Chris-Craft 30: Retro Chic

Chris-Craft's 300 Express Cruiser unites a sensible layout with solid construction.

April 1, 1999

Huh? A 30′ cabin cruiser that doesn’t look like a stern drive-propelled bleach bottle? No multi-stepped, magic-lift hull? No rarer-than-plutonium construction materials? No double-turbo-electronically-controlled Mag engines? None of that stuff and it still cruises, runs and feels just fine using only single-prop drives?

The 300 Express Cruiser from Chris-Craft proves you don’t need to be on the cutting edge to build a great boat. You just need a firm handle on what works. And Chris-Craft does. The 300’s sensible layout, proven construction method and salty good looks inspire confidence and pride. With its competitive base price, the 300’s attributes are sure to generate smiles as well. And smiling, after all, is what boating is supposed to be all about.

OLD FAITHFUL. The 300’s conventional deep-V hull performed faithfully. With the test boat’s 220-hp Volvo Penta 5.0 GL/SX stern drives trimmed under and humming, it rose to plane in 3.55 seconds with only a momentary loss of visibility over the bow. That performance is typical of most boats sharing the 300’s steep, 21-degree transom deadrise when tabs aren’t used during planing. Use them and you shave a half a second off time to plane and never lose sight of the horizon. In either case your tow toy days aren’t over if you move up to the 300.


HIGHS: What a foredeck! And how about those salty good looks! A sensible layout that works well. Systems installed with style and aplomb. Nice hull – bring on the chop.** **

LOWS: Ouch! My head hurts. The windshield curve overhangs the port lounge. Ouch, again! Either limbo through the windshield or remove the Bimini.

On top at 24 mph the 300 ate the 2′ and 3′ wakes of a passing yacht squadron with ease. Its minimum plane of 14 mph, at 2600 RPM and full tabs, will get you through the rough stuff dryly and without pounding. The reason? Besides the deep-V, its 10’6″ beam doesn’t exceed the 3:1 length-to-beam ratio designers favor for sea-kindly hulls. On the hook for the night? Sleep tight. The 9,000 pounds of displacement and reverse chines will dampen the roll.


While cruising, you’ll want to run it at 3500 rpm, enjoying the predictable and precise handling that deep-Vs are famous for and netting better than 2 mpg in the bargain. In all, the 300 delivers predictable performance that you can count on in a variety of conditions.

OLD GLORY. Our test boat’s hull sported a navy gel coat with white sport graphics ($500). Very salty. But the foredeck really caught my eye. No slick, bulbous access-through-the-windshield-only sunpad here. The 300 has a flat, working foredeck etched with nonslip and surrounded by thigh-high, 1″-diameter bowrails. There’s even a scuppered toerail that starts aft and runs forward along the outboard edge of a 6.5″-wide sidedeck. Its windshield wraps farther aft than aboard most boats and can serve as a grabrail.

Unfortunately, it’s a 2′ step to the sidedecks from the cockpit. Mounting the bow through the split windshield is a problem, too. The molded helm steps are fine, but as you gain the cabin top you could get clotheslined by the Bimini top frame – it’s only 5′ off the deck. A pair of cockpit steps aft and a Bimini that folds back against the arch would be better.


There’s no pulpit sprouting from the 300’s bow. The anchor stows in a chute and roller through the stem without detracting from the 300’s lines. Rode is accessed through a 2′-by-2’2″ hatch. Opening it revealed a Simpson Lawrence windlass with chain gypsy ($1,495) mounted on a sloped platform whose incline matched the anchor chute’s. Nice job.

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| |—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—| |CERTIFIED TEST RESULTS Chris-Craft 300 Express Cruiser| | |SPEED|EFFICIENCY|OPERATION| | |naut.|stat.|n. mi.|s. mi.|run|sound| |rpm|knots|mph|gph|mpg|mpg|range|range|angle|level| |1000|4.4|5.1|3.4|1.3|1.5|176|203|0|88| |1500|6.8|7.8|5.8|1.2|1.3|158|182|2|88| |2000|6.9|7.9|9.4|0.7|0.8|99|113|5|90| |2500|11.0|12.7|13.1|0.8|1.0|114|131|6|91| |3000|20.9|24.1|20.0|1.0|1.2|141|162|3|92| |3500|26.6|30.6|28.2|0.9|1.1|127|146|1|94| |4000|32.1|36.9|34.4|0.9|1.1|126|145|0|98| |4500|37.0|42.6|37.2|1.0|1.1|134|155|0|99| |4650|38.4|44.2|39.6|1.0|1.1|131|151|0|101| Advertised fuel capacity 150 gallons. Range based on 90 percent of that figure. Performance measured with two persons aboard, three-quarters fuel, no water. Sound levels taken at helm, in dB-A.

WE’RE ALL CONNECTED. The water fill is also located under the anchor hatch. Why? Because the freshwater tank is located under the V-berth, leaving more room in the engine compartment. In placing the water supply forward, Chris-Craft netted enough space under the 300’s motor hatch to keep any cruising necessities within easy reach. Besides the V-8 Volvo Pentas, I found a 4.5kW Kohler genset ($6,995); 6-gallon hot water heater; 35-gallon gray water tank; waste tank and suction pump; and a triple battery bank – one house, one each for the motors.


As we’ve said, the 300’s 10’6″ maximum beam contributes to its fine ride. It measures 9’10” at the transom. That all six feet of me could work in the space remaining around the engines and accessories to troubleshoot a snafu with our test gear is a tribute to the 300’s design. The neatly run plumbing and wiring helped, too. It’s bundled, labeled and supported with Adell clamps.

The systems installation aboard the Chris-Craft – and its hull specs and foredeck, too – proves two things. One, disparate items (like water fills and engine rooms) are all related within the limited confines of a boat. Secondly, allowing form to follow function works best.

The 300’s accomodations point to this M.O. For instance, the helm is not so artfully sculpted from glass and resin that gauges and switches are visible from just one position. Instead there’s a simple gauge panel that can be easily read sitting or standing. Prefer to keep your cell phone at hand, rather than in it? Between the panel and the tilt wheel is a 7″-by-3’2″ flat that is fenced-in with a 1″ stainless-steel rail. The 3’8″-long helm bench’s split bolster design allows both skipper and companion to stand in comfort. Six others can sit on similiarly-sized aft-facing lounges and the 3’4″ portside lounge. Watch your head, though. The windshield’s inboard curve overhangs this seat.

The companionway features a sliding screen door so you can keep cool and bug-free without a/c ($2,995). Descend three pedestal-mounted steps into the cabin. Its decor features colonial overtones: varnished cherry trim accents, flag-blue Ultra Leather upholstery and a tight, white woven-vinyl headliner. To port, the head features 5’11” of headroom, a shower curtain (boatbuilders take note: when are we going to see a gasketed door take the place of these hokey curtains?) and 1’7″ between my knees and the bulkhead when on the head.

Beyond is the galley, where a Corian countertop features a cherry fiddle. But the fiddle lacks a cutout to ease cleaning. There’s plenty of stowage in six drawers, two cabinets and a 4′-by-1’5″ shelf, even with the TV/VCR combo ($995) installed. How did they do it? The fridge is mounted on the V-berth’s aft bulkhead instead of under the counter, a good use of space. Despite the fridge (and water tank) location, Chris-Craft still incorporates carpeted stowage compartments port and starboard here.

The V-berth is 6’5″ on centerline and 7’5″ at its widest and has 3′ of sitting-up-and-reading headroom. If this were my boat this would be my berth. The dinette is only 5′-by-3′ when converted. Like the 5′-by-5’9″ mid-cabin (with 4’2″ of headroom) it’s best reserved for kids or an unexpected guest.

On balance the dinette comfortably seats four for dinner or cards and the open companionway steps allow the mid-cabin to function as an airy alcove. The 6’1″ of overall headroom belowdecks, three overhead hatches, six opening ports and cheery decor make the 300 a pleasant boat for entertaining.

For comparisons with similarly-powered boats, look at Doral’s 300 SC ($99,610). Its styling exemplifies the Euro-curve versus the Chris-Craft’s more conservative edge. And then there’s Bayliner’s 3055 Ciera ($85,995), featuring very futuristic next- generation styling.

If you load either boat up with options, its price will rise. For example, as tested the 300 lists for $117,052 including the remote spotlight ($395) – the middle of the market. If your taste runs to the traditional and you place a premium on substance, take a look at the Chris-Craft. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.


Beam……..10’6″ ** **

Draft……..2’6″ ** **

Displacement (lbs., approx.)…..9,000 ** **

Transom deadrise…..21° ** **

Bridge clearance…..7’3″ ** **

Minimum cockpit depth………2’2″ ** **

Max. cabin headroom…..6’1″ ** **

Fuel capacity (gal.)…………150 ** **

Water capacity (gal.)…………35 ** **

Price (w/standard power) ………..$102,732 ** **

Price (w/test power)…$102,732 ****

STANDARD POWER: Twin 220-hp Volvo Penta 5.0 GL/SX V-8 gasoline stern drives.

OPTIONAL POWER: Twin Volvo Penta gasoline stern drives up to 620-hp total.

TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 220-hp Volvo Penta 5.0 GL/SX V-8 gasoline stern drives with 305 cid, 3.74″ bore x 3.48″ stroke, swinging 14 3/4″ by 17″ ss props through 1.51:1 reductions.

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Sunbrella bimini top; Clarion Marine AM/FM stereo cassette w/4 speakers; cockpit courtesy lights; removable aft bench seat; cockpit wet bar with sink; concealed anchor system with hawsepipe, cleat and roller; hydraulic trim tabs; Berber snap-in cockpit carpet; digital depthsounder; illuminated switches; power steering; compass; battery charger; shore power w/50′ cord; windshield wiper (starboard); pillow set; CO detector; privacy curtain; a.d./d.c. refrigerator; single burner electric stove; microwave; coffemaker; Vacuflush head; shower curtain; Corian countertops; cedar-lined hanging locker.



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