A wide beam, deep draught and shorthanded sailing set-up are just some of the features of the upgraded American-built 36 that assure it remains a popular choice for new and old sailors alike.
Being an American yacht, you also get a drink holder alongside each seat in P Row, which shows they know a think or two about sailing and the customary coldie on the downwind leg.
Hunter is America’s biggest-selling yacht manufacturer and the yard builds 1300 keelboats and about 500 trailersailers and dinghies each year on production lines modelled on the automotive industry.
Naturally, the yachts have mass-market (read global) appeal and ease of sailing is very much a Hunter trait, as is providing a lot of boat for your buck.
Width-wise, this is a mighty 36-footer and, with the beam carried well aft, it’s akin to a supersized yacht that lets you pack a party aboard. Because the traveller is above the cockpit on a stainless steel arch, and because most owners go for the in-mast furling mainsail option, and because the primary winches for the furling genoa are alongside the wheel, you can sail these yachts single-handedly and consign non-sailing crew to P Row.
This new Hunter 36 released in America in April, and is replacing one of the most popular Hunters of all time, the former 36, which was modelled on the 356 that won a Boat of the Year award in America.
However, there are many changes in the new yacht, not least its hull shape and construction. Also, it’s comforting knowing that the Hunters are in charter fleets, as there’s a requirement there with engineering to meet demanding survey standards.
The new 36 has a new wide GRP grid pan that, with double the (Plexus) bonding area, stiffens the hull. Construction comprises GRP below the waterline with an epoxy layer to prevent osmosis, balsa-cored decks, Kevlar reinforcing in the forward sections, and a strengthened mid section to support the chainplates and rig loads.
The demo boat had the last of the solid lead keels, with future 36s having a cast iron/lead hybrid. We sailed the deep 1.96m draft version. A shoal-draft keel reaching 1.5 metres is an option. With 2283kg of the yacht’s 6318kg displacement being ballast, the deep-draft boat is sufficiently stiff for cruising.
But the big change being touted by Hunter is the evolutionary hull for better performance without sacrificing space. Hunter’s long-time designer Glenn Henderson tweaked the forward sections, adding 15cm to the waterline via a plum bow, which now has scalloped sections behind the entry to reduce pounding in a seaway.
With the new rounded Euro-style portlights and deck design, the Hunter 36 looks more contemporary without losing its lineage. With the bimini it looks like a cruisy yacht.
The 36 comes with just one motor option: the Yanmar 3YM30, a 29hp diesel inboard with shaft drive and three-blade 16" prop that, during out test in strong winds, drove the hull to a continuous motorcruising speed of about six knots. The companionway steps lift on a gas strut and, with side hatches, engine access is excellent.
I noted a fire suppressions system comes standard, and there are all bronze through-hull fittings, separate bilge pumps in respective compartments, and double hose clips on the plumbing lines below the waterline.
The deck-stepped alloy Selden stick with double swept-back spreaders and solid rod kicker or vang, has twin shrouds but no backstay. This adds to the accommodating nature of the cockpit. In-mast furling is a popular option. The Doyle sails were factory supplied.
The mainsail was raised easily enough and, importantly, without needing to leave the cockpit thanks to all the halyards leading across the cabin to Spinlock clutches and then two-speed Lewmar 30s on the cabin top. There is also a single-line reefing system. The primary two-speed self-tailing Lewmar 40s are alongside the wheel. The 110 per cent furling genoa – furler from Hood – is sheeted via inboard jib tracks with adjustable cars.
The mainsheet, meanwhile, was a Harken number controlled by jammers on the inside of the stainless-steel arch that carries the bimini above, as well as the traveller itself. Thus, the cockpit remains free of sailing controls, allowing crew more room to move and kickback on the moulded seats that were topped with Flexiteak, or sit on those box seats on the aft rail.
The portside seat/sail locker is massive, big enough to step inside and stow the rollup tender and outboard, as well as the fenders and perhaps spare sails should you decide against the furling ‘wardrobe’. The gas locker takes two 4kg bottles, and there are wet lockers in the transom, which has a handy central ladder and a hot/cold shower – bound to be the best shower in the boat – within arm’s reach.
With flat decks and a flat cabin top, the Hunter 36 is a breeze to get around, even while the yacht is heeled over. This is made doubly so by the sturdy stanchions, double lifelines and moulded toe rails – this isn’t a boat on which you will ride on the rail – plus a good grade of non skid and stainless-steel handrails on the coachhouse. The mooring cleats are easy to reach, there are double bow rollers up front, a deep anchor locker and Lewmar windlass to make anchor retrieval a push-button affair.
The big binnacle puts everything ahead of the skipper and acts as a mounting spot for the 36" folding leather wheel. Ready to cruise, our 36 had a Raymarine C80, ST60 wind gauge, ST 6002 wheel autopilot, and ST 40 depth gauge and separate speedo above the companionway, plus Icom VHF radio, outdoor speakers for the stereo, and the gearshift for the Yanmar, whose control panel was a reach away.
Behind all this are those pushpit seats and, about the cockpit, I counted six drink holders. Add the foldout cockpit table and you can lunch aboard beneath the bimini while others are consigned to sitting down below to find legroom. A good social yacht by any measure.
The Hunter 36 now comes in two and three cabin versions, the latter perhaps appealing to the charter market. The aft stateroom will seduce most prospective owners. With a massive double bed athwartships, you are bound to sleep snugly. The cabin entrance is to starboard and there are various lockers including a cedar-lined hanging number and room to dress.
The vee berth in the second cabin in the bow measures 1.95 metres long, big enough for another couple, with more storage and a hanging locker, but it’s the signature aperture in the bulkhead that reminds you you’re on a Hunter. With the cabin door open and the louvered ‘window’ swung across, you can see right to the bow and create an open-plan layout.
The dinette converts into a double bed and there is a long lounge opposite to port that can be used as a sea berth. So it is possible to sleep seven on the two-cabin 36, which could be fun during school holidays, or perhaps a nightmare.
Hunter taps into the mindset of cruising boaters by offering an especially big galley at the foot of the companionway steps from where you can serve the crew back up top (when not using your aftermarket rail-mounted barbie), or prepare meals for more formal occasions at the dinette forward.
The Corian serveries with fiddles are just huge. There are twin sinks, a recessed garbage bin, good pot lockers and underfloor storage for additional provisions. But the piece de resistance is the dish-drying locker with light, electric vent and drain… almost as good as a dishwasher.
Galleying gourmets will embrace the two-burner gimballed gas stove, with oven and grill, and there’s a handy fridge a bit bigger than bar-sized. It has a freezer tray and a dedicated freezer is optional. Cruising sailors will want a freezer, I’d think.
The dinette with U-shaped seating can cater for four for dinner with room to seat two more on the lounge opposite. You use the aft-most edge of that same lounge as the seat for the nav station, which had a big chart table. The storage under the seats features hinged bases for easier access than hatches with loose boards.
Naturally, with just two cabins, the 36-footer boasts a big head, in this case with an upgraded electric loo in the separate shower stall, which has a sliding rose on the wall and, presumably watertight, a linen press or hanging locker for the wet-weather gear. The vanity and sink are separate, allowing you to keep your change of clothes dry while showering. The yacht has a 23-litre hot water tank and a useful 284-litre freshwater supply.
As ever, headroom is a highpoint in the Hunter, but unlike ye Hunters of old, there’s cherrywood instead of teak joinery and nice light vinyl liners and upholstery. Extra portlights and hatches add to the lively ambience, however, there are only four opening ports (two in the head) and three hatches, which isn’t as well ventilated as some European yachts.
But the arrangement of handholds and fiddles is good, making going forward safe in a seaway and, up top with the boom above the bimini and down below where there’s a surfeit of headroom, you never feel like you’re going hit your noggin or bruise your body. The companionway is a big one, as well, so you can scoot down below without thinking about it.
Typically, more and more Hunters are carrying the battenless furling main and 110 per cent genoa these days. On the 36 this is something you can do in up to 17 knots apparent upwind, with reefing required beyond about 19 knots, I’m told. We had up to 25 knots apparent during our test sail, so about 70 per cent of sail was flying when we were working back home in the sprightly southerly.
But even when pressed, the balanced spade rudder felt, well, balanced and the yacht never rounded-up alarmingly. It is, as Hunter intended, an easy yacht to sail. In fact, with the autopilot on hand, I performed some quasi coastal cruising, pressing a button to summon Ray to do the helming, hitting another button to have him put us through a tack. All handsfree.
Ah, the modern way of sailing. We maintained about 5.5 knots upwind and hit 6-7 knots downwind with the headsail goosewinged at times, as though in a mid-week twilight race. The Hunter 36 isn’t especially fast, but from the helm to the head it’s accommodating. And on the pushpit seat it offers champagne sailing for the masses.
Specifications Hunter 36 (Price as tested: Approx. $306,818)
Hull: GRP, balsa-cored sides and deck, Kevlar reinforcing
Hull Length: 10.56m
Waterline length: 9.45m
Draft: 1.96m (deep-draft lead keel)
Displacement: 6318kg (dry)
Ballast: 2283kg (deep lead keel)
Berths: 4 + 3
Fuel capacity: 144ltr
Water capacity: 284ltr
Engine: 29hp Yanmar 3YM30 three-cylinder
Furling genoa and main: 66.61sq m
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