Chris-Craft: an American icon of luxury yachting

Chris-Craft is a brand almost without equal in the world of powerboating. It is renowned not just for the classical loveliness of its designs, but also for the quality of its materials and for the fastidious attention it pays to even the most intricate elements of finish. Its powerboats always manage to evoke a delightful sense of traditional boatbuilding craftsmanship. With a range of Chris-Craft boats for sale in the UK, Mallorca and more widely across Europe, Argo Yachting is as well placed as anyone to understand the builder’s enduring mystique. Now fast approaching its 150th anniversary, current models like the Chris-Craft Corsair 34, the Chris-Craft Catalina 34, the Chris-Craft Launch 25 GT and the delectable Chris-Craft Launch 35 GT flagship have helped reinforce the modern brand’s reputation as a name to covet.

Chris-Craft: the heritage

Founded in Michigan in 1874 at the hands of precocious teenage boat enthusiast, Christopher Columbus Smith, the Chris-Craft brand developed fast. Gaining scale and momentum in partnership with Chris’s brother, a 31-year period under the fastidious stewardship of Chris’s son, Jay, saw it go on to become the largest builder of mahogany powerboats in the world. It then moved to its current base in Florida in the 1950s, where the transition to fibreglass construction began in earnest. The first GRP boat was built in 1955 and the last mahogany boat would eventually roll off the production line in 1971. And yet, despite the company’s openness to developing materials and processes, its heritage continues to occupy a place at the heart of its boatbuilding operations. As a fleet that now combines classically tasteful designs with artisan quality and the latest technologies, Chris-Craft remains one of the most celebrated builders in the world.


The ‘modern’ Chris-Craft fleet

Chris-Craft’s 16-strong fleet is divided into five distinct categories. With three dual-console, outboard powered dayboats from 24 to 35 feet, the Calypso Series is perfect for warm-weather open boaters and for those in need of a gentlemanly runabout with a classical signature.

The Catalina Series, which features three more outboard-powered models at broadly similar lengths, takes the same approach but uses a spacious centre console deck layout instead. That has made it a major success among owners who want to enjoy a spot of watersports or fishing, as well as open boating fun.

Further up the range, the graceful Corsair line is where authentic weekending potential is added to the mix. Both of the Corsair models (the 30 and the 34) use well established layouts, with traditional inboard engines, long aft sunbeds, integrated swim platforms, deep-set cockpits and small cuddy cabins beneath elegant teak-laid foredecks. But with eight boats across two sub categories, the most prolific (and in many ways, definitive) style of the modern Chris-Craft fleet has to be the bow riders.

With their low-profile lines, inboard propulsion, symmetrical wraparound cockpit seating and large aft sunbeds, the Launch Series is the classical Chris-Craft bow rider. While models range from the Launch 23 to the Launch 34, they all retain the flared bow, the tumblehome transom and the tapered aft freeboards for which Chris-Craft runabouts have become so fondly known. The high-spec Launch GT Series builds on the Launch line with a deep-set asymmetrical cockpit layout, a staggered walkway and an open transom – and it also provides extra day boating luxuries, not least in the form of optional fold-down hardtops and user-friendly side doors. Each GT model can be specced with inboard or colour-matched outboard engines from a range of manufacturers, including Volvo Penta, MerCruiser, Yamaha and Mercury. And, in the case of the Launch 34 and the Launch 35 GT (the largest boats from each line), you get overnight accommodation for two, as well as generous day space for 12.

Chris-Craft: technology and heritage in union

Today, as ever, craftsmanship remains a key part of the Chris-Craft story. You still get some lovely touches such as the three-spoke mahogany steering wheels and the diamond-pattern seat stitching. You still get bespoke steelwork and a range of custom-friendly options that run from bespoke hull and upholstery finishes to your choice of caulking colour in the teak decks. But while the elegant wood inlays and the trademark twin trumpet horns on the foredeck give a charming nod to the past, Chris-Craft is also very proactive when it comes to incorporating technologies that upgrade your time on the water. For instance, in addition to under-seat fridges, quick-erect biminis, premium UV-resistant vinyls and electric folding towers, the Garmin touchscreen ‘glass cockpit’ command system enables you to take control of the navigation, the audio and the electronic functions, while enjoying at-a-glance displays of all key systems data. It even enables you to coordinate the integrated lighting systems, with multiple lighting zones, both on board the boat and below the waterline.

Chris-Craft model highlights

Here at Argo Yachting, we love every model in the Chris-Craft fleet but, as the boat most of us imagine when we conjure up an image of the perfect couple’s weekender, the Chris-Craft Corsair 34 feels particularly special. It provides a vast cockpit with space for a dozen people, as well as a galley, a heads and a convertible double berth for luxurious weekends away. And yet, despite the scale and flexibility of the internal spaces, it still manages to deliver the long, lean, teak-lined profile that makes Chris-Craft designs so distinctive.

If you prefer a multi-purpose open dayboat, the Chris-Craft Launch 35 GT, is also a class leader. In fact, as the flagship of the entire Launch line, it’s so plush, so well equipped, so comfortable and so stylish that it feels like a distillation of all of the things that Chris-Craft does best. There’s a spacious heads compartment with hot and cold water beneath the port console. There’s an air-conditioned double berth beneath the starboard console. There’s a dual-screen Garmin control system, with integrated audio, a powerful subwoofer and six-zone programmable LED lighting. There are three forward-facing bow loungers, with built-in armrests and an electrically operated teak table. And in addition to inboard and outboard options, plus user-friendly joystick control, it also features a custom-crafted GT aluminium hardtop, with integrated speakers, a push-button sunshade and a powder-coated finish to match the gelcoat. It is powerful evidence, if evidence were needed, that after nearly 150 years in business, Chris-Craft continues to build some of the most seductive and desirable powerboats on the water.

Argo Yachting is the official distributor for Chris-Craft boats in the Balearic Islands and the UK – click here to view the Chris-Craft website.