Hunter Marine is on a mission to cure “two-foot-itis” by constantly updating its product lineup. John Peterson, Director of Sales and Marketing for the Alachua, Fla.-based sailboat manufacturer, affirms that “boats are a status symbol. People want to move up in the size of their boats every couple of years or so. They want something they can be proud of.” To accommodate those who want to upsize, Hunter Marine offers 16 models, ranging in size from nine to 50 feet.
Over the past 30-plus years, Hunter Marine, founded in 1973, has added a vast number of appointments to its boats in terms of innovations and safety features. Each boat features heavy-duty rubrails with stainless steel inserts for added beauty and protection. Kevlar laminate has been added from the stem to the keel sump, also for extra protection, as this is the most likely area for damage or penetration of a boat.
Just a few years ago, Hunter Marine began adding stainless steel arches to the top of boats. These make for a clean installation point for the attachment of a bimini, and are a good place to attach stereo speakers or cockpit lights. B&R rigs are another Hunter innovation that have been time-proven to be strong and easy to sail. By incorporating sweptback spreaders and a pre-bend in the mast, the need for a backstay is eliminated. This allows for a fuller roach main that provides more power in an easy to tame mainsail. With the big main, the jib can be smaller and easier to handle as well. In addition, hardened lead keels are attached with stainless steel keelbolts, which adds to performance, safety and maintenance.
Strength and integrity are achieved with a through-bolted hull to deck joint. The outward turned flanges of the deck and hull are first shaped for an exact fit. Then, sealant is spread onto the joint prior to the lowering of the deck. The joint is then clamped together and through-bolted around the entire deck. An extra shot of epoxy is also laid down at the chainplates. Hunter Marine’s boat decks are built with MaxGuard gelcoat. This eliminates any yellowing and reduces crazing and fading. Heads and showers are laminated with Microban, a special antibacterial gelcoat that offers added protection.
In the area of comfort and luxury, Hunter Marine starts by building the interior outside of the boat, and then bonding it into the hull. This makes for a unibody structure, which in turn increases accessibility. Once inside the boat, customers can find such items as a varnished finish on detailed teak interiors, with curved radiuses, matched grains and a new higher level of fit and finish. Upgraded cabinetry and door hardware, upgraded exterior hardware, Corian(r) countertops, Bose sound systems, in-line fresh water, air conditioning generators and foam beds with inner spring mattresses are some of the other luxury features that Hunter Marine has added to its boats. “We want our customers to feel like they’re riding in style, while still maintaining our position as a family cruising company,” Peterson says. Two of Hunter Marine’s current best-selling models are the Hunter 33 and the 41DS. The Hunter 33, designed by master designer Glenn Henderson, can hold a group, but can also be handled by one sailor alone. It offers both performance and comfort, and is very affordable, notes Peterson. “The mid-size market has really embraced this model, because of its style and price point,” he says. “Both young and older customers have grasped this model.”
The 41DS is the roomiest model in its class, Peterson says. It creates a roomier interior by raising the deck to allow a taller and larger salon. “Sailboat interiors are trending toward more open designs,” Peterson says. “The 41DS deck salon version has more panoramic views and greater visibility from the larger, elevated windows.”
Peterson notes that all Hunter Marine’s boat models try to follow the most current trend in the boating industry: ease of sailing. “With recreation time being limited in our busy society, people want to get out on the water as quickly as possible,” he notes. “Most of our models now have a push-button, electronic sail that furls into the mast. It can easily be handled by one or two people, rather than a whole crew, and it works much faster than manually unfurling the sail. Ease and simplicity are buzzwords, and we’re trying to adhere to them with innovations that help people simplify their recreation.”
Years of inspiration
Hunter Marine’s 550 employees have a wealth of experience to look to for inspiration when crafting boats. The company’s two controlling partners, brothers John and Warren Luhrs, are sons of Henry Luhrs, who began outfitting trading ships back in the 1800s. The brothers eventually went out on their own after Henry Luhrs Sea Skiffs was sold in 1965. Today, Hunter Marine is part of the Luhrs Marine Group, which includes Silverton Marine Corp., builders of family inboard cruisers, Mainship Trawlers, and the Luhrs Corp., known for sport fishing boats. Hunter Marine currently produces its 24- through 50-foot boats at its Alachua, Fla. facility encompassing 80 acres. In addition, Hunter Composite Technologies, the company’s East Lyme, Conn. plant features 20,000 square feet of space that works with a refined process for building smaller boats. “We have a machine that stamps out extrusion plastic,” Peterson says. “It’s a very non-labor intensive process that allows us to make the small boats.” In addition, the Luhrs Marine Group recently opened another facility in the United Kingdom, which builds Hunter mid-size boats for the European market. Hunter sailboats are now marketed in more than 45 countries throughout the world. In addition, Hunter was one of the first companies to achieve Marine Industry Certification.
While the Luhrs brothers are the controlling shareholders, the balance of the company is employee owned. Peterson feels this gives the employees a real stake in what they do, so that they take pride in ownership and make the best product possible.
Growth keeps coming
These features, Peterson believes, have allowed the company to continue to grow at “a double digit pace” over the past several years. “We’re the number one company in North America, and with 142, we have the largest number of dealers in North America,” he adds.
Attention to customer needs is another reason for this growth, Peterson believes. “We distribute product surveys to our customers after they’ve owned one of our boats for nine months,” he says. “We also have customer panels for the different sizes of boats, where we ask customers what they do and don’t like about our boats. We always try to stay in tune with our customers.”
The company’s slogan of “we go the distance,” was meant for the boats. But Peterson believes that the company also goes the distance to give its customers what they want. “We give families a recreational boat that doesn’t sacrifice performance.”