We have a Hunter 26 with water ballast for the same reason you mentioned, to able to trailer it to different lakes. Emptying the water when you pull the boat out of the water saves 1000 pounds of towing weight. And the lifting keel is easier to put on the trailer and easier to launch than the fixed keel model.
With either version the Hunter 26 has the most interior
space of any sailboat in the 26-28 foot range. Some 30 footers don't have as much interior
space. You can spin the table around and extend the v-berth to very comfortable size for two adults. The aft berth doesn't have much head
room, but it is queen sized, and you can sit up on the starboard side if you want to read. And it has an enclosed private head
and a small galley
. That's a lot for 26 feet.
What to look for? Check the strength of the rudder
and tiller. Some have had to be rebuilt. Launch the boat, fill the ballast tank, pull the boat out on the trailer, and check for leaks
. In your area freezing shouldn't be a problem, but depending on where the boat has been and who has taken care of it (or not), it's possible for the ballast tank to be cracked. The lifting keel is very heavy. I added blocks to increase the purchase
so that I could lift
mine without straining. With any boat of this size and type, check for water intrusion from rain. Close it up and spray it with a water hose. And good sails will make the boat sail much better. If it has a spinnaker
that will add a lot of options for you and let you grow into sailing the boat beyond just main and jib
How are the throttle and gear
shift located? The outboard motor
sits fairly low in a motor
well. I found that I had to get on my knees to shift gears, and then I couldn't see how to steer. So I mounted a throttle/shifter on the starboard stern rail so I can stand up and steer.
I think the Hunter 26 is a very versatile all purpose sail boat. It has the sailing characteristic of a large dinghy
, a little tender
at first, but then it stiffens up quite a bit. I've had mine over to 50+ degrees of heel (just for the heck of it) and it always comes back up. And the lifting keel makes it very suitable for sailing on unfamiliar lakes where you could be surprised by shallows.