When we were considering the next boat to spotlight in the Cruising Boat Spotlight series we thought we should do a Nautor’s Swan because they are so iconic, attractive, well-made and the dream of many a sailor. As we discussed which model should be the choice for the article, we realized that with Swan, it’s not really about a particular model; it’s the fact that it’s a Swan. These boats aren’t like Catalina’s, where you automatically think of the 27, 30 or 42; or Columbia’s, where the 50 or 26 spring to mind. Swans are more like Mercedes Benz. It’s the brand over the model – if you drive a Benz, it’s understood you have at least a certain standard of excellence going on… the same is true of a Swan owner.
Generally speaking sailors are an opinionated bunch but, as a baseline, are okay with any boat you choose because at the end of the day, you’re still sailing and that’s a good thing. Oh, except for one boat – the MacGregor 26M. That boat can start a fight. What do you mean? It’s just a little day sailor with twin rudders, retractable keel for easy tailoring and a relatively spacious cuddy cabin, perfect for overnighting – how on earth could that annoy anyone? We’ll get into it, it does.
When you stop and think about what types of boats are most responsible for luring people into the wonderful world of sailing the Hobie 16 has got to be in the top three on the list. For children of the 1970s and 80s this sexy little catamaran seemed to be sitting on a trailer in every other backyard.
What most simply call the Hobie 16 is an iconic sailboat that is considered by many to be the most popular catamaran in the world. In the beginning, the H16 was marketed as more than some ordinary sailboat that could be easily trailered, rigged and beached. Instead Hobie Alter put forth the idea that to sail this boat was to be part of a lifestyle – the “Hobie way of life.” Instead of making the pitch that it was a fast fun little boat that could make your summer a little brighter, Alter suggested that sailing a Hobiecat was a reflection of an energized youth with a dash of good-natured rebellion. Continue reading
One cool thing about sailing is the vast amount of boat designs we have to choose from. From wooden yawls to foiling catamarans, there is, no doubt, a boat out there to suit your fancy. But many tend to stick to the world of production boats, especially in the cruising world – they’re tried and tested, easy to get serviced and buy parts for, and they are generally reliable and well made. They are also normally designed relatively conservatively and broadly to attract a cross-section of buyers. So with that as our foundation we wanted to take a look at a production boat that was built in the late 80s and early 90s that bucked the trends and stepped outside the norm – the Hunter Vision 32 & 36.
The 32 and 36 are essentially the same boats with different lengths so we’ll just call both boats “the Vision.” There is really nothing particularly extraordinary about the Vision compared to most cruising boats of that time except that Hunter took a crack at making a boat with a free-standing mast – literally a giant aluminum pole set far-forward and keel-stepped.
Hunter took a page out of the handbook of Freedom Yachts who brought unstayed rigs to prominence in the mid to late 70s. Olympic sailor Garry Hoyt explored the design of unstayed rigs to give “’freedom’ from the inefficient sail shapes of traditional sloop rigs as well as to give ‘freedom’ from the compression and maintenance issues associated with standing rigging.”
On the Hunter Vision, there is what looks like a street lamp pole holding an enormous mainsail in a quasi cat rigged set up. Not surprisingly, the configuration gets a hearty dose of contradicting reviews. Some believe that the weight and width of the freestanding mast make for poor sailing qualities, particularly upwind. Although most critics will concede that the boat does pretty well on a reach and downwind (due to the huge main’s ability to be set farther out than most boats can achieve) they will cite other qualities that indicate the boat is something of a dog. Many don’t like that there is nothing to hold onto when going forward and others flinch at the manageability (or lack thereof) of such a large main.
Of course later in the thread another sailor (a Hunter Vision owner) debunked most of the criticisms – such is the world of sailing discussions on the internet.
One thing that can’t be disputed is that Visions need no wires or turnbuckles and there is no corrosion or rig tension to worry about. It’s also said that these types of rigs allow spill-off aloft, which works well in heavier weather. Certainly the mast set so far forward creates a roomy saloon, which if you’re familiar with Hunter designs, might well have been the motivation for the attempt.
As it all turned out, the arguments over whether or not this alternative idea was worth doing got cut short, for Hunter discontinued the Vision after only about five years. Sales for the boat were not outstanding but it’s supposedly the cost of the masts that killed the production.
Visions still turn up regularly on the used market and are often priced quite affordably, probably due to the mixed reviews they receive and their somewhat misunderstood, non-traditional identity.
Hunter Vision 32 Photo Gallery
In our new series of great cruising boats we begin with a crowd favorite – the Columbia 50. With its bubble top, long graceful lines and inherent speed, the Columbia 50 is a beloved classic.
Designed by Bill Tripp, the Columbia 50 was sexy, fast and fun when it came off the line in 1965. Fiberglass boat building was still relatively new, but Tripp was ahead of the curve as he had been designing fiberglass boats since the late 50s. In 1966 the lean racer/cruiser won the legendary Newport to Ensenada race in California, which, at that time, was over 500 boats. The boat was built predominantly by Columbia Yachts in California and was the largest fiberglass production boat of its day.