04 May

Sailing our Hunter 386


When I was buying Never for Ever I noticed a distinct dearth of online info about Hunter 386s. They were only made for two years and, while very similar to the previous two models —the 380 and the 376— I nevertheless thought there would be more information. But it seems Hunter owners are not the most gregarious bunch. When we visited the Victoria Boat Show a couple of days ago, it gave me some different design choices to compare to, so here is my contribution to the canon of the Hunter 386; hopefully someone, somewhere, will find it useful.

Let’s start with a little pro and con or, more appropriately, what I like and dislike. Keep in mind we bought our boat to live aboard full time for 8 to 12 months, but I have to say I would probably make the same ratings even if it was a part-time cruiser. We haven’t sailed a lot of other boats, but this is based on the ones we have and the ones we’ve toured at boat shows.


  • Aft berth: big doesn’t even begin to describe it. And tons of storage…
  • Rails over companionway: there are two convenient and useful grab rails at the top of the companion way, something I noticed that was not there in a lot of the newer boats we toured
  • Hatch over shower: it allows the moisture out and our solar showers in, so we can use the space for its intended purpose when at anchor
  • Solid shower lid: I had originally wanted a completely separate shower but the 386 has a solid fiberglass lid that covers the head 100%. Five or six swipes with a squeegee and the head is good to use again without having to do any extra wiping down
  • Shower sump: no switch to pump out the shower as it (and the fridge) drains into a sump with a float switch
  • Slot for hatch boards: the 386 has a nice slot on the companionway wall to store the hatchboards. Finding a place to stow them was something that irritated me on other boats we sailed.
  • Easy access to engine: there is easy access to 3 sides of the engine. It does lose points because the impeller is on the one side that has no access.
  • Storage: we haven’t been able to fill all the interior storage even after 10 months aboard.
  • Galley arrangement: there is a good balance of counter and appliances. And the L-shape makes preparing food pretty convenient. Not perfect but better than most boats I have cooked on.
  • Bridge deck: originally I thought I wouldn’t like the step up to the companionway from the cockpit, but we soon learned to love it as a continuation of the cockpit seating and a great place to wedge yourself in and relax underway
  • Tankage: A weeks worth of water even at our most wasteful settings and pretty much the same for the holding tank. I suppose more would be better, but it hit the right spot for us
  • Wet locker: I suppose all boats have one, but ours is right by the shower so that makes dealing with wet gear super convenient
  • Walk through transom and transom itself: easy to use and the transom has enough flat spaces that it makes dealing with the outboard and embarking and disembarking the dinghy pretty darn easy
  • Light and lights: tons of natural light and about a zillion lights inside. I suppose this is actually a negative when it comes to replacing them with LEDs but we’ve managed so far to get a way with just replacing one or two in each space.


  • Little locker space in the cockpit: my biggest beef, although a pretty petty one. We have fenders dangling from everywhere
  • Large center binnacle (small cockpit tables): Again, for two of us it’s not a big deal but socializing is constrained by the big pedestal in the center of the cockpit
  • Salon table: Stupid. Dumb. Idiotic. Need I go on? It is a bit too high for comfort and about an inch and a half too big on each side. Sliding in and out of the bench seats is an exercise in yoga and you are going to bang you knees on the leaf; there is no avoiding it. When time and money permit I will be cutting it down
  • Wave slap under stern: I haven’t encountered this on other boats but when you are tied up stern into the waves, even small ripples will slap up under the transom (right where your head is) and drive you crazy until you get used to it
  • Aft cleats: The aft cleats are right behind the arch making reaching below the rails a bit of a pain and bringing the lines forward even more so.  And if you have canvas, well…
  • Small v-berth: The room gained in the aft cabin is lost in the v-berth. But we slept up there for a week and it’s not impossible; it just doesn’t hold a candle to other v-berths we’ve been in
  • V-berth vanity: why? I suppose it’s nice to wash your face before you emerge for the day but the space could be used better
  • Light switch positions: while there are tons of lights, some of them are in odd places. The worst are the reading lights in the aft cabin; you have to get out of bed and reach up to turn them off. We bought an LED reading light that also runs off AAs. Best thing we added
  • Anchor locker and chain: the chain piles up and binds. I know this is common, but I really hate the idea of continually reaching down to pile chain when raising the anchor. It wouldn’t take much to adjust the design
  • Better shower drain: while I love the shower sump, the drain hose needs to be a bit bigger and the sump should be a bit lower so drainage is improved
  • Crowded aft rails: another common issue but just a foot more rail on the aft end would make it a bit less crowded after all the requisite toys are mounted
  • The arch:  the arch over the cockpit is great but it means that any enclosure has to accommodate it. As a result, water pools and then seeps around the arch to drip on the seats; a common issue, I hear, with poorly designed bimini’s on Hunters

Not Sure

  • Jib winches on deckhouse: I am still of two minds about this. With the autotack feature of the autopilot I can come out from behind the wheel and help tack or even single hand, but having winches on the sides of the cockpit would make it a whole lot easier
  • Big freezer: it’s a huge freezer. With two levels. But it’s a huge power suck. And the bottom level is inaccessible without emptying the upper level first. Right now we maintain a steady love/hate relationship

Add Ons: My 386

  • Webasto Hydronic Heater: other than sounding like 747 taxiing right below our heads when I fire it up on cool mornings, the Webasto has worked out well. It doesn’t use too much battery and it heats the boat up pretty efficiently. I do think having one of the fan units split between the front cabin and the salon is a mistake, but that’s something we can rectify
  • Full Cockpit cushions: bonus!
  • Dodger height: perfect for me so I don’t have to crouch or stand on my tippytoes.
  • Nova lift for outboard: with an 8 horse, 4-stroke on the aft rail, the lift is perfect for the two of us. And it set up to use one of the cabin-top winches so the weight is no issue
  • Remote for Auto pilot: we “broke” the remote last fall and have been sailing without it and I hadn’t realized how much I enjoyed it when I had it. It makes dodging crabpots and floating logs so much easier as I can remained perched on the side or even be up on the bow. I was overjoyed to find the wire a tech had knocked loose last year
  • Enclosure: we have a “full” enclosure.  I hate the design of the side panels that allow access from the sides as they are too far forward and make getting in and out hard without removing them entirely. The PO also chose to use mesh on the aft side panels instead of solid clear material. Not solid enough to prevent bugs from coming in and useless at keeping rain out. At best they provide air flow and shade

On the water

The Hunter 386 sails pretty well. I admit to having a bigger learning curve than I thought I would learning to reef her and getting the wheel balanced in winds over 15 knots. The first reef really should go in around 12 or 13 knots but we usually tough it out until we have a steady 15. The shoal keel doesn’t do us any favours but I will admit to a predisposition to trying to point too high in general so it’s not really a negative. And with the huge main, she sails fantastic in light winds. I have nothing to say about the B&R rig. The huge main took a little adjustment but our downwind sailing has been limited and I never really expect to go fast dead down wind anyway.


She manoeuvres well in close quarters, and docking has been a breeze except for those times I have managed screw it up. I’m not sure if it’s the Campbell Sailer prop, but prop walk is hardly noticeable, making backing up pretty easy as well.

All the lines and controls are well situated and, other than the aforementioned aft cleats, we have little or no issue with any aspects of handling her. There is room to get out from behind the wheel without crawling over the seats and the big binnacle at least affords lots of places to brace yourself when you are heeling. The lifeline gates are almost on the beam so are perfect for boarding and docking when you are not lucky enough to get a stern-in berth.

The 40 HP Yanmar is powerful enough for push her along at 7+ knots when there is no current and our cruising rpms of 2400 she does a steady 5.5 to 6 knots with fuel consumption of about .7 or .8 gallons (2 litres or so) an hour.

My Conclusion

I’m not sure if the Hunter 386 is my forever perfect boat but she has been perfect for us for out liveaboard year and I intend to enjoy her for at least a few more years herein the PNW.