Thanks for the info smack. I have probably read hundreds of your posts as well as the journey with your hunter. I know a lot of people do not like hunters for some reason or another buy I happen to like what I have seen in person and the things I have read about them, plus the wife has agreed to 29.5 or the hunter 356 (not a size boat I am willing to jump into yet mainly to experience cost over time)..... For now.
We have looked at many other boats and we just keep coming back to this particular boat. The main things at this time I really require are a deisel engine and less than 30ft which narrows the options out of the gate. There is also a chance we may use it in old hickory lake which is really a river.
Since this is our first sailboat I have been a little anxious about what to by and I don't want to wait much longer to start putting offers.
No worries dude. As you may know, we started out on a C27 - which was a great boat to learn on. It was big enough to feel like a real sailboat, but small enough to keep us out of real trouble. I think the 29 is a perfect size to start in general. BUT...
I will say this, which will probably buy me some flack: If the wife likes the bigger boat, I'd do that in a heartbeat - even though it's your first boat. The key is to make sure the wife enjoys it. If she does - you are golden.
Find an experienced sailor to go out with you the first few times so you guys can get the feel of things (and ask her to let you drive a little). The scariest thing, at least for me, is always docking. But you'll be just as scared with 6 fewer feet. And you will learn to handle whatever boat you get anyway.
For us, the key was to ONLY go out in mellow conditions until you've got it wired, then gradually start moving into stiffer winds. And as RobG says, REEF! That's the most important thing to learn as you start sailing in sportier conditions. Do it far sooner than you should, and far more deeply than you should, then you'll find that balance for your boat.
Being on a lake is forgiving. You don't have to worry about big waves - so you can just focus on how the boat behaves in the wind. That's a huge advantage. And you'll learn to tack and gybe your boat like nobody's business.
Anyway, as you know, I love Hunters (as well as many other boats). They are a tremendous value. Let the chuckleheads yap about whatever they want to - you'll be out sailing in a fast, comfy boat at a great price.