It depends on a number of things really, and most of those things are specific to the individual buyer. I can tell you, that in my case it was the right decision. I was pretty lucky, considering it was the right decision for a lot of reasons I wasn’t even aware of. I didn’t do a lot of research before making the purchase, and really did it on more of a whim. Not that I hadn’t thought about buying a sailboat before, I’d thought about buying a sailboat for years, just never serious enough to give me cause to reach for a checkbook.
This time was different. A friend of a friend was selling a 1994 Hunter 29.5 in the hopes of moving to a bigger boat. Two-foot-itus they call it. In his case it was actually six-foot-itus, but I digress. They we’re looking to move on, I was looking to get started, and I knew the previous owner was fastidiously careful about caring for his stuff. That included his boat. We finalized the deal, signed the paperwork, wrote a check, and took possession of my shiny new (9 years old actually) boat. It’s been six years since then, and I’ve been more than pleased on a number of different occasions with our boat.
One of the nice things about buying a relatively newer Hunter, is space. At one point in time, sailboats were built primarily with performance and speed in mind. Little consideration was given to the below deck accommodations. Meaning, they were small, sparse, and somewhat uncomfortable. If the boat was only meant for racing and a place to hang out on for a few beers afterwords before heading home, then it wasn’t much of an inconvenience. But as time went on, a slightly different demographic of user became interested in boats.
Families. Sailing was becoming a family activity. Families mean husbands, wives, children and possibly even pets. This means more room, nicer amenities, and maybe a little less emphasis on speed. Five knots . . . six knots . . . doesn’t really matter. As well, the boat became more of a socializing place. Given that the today’s recreational boat spends far more time at dock, then on the open water, it made sense for the boat to be very functional at dock. AC / DC, running water, ice makers, refrigeration, microwaves, and shelter from the elements all factored in.
The Hunter 29.5 I sail tries to do a little bit of everything. Both performance wise, and at-the-dock wise. For a less than 30 foot sailboat, it has an incredibly big cockpit. Bigger than many boats in the 35 foot plus size. Our record is 14 people in the cockpit at one time. At dock of course It was a cozy 14, but 14 none the less, and I think we still had one transom seat empty.
Down below, it’s much the same story. The settee is “C” shaped, so it’s quite easy to put our family of 5 around it with room to spare. Even six or seven would be doable if necessary. It sleeps six rather comfortably, when the salon table is lowered. Hunter also makes good use of the space available for storage. They manage to put cupboards and little storage niches all around the boat. Enough to equip it for a two week sail up to the North Channel for a family of 5. Of course, there was some extra provisioning along the way.
The rigging on the Hunters is also quite easy to handle for the first time “family” sailors. They incorporate whats called a B&R fractional rig in many of their boats of this size. What that does mean, is a smaller head sail for easy handling, and a bigger main sail for the power to drive the boat when you want it. Layout and accessibility are another factor when working on your boat. Engine belts are one simple thing that come to mind. While my inboard Yanmar diesel is readily accessible from all four sides, I have a buddy that use to own a 1970ish Mirage, that needed equal parts mechanic and contortionist just to tighten the engine belts. Something to keep in mind when looking for a boat.
All in all, I consider myself very lucky with our boat. Buying it, I knew next to nothing about sailboats, and somehow managed to get a boat that fits most of our needs while being reliable, and well designed. The one piece of advice I would give to new boat buyers, is to seriously consider how you plan to use the boat before you buy it. All kinds of boats are right for all different sailors for all different reasons. As long as you match up your needs with what a boat is offering, you’ll have a lot of happy memories at dock, and on the water.