Hunter 42 Passage Review: Caribbean Cruiser

Hunter 42 Passage PDF Brochure (Click to Download)

I met with clients who wanted to view a classic yacht that we had for sale. They told me, “We really like the Hunter 45, but our friends tell us these are not quality boats. They told us to look at older better built designs.” I could not help feeling that their friends might be leading them astray. I asked what kind of sailing they had planned. “We would like to cruise the Bahamas and Caribbean.” They were not interested in a serious offshore sailing. While the quality of Beneteau, Hunter, and Catalinas is lower than the designs their friends told them about, their goals seemed to fit with a Hunter if that was what they liked. As a Bahamas and Caribbean cruiser, you will not find many yachts that offer a more compelling value than a Hunter 42 Passage.

Hunter 42 Passage

Hunter Marine has roots in the 1800’s when Henry Luhrs, a German immigrant to New Jersey, USA began outfitting trading ships and owned his own ship, the Sophia R. Luhrs. His grandson also named Henry built and repaired boats. In 1965, Henry sold this company called Henry Luhrs Sea Skiffs. In 1969, Henry’s sons, Warren and John, purchased a New Jersey builder called Silverton Sea Skiffs and started building yachts. In 1973, they introduced the first Hunter sailboat, a 25-footer designed by Cherubini. Today, Hunter builds boats from 24 to 50 feet in an Alachua, Florida factory just north of Gainesville, Florida. The location is far inland about the center of the state of Florida with a small pond. The 42 Passage is not longer in production. They produced her from 1990-1999.

Hunter 42 Dockside

First Impressions
From the dark black, geometric portholes to the chubby swim platform, the 42 speaks of plastic. The cockpit arch rises up noticeably. If the toerail could be plastic, they would have done it. It is distinctive Hunter – the opposite of wood boats. Underneath, the balanced spade rudder and fin keel give her a fast shape. She comes in shoal versions.

Hunter uses composite construction techniques. While other manufacturers seek for innovative style or skill, Hunter goes for innovative building. Molded liners stiffen the hull reducing costs while maintaining a level of integrity. The deck is secured from outside glued and bolted through. The hull topsides are balsa cored to reduce weight along with the balsa cored deck. The 42 Passage itself has a reputation within the brokerage world as being one of the best constructed Hunter.

Hunter 42 Salon

What To Look For
The charger leads and isolator wiring cannot handle many aftermarket electronics and must be replaced if not done already. A 1994 a fire illustrated this caveat and led to a Hunter recall. You should make sure the inverter has been replaced. On both the ones I recently previewed, the deck mast step leaked. On one, the broker told me about the problem and how the owner had fixed it. On the other, I happened to come by after a rainy day and water was dripping down the compression post. The floorboards had rotted around the post. The general Hunter issues exist with reports of broken tabbing, moving bulkheads, and hull flexing. A real question to consider is if you are comfortable with the perception of the Hunter brand. Some stuffy sailors will without thought disparage these yachts despite their advantages.

On Deck and Down Below
The cockpit has a high helm. The stern aft is perfect for swimming and getting on and off from at the dock. The Bergstrom and Ridder rig has the diamond cross stays, swept spreaders, and no backstay. One 42 Passage owner mentioned how his rig failed off North Carolina. The shroud wire had pulled out of the swage on the tang side. He believed that the lack of a backstay made the failure more catastrophic. Forward, the windlass is inside the chainlocker hatch, a clever way to maximize deck space. This is an exceptionally functional deck plan. Down below showcases the strengths of Hunter. The interior layout with centerline queen aft and a saloon you could yoga in is what every cruiser lusts for.

Hunter 42 Layout

Engine and Underway
The light air performance is the key to the Hunters. The 42 is fast designed where you spend most of your cruising. One broker says, “I really like these. I have logged thousands of miles on them, and these are great boats. They sail fast.” They are functionally sound for island hopping and Bahamas gunkholing. The swept spreaders of the B&R rig on most limits the how far out you can sheet the main downwind without chaffing against the spreaders.

The most important question may be your comfort with the Hunter perception. Problems happen when you ask a Hunter 42 to do more than she can. This can happen against your will of course. It is hard to find better values than the well-equipped Hunters with air conditioning, in-mast furling, and a generator. Two locally are asking around $100,000.

3 Replies to “Hunter 42 Passage Review: Caribbean Cruiser”

  1. Have you actually seen a 42 Passage? They clearly have a back stay. Perhaps in your review you confused the 420 Passage with the design it replaced?

  2. Agree with John, you talking about HP420 not 42. Please fix you review many people read and get confused…

  3. This article is a combination of some very good information with some just plain incorrect. Very confusing. Some of the pictures, including the salon and layout shots, clearly show a Hunter Passage 420. This is a very different boat than the Hunter Passage 42. Some of the information like the absence of backstay, as John mentioned in his comment, is also referring to the P420. The P42 is a masthead sloop with a backstay and large foresail area while the P420 is a backstayless fractional sloop rig.

    Passage 42:

    Passage 420:

    On another note, the shot in the upper left is just confusing. It appears to show some kind of intergenerational hybrid between the 42 and 420. The starboard fixed portlight arrangement doesn’t look like any 42 I’ve seen or 420 for that matter. I originally thought the picture had been reversed but the writing on the side would be backwards. So, I’m just confused by it. Maybe someone can clarify.

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