Hunter 45 DS
by BWS Staff
Blue Water Sailing
In the wake of the innovative Hunter 49 launched in 2006, America's largest sailboat builder introduces their new 45 Deck Saloon sloop
Under Sail It was a blazing afternoon in St. Augustine, Fla., in early August as we climbed aboard the new Hunter 45DS, fired up the engine and motored out through the cut into the ocean. Ashore, the air had been so still and heavy that it seemed to lie over the land like a blanket. But to the northwest we could see giant thunderclouds building and knew that before long we would get a breeze, if not more.
With Hunter's test pilot Steve Pettingill at the helm, the new 45DS backed easily away from the dock and then pivoted in its own length. The 54-horsepower Yanmar and three bladed prop offered plenty of power and control, so when Steve put the throttle down, the new 45 accelerated steadily ntil soon we were cranking along through the flat water at 8.5 knots.
While still under power we put the new boat through its paces before heading out for a sail trial. At 6 knots, and with the helm hard over, the 45 has a turning radius of one and a half boat lengths, which is what you need if you are mooring in a crowded marina. At full throttle and going 8.4 knots, we slammed the transmission into reverse to see how long it would take the boat to stop: we gauged three boat lengths, which is not bad at all.
Outside the cut and in deep water, we rolled out the roller furling mainsail and then fell off the wind to roll out the jib. There was still not much breeze but it was gathering from the southeast so we shut down the engine and headed off toward the Gulf Stream.
The new 45 has a B & R rig, which has long swept-back spreaders, a moderately tall mast and shrouds that run to chainplates that are outboard. Hunter has been using B & R rigs for years and has worked out the engineering with extensive tests and a lot of sea miles. The rig does not require a backstay and because the chainplates are outboard, the side decks are clear fore and aft. The 110-percent jib sheets inside the shrouds.
The cockpit layout in the new 45 DS uses many of the design ideas that were developed for last year’s new 49 footer. With twin wheels aft, the jib sheets and the main sheet are led to winches right next to the helmsman’s seats so you can steer and trim at the same time. The boat we sailed was supplied with optional electric winches, so tweaking the mainsail or jib was a snap. The main sheet is double ended so the sail can be trimmed aft at the port helm or at the winch mounted on the coach roof next to the companionway.
We filled both sails and started to play with trim to see how closewinded the new boat would be. The breeze was now up to about 8 knots, so we had enough pressure to get the hull moving well. At 45 degrees to the true wind, we got the new boat sailing at just under 6 knots. Falling off a bit, boat speed climbed to just over six. Not bad.
Tacking the 45 is simple since the headsail is so small, and in the breeze we had, the sheet could be trimmed almost by hand. The electric winches eased the final trim and we settled the boat down on a new angle just under 90 degrees tack to tack.
The two steering wheels offer excellent positions for sailing the boat. To windward you have great visibility forward and can see the luff of the jib and the telltales as well as the upper sections of the mainsail. Sitting at the leeward wheel you can see the whole jib and can ease and trim the sail with the winch right in front of you. With the T-top in place, it is hard to see the mainsail from the leeward position.
We tacked the 45 back and forth for about an hour before jibing around, setting the cruising chute and heading downwind. Through the tack and the jibe, the feel on the helm was smooth and responsive. Off the wind, the boat steered true and did not tend to wander or round up.
The 45 has a modern moderate displacement hull with a sharp entry at the bow and a broad transom. The bow sections are actually concave just aft of the bow, so the boat cuts very neatly into waves as it moves through them. Hunter has given the boat a new transom that looks good and opens up space inside the hull for a lot of additional storage. Two lead keel options are available, either a deep cruising fin or a shoal fin with ballast wings. The rudder on the boat is large by racer/cruiser standards, so the helm always turns the boat with authority.
The top of the raised coach roof flows aft into the cockpit coaming, which provides an area at the front of the cockpit that is quite well protected from spray. With a dodger added, the cockpit will be secure and dry in wet and lumpy weather.
With a displacement of 22, 936 pounds, the design is moderately light and has a displacement-length ratio of 170, which indicates that the hull is easily driven in light airs (which we found out) and capable of reaching theoretical hull speed (8.4 knots) in a wide range of wind speeds. The beam of 14 feet, 6 inches is generous and provides a lot of interior volume for accommodations. However, the length-tobeam ratio of 2.7 falls right in line with modern, moderate displacement cruising boats.
The deck is hand laminated and cored with marine grade plywood. All attachment points for deck hardware are solid fiberglass and reinforced with backing plates. The hull deck joint is an outward flange that is joined with 3M’s 5200 and mechanically fastened with both screws and bolts.
The boat's interior structural grid is laminated in one piece and attached to the interior of the hull with an advanced adhesive. The grid strengthens and stiffens the hull, provides an anchor for the keel bolts and is the base for all of the interior furniture. With the bulkheads tabbed in place and joined to the hull and deck, the whole structure combines into a single reinforced unit. This construction technique, refined over the years, has proven to be both very durable and efficient.
Hunter's Steve Pettingill is the man to put new boats through a series of on-the-water and on-thebeach tests. He is a vastly experienced sailor and has competed in numerous transoceanic and round-the-world events. His job is to see if new boats have been engineered and built to the standards required by ocean sailing. One of the first tests he puts a new boat through is to run it up on a sandy beach at hull speed. The 45 we sailed had recently been through such a test coming through with flying colors.
The master head is at the base of the companionway and has a large separate shower stall that will double as a good wet locker where foul weather gear can be stowed on rainy days.
The saloon has a large U-shaped dinette to port with plenty of locker space behind it. To starboard is a bench settee, again with lockers behind. Both the dinette and the settee will make comfortable sea berths for overnight passages.
The 45DS’s galley has a vast Corian counter, twin stainless steel sinks and a two burner propane stove. A side loading fridge is placed under the counter amidships and a side-loading freezer can be positioned aft of the stove.
Hunter has opted to build the interiors of their new boats in all cherry finishes. The wood is light and cheerful and looks elegant. With a satin varnish finish, the saloon of the 45DS makes a comfortable floating home where owners and their guests will be able to relax in style.
Back at the dock we poked around every nook and cranny of the new boat from stem to stern.
The new generation of Hunter cruising boats that have been coming off the production line in the last three years has proven to be very successful in the market place. The boats are distinctive, well thought out, easy to sail and maneuver around the docks and comfortable to live aboard. That they are also a great value is a bonus every cruiser can appreciate.