Hunter is a well-known sailboat builder, today run as part of the Marlow group of brands, putting out new models like the attractive Marlow-Hunter 40. But some designs from bygone days of the “old” Hunter have remained extremely popular through the years, and one that remains of interest to today’s sailors is the 456. It’s a large, comfortable boat that’s easily managed by two and has all the creature comforts of home.
Design & Construction
The Hunter 456 is a moderate displacement design with a modern underbody featuring a bolted-on antimonial lead keel and a spade rudder. Construction was a standard vacuum-bagged infusion, but Hunter added extra strength by laminating a Kevlar reinforcement into the hull from the bow to the keel sump, where collisions are most likely to cause damage.
The hull-to-deck joint is an external flange, through-bolted on 8” centers and bonded with 3M 5200 on the seam. An extra bit of epoxy is added at the chainplates. A high-density vinyl rubrail is wrapped 360 degrees around the boat for added protection. That comes in handy when tying up to rough pilings, especially when wind and current are pushing at the boat during docking.
Cockpit, Deck & Rigging
Boarding from the dock or the dinghy is easy due to the low, wide swim-step and gradual steps up to deck level. Enormous transom hatches to port and starboard stow everything from lines, to fenders, to the AC cord, as well as creating nice seats for putting on snorkeling gear or chatting with those in the water.
Up top, the aft deck is expansive and with the removable cushion, makes a nice sunpad. The stainless-steel arch that Hunters are known for comes in handy for a variety of things beyond providing an attachment point for the traveler and allowing for end-boom sheeting. It also makes a great handhold that nearly spans the beam of the boat, and it holds a Bimini. The cockpit coaming is fairly low, which makes it easy to enter and exit the cockpit, and the pedestal has room for the installation of electronics. The instruments are forward along the offset companionway hatch, along with a halyard winch to starboard.
The decks are wide and clear and easy to negotiate all the way forward, where an opening anchor locker houses the windlass and lets the chain drop down quickly and easily without much worry about it piling up. The bow-roller protrudes quite a distance beyond the stem and pushes the anchor well away from both the roller furling and the bow.
Hunter is known for their unique B&R rigs which have aft-swept spreaders and a bend in the mast. This eliminates the need for a backstay, which in turn allows for a full roach mainsail with lots of driving power. The deck-stepped masthead rig carries a 110% genoa and an in-mast furling main with a total of 1,000 square feet of sail area. Initially, Hunter billed this sail plan as easy to manage shorthanded and called it “power without perspiration.”
Layout & Accommodations
A basic two-cabin, two-head plan is accented with lots of well-thought-out details and the 14’ beam helps to create a large, very homey interior that’s welcoming—even to those not used to sailboats. From the cockpit, an easily-maneuvered curved stairway (it’s too significant to be called a companionway) leads down to the airy salon. The U-shaped settee to starboard and straight settee to port have overstuffed cushions and bookend a large dining table. There’s also an additional double seat mid-ships, so up to 10 can easily gather in this well-lit and comfortable salon.
A shallow step down leads to a nicely finished galley to port, with acres of countertop space finished in Corian and fiddles to keep lunch from flying. The dual-opening refrigerator and freezer are immense, as are the many cupboards that make an easy job of stowing lots of provisions.
Across from the galley is a navigation station with plenty of desk space for paper charts as well as room to install electronics. The nav seat tucks up against the head compartment, which houses a vacuum-flush head and sink. To port, and accessible via the aft cabin, is the shallow tub and a stand-up shower. The master stateroom is expansive and includes a standard-sized queen berth with an innerspring mattress that takes off-the-shelf size linens. This island berth is offset to port, which leaves room for a seating area and a desk to starboard. Stowage here, as throughout the rest of the boat, is ample. There is also a guest cabin with a Pullman double berth and a forepeak head/shower combo.
The Hunter’s interior appeal could be the ample lighting, the good ventilation created by many ports and hatches, or the glow of the spray-lacquered teak furniture, which creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. It could also be the 6’ 6” headroom that gives it a spacious feeling.
The Hunter 456 is a coastal cruiser, but I once put one through a test that would have made a bluewater cruiser shudder. Coming out of Newport News, Virginia, we turned to head up to Deltaville on a day where it was gusting to 50. The waves had the entire length of Chesapeake Bay to build and we were running straight into 10’ square walls of water that marched at us incessantly for eight hours. The owner was on a schedule, so we continued on the delivery. The boat pounded but never missed a beat, while the Yanmar engine pushed onward. We arrived safely, wet, and jiggled—but intact. The boat held together impressively and was none worse for the wear.
Visit Hunter 456 listings.
* LOA – 46’ 1” * LWL – 39’ 8” * Beam – 14’0” * Draft – 5’ 6” * Displacement – 26,000 lbs * Sail Area (ketch) – 1,000 sq ft * Fuel – 100 gallons * Water – 200 gal.