Hunter vs. Beneteau
There has been some pretty good responses to your question. As a Hunter owner perhaps I can provide some feedback:
1. We have a 1988 H-35 which we bought new as a place-holder and now we''re getting into the 2001 model year - this is thirteen years later! - and we''ve been looking for the boat all this time. My parents always had boats and so have I. I''ve seen a lot of performance improvements over the years but there are still some things that don''t change much. I prefer a more traditional style to the bathtub approach. Our boat was somewhat non-traditional when it was new - open transom, deadlights in the coach roof, swept-back spreaders, CNG gas stove, bulb-wing keel, to name a few, but all-in-all she has worked out very well.
2. Our cruising grounds are the Pacific Northwest and we''ve cruised both up the inside passage and up the outside to the Queen Charlottes - the latter is a route very few boats would ever take, not even ocean going tugs and cruise ships.
3. The Legend series (around ''87 until around ''94) have an aluminum toe rail - which I think is a positive. The interior is an inexpensive varnished finish but can be improved on with additional coats if a person knows how to do it. The rig is fractional with backstay (ours is adjustable) and slab reefing - very easy to singlehand.
4. Performance: In our local club races we beat boat-for-boat a Hinkley 59 with furling main, Beneteau 44 with skipper who knows how to sail it, Catalina 42, and on occassion a Hobie 33, to name a few. When out just cruising around there are very few boats that aren''t race prepared (faired bottom, slick bottom paint, etc.) and in our size range that will leave us behind. The H-35 is a good sailing boat even at a PHRF of 123! We wouldn''t have a sailboat without a feathering prop. A 35.5 won her class in the double handed division in the Pacific Cup race from San Francisco to Hawaii against probably the top tactician in the 100 plus boat fleet on his own Cal 40, and the Hunter sailors were "no-name" sailors!
5. We have 4-golf cart batteries plus a group 28 start battery - a lot of weight plus a lot of reserve electrical power. Great for refrigeration, say two days on the hook. We carry 45 ft of 3/8 BBB chain plus 350 ft of 5/8-in rode and a Delta 35# anchor as standard ground tackle, plus a heaver system for the storm anchor. We''ve got a really large lazarette for storage of the 8hp outboard, sail bags, oars, storm anchor system, etc.
Dollar for dollar you''d have a hard time beating the performance and the utility of the Hunters from this vintage. Unless you really like the style of the newer boats my recommendation would be to step back a few more years and pick up a bigger boat that is better equiped, has been taken care of, and you''ll probably still pay less than the ones you''re looking at. Get one that is "properly" equipped, where things were not "thrown on" but installed properly and with some forthought.
Over 75-percent of the Hunter owners in the Pacific Northwest club are "on-line". Check out the www.hunterowners.com and the Benneteau and Catalina sites hosted by the same person as the Hunter site (bottom right corner of web page).
With these boats the displacement is probably a better measure of size than length. Sail some boats before buying one. Good luck in your decision.