Hunt Surfhunter 33By Capt. Richard Thiel
Pedigree is important in animate objects such as racehorses, show dogs, and maybe NASCAR drivers, but does it mean anything for boats—or, more specific, hull forms? Is there such a thing as nautical DNA that predisposes a certain boat to greatness based upon other successful boats from the same builder or naval architect?
According to the folks at Hunt Yachts, the answer is yes, and whether you buy their argument or not, you have to be impressed by the bloodlines of their six boats: the Harrier 25 and 36; Surfhunter 25, 29, and 33; and 36 Classic. All are products of C. Raymond Hunt and Associates. Its founder, the late Ray Hunt, is generally credited with refining and popularizing the deep-V hull and drew perhaps the most famous powerboat of all time, the 31-foot Bertam Moppie. In 1961 she established standards for rough-water performance that still stand today.
Since then Hunt's firm completed scores of projects as diverse as the elegant Concordia yawl; the original Boston Whaler; megayachts from Palmer Johnson, Derecktor, Lyman-Morse, Burger, and others; police and military craft; and most impressive for me, pilot vessels that must go to sea no matter the weather and sea conditions. Clearly each hull is different, but Hunt Yachts would have you believe all share a genetically endowed something that yields a special and uncompromising seaworthiness.
Fact or hype? I don't know. But I can tell you that one of C. Raymond Hunt's latest creations, the Surfhunter 33, is a hell of a sea boat. I had her out in threes and fours at speeds from 21 to 34 mph, up-sea, down-sea, beam-to—you name it. Her performance was poised on all points—smooth, controllable, and absolutely dry. After as tough a wring-out as I've ever given a boat, I had but two gripes: I found the steering heavy and at certain trim tab settings I noted some weather helm, possibly due to her tunnel drive (which permits beaching). Even so, an exemplary performance.
And performance doesn't mean just seaworthiness. Consider that with the optional—and superbly performing—single 380-hp Cummins QSB 380 common-rail diesel, the 33 not only hit 34 mph, but also did so while getting 1.73 mpg and exceeded 2 mpg at every speed below that yet still exhibited surprising acceleration. If you're looking for a boat that's a real pleasure to drive, you'll have trouble finding a better candidate than the Hunt Surfhunter 33.
The 33 is also a viable weekender for two in standard form, partly because roughly half of her LOA is cabin. Her V-berth has a filler for sleeping but is also available with a table, and the enclosed head aft and to starboard is roomy, although it lacks an enclosed shower and has something I haven't seen in ages on a new boat: a Wilcox-Crittenden manual MSD. Farther aft and to starboard, a four-person dinette converts to a double berth, and pad eyes overhead provide mounting points for a pilot berth. The starboard galley offers a four-cubic-foot Norcold refrigerator, single-burner butane stove, and microwave/convection oven. There's decent stowage here and in a half hanging locker to port between the dinette and stateroom. Interior woodwork is satin-finish cherry, accented by Corian.
The 7'3"-long bridge deck, three steps up, is the real center of action. On our boat, port and starboard pedestal seats offered good visibility through the two-panel windshield, with room for six more to sit at an L-shape settee aft and to port. Even open, its fold-in-half teak table is too small for serious dining, and its cantilevered leaf felt a bit unstable to me. Another option eliminates the port-side pedestal seat and extends the L-shape lounge forward. Either way you get big stowage beneath and good helm sightlines, standing or seated. The small but elegant teak instrument pod can accept a large, multipurpose monitor (ours had a Raymarine C120 plus a SmartCraft monitor), and all electrical switches are in a cabinet to right of the helmsman for convenience. Directly aft, a 20"x30" hatch leads to the engine compartment, but for maximum—and I do mean maximum—engine access, the entire bridge deck raises on an electric ram.
Fuel tanks and batteries are under the six-foot-long cockpit for better on-plane performance; they're accessed through a five-foot-long centerline hatch that folds in the middle for easier lifting, but the entire cockpit sole can be removed in three pieces for total access. Our boat had the optional transom seat that is not only sunny but also devoid of spray. Engine-air intakes in each aft quarter reduce noise. Along with a monster muffler under the starboard side, the result is a quiet boat, as evidenced by our spec chart.
Our spec chart also indicates a fairly healthy price: more than $300,000 for a single-engine, optioned-out, well-built boat that will definitely turn heads. Worth it? Hey, purebreds don't come cheap.
This article originally appeared in the June 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.