“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” wrote Mark Twain a hundred years ago in Pudd’nhead Wilson. It’s a notion that one of Hunter Marine’s pre-eminent back-room thinkers, the late Lars Bergstrom, lived to the hilt. It is embraced by Warren Luhrs, Steve Pettengill and the rest of the Hunter team in their ongoing effort to address if not shape the boatbuying marketplace. It is at the core of the new Hunter Passage 450.
No backstay, rigid support struts to hold the spar in column, a cockpit-spanning structural arch, a place for a washer/dryer, a bathtub option…the list of seemingly unconventional traits associated with this vessel goes on and on. Hunter doesn’t hesitate to put convention aside for the sake of appealing to a broad cross section of modern-day cruising sailors. To understand the company’s newest generation of boats – particularly the 450 and its recent forebear, the 430 – you really have to divorce yourself from the salty paradigm that sailing in the traditional sense has fostered over the years.
The design objective was to create a self-sufficient, seagoing cruiser with plenty of roominess and amenity, a boat easy to handle and safe for a family or crew to run around on underway. Enhanced volume decreed higher freeboard and a center cockpit. Ondeck safety spawned the structural arch – a place to locate both mainsheet and boom up and away from vulnerable crew, and a natural spot for dividends such as stereo speakers, instrument read-outs and Bimini support. A more simplified rig led to Hunter’s now time-honed B&R system: Swept-back spreaders with reverse diagonals lock in prebend, stiffen the spar and obviate the need for a permanent backstay; rigid adjustable struts permit a lighter section and spread compression loads across a wider deck footprint; a roachy, full-batten mainsail with extra, more controllable power takes the place of a conventional main and cumbersome genoa.
Does it all work? Sure it does. This boat is comfortable to be aboard, light and airy, easy to handle from the cockpit, big on tankage, chockablock with amenities and perks – it’s no surprise that people are queued well down boat-show docks for the obligatory look-see. It isn’t traditional or classic or reserved; rather it’s a showcase of modern thinking with liveaboard focus.
Hull construction features hand-laid fiberglass with polyester and vinylester resins. Baltek end-grain balsa core is applied above the waterline for reduced weight and stiffer sections; the deck is cored with marine plywood. The sump is reinforced to accept loads associated with the keel, which is a cast-lead bulb wing externally affixed with seven 1-inch stainless steel keel bolts. A structural grid built into the hull is overglassed so that the entire underbody essentially is wrapped, which distributes loads and contributes to the vessel’s monocoque integrity. Molded liners are used to accept bulkheads and interior architecture, and these are bonded to the inner skins. Hunter’s very active effort to dispel certain critics’ bygone reservations about the quality of the company’s earlier boats has resulted in upscaled construction standards worthy of Community of Europe (CE) certification for “unlimited offshore use,” a laudable vote of confidence.
You only have to go below to understand what Hunter had in mind when they developed the 450. Enormous wraparound windows bring copious amounts of light into the main saloon, enhancing what is already a very large space. The descent at the main companionway features a quasi-spiral stair element that deposits you just to port of centerline. Before you along the port side are a built-in longitudinal settee and, aft, a terrific galley in a U-shaped niche. Behind you to starboard, a six-person dinette, the nav station and finally a head lead you back to the master stateroom in the stern. There is a comfortable queen-size bed here with its own box spring, plus locations for the optional bath and washer/dryer mentioned earlier. A guest stateroom in the bow features its own queen-size berth and private head. Simply put, high freeboard + maximized beam = prodigious volume.
The theme continues on deck where real estate abounds and places to entertain, lounge or work the boat are numerous and at hand. A double anchor roller at the stemhead leads fair to a large anchor locker with a recessed windlass, leaving the foredeck unobstructed. Wide side decks make roaming fore and aft simple and safe. The cockpit, a large oval affair contained by the arch, offers easy sail handling and comfortable hanging. The after deck is grand, and the walk-on walk-off transom is equipped with deep lockers for aquatic toys and gear plus a freshwater shower for post-swim ablutions.
We hopped onto the 450 with none other than round-the-world singlehander Steve Pettengill whose exploits aboard Hunter’s Child in the 1994-95 BOC Challenge are the well-documented stuff of legend. In 8-10 knots of breeze across flat water the boat accelerated nicely and held boatspeed upwind in the 5-6 knot range, with apparent wind between 35 and 40 degrees. Given the vessel’s shallow keel combined with considerable freeboard and a large mainsail, we did experience a certain amount of leeway; this, however, was not unexpected — rather a manifestation of the inevitable performance trade-off that accompanies shoal draft. The mechanically geared steering was responsive and a big improvement over the push-pull flex cable used in lesser mid-cockpit boats to route quadrant linkage.
With a uniquely accessible Yanmar, enhanced battery capacity, the popular generator option, a central climate-control option, fuel and water tankage at 100 and 200 gallons respectively, that lovely washer/dryer and a zillion other details designed to take the bite out of going to sea, the Hunter 450 should be downright appealing to more than a few people out there. And the kicker, always Hunter’s ace in the hole, is the pricing. This guy costs only $222,900. In anybody’s book it’s a lot of boat for the buck. See one at the fall shows, along with two other, even newer arch-equipped cruisers from Hunter, the 310 and 340.
Hunter Passage 450 Specifications:
- LOA: 44’3″ (13.49 m.)
- LWL: 38’8″ (11.79 m.)
- Beam: 14’0″ (4.27 m.)
- Draft: 5’6″ (1.68 m.)
- Ballast: 9,500 lbs. (4,309 kgs.)
- Disp: 26,000 lbs. (11,794 kgs.)
- Sail area: (100%) 908 sq.ft. (84.4 sq.m.)
- Mast above water: 63’0″ (19.2 m.)
- Ballast/Disp: .37
- Disp/Length: 200
- SA/Disp: 16.6
- Fuel: 100 gal. (378 ltr.)
- Water: 200 gal. (757 ltr.)
- Holding: 2 x 25 = 50 gal. (190 ltr.)
- Auxiliary: 78-hp Volvo diesel
- Cabin headroom: 6’6″ (1.98 m.)
- Designer: Hunter Marine Corporation
- Base price: $222,900
Hunter Marine Corporation
Route 441, PO Box 1030
Alachua, FL 32615
Fax: (904) 462-4077