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Hunt 44

Photography by Onne van der Wal

Too Much Fun

A Down East day cruise hints at greater voyaging possibilities on a well-equipped and handsome Hunt 44.

Before I was scheduled to test hull number two of the Hunt 44 in Portland, Maine, I called the new owner to see what she’d like to do. Julie Barber, the voice at the other end of the line, was friendly and curious; she too had been wondering what we had in mind. Since the boat was at the Spring Point Marina in South Portland, we had a wealth of options: Explore Casco Bay, go up to Boothbay Harbor perhaps, or head for some of the deep-water coves and thin, rocky peninsulas that define the Down East shoreline.

Julie Barber, owner of Umami, a Hunt 44 Express Cruiser
Looking Ahead Julie Barber, owner of Umami, a Hunt 44 Express Cruiser, watches for lobster trap buoys on the day cruise to Monhegan Island.

There was a pause. A Portland native, she’d been there, done that.

Well, I asked, have you ever been up to Monhegan? 

I asked her that because I had been there four years before, also, as it happens, on a new Hunt (a 29 Surfhunter). And I’d vowed at the time that I’d return as soon as I had a chance.

Monhegan Island is a small summer artists’ colony (winter population: 65) about nine miles off Port Clyde. It’s also one of most alluring cruising destinations I’ve ever visited. 

It looked like my chance had arrived. Ms. Barber and her husband, Tom Hayward, a physician, have sailed on his Cape Dory 30 since they were married eight years ago, but she bought the Hunt 44, their first powerboat, this spring so they could cruise farther—and more comfortably. She had not yet been to Monhegan, about 45 miles up the coast. But it would be a perfect day trip for her new boat, and she was game. Monhegan it was. 

So it was that we met at 5:45 the next morning at the marina, Ms. Barber showing up in her red Porsche convertible, and we climbed aboard the boat. I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Hunt 44. It’s basically the little sister of the successful Hunt 52, which I tested when she was launched three years ago, but aimed at owners who don’t want such a large yacht. Both the 52 and the new 44 have all the salty lines, brightwork, and classic proportions that seem to spring so naturally from the design offices of C. Raymond Hunt Associates. And both have the world-famous seakeeping abilities that have defined Hunt yachts ever since Ray Hunt introduced the first deep-V hull half a century ago. There’s much to be said for a new boat that comes with such a legacy and a pedigree. And this 44 was equipped with twin 429-horsepower Volvo Penta IPS600 pod drives with joystick control, an upgrade from the standard 455-horsepower Caterpillar C7-ACERT diesels.

Better Boat: Garage Sale

Hunt 43 dedicated tender garage

One big selling point of this boat for owner Julie Barber was the dedicated tender garage under the cockpit. Just touch a button on the handheld remote, and the transom raises to launch or retrieve a custom 9-foot Hunt dink with a 6-horsepower Yamaha outboard. “This will make our cruising so much easier,” she said, as we climbed aboard. The garage is fully finished inside and also made watertight to the interior.

In the golden early morning light, the Hunt 44, with its fine entry forward, long graceful sheer, and alluring curves aft, beckoned seductively. It was easy to see why she had been named “Best Down East-Inspired Design  — 36 to 45 feet” during the AIM Marine Group Editors’ Choice Awards last year. 

The 44 is meant for a cruising couple or a family: It has two staterooms, two heads, and a galley down, but one flush deck stretches from the helm station through the saloon to the cockpit, all on one level for easy living and entertaining. If you open the wide sliding glass doors in the aft bulkhead, it becomes one large open area, inside and out. I looked around and realized that the fit and finish on the entire boat was elegant—and all-encompassing: Even the tender garage is fully gelcoated inside and gleaming (see “Better Boat: Garage Sale” at left). 

In addition to Barber and me, the crew on the boat consisted of Clayton R. Smith, the captain, and Kurt Schleicher, the mate, both from Yachting Solutions, the Maine dealer for Hunt, and Lynne DeBeer, Hunt’s marketing manager. Onne van der Wal, the photographer, would follow us on our round trip to Monhegan in his 25-foot RIB. Since Barber was new to powerboating, Smith and others from Yachting Solutions were teaching her how to handle her new 44-foot yacht. 

“My husband Tom’s been sailing since he was six,” Barber said, “but neither one of us is a powerboat person. Now I’m comfortable at the helm. I love the maneuverability of IPS, the easy docking. Give me a joystick; I get this.” As Smith touched the joystick to move the boat off the dock, Barber watched closely. “Now that I’m retired,” she said, “my job is to learn how to operate this boat.”

The boat is indeed her retirement project. In May 2011, Barber and her three siblings sold the family business, Barber Foods, a food-products company that their father had founded in Portland in 1955. Although she spent a few years in the Philippines in the Peace Corps and then worked in commercial real estate, she eventually joined the family business and was head of sales, traveling frequently, often flying around the world to find new clients. Now she wants to relax. In a moment of whimsy, she named the boat Umami, which literally means “delicious taste” in Japanese and is a description used for a pleasant, savory flavor. “After all,” she says, “that’s what I was selling all those years.” The dink is called Shiitake. And Barber is quite direct about who is in charge onboard Umami. “I’m the captain,” she said. “It’s my boat. We’ll pull into a dock and people will walk over and tell my husband it’s a beautiful boat. They talk to him. I’m standing right there. I’ll say, ‘Hey, I’m here.’”

Map of route to Monhegan IslandAs we headed to Portland Head Light for some early morning sightseeing, the water was almost flat calm, the sky turning a beautiful clear blue. Once the sun was up we could see Mount Washington, some 90 miles away. This was going to be a picture-postcard-perfect day. We opened the sunroof, which stretches almost the length of the saloon. I was surprised to learn it was standard equipment. Peter Van Lancker, president of Hunt Yachts, says that the base price for the 44 includes many things that are priced as options on other yachts: the 11.5-kilowatt Onan generator, for example, that sunroof, even the teak toerail. The Hunt’s saloon is full of light as it is, with windows all around. Sightlines from the helm are 360 degrees. 

As we turned east to head for Monhegan, Barber relaxed in the cockpit, sitting behind a gleaming teak table on two stainless steel hi-lo pedestals. The aft edges of the house are designed to deflect air from the cockpit, and Barber was indeed protected. “I could play cards back here,” she said, as Umami simply slid through the water at 20 knots. The Hunt-designed hull features a 20-degree deadrise at the transom.

After only two hours or so, we cruised into the small Monhegan harbor, past a rusty red shape on the rocks off to starboard, the remains of an old shipwreck, and the small Manana Island off to our port side (basically a large hill with just a few buildings but fantastic views). A small, rocky island with an area of about 1 square mile, Monhegan was officially discovered by John Smith, the English explorer, in 1614, although it was used as a fishing camp by Native Americans and European visitors for years prior to that. It’s been a summer artists’ colony (Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, Jamie Wyeth) for the past 100 years. Today there are 20 rustic studios just inland from the ferry dock; there are also 17 miles of hiking trails, some leading to towering cliffs on the northeast side. The harbor is filled with small fishing boats with a few private moorings off the tiny town beach; the harbormaster directed us to pick one up. 

As our Capt. Smith prepared to launch Shiitake, I took a tour of Umami. Hunt is a semi-custom builder (the company’s express motoryachts, ranging from 44 to 68 feet are actually built at Global Yachts in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, but Hunt’s other boats from 25 to 36 feet are built in Portsmouth, Rhode Island), so no two boats are exactly the same. With its IPS pod drives connected to the Volvo Penta diesels by jackshafts, for example, Umami has extra space under the bridgedeck. Hull number one of the 44, also with IPS, used this area for a utility room and wine cellar; in Umami, hull number two, it’s a single-berth captain’s cabin, accessible via a hatch in the bridgedeck or by lifting the steps going down to the galley.

The U-shaped galley is down those steps on the port side. It’s designed for cruising, with a Miele two-burner cooktop, microwave, fridge and freezer, and lots of drawers and cabinets. The guest stateroom to starboard is behind Japanese-style screen doors and a sliding bulkhead so it can be opened as a den or closed when guests are onboard. It has an L-shaped convertible sofa and a head with a separate shower. Forward, the master is large and bright, with a queen berth and a horizontal window across the forward cabin top to let in lots of light. The master head is generous with a large sink and separate shower. 

On the main deck, the helm station is a pleasure. The wheel is teak with stainless spokes; the console is ergonomic with everything at the right level, easy to see. The joystick is on the far right, just outboard of the Volvo Penta controls. The helm seat is a custom sliding banquette with a footrest (and ice maker underneath) that comfortably seats two; a matching banquette, also for two, is on the port side, facing a teak chart table in front with a chart drawer and an opening glass door to the electrical panel underneath—a neat setup.

In the saloon, two big chairs are to starboard, facing a large convertible sofa to port. Access to the engine room is through a main hatch in the saloon, plus two other hatches on either side of the cockpit so you can walk forward outboard of the engines, genset, and other equipment. All in all, access is more than ample.

We spent a few hours wandering around Monhegan, talking to some artists, enjoying the view, and getting some coffee and sandwiches at the Barnacle Café at the top of the ferry dock. Then it was time to head back. Unfortunately, we picked up some line from a lobster trap somewhere on the return (it must have been hidden in the late afternoon sun as we cruised west), but we made it back to Portland well before dinnertime. 

The cruise to Monhegan had been a resounding success, and Barber was planning other late-summer voyages. “Eventually I’ll let my husband drive the boat,” she said as we left the dock. “But I’m having too much fun myself for now.”

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This article originally appeared in the June 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.