Hunter 31

boat_review-sail-hunter_31-largeIf you want a boat with a solid value proposition – that makes boating affordable and easy – then the Hunter 31 is your boat. Replacing the 306 and designed by Glenn Henderson and the Hunter team, Hunter has, yet again, found a way to combine all the important attributes of easy sailing characteristics, solid value and wonderful features above and below decks. By using the latest in technology and smaller and lighter components, the Hunter has created a boat that’s forgiving but still offers great performance credentials.

The high ballast ratio and low aspect sail plan allow this boat to stay on her feet in a breeze and cruise wonderfully in light to medium air – a testament to its new lighter weight construction and fittings combined with its unique hull shape including the bow.

With its ‘now classic’ overhead cockpit arch or ‘roll bar’ (as I nickname it), the cockpit boasts a wide open space, perfect for any family and or couples cruising on the weekend. Featuring a Lewmar direct drive steering system (standard), I might opt for the folding wheel option. An easy access aft life line allows one to step to the neatly integrated swim shelf where boarding an inflatable would be easy. Aft, too, there is a hot/cold transom shower. With its classic B&R rig, there are no backstay issues providing a nice open feel. Lines are lead aft and trimming the jib and main are easily accomplished with the more than adequate mainsheet purchase system and the two #16 winches. The controls for the main traveller as well are out of the way on the roll bar but a snap to use in any condition.

Wide open, non-skid decks give me the sense of a boat much larger and forward the anchor locker is more than adequate for a boat this size. While the cynic in me though it might be an attempt to take weight out of the ends I sense too it’s an effort by Hunter to focus on those little details that can make the cruising experience that much easier. There is tons of good lying about space here unencumbered by badly positioned fitting; there is more than enough space to walk forward feeling safe because of the double lifelines and handrails.

The rig is dependent on the well-known Selden spar that supports the large roach mainsail that comes complete with an effective flaking system, dual single line reefing and standard jib furling system.

Below the interior is wonderful. Neat aspects include a nice wide entry, easy engine access (when needed) and a wonderful thru-hull array where all the thru-hull fittings are located at the bottom of the non-slip covered stairs. New designer fabrics are used throughout and an Everware® laminate teak and holly cabin sole known for its durability and easy maintenance is used (now standard in many Hunter boats).

The standard L-shaped galley to starboard offers up a neat icebox, a two-burner stove and Corian countertops with tons of space to both work and store; there is more than enough space to allow for larger refrigeration, stove and even microwave. None of these additions would look out of place – the galley design can accommodate most anything.

Another neat touch below is the navigation station, a feature that might have been compromised in this mid-size model, but one that offers a good work space and easy assess to radios and electrical panels. In the main cabin, there is a wonderful teak table that easily seats six with its fold-up leaf; when down, there is more than enough space to travel to the forward cabin. Its bright interior is a result of numerous deck lights and hatches.

The forward cabin is a big surprise presenting like it belongs in a 35+ footer ­– achieved by adjusting the forward hull shape. A nice deck hatch provides tons of light. Storage abounds and there is even a cedar-lined hanging locker to port. Aft, the private cabin also provides more than enough space and comfort.

A single head to port opposite the galley has a fully enclosed head with vanity and shower. Water capacity is not limited at all, boasting a 50-gallon freshwater tank capacity buffered by its five-gallon water heater.

All in all, this is a great boat that offers an excellent value proposition and perfect comfort cruising.

By John Kerr

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