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  • By Dieter Loibner
  • Updated: June 6, 2005

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Hunter 38 Boat Review

As we stepped aboard the new Hunter 38 last fall in Annapolis, something seemed different. At first glance, all of Hunter’s trademark details were there: the stainless-steel arch that carries the mainsheet traveler, the comprehensive bimini, the corner seats in the stern rail. Yet the hollow waterlines and fine bow sections indicated that designer Glenn Henderson and his team had refined the Hunter hull form to bring out more pep and agility. Henderson’s written brief for the boat describes a “very responsive and maneuverable yacht that would be very forgiving to sail in a breeze and easy to maneuver in close quarters such as docking.” He highlighted two performance-related objectives: to minimize the pitching motion and improve boat speed in midrange conditions, and to boost the boat’s pointing ability with a low-drag keel and a large rudder that helps generate lift. All these attributes needed to be wrapped into a package that offered exceptional comfort and easy handling and that was suitable for shorthanded sailing and for newcomers who might like to explore Catalina, Martha’s Vineyard, or the Bahamas.

Cruising World’s Boat of the Year judges immediately picked up on the look and feel during the dockside inspection, which revealed well-conceived ideas and good execution, all focused on the purpose of the vessel and the target audience. “I’m more impressed with this than with any other Hunter I’ve seen,” said Steve Callahan, a BOTY judge whose career background includes boatbuilding and yacht design.

Hunter builds the hull with balsa-cored sandwich above the waterline and solid glass with Kevlar reinforcements below. It’s a cost-effective and proven method that keeps weight down and increases impact resistance where it matters. The deck is bonded to the hull and through-bolted on an outward flange. Hunter protects the hull/deck joint from bumps and bruises with a stainless steel-capped vinyl rubrail. The lead/antimony keel is connected to the structural hull grid with stainless-steel bolts. The test boat had the shallow-draft version, with a bulb that keeps the center of gravity low without creating excessive drag. Augmenting the efficiency of the lateral plane is a large, balanced spade rudder that has a composite stock.

Deck and Cockpit

Hunter continually talks to its customers; based upon those conversations, comfort, low maintenance, and ease of use figure prominently on its boats. Molded-in nonskid surfaces on deck are complemented by low-maintenance Flexiteek surfaces on the cockpit seats. Precut into sheets and precaulked, this material might not meet the aesthetic standards of dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists, but it’s easy to replace at the end of its useful life, which, according to Hunter, is expected to be about 15 years.

What registered with the BOTY judges was Hunter’s attention to important details, which put the 38 a step ahead of other boats in the same category. “The chocks and cleats were fine, the emergency steering was very functional, deck flow and handholds were good,” noted BOTY judge Alvah Simon. “The anchoring drills went very well. The 38 had twin rollers that can both be used, and everything worked properly. There was a cleat behind the fairlead of the port roller and a pin placement on the roller; you can quickly lock down the anchor until everything’s set up right. The well was good, and the electric windlass had up/down switches, which you don’t expect in this price range.”

As with other Hunters, the integrated stainless-steel arch and bimini over the cockpit is a defining trait. While the judges felt that mounting the traveler track on top of this arch removed clutter from the cockpit, they all agreed that the canvas bimini could be improved with more see-through panels to give a better view of the sails.

Aside from this issue, which also surfaced on several other boats, the cockpit was a good workplace, once one got used to the concept of reaching up for traveler adjustments. “I just love to see things, and not knowing where the traveler is took me a while to get used to,” said Simon. Kibitzers sat in the corner seats on the stern rail, watching the skipper work the Lewmar folding wheel and the crew trim the sails at the self-tailing winches. The primaries were mounted well aft, so the cockpit layout satisfied an important requirement for safe shorthanded sailing: easy access to the sheets for the person at the helm so he or she doesn’t have to step away from the wheel to execute a tack or an emergency maneuver.

Making his way into the saloon, judge Bill Lee noted that the first step of the companionway was deep, well sized, and properly surfaced with nonskid. “A big top step is really nice because people like to stand in the hatch,” he said.

Belowdecks, the emphasis on practicality and comfort is evident in the laminated Everwear sole, which is designed to withstand abuse much better than teak and holly, without fuss or varnish. Headroom in the main saloon is a generous 6 feet 6 inches. On the inside of the cabin top, Hunter uses a light headliner that offers easy access to deck hardware and wiring and helps keep the center of gravity low. The living space is divided between the dinette to starboard and a settee to port, ahead of the forward-facing nav station. BOTY judges noted that the saloon table lacked fiddles, but the separate stall shower in the head to port of the companionway drew praise. Lee, a noted yacht designer in his own right, pointed out that in this size of boat, designers usually have to make a choice: “It’s either a forward-facing nav station, in which case the skipper wins,” he quipped, “or it’s a separate shower stall, in which case the first mate wins. Here, both of them win.”

Both settees in the saloon can be converted into sea berths, at least in theory. The L-shaped galley to starboard pleased judge Tom Prior, who has a background in professional food service: “This is one of the few smaller boats we saw that had two stainless-steel sinks. I think that’s real positive.” Still, he would have preferred a properly gimbaled three-burner stove instead of the two-burner model installed on the test boat. He appreciated the easy access to the bronze through-hulls under the galley floorboards. “They’re all in one compartment and have proper labels,” he said. “If you hear water sloshing in the bilge, you look here first to see where it could be coming from.”

The test boat was equipped with the Mariner package, which features the folding wheel, a more powerful engine, and a Bose entertainment system complete with DVD player and bass subwoofer under the port settee. It can be expanded with a 15-inch flat-screen TV. The master cabin in the owner’s version is aft, dominated by an athwartship double berth, two lounge seats, and private access to the head and shower. Hunter also offers a three-cabin layout with two staterooms aft. Bill Lee was smitten with this part of the boat. “The aft cabin was very well-done for a 38-foot boat,” he said. “I liked the passageways on both sides because such an arrangement it really helps the ventilation.”

Peeking underneath the floorboards, he noted something else: “The engine has the old-fashioned shaft drive with the old-fashioned stuffing box, which is much easier to repair than a saildrive.”

Surprising Performance

The positive impression the judges had of the Hunter 38 at the dock was reinforced when the time came to take a spin on Chesapeake Bay. The test boat had three of what Bill Lee calls “performance inhibitors”: a 5-foot shallow-draft keel, a fixed three-bladed propeller, and an in-mast mainsail furling system.

Still, under the three-point Bergstrom & Ridder rig, the boat moved at a good clip on all points of sail, even in light air. “Hunter is really consistent with this concept,” Steve Callahan said of the mainsail-driven rig featuring swept-aft spreaders and a small blade jib. “It’s good for Hunter’s envisioned customers, including sailing couples and novices, who benefit from the easy handling of a small headsail.” Callahan also praised the feeling at the helm. “The boat performed extremely well under main alone, and it also was incredibly maneuverable.” During a chance encounter with a J/80 that sailed along behind us, he noted that we were “doing basically the same speed.” Measured speed over ground averaged 4.5 knots under main alone, 5.8 knots closehauled with a headsail, and close to 7 knots on a beam reach, all in about 10 knots of true wind.

Under engine, the boat kept up its good manners and maneuverability. With the optional 40-horsepower Yanmar, it managed an average speed over ground of roughly 6.5 knots at 2,500 rpm and 7.2 knots at 3,000 rpm.

In the end, the hunch about the Hunter 38 proved to be correct. Hands down, the boat convinced the judges that it was the unanimous choice to win the class of production cruisers under 40 feet. It did it with better-than-expected performance, good design ideas, and follow-through in their execution. And tellingly, value didn’t enter the discussion until the final stages. With a suggested sailaway price of $160,000, “it’s a hell of a lot of boat for the buck,” said Bill Lee. “Hunter is getting better design, better construction, and has price control,” Alvah Simon said in summary. “I enjoyed sailing the boat, and I think other people are going to as well.”

Dieter Loibner is a Cruising World associate editor.

LOA 38′ 2” (11.63 m.) LWL 34′ 8” (10.57 m.) Beam 12′ 11” (3.94 m.) Draft (shallow/deep) 5′ 0”/6′ 6” (1.53/1.98 m.) Sail Area (100%) 758 sq. ft. (70.19 sq. m.) Ballast (shallow/deep) 6,552/6,128 lb. (2,978/2,785 kg.) Displacement (shallow/deep) 17,674/17,250 lb. (8,006/7,814 kg.) Ballast/D (shallow/deep) .37/.36 D/L (shallow/deep) 189/185 SA/D (shallow/deep) 17.84/18.13 Water 75 gal. (285 l.) Fuel 35 gal. (133 l.) Mast Height (std./furling) 59′ 1”/60′ 9” (18.00/18.47 m.) Engine 29-hp. Yanmar (40-hp. option) Designer Glenn Henderson/Hunter Design Team Sailaway Price $160,000

Hunter Marine Corporation (386) 462-3077 www.huntermarine.com

  • More: 2001 - 2010 , 31 - 40 ft , Coastal Cruising , hunter marine , keelboat , marlow-hunter , monohull , Sailboat Reviews , Sailboats
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Hunter's newest midsize offering combines performance and the company's historic attention to comfort. It's faster on paper than comparable boats, and priced to sell.

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Hunter Marine has a reputation as a builder of boats for sailors who favor creature comforts over performance. Some recent models from the company have been described as “floating condos.” Say what you will, this strategy has propelled Hunter to a leading spot in the U.S. sailboat industry in terms of boats sold on an annual basis.

However, with the hiring of Glenn Henderson several years ago as chief designer and engineer, company CEO Warren Luhrs signaled that Hunter is increasing its attention to better performance. Despite being an experienced long-distance cruiser, Henderson carved his reputation as a performance-oriented designer whose creations have fared well on the racecourse.

Design The new Hunter 38 replaces the 386, the last of which rolled out of the Alachua, FL, plant in May, 2004, following a seven-year run. In announcing the arrival of the new boat, Henderson said: “Our goal was to design a boat that was an exceptionally comfortable cruiser, yet offered outstanding performance and easy handling. The new 38 has met expectations.”

Hunter 38

In our view, she has a Jekyll and Hyde appearance. Our first impression upon approaching the boat was that she’s just another specimen in a growing list of big-butted boats. The 12′ 11″ beam is carried aft to the stern, where the athwartships measurement is 10′ 6″ inside the cockpit, and freeboard is 50″, so it’s at least two steps upward to board her at the transom. Her 6′ long, 20″ wide seats surround a footwell that’s 36″ wide at its narrowest point, and two, two-person pod seats are located on the stern rails. Clearly, the cockpit has been designed to accommodate up to 8 people in comfort during the cocktail hour. And overhead, a bimini sits attached to a stout stainless steel frame.

Move forward 38 feet and the Mr. Hyde side presents itself; there is no comparison with her predecessor, or other current Hunter models. Her fine entry and near-plumb-bow are as racy as any new boat from Farr Yacht Designs. Due to her increased waterline, she won’t lack speed. There’s also just enough working space between the mast and bow pulpit—her J measurement is just 12′ 1″, which means 2/3 of the boat is aft of the mast—for a bow person to attend to sails or muscle an anchor fitted on a stainless steel bowroller at the stem. Her small foretriangle and 7/8ths rig are married to a boom that extends over the stainless bimini frame to produce end-boom sheeting angles that are more efficient than a cabintop arrangement.

When viewed from abeam at a distance, her profile complements the racy bow as she presents a high-aspect sail plan and a relatively flat sheerline. Tinted, flushmounted, fixed plexiglass ports complement her aesthetics; they measure 16″ x 28″, and light her interior. This boat is less chubby than her cousins; a Hunter 306 that was tethered nearby is much less comely, having the boxy appearance produced when max headroom below is more important than appearance.

Of the 38’s design, Henderson told us: “Attention was given to the volumetric distribution of the hull to even out pressures of water movement, utilizing the rudder as a major lift component along with the keel. In the past, designers relied primarily on keels for lift and resisting leeway. We discovered that using a large rudder and smaller keel was better. The result is a more responsive boat.” Henderson’s statement was affirmed when we backed the 38 off the dock amidst a cluster of other boats.

Most of this vessel’s sail power comes from the mainsail, an arrangement that Henderson favors over relying on a large jib. “The whole sail plan is aerodynamically efficient. I will not design a masthead rig sail plan because the fractional rig with large mainsail delivers better performance, and the smaller headsail means easier sailhandling for both passengers and crew.”

The new 38 is outfitted with the same anodized B & R double spreader Selden mast with support struts used on Hunter’s midsized yachts; having no backstay allows Henderson to fly a mainsail with a powerful roach and still install the bimini frame over the cockpit. To tame the large mainsail, in-mast furling is a $2,536 option, which was included aboard our test boat.

“Balancing the sail plan, center of gravity, and underbody is important to get all the forces concentric,” explained Henderson. “The 38 doesn’t have a lot of pitch, doesn’t pound, and is easily driven.”

One contributor to stability is the boat’s displacement—17,674 pounds, with 6,387 pounds of lead in the keel; that produces a ballast ratio of 36.14 percent. A second is a “center of gravity lowered by using a vinyl material for the headliner, instead of heavy fiberglass. That removes 350 pounds from the boat,” he said.

The “Hunter 38 in Context” chart (see sidebar) offers a statistical comparison of Hunter’s new 38 with three of her contemporaries from prominent boatbuilders. Using this reference, she should be the fastest of the bunch. It’s clear that Henderson is putting a new face on the designs of Hunter’s products, and that’s a good thing. However, when she inevitably turns stern to, we’ll simply grit our teeth and accept the fact that Hunter understands the creature comforts that its clients demand.

Deck Layout Two innovations are immediately obvious when boarding from astern. The swim platform measures 18″ by 30″, and has two steps, one of which folds up when boarding passengers. Henderson has designed a helm seat that rotates aft and downward, which fills the gap between the upper port and starboard steps, creating a stern entrance; it’s a clever idea. Cockpit seats, and the two pod seats are covered with Flexiteek™, a synthetic product that’s durable and stain-resistant. (PS reviewed Flexiteek; in the July 15, ’04 issue.)

The major shortcoming of the cockpit is the lack of storage space. A small locker to port contains the holding tank, a second one holds two propane bottles. The starboard seat covers an emergency hatch; also to starboard are a shallow locker for storing dock lines, and a second one that accesses manifolds and a heater.

These spaces are small, as Henderson explained, because: “You’ve got to compromise somewhere,” to execute the balance of his design. Coupled with her wide body, the ‘Owner’s Version’ offers the most commodious and well laid-out aft stateroom we’ve seen on a boat this size. As an alternative, a tri-cabin version is available; that model is equipped with two aft cabins that provide space for passengers, or a large storage area.

The second innovation: a 38″ Edson destroyer-style wheel common on production boats this size. But in this case, Edson designed a folding wheel where port and starboard sections can be unpinned and folded inward to ease movement about the cockpit. During our test sail, the wheel remained locked in a circular form, so it appeared functional and safe, though it’s a $393 option. Leaves on the binnacle-mounted table can be elevated to create two plastic 18″ x 18″ tables. The base of the table also provides a foot brace, a requirement on a cockpit this wide.

The third innovation is not original, but is rarely seen on production boats: deep fiberglass bins on either side of the companionway used to store halyard tails and other sail controls. This is a superior approach to using bags or cubbies that have historically been carved out of unused space in the coamings.

On the 38, Hunter uses a stainless steel arch to support the traveler, which puts mainsail controls near the helm. A Harken mainsail track and traveler system sits atop the arch, and sheets are led port and starboard to cam cleats that allow the skipper to trim from the wheel, completing Henderson’s attempt to remove clutter from the cockpit. Two Sony marinized speakers and nightlights are also housed in the arch; the speaker controls are bedded in the companionway cover. Primary winches also are close to the helm, promoting singlehanded sailing.

Hunter 38

Despite these niceties (as we stated in our review of the Hunter 41, PS Jan. 1, 2001), except when covered by the bimini, the arch detracts from the boat’s appearance, and adds weight aloft and windage. Though we’d be hesitant to sail out of San Francisco Bay with the bimini in place, we agree it would be a plus in less demanding regions most of the time.

The boat’s deck hardware is top- drawer and large enough for assigned tasks. The primary winches are Lewmar 40 self-tailers led through Lewmar ballbearing blocks. On the cabintop are Lewmar 40s married to Spinlock XTS rope clutches.

Lifelines are 23″ above the deck, (meeting ISO standards), but would provide more security if they were 28 to 30″ tall. The 1-1/2″ fiberglass toerail running from bow to stern is what we expect on a boat designed for offshore work. The toerail is rounded, which will be appreciated by rail riders in the unlikely event that this boat does any racing. The sidedecks are 12″ wide at the shrouds. The lower shrouds terminate near the base of the cabin, the uppers at the gunwale, so fore and aft movement is unimpeded. And a diamond nonskid surface offers good footing on a wet deck. The cabintop measures 86″ between the handrails, so there is plenty of room for stowing a dinghy or other items.

Small headsails are de rigeur for Henderson, and this boat is fitted with just two 48″ long sections of track located at the base of the cabintop, providing tight sheeting angles between the shrouds. The standard furler is a Furlex 200S elevated 16″ above deck level so that it’s out of the way when hoisting an anchor, but this arrangement diminishes sail area and compromises upwind performance.

A Simpson-Lawrence anchor windlass is located below deck in the anchor locker, a good location from a safety standpoint; the locker is large enough to house enough chain and rode for anchoring in deep harbors. Cleats located on the bow, amidships, and on the stern are 10″ long, so they’ll accept dock lines beefy enough for a boat this size.

A Lewmar hatch on the bow measures 22″ x 22″, a second located amidships is 24″ x 24″, letting the sun and wind pour in, or odors escape the cabin. They are supplemented by 10″ x 12″ opening ports amidships and over the galley.

Henderson has designed a vessel that places an emphasis on crew comfort and smooth operation by locating the sail controls at the helmsman’s fingertips. The only drawback, however, occurs if the skipper becomes overwhelmed by simultaneously steering, trimming, reading a chart, and attending to the other duties that befall the master of any vessel. In this case, the stern section could become overpopulated. Still, the absence of lines cluttering the cockpit sole gets our approval.

Accommodations As with all Hunter sailboats, the 38 provides large living spaces. The layout of this model presents an L-shaped galley to starboard at the foot of the companionway, nav station to port, and sitting/dining area amidships. At anchor, the crew sleeps in the forward cabin; the skipper in the aforementioned aft stateroom.

Key points: headroom in the main saloon is 6′ 6″. The hull and cabinetry are constructed of smoothly finished teak, though the sole in the saloon is Everwear™, a low-maintenance laminate. The panels in the new headliner can be removed with a tool Hunter provides to get at wiring runs and deck hardware, and the cabintop is fitted with solid wood handrails running the length of the saloon, which are among the beefiest we’ve seen.

The saloon will seat 6 guests with a dining table measuring 36″ x 42″ and settees 70″ long with 15″ high backrests. The width between the settee backs is 9′.

The galley comes standard with a two-burner stove/oven combination located between an optional refrigerator aft and slide-out storage rack; outboard are cabinets large enough for the storage of eating utensils, and a niche for a microwave. A stainless rail at the front of the provides an attachment point for the chef when underway.

Two stainless steel sinks are surrounded by a Corian surface, a Hunter signature that flies in the face of Henderson’s attempt to reduce weight. The countertop measures 60″ x 20″ when the sinks are covered, adequate for preparing meals for a crew of six.

The 38 also has a good chart table measuring 20″ x 18″. Henderson placed a bulkhead on the forward edge of the table where instruments will be installed, with a useful stainless handhold attached to the cabinetry. The electrical panel is close at hand. The only drawback of the arrangement is that the chart table extends so far aft that the navigator’s seat cannot be fully elevated.

The skipper’s stateroom is comparable to ones we’ve seen on large powerboats. The key ingredients are a 78″ long, 60″ wide platform on which a 4″-thick mattress lives, with storage below. Interestingly, an open space between hull and headboard is designed for miscellaneous storage, as is a cabinet at the foot of the berth measuring 22″ wide and 8″ deep. There’s additional storage in a hanging locker. Cushioned seats measuring 23″ x 20″ located port and starboard create convenient sitting areas. But make no mistake, this sleeping area would not serve as a proper seaberth.

Henderson has devised a dual-purpose engine cover. The box doubles as a fiddled vanity that, when removed, exposes both sides and the back of the engine, better than seen on most boats. Since the space between the berth and vanity is 23″, the cover won’t need to be stored on the berth when servicing the engine—a very sanitary arrangement.

The forward stateroom is just large enough for two adults. The berth is 86″ long on the centerline, and 80″ wide at the head; storage is below the berth and in a pair of cedar-lined hanging lockers.

The single head is a two-compartment affair with doors to both the main cabin and the aft stateroom. Standing headroom is 6′ 2″ in each space. The vanity-toilet area is large enough for most adults, and the shower area, which measures 24″ x 45″, is enclosed by a door, so the spaces may be occupied by two people simultaneously.

We expect to find large living spaces on Hunter’s sailboats and the 38 doesn’t disappoint. However, it exhibits better fit and finish of joinery than boats built five years ago, a byproduct of computerized cutting tools, more attention to detail, and quality control. The layout is sensible, with living spaces proportionate to the amount of time that will be spent occupying them. And, we like a single head on a boat this size. It makes sense and frees space for other uses.

Hunter 38

Performance We tested the boat in 5 to 10 knots of breeze and flat water on the Chesapeake Bay—conditions common to many areas around the U.S. The boat was fitted with an in-mast furling mainsail, and the company’s own literature indicates that this reduces sail area by 148 sq. ft. We feel that’s a tremendous price to pay for convenience, especially in light-air venues, and considering that sails are typically set once a day. On a 38′ boat displacing 17,000 pounds, we’d opt for an electric halyard winch and a flaking system before sacrificing that much Dacron.

We sailed with a full main with three vertical battens, which produced good sail shape, and a 105% headsail. Boat speed on our GPS registered 5 to 5.5 knots sailing in five knots of breeze, and increased to 7.5 knots in 10 knots of breeze when we eased sheets. Henderson said “that meets the design target and is about as fast as she will go.”

The boat was light at the helm, responsive when sails were properly trimmed, and tacked through 85 to 90 degrees, better than we’ve seen on earlier Hunters. She heeled approximately 10 degrees in those conditions and provided a comfortable ride.

She motors easily at 6 knots when powered by the Yanmar 27-hp engine. An optional 40-hp engine will add $2,936 to the price, but would be overkill except in areas where there are heavy tides or currents.

Conclusion We’re convinced that Henderson is making progress in improving the performance of Hunter’s products. His major accomplishments are faster hull shapes and minor progress in the removal of unnecessary weight; i.e. the headliner in the saloon. Nonetheless, odds are that Corian countertops will always be installed, and the boats will continue to have big cockpits, a reflection of the market to which the company appeals. And, we’ll never get used to seeing those radar arches.

With a base price of $144,990, the Hunter 38 is at the low end of its respective market. Still, the quality of this boat is an improvement over previous models, and we think it bears close inspection for potential buyers.

Contact – Hunter Marine, 800/771-5556, www.huntermarine.com .

Also With This Article “Hunter 38 in Context” “Construction” “Critics’ Corner: Hunter 38”


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1999 Hunter 340 Questions

  • Thread starter duck21
  • Start date Nov 22, 2020
  • Hunter Owner Forums
  • Ask A Hunter Owner


Hello all, We looked at a 1999 Hunter 340 yesterday. The boat needs a little bit of work (the galley stove needs replacing, some instruments missing, etc, older infrastructure) but over all it appears to be ship worthy and I'm probably handy enough to do most of the work myself. I do have some familiarity with the 340, as my dad owns a 2001 vintage, I do think it would be exciting to own one myself. If we decide to make an offer we'll get a survey, of course, but want to work out details before we get to that step. We did come away with a few questions (one specific, one general). The existing owners (who have only owned the boat for a year, selling due to health issues) were not much help in answering any of our questions. 1. There appears to be a vinyl covered foam material covering some of interior, specifically on the haul--for instance, in the aft stateroom above the berth. In that space the bottom section has come unglued and has discoloration. I'm assuming this is due to water. I'm not sure if this is a condensation problem (the boat has been sailed in Lake Superior, so cold water + humidity can result in a lot of condensation) or if there was a leak from above (perhaps the arch?). FWIW we did not see any water stains on the teak. Two part question: a. have others experienced this, is it the sign of a bigger problem (I.E. a leak)? b. what have others done to repair something similar--remove the vinyl/foam? Is there a replacement option? Just clean it up and use adhesive to glue it back down? 2. Are there any other "gotcha" areas that we should be aware of with the 1999 version? My dad has related his own areas that required attention, although over all I think he's kept his boat in better condition than the one we viewed. There are some structural differences (stainless arch vs. fiberglass, he has in mast furling, this boat does not, etc.), not sure if these differences create additional caution areas that we should consider/investigate before making an offer. Thanks for reading and considering!  

John T1594

I had a 2000 H340. The aft berth sits on a shelf that extends aft under the aft bukhead. That shelf also suppports the fuel tank on the port side and the holding tank to starboard. Any water leaking into the areas behind the bulkhead will seep into the aft stateroom and stain the walls and mattress. My boat had a leak around the arch bolts and at the shore power inlet fixture.  

Ralph Johnstone

Ralph Johnstone

duck21 said: a. have others experienced this, is it the sign of a bigger problem (I.E. a leak)? Click to expand
duck21 said: b. what have others done to repair something similar--remove the vinyl/foam? Is there a replacement option? Click to expand

Ed Caldwell

Ed Caldwell

I have owned a '99 H340 for 16 years now, on a freshwater lake north of Atlanta. No issues with the vinyl "hull-paper" except for some occasional mildew stbd side aft berth area. I have found it a good performing cruising boat with good systems and equipment. Still on original sails and standing rigging, and about 800 hours on the engine. No complaints for the way we use it (day sails, a few overnights at anchor), and no real trouble areas to watch for. Good luck!  

Crazy Dave Condon

Also look under archives for information from Jim Seamans s as he wrote a lot and was respected. I forgot the name of boat. Maybe others can chime in  

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Installing a new headliner on your boat

Replacing a boat's headliner is a crucial step in maintaining a healthy living environment and improving the appearance and functionality of your cabin.

Installing a New Headliner on Your Boat

Welcome to another informative article in our Boat Modifications and Upgrades section. Today, we will be discussing a crucial aspect of interior design and organization: installing a new headliner on your boat. A headliner is the material that covers the interior ceiling of your boat’s cabin, providing insulation, soundproofing, and a clean, finished appearance. Over time, headliners can become damaged, stained, or simply outdated, making it necessary to replace them. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of installing a new headliner on your boat, ensuring that your living space remains comfortable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing.

Table of Contents

Why replace your headliner, choosing the right material, tools and materials needed, preparing the workspace, removing the old headliner, measuring and cutting the new headliner, installing the new headliner, finishing touches, maintenance and care.

There are several reasons why you might want to replace your boat’s headliner:

  • Aesthetics : An old, stained, or sagging headliner can detract from the overall appearance of your boat’s interior. Replacing it with a fresh, new material can instantly update and improve the look of your cabin.
  • Insulation : A well-insulated headliner can help regulate the temperature inside your boat, keeping it cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. If your current headliner is not providing adequate insulation, it may be time for an upgrade.
  • Soundproofing : A quality headliner can help dampen noise from outside the cabin, as well as reduce vibrations and echoes within the space. If your current headliner is not providing sufficient soundproofing, consider replacing it with a more effective material.
  • Mold and Mildew : Over time, moisture can cause mold and mildew to form on your headliner, posing a health risk and creating unpleasant odors. Replacing a moldy headliner is essential for maintaining a healthy living environment on your boat.

When selecting a new headliner material, consider the following factors:

  • Durability : Choose a material that is resistant to wear and tear, as well as moisture and UV damage. Vinyl and marine-grade fabrics are popular choices for their durability and ease of maintenance.
  • Insulation : Look for materials with insulating properties to help regulate the temperature inside your boat. Foam-backed vinyl and carpet-like materials can provide additional insulation and soundproofing.
  • Ease of Installation : Some materials are easier to work with than others. Flexible materials like vinyl and fabric are generally easier to install than rigid materials like wood or fiberglass.
  • Appearance : Consider the overall look and feel you want to achieve in your boat’s interior. There are countless colors, patterns, and textures available, so choose a material that complements your existing décor and personal style.

Before you begin the installation process, gather the following tools and materials:

  • New headliner material
  • Measuring tape
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Straight edge or T-square
  • Adhesive (appropriate for your chosen material)
  • Paint roller or brush (for applying adhesive)
  • Staple gun and staples (optional, for certain materials)
  • Trim or molding (for finishing edges)
  • Screwdriver (for removing and reinstalling hardware)
  • Protective gloves and eyewear

Before you begin removing the old headliner, take the time to properly prepare your workspace:

  • Clear the Area : Remove any furniture, cushions, or other items from the cabin to create a clean, open workspace.
  • Protect Surfaces : Cover the floor and any nearby surfaces with drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect them from adhesive and debris.
  • Ventilation : Ensure that your workspace is well-ventilated, as some adhesives can produce strong fumes. Open windows and doors, and consider using a fan to improve air circulation.
  • Safety : Wear protective gloves and eyewear to protect yourself from potential hazards during the installation process.

Before you can install your new headliner, you’ll need to remove the old one. Follow these steps to safely and effectively remove your existing headliner:

  • Remove Hardware : Carefully remove any hardware, such as lights, vents, or handrails, that may be attached to the headliner. Be sure to keep track of any screws or other small parts so you can easily reinstall them later.
  • Detach the Headliner : Depending on the type of headliner you have, it may be attached with adhesive, staples, or both. Carefully peel back the material, using a scraper or putty knife if necessary to help loosen the adhesive. If your headliner is stapled, use a staple remover or flathead screwdriver to carefully pry out the staples.
  • Clean the Surface : Once the headliner has been removed, thoroughly clean the ceiling surface to remove any remaining adhesive, staples, or debris. This will ensure a smooth, even surface for installing your new headliner.

With the old headliner removed and the surface cleaned, you’re ready to measure and cut your new headliner material. Follow these steps for accurate measurements and precise cuts:

  • Measure the Ceiling : Using a measuring tape, measure the length and width of your boat’s ceiling, adding a few extra inches to each dimension to allow for trimming and adjustments during installation.
  • Mark and Cut the Material : Lay your new headliner material out on a clean, flat surface. Using a straight edge or T-square, mark the dimensions you measured onto the material. Carefully cut along the marked lines with scissors or a utility knife, ensuring that your cuts are straight and even.

With your new headliner material cut to size, you’re ready to begin the installation process. Follow these steps for a successful installation:

  • Apply Adhesive : Following the manufacturer’s instructions, apply adhesive to the back of your headliner material using a paint roller or brush. Be sure to apply an even, consistent layer of adhesive, taking care not to leave any gaps or clumps.
  • Position the Material : Carefully lift the headliner material and position it on the ceiling, starting at one end and working your way across. Press the material firmly onto the surface, smoothing out any wrinkles or bubbles as you go.
  • Trim Excess : Once the headliner is fully adhered to the ceiling, use a utility knife to carefully trim away any excess material along the edges.
  • Secure with Staples (Optional) : If your headliner material requires additional support, use a staple gun to secure the edges of the material to the ceiling. Be sure to space the staples evenly and keep them as close to the edge as possible to ensure a clean, professional appearance.

With your new headliner installed, it’s time to add the finishing touches:

  • Install Trim or Molding : To create a clean, finished edge along the perimeter of your headliner, install trim or molding. This can be attached with adhesive, nails, or screws, depending on the type of trim and your boat’s construction.
  • Reinstall Hardware : Carefully reinstall any hardware that was removed during the headliner removal process, such as lights, vents, or handrails.
  • Clean Up : Remove any protective coverings from your workspace and clean up any debris or adhesive residue.

To keep your new headliner looking and performing its best, follow these maintenance and care tips:

  • Clean Regularly : Gently clean your headliner with a damp cloth and mild soap, taking care not to saturate the material or damage the adhesive. Be sure to address any spills or stains promptly to prevent permanent damage.
  • Inspect for Damage : Periodically inspect your headliner for signs of wear, damage, or mold and mildew. Address any issues promptly to prevent further damage and maintain a healthy living environment on your boat.
  • Avoid Overloading : Be mindful of the weight and distribution of items stored in your boat’s cabin, as excessive weight or uneven distribution can cause stress on the headliner and lead to sagging or damage.

Installing a new headliner on your boat is a rewarding project that can greatly improve the comfort, functionality, and appearance of your living space. By following this comprehensive guide, you can confidently tackle this project and enjoy the benefits of a fresh, updated headliner. Remember to choose a durable, high-quality material, and take the time to properly prepare your workspace and follow each step of the installation process. With a little patience and attention to detail, you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful, functional headliner that will serve you well for years to come.


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