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Chris-Craft 32: Welcome Home

The living is easy on board the 32 Crowne.

August 1, 1997
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There’s an aspect of a boat, rated on a scale of one to 10, that I call “Stu’s Functionality Quotient.” You won’t find this in Chapman’s and certainly not in Webster’s, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s as important as the seamanship or the correct vernacular found in those two august volumes. It works this way: The first indicator is whether the boat looks like it’s suited for its mission. At the dock, go-fasts for instance, appear to be straining at the leash. There’s no mistaking a proper fishboat, either. It bristles with fish-battling armaments. And take those big, lumbering trawlers. Watching them sit at the dock, there’s no question what they’re designed for: sitting at the dock.

Express cruisers? They should look fast and homey at the same time. That’s not easy. Some of them mimic sleek-profiled sportboats with “amenities” shoehorned inside, or conversely, are bulbous, high-windage creations on Aronow-inspired bottoms. Either way, express cruisers are low-ranked on the lookability scale.

Often, they fail the next indicator also. That’s allowing me to get from one end of the boat to the other and from below to topsides without feeling that I’m negotiating the Via Dolorosa.

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THE HIGHS: An easy-handling, well finished family cruiser with a high-performance edge. Hands-free ground tackle and acres of deck space. Not a sharp edge in sight.** **

THE LOWS: Careful with your docklines, that spotlight’s in harm’s way. How about a privacy curtain for the forward berth? Don’t expect fast holeshots.

NO CROSS TO BEAR. Fortunately, Chris-Craft’s design team must have had my functionality quotient in mind when it created the new 32 Crowne. Dockside, the Crowne’s straightish sheer and swept-back standard radar arch give it an aura of sleekness that cunningly conceals its 6’2″ salon headroom and acres of livability below. That’s a near-10 on my first indicator. As far as the ability to wander around without breaking your chops? Double digits here, also. The cockpit, for instance, with its L-shaped starboard/transom and port-lounge seating – an all-hands-sized cooler neatly fits under the port bench – is deckboat-sized and will easily seat eight. And that’s not counting the driver’s adjustable sitdown/bolster bench with room for three, fronted by a two-tiered wood-grained instrument cluster. A smart-thinking see-through shelf will keep a chart folded and flat in front of you at all times. That bench allows the driver to sit toward the center with his two mates to starboard. However, it can be a pinch for the far-right passenger to exit without squeezing through a bench door behind or over the skipper.

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Moving forward through the swingout windshield is a step-up cinch, too. The shield supports are solid stainless and well-backed. Don’t expect it to wave goodbye after a few of your hefty pals use it as a jungle gym. Although handholds, also well-backed, are strategically placed along the companionway, it’s a good idea to keep that hatch shut when foredeck bound while underway.

As far as ground tackle arrangements, however, the Crowne goes off the scale. First, the anchor stows hands-off, big-ship style on its stainless-steel roller under the pulpit. The pulpit itself is integrated with the deck, which gives you more room forward and eliminates the tongue depressor look. While the rode is inaccessible from below, a fist-sized hawsepipe allows you to reach down to untangle snarls. There’s a hefty 10″ cleat for tie-offs, and the whole shooting match, including the electric windlass ($2,575), is protected by a positive-latched, hinged hatch. An added treat: the molded-in nonslip, although sand-like, is just the right consistency to keep you from doing a barefoot slider. The forward-mounted spotlight ($535), though, is asking to be sucker-snatched by an errant dockline.

Engine access is also well thought out. A single electric ram brings the hatch up without the need to move deck furniture. There’s plenty of room to do everything from maintenance to major surgery on the iron. The wiring and plumbing are well secured and corrosion-protected. The fuel lines are double clamped and there’s even a light in the engine room.

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HOME ALONE. The companionway steps are open-backed, which not only gives an illusion of spaciousness to the midcabin with its convertible double berth/lounge, but also allows its occupants to take part in the belowdecks socializing. While a curtain ensures sleeping privacy here, there’s no privacy screening for the forward double berth. The rest of the layout below is par for the course: A convertible dinette/berth is in the main salon and there are separately molded Corian-like countertops in the galley. The head compartment, with its locking, solid-fitting door, is a separately-molded module. The fit and finish throughout are excellent; an easy eight on my scale.

||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||| |—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—|—| |CERTIFIED TEST RESULTS Chris-Craft 32 Crowne| | |SPEED|EFFICIENCY|OPERATION| | |naut.|stat.|n. mi.|s. mi.|run|sound| |rpm|knots|mph|gph|mpg|mpg|range|range|angle|level| |1000|5.4|6.2|3.6|1.5|1.7|269|310|0|56| |1500|8.1|9.3|12.8|0.6|0.7|114|131|1|57| |2000|9.0|10.4|15.0|0.6|0.7|108|125|2|59| |2500|12.7|14.6|17.2|0.7|0.8|133|153|3|60| |3000|21.7|25.0|18.6|1.2|1.3|210|242|5|62| |3500|27.4|31.5|22.0|1.2|1.4|224|258|3|64| |4000|32.6|37.5|30.6|1.1|1.2|192|221|1|73| |4600|38.1|43.8|42.4|0.9|1.0|162|186|1|74| Advertised fuel capacity 200 gallons. Range based on 90 percent of that figure. Performance measured with two persons aboard, full fuel, full water. Sound levels measured at helm, in dB-A.

We ran the Crowne on a moderately windy Florida day on Sarasota Bay. Like most of these big fellas, getting out of the hole didn’t exactly equal the Space Shuttle’s takeoff, although by putting the standard tabs full nose-down, we cut it to 5.6 seconds from a tabless near-eight seconds. With its standard 250-hp Volvo Penta 5.7-liter stern drives, our test boat’s top end averaged 43.8 mph. You’ll probably break 45 in flat water.

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The Crowne sports a 21-degree transom deadrise, but it doesn’t exhibit the chine-walking or crossbreeze lean that I’ve come to expect from near deep-V hull designs in windy and choppy conditions. Backing down, upwind or down, was smooth and underway handling was superb without any of the pre-plane mushiness endemic to high-deadrise bottoms. Another sign of good design is the Crowne’s responsiveness to its tabs. While on some boats of this breed it’s hard to notice much action from the tabs at speeds under 20 mph, the Crowne trimmed out with minute touches of the switch as soon as it was on plane. That helps when you have a load of side-to-side-wandering guests.

NUTS ‘N BOLTS. Chris-Craft’s hull layup is a traditional formula that’s worked well for them and should cause no problems for you. Layers of 1.5-oz. mat and 1.5-oz. chop alternate with layers of 17.08 through 24.15 woven roving. Marine plywood stringers are also wrapped in glass, and the hull-to-deck marriage is a shoebox-type fit bonded with polyurethane adhesive. Mechanical fastening is via stainless screws inserted into a wooden strip bonded to the hull wall. Does this match a through-bolted and adhesive-fastened offshore battlewagon? No. But for inland and fair-weather coastal cruising, the Crowne will march with the best of them.

With its standard Volvo Penta power, the Crowne lists for $103,620. For comparison, Crownline’s somewhat larger 330 Cruiser, with 33’7″ LOA, 11’7″ beam and 11,800-lb. displacement, is a near-lookalike that treads the same waters. With the same standard power as the Chris-Craft, the well-equipped CrownLine’s 1997 price is $106,000.

This new Chris-Craft 32 Crowne should appeal to all comers. It’s an easy ridin’, easy livin’ express cruiser with a makeover. Call it a solid nine.

LOA……….32’1″ ** **

Beam……..11’6″ ** **

Draft………2’3″ ** **

Displacement (lbs., approx.)…11,350 ** **

Minimum cockpit depth…..2’5″ ** **

Transom deadrise…..21° ** **

Max cabin headroom…..6’2″ ** **

Bridge clearance…9’7″ ** **

Fuel capacity (gal.)……….200 ** **

Water capacity (gal.)……….35 ** **

Price (w/standard power) ………..$103,620 ** **

Price (as tested) ………..$118,870 ** **

STANDARD POWER: Twin 250-hp 5.7Gi-liter Volvo Penta V-8 gasoline stern drives.

OPTIONAL POWER: Twin Volvo Penta gasoline or diesel stern drives to 300 hp.

TEST BOAT POWER: Twin 250-hp Volvo Penta V-8 5.7Gi gasoline stern drives with 350 cid, 4.00″ bore x 3.48″ stroke, turning 15″ x 17″ three-bladed stainless-steel props through a 1.5:1 reduction.

STANDARD EQUIPMENT (major items): Analog engine instrumentation; JVC AM/FM cassette stereo w/six speakers; 4 110v duplex outlets w/ ground fault interruption protection; cockpit wetbar w/integrated sink and faucet; hot and cold transom shower; integrated swim platform w/ss ladder; Dino wood steering wheel; 3 windshield wipers; 2 auto. bilge pumps w/float switches; compass; 110/12v Norcold refrigerator; battery charger; LCD depthsounder; Igloo cooler; sport arch.

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