag due to no backstay) and running (the mainsail ends up plastered against the shrouds). Their fractional rigs are easier to tack and are easier to deal with in changing conditions. Hunters seem to offer pretty good performance in a wide range of conditions but are certainly at their best in 10 -12 or so knots of wind reaching. The more recent models do not seem to be able to sail to their ratings on the race course while earlier models were good dual purpose boats. (my Dad went for several years with no finishes worse than a first or second.)

Things I dislike about Hunters; I really do not like the huge plastic port lights that they have been using on recent models. The plexiglass will deteriorate (my experience about 10 to 14 years in Maryland) and these big panels will at that point become unsafe and in need of replacement. That will be very expensive. I don''t like the rolled out hull to deck joint used on recent models. While it provides a nice rubrail, it is highly vulnerable to damage while docking or in a colision and from an engineering standpoint places the largest bending stresses and highest strains on the joint compared to almost any other kind of hull deck joint. (My previous boat had this detail and it was the one single thing that I really hated about that boat. It is one thing to do this detail on a 28 foot, 4100 lb. Kevlar boat like my prior boat and an entirely different thing to do on a large all glass boat)

I don''t like the B&R backstayless rigs. I have spent a lot of time on fractional rigs and masthead rigs. To me a fractional rig really makes a lot of sense for cruising but only with a backstay adjuster. Ideally, Fractional rigs can carry considerable larger working sail plans because of their ability to increase backstay tension and quickly depower the sailplan. This means few sail changes and few reefs. BUT the B&R rig does not use a backstay so rapid depowering is not an option. In that case much of the advantage of a fractional rig is lost.

Compared to other builders, Hunter''s interiors also tend to be a bit more sterile although they have gotten considerably better on more recent models.

There is a mythology surrounding the resale prices on Hunters. My father bought one new, owned it for 11 years and sold it for what he paid for it. My mom had a used one which she sold for more than she paid for hers. The only published data that I have seen on Hunter resale values, supported our anecdotal experiences. I''ve thought about this a bit and I think that the Hunter resale myth exists because Hunters tend to include a lot of gear in their base price. Most boats do not. When you look at a base price on a Hunter it reflects this level of equipage. Typically when you look at resale on one of these boats where everything is an option or aftermarket purchase, but compare the resale value to the base price, these other manufacturers look pretty darn good. On the other hand when you adjust the price of these other models to include everything that is included on the boat at the time of sale, Hunters look pretty good from a resale point of view. (I think that the hidden cost of fit out is one of the reasons that Island Packet resale values are seen as better than they really seem to be.)

In the early 1980''s my family did not have very good results with Hunter''s warranty department, but in my own casual survey of new boat owners, recent Hunter owners really seemed very delighted with their treatment and with the comparatively minor level of problems.

Lastly if you buy a Hunter, you have to deal with the emotional issues about them. There are absolutely rabid Hunter haters out there. You can not under estimate the vehemence of their hatred. Then there are rabid Hunter lovers and defenders out there. They can be almost as bad. This roiling controversy results in a situation where you are left either defending the boat to detractors or defending you lack of defense to the rabid defenders. They are good boats for what they are made to do. They do offer a lot of boat for the dollar. They are not my idea of an offshore boats by any stretch of the imagination.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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