Richard Date takes up the challenge of restoring an unloved and unwanted cruiser

When friends of mine, who were keelboat racers, successfully restored a Hunter 19 cruiser and changed the rig I was impressed.

If they could do it, maybe I could too – it seemed they’d started a trend.

It began at the 2004 Squib Nationals when a couple of ex-Squib champions took pity on a Hunter 19 that was languishing at the back of Holyhead Boatyard.

A small yacht on a trailer

The Hunter 19 was built in 1972, and Hull No34 was in a sorry state. Credit: Richard Date

They bought the yacht and took it back to the East Coast. They restored it with a new interior and put a Squib rig on it before taking it cruising.

At a more recent Squib Championships in Holyhead there was a layday due to strong winds and, during a discussion at the bar, it transpired that another unloved Hunter 19 was on a trailer which had been acquired on ebay and that the trailer was sold to (yet another) Squib champion in Burnham-on-Crouch

The boat was surplus to requirements so if I could fetch it from Burnham I too could have a project to keep me busy for a year.

Crouch Cheetah

So, after quite a lot of diesel and the generous provision of a trailer, the 1972 vintage Hunter 19 No34 found its way to Anglesey for a project which was to be shamelessly based on my friends’ yacht.

I found out that the boat had been raced as Crouch Cheetah at Burnham-on-Crouch by David Blake in the Burnham Sailing Club fleet and, as an early number built by the designer Oliver Lee, had the Mk1 keel which is highly prized by Squib sailors to this day.

The interior of a GRP boat in bad repair

The interior of the Hunter 19 needed ripping out. Credit: Richard Date

On inspection, the interior was beyond restoration – and full of sails and other paraphernalia – so it was an easy decision to remove all the existing structures and start with a totally empty hull.

As much as possible of the interior GRP lay-up attached to the hull was retained for stiffness.

Holes that had been cut for a self-bailer and a transducer were filled and the rusted keel-bolts were replaced with stainless steel bolts and lifting hangers; now construction could begin.

Restoring a Hunter 19

I fitted 12mm ply for all the interior structures with epoxy fillets and GRP lay-up of the joints, starting with the floors and bow-tank/vee berth.

It was important to stabilise the hull for this stage as, when empty, it could flex alarmingly.

The interior of a Hunter 19 boat which has been stripped back to the hull

The interior was stripped ready for rebuilding work. Credit: Richard Date

With the bow tank, floors and side benches fitted the hull was stable and the galley, shelves and lockers were added. Inspection hatches and a new stainless steel mast strut completed stage one of the rather cozy (ie small) cabin.

The hatchway was repaired, strengthened and raised in preparation for the single washboard.

A cockpit of a boat in a bad state

The original cockpit of the Hunter 19. Credit: Richard Date

All the winches and deck fittings were removed from the cockpit and deck moulding (except for the mooring cleats), and all these areas were filled, sanded and painted with two coats of a high quality exterior finish.

The cockpit sole was finished with Trakmark over flowcoat resin and the seats were replaced with new, varnished, iroko.

New seats installed in the cockpit of a boat

Cockpit cleaned up with new seating. Credit: Richard Date

The cockpit of the early, pre-Europa, Hunter 19 is not self-draining and so an electric pump was installed in the sump in the cockpit floor, and a battery box was fitted to a new bulkhead in the aft locker to take a small 12V battery.

This has been able to run the pump and retain charge throughout a season with just a small solar panel mounted inside a window.

The items emptied from the hull included a pair of new windows and a pulpit which had been ripped off the bow.

A bow tank and floors in a small boat

Bow tank and floors. Credit: Richard Date

The windows were of the original pattern and fitted the cut-outs perfectly but fitting straight glazing and alloy to a curved coachroof required some interesting discussion and effort.

The helpful people at Houdini Marine Windows said they would bend sufficiently and they were, thankfully, correct.

It was, however, a two-person job and brought out the worst of my vocabulary.

A hull of a boat stripped back

Hull stripped looking aft. Credit: Richard Date

The pulpit was straightened and the attachment points repaired with epoxy and ply backing pads before fitting, again with some persuasion but this time with no swearing.

After a professional polish by local expert Gwyn, which largely restored the original gelcoat colour, iroko rubbing strakes were added to set off the shiny hull.

Squib rig

As the boat was to have a Squib rig – no winches, easier handling – only the aft set of chain plates was required.

The bowplate was extended forward so that the forestay would clear the furler and a furling spar was made from Needlespar dinghy mast luff extrusion and wood dowelling; this required the jib luff to be modified with the correct bolt-rope instead of wire.

Attachment plates for the backstay and mainsheet bridle, and an eye for the mainsheet ratchet block and cleat on the floor, completed the cockpit set-up.

An electric pump in the floor of a Hunter 19 boat

The cockpit of the early, pre-Europa, Hunter 19 is not self-draining and so an electric pump was installed. Credit: Richard Date

The fittings for jib sheeting were arranged in classic Squib style, barber haulers and all (even though there was no plan to race) and as for sails there were some good ones in the hull – show me a Squib sailor without spare sails!

The mainsail was fitted with two sets of reefing points because, if single-handed, you need to reef the relatively large main early and deep.

The inside of the transom was strengthened with ply so that better pintles and a refurbished outboard bracket could be fitted to take my 2hp 2-stroke Yamaha engine – which is 10 years younger than the boat.

Continues below…

The whole interior was painted and the forward part finished with lining fabric.

The cabin sole received a flowcoat finish and the loose floorboards were set as low as possible between the plywood floors for extra legroom and to give access to the lifting hangers.

Smart cushions were made locally and completed the cabin, with breathable fabric for the vee berth and vinyl for the seats under the hatchway, which are vulnerable to weather.

Side lockers and floorboards installed in a small boat

Side lockers and floorboards installed in the Hunter 19. Credit: Richard Date

An overboom cover can be used to cover the hatch when not sailing.

The Hunter 19 rig departed for Ullswater where there is an active fleet of 19s, and a Squib mast, which had been broken at deck level (and kindly donated) was cut above the break for the higher deck-step on the 19’s coachroof; a mast-step with a pivot was made locally and fitted so the mast could be raised/lowered more easily.

Three halyards exit the base of the mast and the jib halyard goes direct to a muscle box on the side of the mast; having the forestay permanently attached increases rig security and means that the jib luff tension can be altered for sailing or on the mooring.

A Hunter 19 with a blue and red hull on a trailer

Pulpit, stanchions and strakes – all fitted and ready to go. Credit: Richard Date

The rig works well and is nicely balanced even though the mast position is a little further aft than on a Squib.

The jib sheets are 2:1 and the whole rig can be managed with just three camcleats.

Thus far there is no spinnaker, but there is plenty of time for that and lots of room for the extra hardware.

The only electronic component is a simple echo sounder, essential for the Menai Strait and around Anglesey.

A boat with a blue hull and red sails sailing past a coastline

The refurbished Hunter 19 renamed Nani sailing in her home waters of Anglesey. Credit: Richard Date

The transducer for this had to be forward of the keel and required another hatch in the bowtank/vee berth because the site was out of reach from the inspection hatch installed during the build.

More forethought required!

Following some time on the water I’ve not found any other problems but I’m sure improvements will come to mind as we enjoy our modified ‘Squib with a lid’, now called Nani after my first boat, a National 12 from a very long time ago!

Enjoyed reading Hunter 19 restoration: lessons learned from restoring an unwanted cruiser?

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