Chris Craft




Low-hanging clouds scudded across the autumn sky as I pulled into the Walstrom Marine parking lot in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and Little Traverse Bay was a slate-gray mass of spitting whitecaps. Brian Granger, my captain for the day, made sure we both had steaming mugs of fresh coffee before we made our way to the covered slips that are part of the Walstrom complex.

Maritime heritage and Great Lakes history infused the morning. Walstrom Marine, founded in 1946, has carried the 133-year-old Chris-Craft line since day one. And Granger, a fifth-generation native of the Harbor Springs area, was eager to show me his 150-year-old resort community. First, however, he had to introduce me to our ride: the Chris-Craft Corsair 36.

This yacht has a distinctive design, with classic lines that incorporate pronounced forward flair and aft tumblehome. She also has a dual personality, offering the accommodations of an express cruiser while flashing the credentials of large day launch. To start, she allows easy boarding on the foredeck – a nice feature, as it eliminates countless stints at cleaning footprints from cockpit cushions. If you’ve got floating docks, you can board aft via the extended fiberglass swim platform, which also incorporates a three-step stainless ladder and a transom-mounted freshwater shower.

Topside, the Corsair 36 features all stainless-steel hardware and through-hull fittings, as well as a custom, walk-through, stainless windshield with Solex glass.

The aluminum perforated dash, with its leather accent, has custom Chris-Craft gauges and a custom wood and anodized-aluminum steering wheel; our test boat also had a Raymarine electronics package.

I was impressed by the generous ultraleather seating – the Corsair 36 includes a filler cushion to create full U-shaped seating out of the two lounges – and the amount of storage. To port, the 36 features a sink and wet bar with cooler storage or an optional icemaker; to starboard, our test boat had the available cockpit refrigerator in the standard storage space. The yacht provides additional storage beneath all cockpit seating.

Moving farther aft, Granger revealed the 36’s two large transom trunks, which hold the two 30-amp electrical hookups and the TV/cable and freshwater hookups to port and offer fender storage to starboard.

Chris-Craft made every effort to maintain the Corsair 36’s classic lines. First, the custom-designed Bimini top stores neatly within the engine hatch, which includes more big storage bins. The boat has a recessed anchor, and if the owner selects the “cruise package,” it will also come equipped with a windlass hidden within the forward locker.

This particular Corsair 36 was a Heritage Edition, with teak deck coaming rails and swim platform. She also had a teak cockpit and foredeck; custom wood plate with metal logo inlay; traditional foredeck horns; three teak steps from the walk-through windshield, each with stainless-steel framing; and a nicely detailed transom door. There also is an option for a large teak cockpit table.

Until now, the Corsair 36 definitely conveyed the feel of a big day boat. Belowdecks, however, she becomes a cruising yacht, with a two-burner glass-top electric stove, refrigerator, microwave and coffeemaker in the galley; an enclosed shower, separate vanity, wood cabinets and opening portlight in the large head; and a convertible V-berth as well as an aft “playpen” berth. And this aft sleeping area is no cave – it incorporates a stand-up dressing area with seat, cedar-lined hanging locker and additional cabinets.

The interior detailing creates an appealing blend of classic and modern, from the steamship-style door vents, hand-crafted cherry cabinets and optional maple-and-cherry hardwood floor to the contemporary light fixtures and flat-screen TVs.

At last it was time to give the Corsair 36 an opportunity to stretch her legs. As we motored through the deepest natural harbor on Lake Michigan, Granger pointed out historic Harbor Point and various landmarks along the Harbor Springs waterfront, lined with white clapboard cottages and splashes of fall color.

Three-foot swells from the west had turned Little Traverse Bay into a heaving mass, but we forged ahead to Petoskey, 2-1/2 miles across the bay to the south, and then westward to Bay Harbor. While the Corsair 36’s top speed is approximately 48 miles per hour at 5000 rpm, we didn’t quite hit that mark; as it was, her cruising speed of 28 miles per hour at 3500 rpm was more than enough.

With her twin Volvo 8.1s, she had power behind her as we sunk her teeth into the seas, and she was a solid ride going into the wind. She was even more fun when we left Bay Harbor to make the run back to port. Wake streaming behind us, we surfed with the seas into Harbor Springs, spinning through a few exciting turns along the way. Despite the gloomy skies and chilly wind, and even though the horizon had turned into what the old lakeboat men call “Christmas trees,” we returned to the dock grinning.

The Chris-Craft Corsair 36 is a successful juxtaposition of day boat and express cruiser, with a heady dose of performance to boot. Somehow, this was just the right boat for a 150-year-old resort community on a blustery Great Lakes day. The weather simply made the experience more of a delight.