What would you expect someone named Christopher Columbus Smith, the owner of Chris-Craft Boats, who grew up along the banks of the St. Clair River in Algonac, Michigan, to spend his life doing? If you said “become a master boat builder,” you’d be right. In 1874, at age 13, Chris and his older brother, Henry, built their first skiff. It didn’t have a motor, so they used a pole to push themselves around the lake. When they started building canoes and duck boats to make money, they made it official and formed Smith Brothers Boat Builders.
Unparalleled Craftsmanship, Reliability, Agility and Legendary Look
When Henry decided he liked duck hunting better than boat building, he turned Smith Brothers over to Chris, who renamed the company C. C. Smith, Boat Builder. Over the years, the name changed a few more times before it became Chris-Craft in 1924. What didn’t change was the unparalleled craftsmanship, reliability, agility and legendary look that was built into every Chris-Craft.
Fast forward 147 years and nearly 300,000 boats later, and you’ll discover there’s hardly a boat enthusiast anywhere on Earth who isn’t familiar with the contributions Chris-Craft Boats made – and still makes – to the boating world.
Always on the cutting-edge
Prior to 1924, all boats were built one at a time. Because Chris-Craft wooden boats, or runabouts as they were called, were in such demand, the company pretty much always had a backlog of orders. How could they make more of their popular wooden boats without sacrificing quality? For starters, Chris-Craft Boats experimented with standardizing models; then he had his crew begin using templates for certain parts and, finally, he had them form into teams specializing in one operation – building the hull, for example.
With these changes in place, Chris-Craft began producing some models at the rate of one boat every day and a half. But, actions have consequences. By 1927, Chris-Craft was the world’s largest manufacturer of wooden boats, but more boats meant a need for more sales outlets and a lot more mahogany.
So, Chris Smith did something unheard of in the boat world: Instead of selling boats to his customers direct from the factory, he set up a dealer network. Dealing with the rising cost of Philippine mahogany and a clientele that was starting to ask for boats that were easier to care for, however, was more challenging. It’s also when a new material – fiberglass – began inching its way into boats, even Chris-Craft boats. By the 1960s, Chris-Craft, famous for its wooden boats had made the transition to fiberglass.
Chris-Craft debuted the 38-foot Commander at the 1964 Chicago boat show. It was the first in a series of Chris-Craft boats built entirely of fiberglass. Subsequent Commanders – ranging from 27 to 60 feet – were built throughout the ‘60s. These all-fiberglass boats appealed to people who wanted to own a boat but didn’t have the money or time to buy and maintain a wooden boat.
Chris-Craft Boats Lineup
Corsair Series 27, 30, 34
With wide beams, easy maneuverability and powerful engines, models in the Corsair Series deliver the ideal balance of comfort and speed – two must-have features for weekend adventures with family and friends. Even with their small footprint, Corsair models can accommodate between 10 and 12 people. Depending on the model, amenities include a two-person sleeping area, closet, sink, head, relaxing sunbathing spots, fold-out loungers and galley kitchen.
Launch Open Bow Series 23, 27, 30, 34
Each model has its niche. Launch 23, with its quick acceleration and agile handling, is the ultimate for any kind of water sport. Launch 27 abounds with crowd-pleasing
Extras: cushioned benches, chaise loungers, cupholders, storage spots, an under-seat cooler, an onboard head and sink. Everything you need to celebrate with 10 of your favorite people. With a wider beam, larger fuel capacity and more power than its Series mates, Launch 30’s claim to fame is its suitability for extended cruising. Then there’s the Launch 34. Talk about a dual personality: It’s a powerful bow-rider and a luxurious cruiser. Whether you’re couple cruising or spending the day on the water with 11 of your best friends, there’s plenty of room to entertain and relax.
Launch GT Open Bow Series 25, 28, 31, 35
GT 25 has all the same features as the Launch 27 plus a power folding sport arch top to protect you from the sun and rain. It’s ideal for day trips, water sports or as a tender for a yacht. Chris-Craft pulled out all the stops when it designed the new GT 28. It’s a real beauty with brains. It’s loaded with the latest technology, has a central command system for electronics and an electric folding tower that shades the cockpit. The GT 31 shines in so many ways: solid mahogany and stainless steel helm, teak accents everywhere and an integrated lighting system controlled by a Garmin Glass Cockpit Display. Pretty much everything you need to impress friends and clients. The GT 35 is classic and cutting-edge. Choose from dive door or walk-through transom. Sterndrive or outboard power. Painted hardtop or electric SureShade. Innovative and customized to your wishes.
Calypso Dual Console Series 24, 30, 35
The Calypso line is all about socializing and entertaining. Beautiful, versatile and loaded with luxuries that turn a day (or more) on the water into pure pleasure.
- Convertible social seating
- Well-equipped summer kitchen
- Teak cockpit table
- Plenty of storage
- Hidden head/full sink
- A/C and audio systems (Calypso 35)
Catalina Center Console Series 27, 30, 34
Choosing which size Catalina day boat or weekender you want is decision number one followed by which edition –– Standard, Heritage Trim or Heritage – you feel most fits your personality. Catalina center consoles make terrific inshore/offshore sport fishers as well. Amenities include:
- Side-by-side captain’s chairs
- Refrigerator drawer (helm)
- Summer kitchen that serves 14 guests
- Fold-away aft seating
- Plentiful storage
New Chris-Craft Boats for sale from the 2021 Runabout Collection include:
- Corsair 27, 30, 34
- Launch 23, 27, 30, 34
- Launch GT 25, 28, 31, 35
Some people call used Craft-Craft boats antique, vintage or classic. Whatever you call them, Chris-Craft boats are synonymous with quality craftsmanship, maneuverability and speed. In the 1920s, mahogany runabouts from 16 to 26 feet were all the rage. By the 1930s, Chris-Craft was known as the world’s largest builder of wooden powerboats. During World War II, the company switched from building mahogany runabouts to providing the U.S. Navy and Army with patrol boats, rescue vessels and utility launches. Chris-Craft’s contribution to the war effort totaled more than 12,000 military vessels.
In the early ‘50s, the Chris-Craft boat lineup had 139 wooden models for sale. Most of the popular models like Sportsman, Continental, Riviera, Deluxe Runabout and Custom Runabout were offered in various lengths over the course of production. The 1961 Chris-Craft boats – sea skiffs ranging from 20 to 30 feet – qualify as antique or vintage and are still in demand; and in 1964, Chris-Craft introduced its first fiberglass boat. The end of an era came in 1971, when Chris-Craft built its last wooden boat – the 57-foot Constellation. The ‘80s and ‘90s found Chris-Craft continuing to invest in new technologies and designs for sport boats, racing catamarans and high-performance cruisers.
In 2001, Chris-Craft was purchased by the investment group, Stellican Ltd., which introduced three new Heritage models and a 43-foot Roamer Yacht. In 2018, Winnebago Industries acquired Chris-Craft.
Even when you can’t see its badge, you can always tell by the iconic design and exceptional performance that it’s a Chris-Craft.
- Founders: Christopher and Henry Smith
- Established: 1874, Algonac, Michigan
- Relocated to Sarasota, Florida, 1990
- Current owner: Winnebago Industries, 2018
- Type: High-end recreational powerboats, cruisers
- Size: 23 feet to 70 feet
- Series: Corsair, Launch, Launch GT, Calypso, Catalina, Commander, Roamer
- Models: Corsair 27, 30, 34; Launch (Open Bow) 23, 27, 30, 34; Launch GT (Open Bow) 25, 28, 31, 35; Calypso (Dual Console) 24, 30, 35; Catalina (Center Console) 27, 30, 34; Commander 41, 42, 45, 47; Roamer 36, 38, 40, 43, 46, 48, 55, 58, 60
- Construction: Wood or fiberglass
If owning a vintage Chris-Craft runabout or brand-new cruiser is on your wishlist, you’ve come to the right spot. Our cutting-edge cloud network technology, enterprise-level software tools and real-time information make it fast and easy to find all the Chris-Craft boats we have for sale.