At BOATING, we have long-maintained that there is no perfect boat, but that there may well be a boat that’s perfect any one boater. What characteristics does your perfect boat possess?
How about a boat that can overnight a family of four? Or maybe you’re seeking a new boat sporting a wide-open deck plan that’s ideal for carrying a big crew for towed watersports? Does your boat need to serve as a base for exploring shorelines by paddle craft or seaside towns by bike or on foot? Then again, a luxuriously commissioned boat aboard which you can entertain in style really appeals, right? Of course, a boat sized to make open water jaunts comfortable even when the wind is blowing would be nice…provided its small enough single-handing and beaching doable.
Finding a boat that fulfills any one of the preceding missions will prove easy. Finding a boat capable of fulfilling two or three of the above missions will prove more difficult. Finding a boat that doesn’t just serve, but excels, in all of the above capacities and you’ll find yourself in the cockpit of Chris-Craft’s Launch 36. In fact, the Launch 36’s very best characteristic may very well be the way in which it performs in a variety of roles with as absolute little compromise as possible.
How did Chris-Craft achieve this? By design, of course. Lets deconstruct the Launch 36 and in so doing, identify some of the elements that make this boat a winner.
Each time I walk up the dock after leaving my boat I turn my head and pause. Were you to ask me what I was looking at, I’d probably reply that I am making sure I coiled the hose, or snapped the covers, or tilted up the engines. But the truth is, I just love looking at a boat with beautiful lines.
The Chris-Craft Launch 36 is a boat with that same head-turning beauty. And you know what, its good looks reflect the way it rides, and help to highlight the genius of the design.
The Launch 36 strikes a sleek pose. It looks long and low and lean rather than tending towards short and wide and tall. Keeping the beam less than one-third of the boat’s LOA (the Launch 36 measures 38’2 x 12’6″) is a key to achieving this look. It also helps the boat deliver the stunning ride quality we experienced. “Skinny” boats—that is boats with a beam-to-length ratio greater than 3:1 ride better than wider boats, as any Naval Architect will confirm. Naturally, the deep-V hull form helps, but all things being equal the svelter boat delivers the smoother ride.
As for the height, the Launch 36 sports enough freeboard to provide secure accommodations on deck, great visibility from the helm– those that exceed ABYC standards, in fact –, and affords 6’4″ headroom belowdecks (Its deep-V hullform helps here as well). Boats with too much freeboard and excessive tophamper are more subject to wind gusts while docking , ungainly—at best– in a beam sea, and roll with a more uncomfortable motion.
Those are some broad observations regarding aesthetics and the way they are linked to performance, use and handling. If we zoom in, we could note smaller and smaller details, all that relate back to ownership in a tangible way. For instance, the painted hull offers greater depth of gloss than gelcoat and is less subject to stress-cracks and chalking. And lets not discount the pride of ownership one feels when caressing a cleat or fitting made for the boat we’ve paid for, as opposed to being the same fitting found on the shelves of a chain marine supply store. That these fittings are the of chrome-plated stainless for the very best looks and long-term corrosion-resistance just makes them so much the better. Or look at fabrics. Chris-Craft chooses supple, marine-grade upholstery that stands up to the weather—as well as to your crew and guests. That it is embossed in a quilted pattern mean that this upholstery not only looks good, but feels good to the touch and wont allow bare back or bare thighs to stick to it in humid weather.
Yes, beauty is more than skin deep. As applied to boats, aesthetics are not just subjective; they play into a myriad of ownership issues and the Chris-Craft Launch scores big on scores of them.
Don’t skim over this section. I know you’ve been deluged with “massive stowage” statements in so many other articles. This is not one of those. Trust me.
In order for the Launch 36, or any boat, to be so good at so many things, it needs to be able to carry the gear boaters need to pursue their passions and entertain their guests. Some boats attempt to handle this requirement by labeling enormous voids as “stowage.” Yes, one can stow much in such an abyss—but after just the first time you try to get at something without digging out all the other stuff, you may realize that “massive stowage” may sound good, but really isn’t any good at all.
A better way, the way Chris-Craft incorporated the stowage aboard the Launch 36, is to anticipate not only what gear the boater will want to have aboard, but how and under what circumstance he’ll need to access those marine accessories.
First was to make sure that boat-specific equipment all had a place that was secure and out from underfoot, yet allowed for quick deployment. Certainly the anchor locker in the bow meets this criterion, but Chris-Craft went above and beyond this type of baseline equipage.
Toward that end, recessed stowage for the bimini top is incorporated into the gunwales, where lifting the lid allows hinging the top up into position in a jiffy. But when its not needed, the frame is neither an eyesore, nor in the way, nor is it rattling and whistling in the wind.
Dedicated stowage for fenders can be found under the aft seating, which lifts easily in rams. A quiver of large fenders can be secured here, out of sight and out from underfoot, yet right where dockside crew can get to them quickly as you approach the pier.
The cockpit table is an often-troublesome amenity to stow or deploy. But, not aboard the Chris-Craft 36 Launch. This table hides beneath the cockpit sole, and then rises electrically when a switch is depressed. Its completely out of the way and secure, yet completely at the ready. You need not displace any crew or guests in order to put it up or put it away.
Beyond boat equipment, there is the need to stow the boater’s equipment. Naturally this category is broader than the Atlantic, but practical examples are easy to point out. Inside the engine hatch (sterndrive model) I found stowage roomy enough to secure a pair of folding bicycles and deck chairs. Handy, and a good example, of using the same space for two purposes without any ill effect.
Flanking this compartment are additional capacious stowage lockers. In each, there is enough space to stow inflatable kayaks or other bulky gear, such as a bag containing lifejackets and safety gear. I’ll note here that each of these lockers is properly executed with a deep, draining hatch gutter and lids that latch tight, to ensure that stowed gear stays dry.
More still, there are lockers under each gunwale in which one might stow masks and fins, ski ropes, beach umbrellas, and a host of sundry items too various to list. In all cases, the items stowed are secure, can be retrieved without having to unload the entire inventory of gear, as is the case aboard boats that utilize a single large locker. Instead, the Chris-Craft method of having dedicated stowage, in addition to a variety of large, general-purpose lockers in multiple locations, proves superior.
The validity of the decisions that led to the arrangement and accommodation plan for the Launch 36 are proved by the success of the boat. It just works, whether serving as a dayboat, or as an overnighter, or as a luxury launch for touring the waterfront or commuting to the islands or a cottage home.
Topside, the key to making the layout work so well is the walkaround deck plan. That the ability to safely move with sure-footed grace all around the boat is a practical necessity should garner no argument, particularly from those with much experience aboard boats. Think about handling lines while docking, as an example, and an equally good view of both bow and stern from the helm, as another.
But the benefits to a walkaround deck plan extend beyond the practical. The positive effect that such a layout has upon the sociability that Launch 36 provides is undeniable. The aft cockpit provides seating and access to the dock or water; the walkaround decks allow easy egress to the bow and lounge. Whereas the layout of most boats forces crew to sit together and stay put, guests aboard the Chris-Craft Launch 36 can mill about, come and go, and break into smaller groups in the natural fashion of people gathering at a social event. That each and every seat, fixture, and fitting that they encounter is luxurious only enhances this special experience.
Belowdecks, the cabin is right-sized to fulfill the mission of this boat. While four can spend the night in comfort—and a couple could easily luxuriate for a weekend—the cabin serves most owners on most days as yet another socializing area in which guests might congregate. Imagine, if you will, being at anchor. Several adults might head into the cabin to speak confidentially while youngsters enjoy diving off of the swim platform. (Two more adults, seated in the aft cockpit, monitor the swimming and splashing.) On the bow, older teens have congregated, staking their claim to this space, even though the safe and quick access along the sidedecks back to the cockpit, where the refreshments are, is appreciated. The expertly executed walkaround layout of the Chris-Craft Launch 36 allows the owner to make their guests happy, comfortable and safe, even if they are a large group that requires simultaneously serving diverse interests.
A boat doesn’t win Boat of the Year just because its design is unique, or excellent in its execution. A boat’s performance, construction, adherence to standards, and potential to affect the sport of boating as a whole are also part of the winning matrix. But design innovation such as that brought to life in the form of the Launch 36 serves to highlight these other parameters. And it shows what is possible when a builder decides to build and sell the boat that they think is best for the boater, rather than simply building and selling the boat they think they can sell.
Bravo Zulu, Chris-Craft! Well done!