Hunter e36: New and Improved
This midsized cruiser offers more than just a large saloon.
In some ways, the 36-foot Hunter e36 is exactly what you’d expect from the company that’s earned a reputation for building easy-to-sail cruising boats with ultra-comfortable accommodations. But as I learned during a test sail in light air and flat water off Annapolis, Maryland, it appears that the Hunter Design Team paid as much attention to the boat’s sailing performance as it did to the accommodations plan.
This was readily apparent when we hoisted (instead of unrolled) the main. Rather than the white Dacron sails and in-mast furling with which most Hunters are equipped, our test model carried a sporty, full-roach, square-topped, laminated Mylar main and a roller-furling jib. Our test boat also had a spinnaker that sets on a removable sprit. Granted, the model we were testing was equipped with the optional performance package that included a lead keel with 6 feet 5 inches of draft, but just the fact that the e36 is even available with a performance package shows that Hunter continues to embrace the idea that sailing performance matters as much as dockside comfort.
Unfortunately, the wind during our test topped out at only 8 knots, so I wasn’t able to see for myself how the racy sails stood up to heavier air, but I can report that the boat cut a clean wake through the flat water and that boat speed was in the 5-knot range upwind. Off the breeze, the spinnaker kept us peacefully sailing along at almost the same speed we’d probably be doing if we’d turned on the engine.
I can’t say for sure how the standard boat with Dacron sails and in-mast furling would’ve performed in those conditions, but I’m pretty sure that the extra sail area in the roach and more efficient sails of our test boat provided better speed in the light stuff, and the lighter sails and deep lead keel should help the boat be stiff and quick when the wind gets up, too.
Since the e36 was designed to replace Hunter’s long-running 356, the Hunter Design Team had to come up with a lot more than simply offering a new performance package to improve on the success of the 356. One area that shows a step forward is the e36’s lower, sleeker coachroof. It features several opening ports and has large, curved, tinted windows that give the boat a much more modern look. To minimize the chance of the running rigging getting caught while under way, the deck layout also features flush-mounted hatches and recessed handrails. Our performance-package-equipped test boat featured a stern with molded-in steps and swim platform, but the standard e36 features a fold-down transom (an available option on the performance-package boat). The standard transom forms a larger swim platform and allows for a larger cockpit table as well.
The other on-deck features aren’t unlike what’s available on previous Hunter models. The jib sheets lead to winches near the helm station. The stainless-steel traveler arch kept the cockpit free of clutter and made a great mounting point for a bimini. The cockpit seats were comfortable, and there was excellent cockpit storage. It wasn’t too hard to step out of the cockpit to go forward, and the wide side decks were easy to navigate. But since all lines lead back to the cockpit, you really only need to go forward when you decide to drop the hook or tie up to a dock. And when it comes time to park the boat, you’ll find six sturdy mooring cleats along with an anchoring setup that includes a single bow roller, a powered windlass, and an anchor locker.