The older guy who'd been practicing putts on the lawn of the Hyatt in Sarasota, Florida, was dockside looking nostalgic when I poked my head out of the companionway of Chris-Craft's new Crowne 25. From the faraway look in his eyes, I knew what was coming.
"First boat I ever had was a '56 Chris bullnose," he finally said. "Practically raised my family aboard that old woody."
We chatted for a while about the days when scraping and caulking were the spring regime and dryrot was an affliction of cruisers instead of Congress.
There aren't many long-time boaters around who don't have a Chris in their history. My resume includes blood and sweat donated to an ancient 38' Constellation as well as a 34' Capitan.
HIGH POINTS: Spacious engine room and color-coded, well-loomed and protected wiring make maintenance a breeze. Practical foredeck anchor well.
LOW POINTS: Nonslip will work only with teardrops. Leaping over the bowrail is an agility-challenge. How do you reach the mid-cabin berth? Crawl.
Of course, the sleek lines of the modern Crowne bear no resemblance to those bygone boats. But families haven't changed. Chris-Craft still aims for the heartland. The Crowne could well have come out of a demographer's computer. If you're a young couple with 2.5 kids and can afford about $300 to $400 a month - the company's sales guide includes a payment schedule on a 20-year loan for this $34,855 pocket cruiser - you can consider yourselves targeted. Pocket cruiser? Absolutely. Everything the big boys have - except for twin engines - the Crowne has, too. Only it's wrapped tighter. Our test boat sported the Volvo Penta 300-hp 7.4-liter EFI DP - the most horses you can get. This boat also packed the optional hot-water system with shower ($975), cockpit table ($180) and cruising package ($3,800), which includes a depthsounder, dual batteries and switches, full bowrail and windlass. The price? A reasonable $48,200. A reverse-cycle 110v air conditioning system will set you back another $4,435. You'll have to plug in at the dock, though, since there's no genset available.
The Crowne runs in good company. Chaparral's Signature 25 (25'7" LOA, 8'6" beam, 6,000 lbs.) bases at $39,070 with its standard MerCruiser 5.7-liter Alpha One stern drive.