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post #1 of 23 Old 11-24-2006 Thread Starter
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A New Hunter 49 and an Old Traditionalist

I had posted the following yesterday in an old thread, and upon re-reading it this morning, see that it likely got lost in the quagmire of venom to which that thread had descended. So, here it is as a fresh post:


Traditional sailors, whether they are past owners, present owners or wannabie owners of traditional "bluewater" sailboats, are a rather opinionated bunch. Many are stuck in a mindset that seems to ignore the advances there have been in yacht design and construction in the years since their "perfect" full-keel, heavy-displacement wallower was built.

A case in point: My brother's first response to my telling him I was ordering a Hunter 49 was, "with all your money, why don't you buy a real boat?". He is an accomplished engineer, has built boats and he and his wife have sailed the North Atlantic, the Caribbean and the South America Coast for the past fourteen years in a very traditional Cape Dory.

Last week, when I went to Alachua, Florida to visit the Hunter facility, my brother and his wife were at a nearby St Johns River marina preparing their Cape Dory cutter for another six months of cruising the Caribbean. He jumped at the invitation to join me on the tour, and he appeared to come heavily armed with his pre-conceptions.

During our two-and-a-half-hour walk through, we examined the construction details of hulls 22 through 13, each one being a week or so further along the line and further advanced in its creation, all the way to the just-completed hull 13. The further we went along the production line, the more he examined and the more that his pointed questions were answered, the more his "edge" softened. While I am not saying that we converted him, nor were we trying to, but the experience certainly made his opinion of Hunter much more positive.

He observed that the computer-guided cutters meant that all of the components, from the kevlar cloth and the woven fiberglass to the bulkheads and the cabinetry panels fit together perfectly. There was none of the jamming, prying and pounding into place often seen in the expensive "hand-build" yards. He saw epoxy resins being used in the outer layers of the hull with full saturation and thorough rolling during the lay-up, he examined materials and read labels on resin drums, felt the heft of the cloth, he saw the hull is its many different stages, from gelcote to completed. He nodded his approval.

He was pleased to see 316L used wherever stainless steel was specified, and he examined the welding rods to ensure they were also 316L. He was impressed with centrally located through-hulls, with the huge storage spaces, and yes, even with the corian counter-tops. Our tour gave us both an understanding of the complexities beneath the surface and a confidence in the design, the materials and the construction methods.

As we were driving back to his boat and we were discussing his observations and thoughts, his major criticism was that the chain plates were over engineered and that they were much more robust than was required.

My boating experience includes a career as a Canadian naval officer, as an upperdeck watchkeeper and a navigator, and I hold a Certificate of Service as Master. Since I bought my first boat in 1964, I have owned a wide assortment of vessels, including a full-keel, heavy-displacement ketch, a Dutch steel canal boat in France and a 48-foot motoryacht.

I certainly do not qualify as an expert, and I may not even qualify as experienced, but I like what I see in the new Glen Henderson designs at Hunter, and I like the 49 enough to have bought one in preference to everything else I see in the market.
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post #2 of 23 Old 11-24-2006
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Dawn...I'm gonna lay low on this one for a while but I do have a question or two. You've mentioned a new era at Hunter and Glen Henderson a couple of times now. When in your opinion did the quality change...this year, last or further back? Having been in the factory and seen the buiding...what other currently produced boats would you compare the new Hunter's to in terms of overall quality/seaworthiness?
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post #3 of 23 Old 11-24-2006
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The newer Hunters may be decent boats, especially once you get up to the 49' size...but the old ones certainly were not of the greatest quality, and really were one of the brands that the "Bleach Bottle" denigratory term came out to describe.

I've also never heard of over-engineered chainplates being a problem to anyone....

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post #4 of 23 Old 11-24-2006 Thread Starter
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Camaraderie,

Glen Henderson arrived at Hunter in 1998. He and his team then began re-designing their entire line of keel boats, culminating this spring with the launch of the 49 to replace the 46.

To quote from a Cruising World article on the 2005 Boat of the Year, "For several years, BOTY judges have noted the growing influence of Hunter's in-house designer, Glenn Henderson, and nowhere has his sailorly touch shown through more clearly than in this boat. For these and other reasons, the Hunter 38 wins this year's award for Best Production Cruiser Under 40 Feet."

To quote from a Cruising World article naming the Hunter 41 DS the 2006 Boat of the Year - Production Cruiser 40 to 44 Feet: . "I liked this boat a lot. It certainly represents a lot of bang for the buck. The systems upgrades over earlier Hunters I've looked at were just phenomenal. They've improved exponentially, in my opinion."

As far as comparing them to other boat builders, let me just say that contrary to my observations in other builders yards and plants, at Hunter I saw no forcing, pounding or winching badly fitting components into place; everything appeared to fit easily together by workers specialized in their own phase of construction. I saw specialists on the production line, rather than Jacks-of-all-trades.

The employees with whom I spoke were all very knowledgeable in their particular part in the process, and they seemed to enjoy sharing their knowledge and insights. I would suppose that the employee ownership program makes them feel much more committed to the part they play in the company.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog
I've also never heard of over-engineered chainplates being a problem to anyone....
I guess my brother was so flummoxed by what he saw during the tour compared to what he had in his mind prior to the tour, that he had to grab something. I will admit though, that the 3/4 inch thick 316L plates do seem quite robust; but they sure are pretty.
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post #6 of 23 Old 11-25-2006
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Dawndreamer...Well I hope the quality is improving a bit as it had certainly deteriorated through the first half of this decade. I wouldn't use cruising world reviews as a great reference since they are obviously beholden to advertisers and seem to divvy up the awards each year to keep everyone happy. Example: You quote the 38 as "best production cruiser under 40 feet" in the BOTY awards which is absolutely true. But the whole point is that they (Cruising World) rig it that way. There were only THREE other boats in the competition for that particular trophy and one of them was a hunter 33!! Now that doesn't make the 38 a bad boat...it just shows that the award is nothing more than an advertising gimmick. How does it compare to the Etap which won the prior year or for that matter the Sabre 38 which won DOMESTIC BOAT OF THE YEAR in the same year. Hmmmm...two 38 foot production boats each win in different categories yet both are monohulls and cruisers??
I'll wait for a Practical Sailor review myself!
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post #7 of 23 Old 11-25-2006 Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by camaraderie
I'll wait for a Practical Sailor review myself!
Practical Sailor reviewed the 49 in their October issue. To quote from their Conclusions: "The design of the 49 impresses us as much more streamlined than many previous models from this builder. And Hunter has fulfilled most of its self-imposed mandate regarding this boat. This vessel makes significant strides toward easier maintenance. For a boat of this size, the H49 is easy to manage under sail. And many elements of the design will enhance on-the water safety (the kick-out panel in the aft cabins, the two watertight bulkheads, and easy access to the head of the rudder post for using the emergency tiller offer strong testimony to that notion).

"Hunter is clearly taking great measures to ensure that this boat lives up to its bluewater billing (Pettengill personally drove the prototype into the beach 10 times at up to 9.5 knots with the mainsail drawing). In our opinion, the 49 offers moderate passagemaking potential with sufficient comfort, and relatively low maintenance ..."

Those familiar with Practical Sailor reviews will know about their Hits and Misses and their Pros and Cons. The boat they tested was the shoal draft, in-mast furling, short mast, standard jib version, and, of course they found the light air performance "lacks umph". Several of their Misses and Cons seemed misguided or nitpicking: their Con on the anchor well was "only one cleat". In the well is a cleat and a beefy U-bolt, and beside it on deck are two mooring cleats. Their Con on the rig: "Fixed staysail can interfere with tacking the genoa", seems to me to be a general statement on all cutter rigs. Their Miss: "Front-loading fridge and freezer are relatively inefficient." misses the fact that there are also two large independent top loading freezers.

Practical Sailor's test boat was hull #1, and Hunter has already modified design specifications on subsequent boats, either through their own discovery during test saliing or to address reviewers' comments and critiques.
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DD...thanks for the update. I will haveto take a look at the whole review but it does sound as if progress is being made. I actually was impressed with the limited production 50' they built a few years ago as a blue water boat so it is evident they CAN built a quality vessel when they want to. That really has not been their goal too often in the past. This is not to say that they should build blue-water boats...that is not their typical target customer or price range...but they at least need to build the same quality as their competition. Sounds like that is now happening.
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post #9 of 23 Old 11-25-2006
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DD,

I'm duly impressed with the reviews and prose.

I was involved in high tech for 25 years, do you know how you get a good review from th Gartner Group? You pay them. I know, I wrote the check(s).
Byte, PCWorld and Network News never met a product from an advertiser they didn't love.

While Practical Sailor did a decent review, it certainly wasn't stellar.
Please keep us updated as to how you feel in a year or two, ok?

I'm glad you toured the factory. I have as well, as well as Catalina's and a little guy down here in Texas that build some rather decent tubs... Valiant.
My brother was a carpenter with Hatteras for many years. My point here is that factory tours are set-ups and you don't get all that good of an idea as to what really happens... My brother can tell you horror stories that'd curl your hair.
I've seen some of the items that were cut out of hulls in process due to the need of a "do-over". You don't get to see that.

Look, love your boat, its your boat. You bought it for your own reasons, I don't need to be justified in your decision.
Good luck, and fair winds.

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post #10 of 23 Old 11-25-2006
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CP,

that story just got me curious.

Please, why don't you start a thread telling some of the stories that would curl our hair??

I would love to hear them. You seem to have been around a lot.Thank you
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