The Hunter 460 offers all the amenities for comfortable cruising and a big bang for the buck...

Today's cruising boats range from race-boat look-alikes with zero headroom to vessels with the comfort and sailing ability of a house in the Hamptons. Somewhere between these extremes lies the right compromise for most cruisers, and boat builders expend lots of effort staking out the right design niche for their market. Hunter Marine has developed this kind of market research into an art form: polling past clients, charting their responses, and using focus-group repartee to guide its new-boat design. According to Hunter, mainstream sailboat buyers want a vessel that's safe, simple to sail, and packed with conveniences that take the camping out of cruising. In the Hunter 460 we find a shoal-draft underbody, easy-to-sail rig, and comfort-oriented accommodations combined with a big bang- for-the-buck price tag.

Let's Go Sailing

We stepped aboard the Hunter 460, a roomy 44-footer with a 14-foot beam and an overall footprint that ranges from an A-width ballerina slipper in the stem to a EE workboot in the stern. The form stability generated by carrying substantial beam well aft lessens heel and provides copious interior volume. Whether it's the side-by-side double cabin/double berth layout or the office-and-bedroom option, it's easy to see why those who feel cramped in traditional sailboats feel right at home in this widebody Hunter.

Hunter 460 Review

Getting under way was easy, expedited by well-placed cleats fastened to recessed and reinforced locations along the 460's molded toerail. This allowed cleated docklines to lead toward pilirtgs or bollards without fust turning around chocks. It's an example of a seemingly small detail that holds significant value for cruisers who regularly moor, anchor, and tie alongside different pier configurations.

The smooth purr of the turbocharged 76-horsepower Yanmar matched the Hunter's well-behaved demeanor when backing. While many boats tend to pull to port in reverse, this one's willing to turn either way, and the spade rudder's hefty platform makes small, incremental changes in its angle of attack result in quick, efficient changes in direction. In a strong side-setting breeze, the vessel's high freeboard and shoal draft could give shorthanded crews a challenge when docking. Fortunately, a stainless-steel-trimmed rubber sheer strake is the first part of the boat to contact a piling. It covers the outward-turning flange of the hull/deck joint that's through-bolted on 8-inch centers and sealed with 3M 5200. The thick rubber cover over the hull/deck flange helps protect the exposed joint, but caution in boathandling is necessary to prevent damage to this important junction of the hull and deck.

Tripods, tricycles, and B&R rigs are sound design concepts that triangulate support for the loads they bear. The latter has been a popular innovation used throughout the Hunter line. As with many good ideas, this one comes with trade-offs . Aboard the Hunter 460, the no-backstay rig encourages the use of a powerful mainsail with a big roach; however, the spreaders' extreme sweepback limits boom sheeting angle, making effective mainsail trim off the wind impossible to attain. The team at Hunter recommends tacking downwind at higher angles rather than bearing off for a more direct course.

Hunter 460 Review

The boat we tested was fitted with a Selden inmast mainsail furler and reefer that worked smoothly and made setting sail a snap. Unfortunately, the flat, hollow-leached, battenless sail sacrificed the efficiency of a fully battened, large-roach mainsail, and the B&R rig's ability to sport a big, roachy mainsail was rendered moot. The boat also came with the stock three-blade fixed propeller that under sail was the equivalent of a bucket dragged astern. For those who desire light-air sailing ability, we'd recommend the big, roachy, conventional mainsail and a feathering or folding prop.

When the breeze quits altogether, the 460's turbocharged, intercooled diesel delivers near hull speed at about 2,800 rpm. This compact, 76-horsepower kicker ought to give plenty of reserve speed and power to cope with emergencies.

The steering system aboard the big Hunter was smooth, responsive, and full of interesting innovations. It began with a fairly low-aspect-ratio spade rudder, intentionally kept short to prevent it from dipping deeper than the shoal-draft keel. The rudderstock is molded GRP that's formed in a closed mold using an inflated bladder to press the laminate against the mold walls. The stock is then laminated into the blade with the same GRP materials; its nonmetallic structure is free of any internal welds that could eventually corrode.

Hunter 460 Review

Hunter engineers have also done owners a real favor by eliminating the kind of rudder stuffing box that in most large sailboats always seems to leak. They've bonded a rudderstock tube to the hull and deck, so there's no opportunity for a leak to occur. And by using a strong, compact Edson rack-and-pinion steering system that attaches to a lever at the top of the rudderstock (just below the cockpit sole but above the deck itself), they've eliminated the traditional steering hardware from inside the boat. The binnacle- combining steering pedestal, table base, and instrument platform- provides ample room to install a chaindrive autopilot motor with easy access.

All the available layouts of the H-460 feature berths in the ends of the boat; that's great in a marina and just fine for cruising the coastlines and island hopping through the Bahamas, but it isn't ideal for long offshore voyages. For bluewater, the big berths aft and the island berth in the forepeak need lee cloths or other means of keeping a sleeping crew in place while bouncing around at sea.

The polished saloon table needs fiddles, and the mid-saloon settee on the boat we sailed needed to be better secured. Also there's no ideal place to secure the life raft, dinghy, and extra sails that passagemaking requires.

Air-conditioning is a splendid comfort for dockside life. Perhaps a bit of genset-powered cooling can even be done in a coastal-cruising context; but it's not viable for the offshore sailor headed for the tropicals. A few dorade vents installed in every cabin would keep the accommodations well ventilated at sea.

Hunter 460 LayoutsOn most boats, hatches open outward and ports open inward. On the H-460 there are six outward-opening ports along the cabinhouse sides. They improve ventilation, but they also act as obstacles to those heading forward along the side deck, and they catch flailing sheets or running-halyard tails. Hunter's representative suggested that these ports could be kept closed when sailing-a toasty proposition in the tropics, considering the two cabins are separated by the engine and genset.

The molded GRP cockpit • arch of Hunters past has given way on the 460 to a nicely fabricated stainless steel tubular structure that doubles as a mainsail traveler and a rugged base for bimini attachment. Increasingly, special jobs at Hunter are being done in -house: stainless- steel fabrication, upholstery, even mattress making. It's a win/win situation that helps define an expertise that shows up all over the boat in fabrications ranging from the well-built bow roller to the comfortable stern-rail seats. It's a prime example of the company's quality evolution.

The 460's companionway consists of an elongated hatch opening and a long, shallow-angled ladder, complete with well-crafted stainless-steel grabrails. The tandem genset and- engine compartment lies beneath this ladder and partially accounts for the companionway configuration . It takes a sizable dodger to cover the lengthy deck opening; to protect the cockpit crew from side spray, some owners have added side curtains to the bimini, creatin g a substantial canvas cabin, although the large surface area can create excessive windage and wave vulnerability.

The cabin is spacious and nicely finished in hardwood veneered plywood and beige gelcoated molded surfaces. Countertops are of attractive Corian, and there's even a thoughtful lift lid right above the locker that holds the garbage pail.

Construction Notes

At the factory we had a look at the 460 in various stages of completion . Our visit began in the mold room, where a team of lamina tors sprayed resin and chopped-strand glass fiber into a highly polished on e- piece hull mold, added E-glass fabric reinforcement, then applied balsa core material to the wet laminate. Members of the crew used rollers to press the core material against the glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). This is an important step for ensuring good adhesion between the outer skin and the balsa core; still, more and more builders today are vacuum-bagging the core in order to achieve more complete adhesion than rollers can offer. Th e engineers at Hunter feel that vacuum bagging isn't a viable solution for high-volume, production-line builders. "Our time-proven system has consistently produced strong, void-free hulls at a pace that meets our efficiency needs for controlling cost:' said Chip Shea, Hunter's marketing director. "One-off or custom builders can afford the extra time and cost, but the small percentage in weight savings aren't worth the increase in time." The inner skin is then bonded directly over the core material, again using spray-gun and hand-layup techniques.

Decks are molded in a similar fashion; the core material in many areas is composed of coaster-sized plywood squares, which may be a little heavier than other core options, but they're carefully bonded in place and provide appropriate stiffening to the deck. When holes are cut for hatches and ports, the raw edge of the core material is cut back and a higher-density filler used to seal the recess, a good example of extra effort made to enhance building quality.

Part of Hunter's labor-saving efficiency comes from expediting the assembly of the boats they build . To do this, mu ch of th e p lumbing, wiring, and engine-installation work takes place before such big pieces as the deck, liners, and bulkheads are assembled. The drawback to this approach is that it makes later fixes more difficult.

The Hunter 460 shapes up as a very comfortable cr uising boat with well-installed systems an d the same gear you'd find on boats selling for twice the price. Its voluminous "living room" -which comes complete with armchairs, entertainment center, and air-conditioning-and its berthing in the extreme ends of the boat make it a great second home and a fine cruiser for comfortable Bahamian- style island hopping.

The 460: Hunter's View

Ralph and Steve have done a great job explaining the new 460. But as one of the largest production boatbuilders, we have created the 460 for the majority of sailors around the world. Their intentions are reflected in the boat's execution and design.

The B&R rig has proven to be an extremely strong and performance-oriented rig. Most cruisers will utilize an asymmetrical spinnaker in sailing downwind, and the main can be laid on the spreaders: Durable spreader patches are sewn into the sail. Most times, the main will be angled to feed the spinnaker and be off the spreaders.

For those owners who spend considerable time offshore, most have installed lee cloths on our boats. Although we don't supply them-most builders don't-the owner will outfit the boat as he sees fit.

Although there isn't a dedicated place to secure the dinghy or life raft, most owners have utilized the foredeck, where there is plenty of space. The optional air· conditioning and genset may not be prerequisites for cruising, but again, we have to build what owners want. That means comfort, and plenty of it.

Cabin light and ventilation are important at Hunter, and the new outward-opening ports are designed to operate even in the rain, when others cannot. The sheets are on top of the cabin and really out of reach. There are two dorades, 10 hatches, and 11 opening ports. We are sure some combination of these will keep you cool. The last item is the bronze seacocks and their installation, plus the ability to start the engine out of neutral. These systems are all ABYC compliant as well as NMMA and CE approved.

Hunter 460: A Gearhead's View

Hunter 460 Sailboat SpecificationsBy any standards, Hunters Alachua, Florida factory is state of the art. Consider how Hunter has engineered the 460's bilges, engine spaces, and electrical panels. These are places potential boat buyers frequently overlook, but as CW's resident gearhead, I made a beeline for the spots on Hunter's production line where these items are made.

Beginning with the deck hardware, it's immediately obvious that Hunter has taken great pains to produce high-quality stanchions, pulpits, and rails in their in house stainless-steel-fabricating shop. The welds are neat and polishing excellent. The standard-equipment solar panel mounted on the seahood is also a nice touch, facilitating unattended battery maintenance on the mooring.

The engine and generator compartments are orderly and well laid out. The entire cover for the propulsion engine is removable, affording good access. The genset compartment is equipped with multiple hatches that allow you to perform nearly all routine maintenance and to service such major components as the starter. A PYI-PSS packless shaft seal means no more dripping stuffing box or repacking while standing on your head. Access to the coupling is good. The electrical panels, which are all located near the nav station, are easy to read and logically laid out.

The graphic-display tank gauges are easy to understand. A peek behind the main circuit-breaker panel demonstrates that Hunter has mass production down to a science. All wiring is well secured and labeled. The AC and DC hot and positive buses are safely insulated per ABYC standards, even when the panel is opened with a screwdriver.

Access to the Group 27 starting battery under the navigator's seat and the two 4D house batteries is simple (and necessary, considering the water in these lead/acid batteries needs to be replenished periodically). Liquid propane gas has become commonplace aboard cruising boats for cooking, and the Hunter 460 is no exception. Gas bottles are thoughtfully placed in self-draining, out-of-the-way transom lockers. The system is equipped with a safe remote solenoid operated from the galley.

Through hull fittings are all bronze and appear to be carefully installed with backing blocks. However, they aren't flanged- one of the boat's few shortcomings. This means the entire through-hull fitting and in-line valve (not a seacock in the traditional sense of the word) is attached to the hull with a mere four threads on a nut that's only 3/8" thick. Additionally, attached to some through hull fittings are unnecessarily long plumbing fittings and strainers that impart unnecessary leverage to the entire assembly.

Bronze and plastic fittings were also intermixed- for instance, on the engine intake and sea strainer. The different bearing strengths usually cause premature death for the plastic parts and exacerbate the leverage issue. Why go through the trouble and expense of using bronze through-hull fittings and valve, then attach a cheap plastic strainer to it? Finally, the boat we sailed lacked the safety measure of starting only in neutral

But all of these shortcomings are easily rectified. In the construction of the 460, Hunter has clearly given much thought into design, accommodation, and engineering. It shows.

-Steve D'Antonio, Zimmerman Marine

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This review/article originally appeared in Cruising World Magazine, December 1999 and is written by Ralph Naranjo. For more great yacht reviews, visit their website and subscribe at: https://www.cruisingworld.com/subscribe-to-cruising-world-magazine

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