What’s a perfect family boat? One that the elders can take out with their friends for a Wednesday night beer can race. One that accommodates the entire family without people stepping on each other’s toes. One that doesn’t sink the household budget. One that tags along on holiday. One that doesn’t stress out dad too badly when he goes for a singlehanded spin after work. One that does all this. One like the Hunter 22.
There’s incredible potential in this small cabin cruiser, which represents an evolution and refinement of the US-builder’s preceding model, the Hunter 216. That boat was built from composite materials that included thermo-formed plastic, GRP and injected foam, which made it too heavy, too soft and difficult to repair. Hence it never made it to Europe.
Only now that Glen Henderson’s design is getting built from classic hand laid GRP, can we consider the boat suitable for the European market. German distributor Werner Häfele also thinks it’s fantastic for his own use: “A perfect boat to take along and go sailing on a whim.”
And “just going sailing” is the motto of this Florida firm, more so than for most other manufacturers. The terms simple, unfussy and practical describe both the yard and the Hunter 22. There’s not much on this boat that isn’t absolutely necessary: No gadgets, no gimmicks and no trends are being chased except, perhaps, for the retractable bowsprit for a furling reaching sail. Too bad though, that precisely those two features were missing from the test boat.
The one we sailed last spring on the still uncrowded Lake Edersee (130 miles east of Cologne) was equipped with a good set of North Sails, consisting of jib and a rather conservatively cut main. With a moderately experienced crew to handle the 30-square meter gennaker, there’s no doubt we’d have gotten on a plane. At least until the next wind shift.
But even without the excitement of flying an A-sail, the numbers on the speedo were more than respectable: 5.5 knots upwind and 6.5 knots on a reach sit well with this family sedan and are above average.
A giant cockpit for a large crew
A family vehicle it is, because who, if not parents with a flock of kids, would need a cockpit that’s nearly 3.5 metres long? To open it up some more, the manufacturer moved the rudder, which used to run in a cassette on the 216, all the way aft. Now the stern-hung foil eliminates hardware embellishments, thus freeing up 30cm of valuable cockpit space. This further improves maneuverability of this boat, which impresses immediately with its tiller feel. The Hunter swiftly converts puffs into forward motion while remaining well under control and safe, even at significant heel. The faint of heart can reach for the handholds on the side deck while a more audacious crew would gladly use hiking straps, if there were any. However, retrofitting them would be easy.
Apropos embellishments: There’s not a whole lot of that on this boat. The jib leads on the cabin top, a stout mainsheet, the furling line for the jib, that’s all there is on deck. The vang is directly attached to the mast and the control lines are being handled there as well. Nothing else is necessary. Now if the sheeting angle of the jib cleat would be a bit deeper, there wouldn’t be any reason to gripe, because otherwise handling and dimensions are just about right. It should not surprise that a US-builder also uses US-hardware, Harken in this case, which is reason for sailors to rejoice.
The only deficiency is the lack of jobs for a large crew. A sensible recommendation for a family vessel like this would be adding the gennaker package so idle hands have a couple more strings to pull... it’ll make Wednesday nights a tad more exciting, too.
Now what about sailing vacations? Up until fairly recently, cruising and ditch-crawling on youth cutters was kind of hip, with kids sleeping in the cockpit or in a tent on shore. While this still might be appropriate for the offspring, mum and dad probably prefer the comfort of a real bunk. Hence there’s separation.
Parents forward, kids aft
The space under the cockpit seats is reserved for stowing waterproof packaged clothing and a tent near the boat’s center of gravity and out of the way. The baggage won’t mind that Hunter did not bother with sanding and top coating the area behind the canvas separator. Instead, any bags stowed in this hollow space will mute the crescendo of the sound of waves slapping the stern.
On the opposite end of the luggage compartment, there’s the parent’s bedroom with clearly defined spaces. The port side, which is longer, is reserved for the male, who is on average 13cm taller, at least according to statistics. On the lady’s side, a canvas bag on the inside of the hull is the only storage within reach here. However, the carpet ceiling cover makes for unattractive aesthetics. A liner would be a nice touch here, but probably would also increase the price.
A clever boat for a fair price
Close to €22,000 have to be shelled out for the Hunter 22, but the dollar exchange rate causes some fluctuation. Therefore the boat isn’t exactly a steal, but a straightforward and down-to-earth offering with plenty of facets and solid build quality.
Operating the 200kg folding keel with a hydraulic cylinder that’s normally used for the backstay adjustment on larger boats, is a practical solution. This kind of equipment, like the high-quality rig by US Spars, good canvas by North and the Harken hardware initially increases the price a bit, but pays off in the long run.
And that’s the key point of this boat: being part of the family for a long time.
This story originally appeared in YACHT magazine, and is republished here by permission. Translated by Dieter Loibner.
Hunter 22 specifications
Draft (board up/down) 1.07m
Mast Height 9.5m
Sail Area 27.13sq m
Towing Weight: 1,224kg
Maximum Capacity: 454kg