I needed little excuse to escape the New England cold to test-sail the new Hunter 50 Center Cockpit in balmy Palmetto, Florida, last December. I’d inspected hull #1 at the Annapolis Boat Show last fall so I knew the interior was spacious, but how would this newest and biggest Hunter perform under sail? The Gulf of Mexico didn’t serve up much wind, but Hunter’s chief tester, Steve Pettengill, brought a spinnaker along, and we made the most of it.
The hull is made of solid hand-laid fiberglass and vinylester resin; the area from the stem to the keel is reinforced with impact-resistant Kevlar. The interior is built in modules that are dropped onto the structural grid in the hull before the deck goes on. These are then glued and tabbed to both the hull and the deck to form a rigid one-piece structure. The hull-to-deck joint flange turns outward; it’s both screwed and glued with 3M 5200, and is then covered with a heavy-duty rubrail.
The design team at Hunter is always coming up with fresh ideas, and the 50’s deck layout has several simple-but-noteworthy, comfort features. Instead of stern seats, for example, the 50 has an “admiral’s seat” built into the stainless work surrounding the stern. It seats two and even has a tabletop.
Comfort is one thing, but you also need plenty of deck stowage on a boat like this, and the 50 has it. Multiple deck lockers are big enough to store fenders and docklines, and provision has been made for the liferaft—something other builders should emulate. The cockpit seats are deep and long enough to stretch out on, and while I’d have liked the seatbacks to be higher, they are tall enough for comfort.
As I stepped below, I was delighted to see that the curved companionway stairs I saw on hull #1 in Annapolis had been replaced by wide, straight steps with handholds and wide treads with plenty of antiskid.
Hunters have always been known for spacious accommodations, and this boat won our Best Boats award for excellence in accommodation. The slightly raised saloon is bright and airy, thanks to large fixed windows and multiple opening ports and hatches and you get a good view. There are steps up or down between the various parts of the boat; this may annoy some potential buyers, but many other boats share this feature. Offshore cooks will appreciate the high fiddles and solid handholds in the galley, as well as the copious stowage. Offshore sailors will appreciate the easy-access wet locker under the companionway steps and the full-size forward-facing nav station.
Another step down from the companionway aft leads to the aft stateroom—calling it a cabin just doesn’t do this space justice. It has a fully walk-around bed (more than a bunk). It has a walk-in closet (hardly just a hanging locker). It has a contoured recliner and a built-in chest of drawers (instead of a locker). But what everybody was talking about was the hot tub. The bed flips up to reveal a full-size tub complete with water jets. And, of course, both cabins have entertainment centers.
This boat pulls out all the comfort stops, but not at the expense of an elegant interior. The doors have solid frames, and the woodwork has a good-looking varnish finish.
It’s easy to get distracted by the hot tub and the TV in every cabin and the “admiral’s seat,” but in truth there’s more than that to this boat. It’s a big sister to the 49, an example of which has just circumnavigated. The sails are easy to handle, and the hull is big and heavy enough to stand up to a breeze. And having a boat that’s well equipped and offers the comforts of home is not a bad thing at all.