What do you want to do with your boat this weekend? Drive around and drop anchor with a big crew aboard? Cruise to the next port along the coast and make a weekend out of it? Run outside the inlet? Whatever it may be, the new Chris-Craft Launch 36 has got you covered.
Technically, the Launch 36 belongs in the big “day boat” category that has grown in popularity as it more closely matches how people use their boats. It includes competitors such as the Sea Ray 350 SLX ($269,943 with twin 380 hp MerCruiser Bravo Three sterndrives) and the Formula 350 CBR ($387,970 with twin 430 hp Volvo Penta Duoprop sterndrives). But while those boats are essentially bowriders on steroids, the Launch 36 doesn’t quite fit the category. For one, rather than the traditional dual-console arrangement with the helm at the starboard console, the Launch 36’s deck has more of a walkaround style, with the helm part of a center-console with the steering wheel offset to starboard. Also, it has a full cabin belowdecks, as well as a midship berth. At first glance you’d be tempted to compare it to the closed-bow array of its sister ship in the fleet, the Corsair 36, but it’s not that either. Like a walkaround, it has side decks leading forward, but instead of steps up to a raised bow, it has steps down to a lounge and seating area similar to a bowrider’s. In a nod to European styling there is a massive sun pad forward of the windshield with forward-facing recliners and stylish teak grab rails. Forward of that there’s a bench along the bow complete with cup holders, stainless-steel grab rails and twin stereo speakers for entertainment. It’s a great use of space that ensures plenty of options for enjoying a day on the water abovedecks.
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Another important social gathering point sits behind the helm. Behind the triple-wide helm seat, which has separate backrests and flip-up bolsters for each seat, Chris-Craft built in an entertainment center adorned with both an ice maker and a refrigerator, plus a built-in microwave. The countertop features a built-in sink and both an electric stovetop and a grill. All is hidden underneath a hatch that opens on twin gas-assisted struts and latching teak doors. This arrangement makes it easy to stay in the social mix while providing food and drink for the crew, some of whom may be lounging on the aft U-shaped lounge. The setup lends itself to conversation, and the cockpit table insert converts it to a dinette. The seating section along the transom lifts on two heavy-duty rams to reveal underseat storage that is ideal for swallowing up fenders. A centerline walk-through, protected by a stainless-steel boarding gate, leads to the teak-laden swim platform. A stainless-steel rail keeps the platform safe from dockside dings and doubles as a handhold. A three-step, stainless-steel swim ladder hides underneath, and after a swim there’s a hot- and cold-water transom shower to rinse off the sea salt.
For overnighting purposes, a slider to port of the helm reveals steps down into the main cabin. Natural light comes from two vented windows built into the console in front of the helm, between the windshield and the tops of the forward-facing backrests. Once below deck, note the private head to starboard. See how it lacks a stand-up shower? That’s because Chris-Craft built a separate shower across the hall, allowing one passenger to shower while another can use the head. To port of that there’s another door, which opens to reveal the nautical equivalent of a walk-in closet — no small feat for a 36-foot boat. The midcabin can be outfitted with twin beds or a full bed. The main cabin can be set up with a dinette with a custom wood dining table should the crew want to get out of the sun for a bit. It converts to a full berth. Because of the deck plan above, the main cabin doesn’t have the headroom you’d find aboard a traditional cruiser, but it’s still plenty comfortable. And since the Launch 36 is primarily intended as a day boat, consider the space below a surprise bonus.
On the water, the Launch 36 certainly performs more like a bowrider than a cruiser, with very nimble handling, zippy midrange acceleration and a top speed of 51 mph. The hull took on a bay chop, large boat wakes and manufactured confused seas without pounding, spraying or showing any notice of shuddering in the hull and deck. From our test location in Palm Beach, Florida, I could envision running this boat through the Gulf Stream to Bimini on a reasonable day. We attained our performance data while running twin 430 hp Volvo Penta sterndrives, but the boat can be equipped with MerCruisers or even Yamaha or Mercury four-stroke outboards. Throwing triple Yamaha F300s or twin F350s, or triple Mercury 300 Verados, further separates the Launch 36 from the bowrider “day boat” category and puts it in competition with decked out walkarounds such as the Intrepid 375 (around $350,000 with triple Yamaha F300s) or even center-consoles like the Boston Whaler 350 Outrage ($352,134 with triple 300 hp Mercury Verados).
So, throw in the teak package to match the signature Chris-Craft gelcoat and transom tumblehome, and you’ve got a boat that’s either a leader in its category or just beyond categorization. However you look at it, it’s win-win.