Hunter Factory Tour! (Lots O Pics)
I toured the factory last week, the tour was given by Greg Emerson, who was very enthusiastic about the boats, knowledgeable about how they are built and developed, and answered all my questions. The tour started off at a freshly laid H36 hull still wet, and still giving off heat from the curing process. This hull is a bilge keel model going to Europe, there was an H27 also that was a bilge keel model. The first thing I noticed about the fresh hull was the way it's laid up, it's about 5/16" thick up at the flange and down to the waterline, cored from the waterline to about 6" from the flange with balsa, what looks like one layer over top the balsa. But the area where the chainplates are is REALLY thick, a lot thicker than I thought it would be, at least 1" thick at the chainplates, then tapers a bit, like one layer of thick glass less at about 8" around the chaimplates, then another layer less another 4" down, then carryint a thick band all the way around the hull (the pictures show this clearly). Also the rudder area and all the way down the centerline is thick glass. The rest of the hull is not that thick, but the grid that bonds into the hull is also at least 1/4" thick, and there is a lot of surface area on that grid that is bonded to the hull.
Here is an H36 hull that was just laid up that morning, the smell coming from it was eye watering but strangely pleasent...
Same hull, here you can see the balsa core, the kevlar layers in the bow, and the extra reinforcement around the chainplates and waterline
Twin keels, obviously destined for Europe
Aft again, same hull
A finished H36 hull
Hull thickness aft, H31
A finished H31 hull, awaiting grid liner
The grid liner
Next we looked at decks, there were a lot of H31's under construction, so that seems to be their most popular model right now. There were three H31 decks in various stages of construction. The decks and hulls are built on these rotating jigs that can raise up and down as well. They also have a chart next to the door that lists the weight of every deck on a graph, he didn't even point that out to me until he saw me staring at it, they seem to be serious about monitoring the weight of each deck. The solid parts of the decks seemed to be 1/4" thick glass except around the big windows, that had another 1/4" thick band of glass bonded to the opening, so it was 1/2" thick there, also they have aluminum backing plates under all the hardware, and some wodden blocks bonded to the underside in odd places, I didn't ask but those must be spots where interior stuff mounts.
Double thick around the big windows
and the hatch
H36 deck being laid up
H33 I think
Main floor BIG boat side
Completed H31 deck
Underside, aluminum plates, and not sure what those wood blocks are for, they don't look permanent
Next we went to the area where decks are mated to hulls (I know we didn't get into interior modules, that was at the end) Pretty straightforward, 5200, screws every 8", then drilled and through-bolted every 8", then the rubrail put on. I forgot to ask if they remove the screws after that, they are stainless so maybe not, does anyone know? Anyway this was in the main assembly line area, they are built on sliding cradles that can be moved down the line. I didn't count but I saw 3 25's, 1 27, at least 4 31's, 3 or 5 33's, 2 or 3 45's 3 49's, some 38's and 36's. I dunno, 25, 30 boats under construction?
H31's in various stages...
Small boat side
Bilge keeler 27, destined for Europe
This is a good shot of quality control in action, this is an H25, the large black hose on the right attached to the red box is an air hose, they soap down the boat and pressurize it with that hose and check for leaks, then fix any that show up.
Then we looked at rudders and keels, he said they are all iron now because of lead prices, they are cast in Canada, then tapped, then have stainless rods threaded in, then you know the rest. I don't think I like the way that's done, I would rather have a hooked rod cast into lead, but they were big rods, and deep holes. The rudders are rudders :) fiberglass and foam, and very thick solid stainless posts.
Then we went to interior modules, this is where Hunter (and the other big builders) let me down. They take perfectly good plywood and cover it with crappy laminate, I know why they do this, but I don't like it. I think if I buy a new boat or a very recent one say a 31 or 33, I would over time modify as much of the interior as I could. It's not very well built in my opinion, but the WAY Hunter builds them is very impressive. They build them in these hull shaped jigs with holes in them, they build them on top of the grid panel in this jig so they will fit perfectly into the hull when finished, then the bulkheads are tabbed to the hull and deck. It would be nice if everything was tabbed, but some manufactures don't even tab the bulkheads. The pictures will show how the interior is built, I think they could do a better job in there, but the important stuff like the hull, deck, and rudder seem very well built. I'd buy one (and I might).
The factory itself was busy, all the employees looked happy and were friendly. And they don't have a lot of unsold stock laying around, Greg said they still build mostly to demand and dealer orders. I only saw 4 or 5 finished boats at the factory.
That was really cool. Great photo essay.
Good to know they are humming along okay down there.
Very interesting about the keel bolts. I share your reservations. Also, funny there is no market for those bilge keel 27s over here? Did you ask them about that at all?
Thanks for inviting us along with you for the tour!:)
I'm not a Hunter Basher but I have heard some negatives about some of them.
Was there a time period where one would steer clear of Hunters? or a particular size?.....
just huntin' for info here.....I have seen some that I would put on my short list but don't know enough about them.
plans......3 to 4 months a year in the Caribe....that's all...Prefer 30 to 36'
Cool post EMkay
We have one like the one on the left (45CC), it's a fun bay or close to home sailor, but I won't go far with it ( no faith in it ) we're still dealing with elec issues that are one by one are getting under control 2.5 yrs and counting :(
I didn't know the new Hunters have a balsa cored hull....
eMKay, Thanks for the photo essay. Hunter owners from overseas can only dream of visiting the Hunter MArine factory. I would really love to go on the factory if I get a chance to be at Alachua. :):):)
Where do they keep the BBQs?? ;)
JRP - My understanding was that bilge keelers are sold in europe in areas where shallow water and large tidal ranges are a problem. When the tide goes out, they'll stand upright in the mud. Like everything else, there's a tradeoff. I've heard that bilge keelers tend to be slower than most americans would put up with.
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