The Hunter e36 feels right from the moment you step aboard and is somehow more than the sum of its parts. In both appearance and functionality, it works well and is a pleasure to sail.
The hull and deck on the e36 are standard for Hunter, with balsa coring above the waterline and solid fiberglass below. The layup includes a modified polyester/epoxy resin mix and an outer layer of vinylester throughout to prevent blisters. There is a Kevlar layer running from the stem to the keel for impact resistance in the event the boat ever collides with anything underway.
The deck is through-bolted and bonded to the hull with 3M 5200 adhesive on an outward-turning flange. This flange is then encased in a rubrail running from bow to stern. The hull is reinforced with a structural grid and the standard keel is iron. A performance version of the boat is available with a deep lead keel for added sail-carrying ability.
Like the rest of Hunter’s cruising line, the e36 carries a backstay-free B&R fractional rig and a stainless steel arch over the cockpit, which serves as a base for both a Bimini and the main traveler. Spars are aluminum and standing rigging is wire. Our test boat came with the standard 110 percent furling headsail and the optional in-mast furling main. The standard rig flies a full-batten main.
The Performance Package features a big square-top UK-Halsey carbon Tape-Drive main that provides 12 percent more sail area. The package also includes, among other things, a retractable sprit for flying a big asymmetrical spinnaker, a winch upgrade, a folding propeller and a larger 42-inch wheel. Nice!
Instead of a transom swimstep, the e36 comes equipped with a swing-down extended swim platform. (This “extended” platform is the source of the “e” in the 36’s name; the performance version has an open transom, sans swim platform, in the interest of weight reduction.) In addition to providing easy access to the water, this feature, by eliminating the need for a swimstep cutout, also frees up room for more accommodations below and for a larger cockpit table. The platform locks in place when not in use and is easily deployed and retracted using a single line on a Spinlock clutch. A gas shock helps dampen the movement as it is being lowered—an excellent example of one of the many small touches that make Hunters such user-friendly boats.
The cockpit itself is well proportioned and very comfortable. We had four big guys on board for the test sail, yet we were all able to move around without tripping over one another. There’s nothing like Hunter’s signature transom seats in the stern pulpit to provide enough seating for all the crew. The cockpit table is set in a sturdy base that doubles as a good place to brace your feet when the boat is heeling. Jib and main controls are well within reach of the helm, and there is a low bridgedeck at the top of the companionway to keep water from sloshing below.
Going forward, the side decks are not as wide as I like them, but that’s the price you pay for having lots of room to stretch out in below. On the plus side, there are nice big toerails—almost mini bulwarks—running the length of the hull and good sturdy stainless steel handrails on the cabinhouse to provide extra security when making your way to the foredeck. As a side note, the stanchion bases are set on top of the toerail, which means water won’t pool around them, causing leaks and corrosion—another one of those nice Hunter touches.
The first thing that struck me as I made my way below was how easy it was moving down the companionway steps. With a sturdy handrail to port, moving between the cockpit, saloon and galley is a snap. The die-hard racers out there are probably scoffing at the very idea that this should make any difference in a sailboat, but cruisers—especially those who like a tray of something to snack on from the galley during a relaxing sunset cruise—know what I’m talking about.
The other thing that really struck me about the e36 belowdecks was the aft stateroom. It’s both spacious and very comfortable, thanks to the extra volume gained by having that folding swim platform as opposed to a molded-in swim step. There are also plenty of hatches to help keep things comfortable on a sunny day.
The saloon, nav station, galley and head to port of the companionway are as you’d expect—well designed and executed. Hunter Marine has built a lot of cruising boats over the years and knows what it’s doing. The V-berth forward struck me as being a little tight for the toes, but includes a good deal of storage space. It really is amazing how much saloon you can fit in a 36-footer these days. Thanks to the portlights, overhead windows and hull windows to either side, this space was absolutely flooded with light during our test sail. The varnished cherry joinery was attractive, making the saloon a comfortable place to relax and get out of the sun for a while.
In a light but steady 6-8 knots of breeze out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay, the e36 tracked smoothly and steadily on all angles of sail. The boat tacked easily and did around 3.4 knots on the wind at a 38 degree apparent wind angle in just over 6 knots of true wind. Cracking off onto a close reach, with an apparent wind angle of 45 degrees, gave us a speed of just under 4 knots. The helm was nicely responsive and the boat—equipped with the shoal draft keel—was very forgiving of sloppy driving. It would be hard to imagine a more relaxing or pleasurable test sail.
No surprises here: running at 2,300 rpm the 29hp Yanmar moved the boat along at a very respectable 5.5 knots. Putting the throttle down, 3,800 rpm yielded 7.5 knots, indicating plenty of extra oomph, should you ever need it. Throwing the prop into reverse and doing a series of backward doughnuts was no problem. Coupled with the boat’s moderate size, this is a power plant, prop and rudder combination that will allow you to navigate even the most crowded marinas with little problem.
Though Hunter has its strongest following among dedicated cruisers, it continues to try to tempt them into boats that are more exciting to sail. The interesting-looking performance version of this boat should be attractive to those who like to press a bit harder when they’re on the water. The more docile cruising version will appeal to those who already rely on Hunter to deliver a comfortable, easy-to-handle boat that is affordable and still fun to sail.
Price: $100,040 (approx. base)
Designer: Glenn Henderson
Builder: Hunter Marine Corp., Alachua, FL
685 sq ft
Sail area/Displ. ratio