By Andy Adams
There are few boats to compare with the Corsair 30 by Chris-Craft, even just in terms of size and amenities, but especially in the area of style. This is a boat that was very carefully designed to be a unique blend of classic elegance with the versatility of modern performance.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Heese, the president of Chris-Craft and he was well aware of the Chris-Craft heritage and determined to preserve and build on it. Chris-Craft is almost certainly the world’s oldest brand of pleasure craft and boats the company built back in the 1920s continue to be regular winners at the various antique and classic boat shows across North America.
Today, the company still displays a 1939 Chris-Craft Barrel Back in their reception area – a special tribute to Chris-Craft founder, Christopher Columbus Smith who passed away in 1939.
I have a feeling Chris would be very pleased with the new line of Chris-Crafts for 2012. There is a definite family resemblance from the smallest to the largest models and Stephen Heese spoke to this saying, “From 100 yards away, you can recognize a Chris-Craft. We dare to be different. We want the customer to say ‘wow!’ when they see the boat.”
Our test boat was an eye-catching metallic silver grey colour accented by the liberal use of real teak inside and out. The look is high-end and yet it is a nod to the wooden Chris-Crafts of the past. You can keep it silver and there will be little maintenance but I suspect most Corsair 30 owners who option out their boat like this will keep the teak finished bright and I suspect many of these will be kept indoors.
A Muskoka boathouse would be perfect although at a real 29’ 8”, it is big for inland lakes. There are smaller models but the Corsair 30 is well suited to the big waters off shore in the Great Lakes or Georgian Bay. To be fair though, it is a picnic/sunbathing boat with a cuddy cabin more than a cruiser.
But, the Corsair 30 is much more than a big runabout.
Starting at the bow, the running light hardware is custom and carries a traditional flagstaff with a Chris-Craft pennant; there is an anchor hatch with teak and stainless steel inlay. The fore deck anchor locker includes an electric windlass and an anchor that can be managed from the helm. Our test boat had the full teak “Heritage Edition” deck with teak and stainless deck rails and also teak covering boards. A deck sun pad is optional.
Then, there is a steeply raked back stainless steel, windshield frame with tempered glass that looks great. The cleats are all pop-up recessed types and at the stern is a molded-in swim platform, again finished in teak and with stainless steel trim and a hidden boarding ladder.
There’s a pop-out ski tow eye and also a freshwater shower, ideal for washing off the salt after a dip in the ocean. A teak step is molded into the transom to help you up onto the hydraulically actuated engine hatch. Again, it’s teak but a sun pad can be placed here for tanning.
The interior is richly upholstered and appointed. The seating is in a U-shape across the transom and up both sides, ending with a sloped backrest section for tanning. These backrests lift for fender storage which keeps things neat. There is abundant under-seat storage and the battery switches are under the port side aft bench.
A removable teak picnic table is a nice touch and the test boat had an Isotherm refrigerator under the seat as well. An optional galley package with sink, grill and refrigerator is available.
In fact, the option list allows buyers to escape the teak if they choose, add snap-out carpeting and really personalize their Corsair but we suspect most are sold loaded; it’s that kind of boat.
The helm is a main attraction with the gorgeous varnished mahogany steering wheel, tilting of course, a dashboard that is reminiscent of the ‘engine turned’ styles from the 1920s, a full set of engine instruments for the twin MerCruiser 350 MAG engines and a fabulous double-helm seat. This has a flip-up bolster and electric adjustment as well as built-in polished stainless handholds.
Big sturdy handholds and thick padding is everywhere for safety and comfort. On the companion side is a glove box that conceals the Kenwood audio system.
For those planning to travel a bit, there is an optional Garmin 5208 touchscreen navigation system with GPS and depth finder. This goes on the dash near the centerline so either side can navigate.
The cabin is accessed through a door and opening hatch that we found a bit snug. Inside, the cabin space is lit by the deck hatch by day or LED lights at night. An optional Tecma head occupies the centre and a full macerator system is available.
Driving the boat out in the bay in Sarasota, we were in a moderate chop up with a lot of other boat traffic so the bay was disturbed by rolling wakes of various sizes. In spite of that, the boat was always comfortable and soft riding. We got a feeling of extreme weight and solid construction. Even at speeds that had gone beyond comfortable, the boat still felt solid and in control. This is a no excuses kind of a boat. It’s not a performance boat but it sure goes!
The steeply raked windshield is well-positioned for you to see through or over by flipping up the bolster.
The twin MerCruiser Digital Throttle and Shift levers are a joy to use and have an engine synchronization feature and a ganged trim button, so it’s easy to drive it well. The test boat had the selectable Corsa exhaust – quiet around the harbour, open at speed in the ocean. Once you hit the open water, you see that this boat is all about the helm and the driving experience. It’s very satisfying and our test boat top end of 46.8 mph on GPS was flying. However, we were propped wrong and only turning 4000 rpm, not the 4600 max that would probably take us over 50 with ease.
To sum up, the Chris-Craft Corsair 30 is a special boat for the owner who sees it and recognizes that this is a reflection of his own tastes and priorities for pleasure.