First impressions are often lasting ones, especially when they
are negative impressions like my first experience with Hunter
in the early 1980's. Back then I had been hired by an unfortunate
Hunter owner who had a forty footer with a grid liner that all
came apart, causing some serious structural problems. At the time,
Hunter had just converted to the use of grid liners (one of, if
not the first to do so) and were far from perfecting the method,
once again proving my point that far too many boat builders perform
their experimentation in their product line, at the expense of
their customers.After much haggling we finally got that straightened
out, but when you see stuff like that, you don't soon forget.
Your opinion of a builder is ever afterward tainted. So we weren't
too surprised to see that Hunter had finally got the grid liner
right in this 1991 model. While this is unquestionably a low price
boat, overall it seemed to be fairly well built and there were
no problems with the framing system at all. The interior
has a complete fiberglass liner that is well executed. With
the mast stepped on deck, there was no sign of the structural
weakness in the cabin to as is so often the case with this type
of boat.We were also suprised to find that there were no significant
leaks inside. The deck is bolted on a horizontal flange
joint with bolts every 3", but it couldn't be determined
if the joint was glassed over since nowhere in the boat could
the deck joint be seen. The decks and cockpit area seemed sturdy
enough and there were no stress cracks anywhere on the exterior
decks, except in way of the poorly designed bow pulpit leg bases
where there was considerable crazing.
|With the sole angled at
45 degrees and the standup space only 20" wide by 5'
long, this is not exactly good design.
The interior layout, like most boats this size,
attempts to cram too much into too small a space. Despite it's 10'6"
beam, its pretty cramped inside, mainly owning to faux "aft
cabin" that is just a cave behind the engine with a cushion
on the floor. The cushions being vinyl over foam rubber, this might
lead to a rather sleepless nights in warm weather. Like wrapping
yourself in insulation. The aft cabin area cuts into the main cabin
area, rendering it somewhat less than useful. In fact, judging from
the pristine condition of the galley stove, icebox and other interior
components, this boat looked like it had been used as a day sailor
only. It was now going on its third owner in 9 years. After spending
a few hours aboard her, we could understand why.
We can understand that because the sole in the
head is above the turn of the bilge so that it is steeply angled
and one can hardly even stand up in there. The ladies will love
it since to sit on the head, you sort of have to fall down onto
it because it is very low, not at normal height. Ouch! And the guys
will love trying to stand up on the 45 degree angled sole.
The area is also a deep rectangle, making it very awkward to enter,
altogether a terrible layout in my view. The entrance to the "aft
cabin" is the same way with the steeply angled sole, causing
your feet to slip every time you step on it. Add to this the fact
that the aft-facing, U-shaped settee in the main cabin has a seat
width that is too narrow to sit comfortably, and we think the overall
layout is a flop. With a drop leaf table in the center, the only
place anyone will sit is at the ends, rendering the main part of
the settee rather unuseable. So the effective interior seating capacity
is two. The only thing we found convenient to use was the galley
area. The interior is under-scaled for anyone over about 5'6"
and a trim build.
The hull-recessed swim platform is a nice feature
on larger boats, but this boat is too small for it. Basically it
just allows a swimmer to get aboard, but at the considerable expense
of interior and cockpit space. Sacrificing two feet of space for
a steeply reversing transom on a 28 footer is an unreasonable
price to pay for style in our view. One really nice feature was
the bow anchor locker which is one of the few that we've seen that
is well designed.
Yes, we recognize that you're not going to get
perfection in a budget priced 28 footer, but you can do a lot better
than this. Here we go again with the rigging going down through
the deck right in the middle of the traffic pattern. Getting around
the rigging is a real pain. That's because to keep the price down,
they went with a 3/4 instead of full head rig, with extraordinarily
light rigging with only single lowers. The uppers were only 0.20"
and the lowers and wishbone backstay a mere 0.15" wire! Would
you want to sea in a boat rigged like that? Not me, no thank
you. Time has made of me a believer in safety margins. Every
time a gust of wind would come up, I'd have to wonder if the rig
was going to fall down. Yike!
This is one of the major problems of the so-called
racer-cruiser. It is the ultimate compromise of everything that
leaves you happy with nothing. You want to win races and cruise,
but its poorly suited for either.
Nor will you likely appreciate the very small deck
hatch that makes stowing a sail rather difficult but, then, this
one had roller furling that, unfortunately, couldn't be tensioned
adequately because of the lightness of the rig. Wishbone back stays
are not exactly the best arrangement for roller furling gear. Going
racing with roller furling? Don't think so.
Next, lets talk about cockpit design. It had the
large 30" destroyer wheel, which is fine except you have to
crawl over the seats to get to the helm. That's the price you pay
for a large wheel in any small boat. But what really ruins this
cockpit layout was the sheet winch islands which are shallow and
steeply sloping outboard, with no horizontal surface. Okay, so it
makes the winches more or less level when heeled. Problem is that
when you're tacking, the boat is not heeled over so much, and the
winches would be more level if they were mounted in the normal manner.
But in addition to this, you no longer have any back support while
sitting in the cockpit, so that you cannot sit on the leeward side
at all without continuously hanging on for dear life when heeled
over even just a bit. When I leaned back against it, it hit me right
in the small of my back, making it very uncomfortable. My feeling
was that the lack of any raised coamings to lean back against was
just plain ridiculous. Sail boat cockpits tend to be uncomfortable
anyway, but this is one of the worst I've seen.
Plus, this design has also created a steeply sloping
deck section in way of the winch island that about wants to break
your ankle when you step on it. With a Bimini top, getting in and
out of the cockpit is something of a Houdini trick as it is on most
boats. But constantly climbing over the lifelines because there
is no life line gate there didn't improve my disposition much. The
owner had to install a small aluminum step on the outside of the
rail just to climb aboard. By saving a few dollars, you get to risk
slipping and falling on your face.
A winged, bulbous keel? Ought to be fun trying
to get unstuck when you run aground in this one. Especially
in mud. The bottom of the thing is shaped like a giant suction cup.
A winged keel made of cast lead? Wow, what a great idea! Oh, well,
maybe you'll have fun hammering it back in shape every time you
run aground. Does that oddly shaped hunk of lead reduce resistance
and makes it go faster, too? Not likely. But it certainly had the
effect of making her unusually tender. You notice that the moment
you step aboard. Heading around a sharp bend in the river
under power, the boat heeled over at least 20 degrees, which I thought
was ridiculous. It may stiffen up under sail, but with a complete
lack of wind, we didn't get to find out. Fads are cool, until
you find out that's all it is.
Unfortunately, there were other problems that continue
to prove the point that very low cost usually translates to very
big problems. It was not until she was hauled that we could understand
why this boat sells at such a low price. The fiberglass content
of the hull is about as little as it could be without falling apart.
The hull bottom was so thin that it frightened me. In just
about any place there wasn't a frame, you could push in the bottom
with your thumb. Tapping on it with a hammer, it would vibrate.
In the unsupported aft quarters, it dimpled as easily as an oil
can. Granted, there were no signs of immanent structural failure,
or even stress cracks on the bottom. But everything I saw on this
boat suggested that it hadn't been used much, so I doubt that
the hull has ever been seriously stressed.
Some people don't think that a weak hull on a boat
is much to be concerned about. The attitude is that as long as it
doesn't fail under normal conditions, then its okay. My view on
that is that people who hold that attitude have never been out to
sea in a storm. I've sail raced all over North American, and I've
seen my share of hull failures, including some that have cost lives.
In one case, a knock down with the spinnaker up resulted in the
deck pulling right off the hull. In another, the hull side caved
in when hit by a wave broadside. And these boats were built far
better than the Hunter 28. Of course, many people rationalize by
saying that they only go sailing on nice days. Okay, its you're
life. But add to this the fact that this very thin bottom was badly
blistered and you have plenty of reasons to take a pass on the Hunter
The list grows a bit longer when we discuss the
large soft spots found in the rudder, but we have no idea what's
going on there, just that its getting a little mushy. We might surmise
that like a lot of rudders, its just some fiberglass laid over a
foam core, as a lot of cheap rudders are. We can add to the
long list of Yanmar diesels with flubber engine mounts that are
so soft and loose that the engine does the Watusi when you start
it up. An engine that won't hold still and oscillates by as much
as 1/2" is going to cause damage to the drive system sooner
or later. Start with rapidly wearing cutlass bearings and packing
glands and graduate eventually to transmission damage.
There are no gauges for the engine, and the control
panel is down near the bottom of the cockpit where you can easily
reach it by bending over in a space where there's not enough room
to bend over. Why builders continue to place the engine controls
in locations like this just beyond me. I guess the scuppers
will never get plugged up and that electrical stuff will never get
wet. At the bottom of the cockpit. The plastic throttle level on
the steering pedestal felt like it was going to break off in my
hand, it bent so much. Then there is a plastic fuel tank
held in place with packaging straps and steel clips that will rust
and fall apart as soon as they get wet a few times. The boat comes
with a Mayfair bilge pump that is smaller than most coffee cups,
and the single, small 12 volt automotive battery is sure to
keep it running for a long time. Of course, small boats never get
big leaks, so why worry? This is getting kind of sad, isn't
Anyone who peruses the various sailing publications
these days can't help but notice the inordinate number of boats
that are either breaking apart or being dismasted, as well as the
increasing number of fatalities. Instead of using the word dismasted,
which implies the connotation of some external force as the cause
of the dismasting, perhaps I should just say "masts falling
down." Far too many of these dismastings ARE simply a matter
of ultralight rigs toppling over because the designer pushed the
safety margin to the limits, or beyond. Its not the weather conditions
that were the cause; no, its hot shot design that pushes the bounds
of sensibility. Far too many rudders and keels are falling off,
deck joints separating and hulls splitting open. The average weekend
sailor, lacking much heavy weather experience, has no idea of the
terror he may be in for when he makes the mistake of venturing far
from shore in what is nothing more than a day sailor. Those of you
who get ideas about "bluewater voyaging" in a bargain
boat like this would do well to reconsider that the ocean remains
a dangerous place.
This could have been a nice, well-made boat. Parts
of it are, but the builder didn't have his priorities straight.
If all you're going to do is sail around the pond on balmy days,
its probably fine for that. A serious deep water sailor she's not.
This is a price boat, and there's altogether too much that you don't
get for what you don't pay, for any serious sailor to take the Hunter
28 seriously. There's a good reason why first impressions should
be taken seriously, too. What you don't pay for up front will surely
be heavily loaded on the back end. Count on it.
If you wonder why people are leaving sailing
like the plague just arrived, possibly this boat offers some reasons.
There are too many just like it.
are "reviews", not surveys, and bear no resemblance
to our survey reports.
We do not publish the results of the surveys that we perform.
Please note that the purpose of these reviews is educational,
to help you discern the differences in quality among boats
generally. They are not offered as a means to help you evaluate
any particular boat builder. We have no other reviews than
Posted August 1, 1998