Boats

Hunter Edge

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Every sailor’s perfect boat would be big enough to accommodate the whole family in luxury, perhaps 80 feet or so, and would have a draft of one or two feet for easy gunkholing, an efficient sail plan, good stability and speed, and mechanical aids for handling lines. The mast would lower easily to get under bridges. Oh, yes. It would not cost too much, would be beautiful to behold, and would fold up into a carry-on suitcase.

If you can settle for less size, luxury, and beauty and can live with a trailer instead of a suitcase, the Hunter Edge looks mighty interesting.

Design and construction

Hunter does neat, well-finished work and this helps the Edge stand out from other low-priced boats. The engineering on such a unique vessel is crucial, and the design team appears to have been thorough. Details like the balanced drop rudder, the cable steering system, the motor mount, the water-ballast tank, the weighted centerboard, and the clever rig-lifting mechanism all look strong and work smoothly.

When you arrive at the launching ramp, it’s easy to raise the mast with its standing rigging in place, even singlehanded. The bracing struts of the B&R rig keep it aligned while you haul on a block and tackle to raise, and well-positioned crutches provide a secure resting place for the mast when it is down. If you live where low bridges are an issue or you plan to travel the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway or transit any canals, this easily-lowered rig could solve a lot of problems.

Like other Hunter models, the basic hull and deck are standard hand-laid -up fiberglass, solid below the waterline with a balsa core above. There is a rubrail covering the hull/deck joint, which is both bolted and bedded in adhesive sealant. Cherry veneer joinery complements the bright interior and gives it some warmth. Otherwise, the hull ceilings are a simple fabric and the overhead is vinyl.

The molded water ballast tank is part of the hull and has baffles to minimize free-surface effect, plus a gauge to show when it is full. The tank should never be partially filled. Hunter’s Steve Pettengill notes, “If you leave the tank half empty and then go to jumping waves and hotdog stuff — and this boat turns really good — it could be hazardous. We tested it by pulling it over with 45 pounds of lead on the top of the mast. It re-rights itself, but if you get in conditions where you have too many people on the boat (it’s rated for four) and the ballast tank is half empty, you could get into trouble. You can take it over if you try hard enough.”

Deck and cockpit

Even though the big outboard motor looks imposing, it is mounted low so boarding through the stern is still easy. The stern platform also provides good access if you want to use the Edge as a camping trailer en route between waterways. Comfortable seats, open sight lines and easy passageways around the big cockpit table make the cockpit a pleasant space.

All lines lead back to the cockpit and run smoothly, so crew will not need to go forward often. Moving around on deck is easy anyway, as the antiskid surface is good and there are plenty of grab points. There is, however, a large coachroof eyebrow on the foredeck marked as a “no-step” zone. This is easily avoided when working forward in settled conditions, but in rough conditions, or when working under pressure, it may pose problems.

Accommodations

This is a boat for one to four people at most, preferably a family instead of two couples. The space is there and the headroom is excellent, but there’s not much privacy in any 27-footer.

I think that Hunter has balanced simplicity and facilities nicely on the Edge. You cook on a single-burner butane stove, store food in an ice chest, and ask others to leave the cabin while you use the toilet. It’s camper cruising, and it’s lots of fun.

Under sail

We had beautiful sailing conditions off Miami with 12-15 knots of wind gusting to 18. When the Edge buried its lee rail in a couple of big puffs with full sail up, it rounded up quickly, as it should for safety reasons. It tacked through 90 degrees and returned five knots of boatspeed on reaches. The jib seems small, but the sheets do load up, so keeping turns on the winch is essential.

Because the push-pull cable steering turns both the rudder and the outboard engine, there’s a neutral motorboat feel to the helm. It’s easy to control the boat, but there is little feedback, plus there’s a bit of slack in the system. When motoring, the rudder is raised inside a pivoting cassette in the bottom of the hull and the engine turns the boat. Under sail, the rudder is lowered, the engine is tilted out of the water, and the rudder steers the boat.

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