Skip to main content

Only the most talented craftsmen built boats in more primitive times. Skill went into designing marine vessels, and the type of wood used to construct them meant the difference between sinking or sailing. That attention to detail and design continues with Chris-Craft boats. And though today’s boating consumers want pleasure cruisers and not the fishing and trading vessels of yesteryear, they still appreciate the craftsmanship in Chris-Craft vessels.

As technology and innovations evolved over the years, boatbuilding techniques have also changed. But water-loving enthusiasts know Chris-Craft boats still command respect through high-quality production. And like the ancient boatmakers, the longtime manufacturer has made a name for itself through unique engineering and a specific type of wood.

Chris-Craft’s long, rich history of boatmaking 

It was the late 1800s when brothers Christopher Columbus Smith and Hank Smith combined their boatbuilding talents and formed Chris-Craft. They were thrill-seekers, always looking for ways to improve their Lake Michigan adventures with powerboats. Designs began with steam engines, but by 1910, the mahogany boats could reach 33 mph with their 100-hp gas-powered engines. The Baby Reliance II model became the first boat to clock over 50 mph with its 53.7-mph run.

At the time, Chris-Craft was the only manufacturer using in-line production of wood-planked vessels. These boats garnered enough popularity and success that the company endured through the Great Depression and World War II, Wood Magazine reported. And today’s Chris-Craft boats are synonymous with luxury pleasure cruising.

How much does a Chris-Craft boat cost?

Expect the same level of quality in production when you buy a Chris-Craft boat today. The Smith family sold out in the 1950s, and the company’s headquarters moved from Michigan to Sarasota, Florida, USA Today reported. But the tradition of high-quality luxury powerboats continues with more modern styles and capabilities.

On the Chris-Craft website, you can browse available models, including the Corsair 30, Corsair 34, and the Catalina 27. These crafts can vary in price from $10,000 up to $675,000 depending on the size and model.

A diamond in the rough

Chris-Craft boats are diamonds in the rough because of their classic reputation for excellence in construction. Artisans built these beautiful vessels with stunning woodwork throughout. Collectors seek out vintage models, and many are still on the water through restoration.

Celebrities such as Elvis, Frank Sinatra, and Katharine Hepburn favorited these crafts. But finding some of these gems of yesteryear is tough. And their rarity adds to their allure.

The type of wood that makes them special

A Chris-Craft original featured a double-planked bottom made of Philippine mahogany. The Smiths incorporated a water-repellent layer of oil-saturated canvas between those rows of planking. They even plugged the screw holes with Philippine mahogany for airtight water protection.

Before using Philippine mahogany, Chris-Craft boats used Honduras mahogany. But to qualify for the 1920 international Harmsworth Trophy boat race, materials had to change to align with the U.S.-protected territory of the Philippines instead. And structural members of the crafts would feature native oak lumber, as well.

Wooden boats became nearly obsolete around the 1980s. Chris-Craft ventured into fiberglass production in 1955 and metal designs in 1957. But even today’s modern designs hark back to the iconic crafts of years past. Boating enthusiasts continue to appreciate these boats’ high-quality luxury designs. And if you’re lucky enough to see, own, or ride in a Smith-designed original, you’ll witness how impressive these boats were.


Are Pontoon Boats Safe In the Ocean?