Chris-Craft Launch 38The elegant picnic

By Andy Adams

It’s hard to imagine a more elegant way to spend a day on the water than being aboard the Chris-Craft Launch 38. Everywhere you look - materials, hardware, fit, finish - all show impressive craftsmanship and quality.

Chris-Craft is perhaps the most venerable name in pleasure craft, at least in North America, and the Chris-Craft name is over a century old. There have been a few changes in ownership, but the Chris-Craft reputation remains untarnished. Our test boat was heavily optioned, including a metallic sapphire-blue hull colour, extensive teak trim and decking, and fiberglass interior areas that were finished in a rich, french vanilla cream colour.

In fact, the test boat was the Heritage Edition with gorgeous real teak decking just about everywhere from the swim platform to the bow. This boat is made for entertaining, but it's not a party barge - it’s the elegant picnic.

The Chris-Craft Launch 38 has room to seat about 12 people with great areas for entertaining. The side decks are wide and deep for a secure feeling when moving around. The swim platform and cockpit are the primary passenger areas, but the bow has a forward-facing sun lounge as well as bow seating, and the floor can be filled in for more lounge area.

Be sure to order one of the hardtops with yours; there are several choices. On our Launch 38 test boat, there was full headroom and protection from getting too much sun. Our Launch 38 had the hardtop with the sunroof and electrically extending SureSHADE - lots of choices that way. The hardtop is on a tower structure and all the welds are beautifully smooth, the structure is rock solid, and the powder-coat paint finish is an identical match to the cream fiberglass. It's the perfect structure to lean on, or to hang on to when running.

This is a shot of the helm as we come into the yacht basin at Friday Harbour. The twin Garmin multifunction displays can show practically any onboard information, but we really like the instant read you get from the three analog gauges.

The helm area is protected by a big, wraparound glass windshield, but we were curious as to why there were no wipers. Perhaps the captain looks over the windshield most of the time. Anyway, at the helm are three gorgeous bucket seats. The driver gets a footrest that lifts up, revealing a storage compartment, and the companion seats have a foot rest as well plus grab bars for the port side and centre passengers.

The seats are very handsome, have flip-up bolsters for standing or sitting, and everyone gets a foldaway armrest. Even the armrest brackets are gorgeous fabrications - no simple bent metal here. There is stainless steel and aluminum everywhere, and it is top-notch, smooth, and substantial.

Back to the helm, the boat has very good ergonomics, almost unimpeded sightlines, and the steering wheel is centred (not to the side the way the website design diagram shows). The rich, varnished, mahogany wheel tilts and has a weighted Chris-Craft logo in the centre that always remains level – what a detail!

The wheel feels perfect in your hands. The Mercury control box is just to the right with twin levers, ganged power trim, and an option to run on a single lever with both engines electronically synchronized. To the centreline is the Mercury Joystick Docking Control, which includes their Skyhook feature for station holding. Press the button and the boat holds its position while you are waiting to lock through, fish, or for your turn at the fuel dock…but never use it while swimming for obvious safety reasons!

A neat feature on the Joystick is the coloured light that circles to indicate the direction the boat is moving. The Mercury Vessel View information screen is on the centreline and near at hand for engine information. There's also a Garmin VHF and Fusion stereo system with controls on the side by the companionway. The test boat had twin Garmin GPS map screens that displayed tons of information.

In an appreciated gesture, Chris-Craft also gives you two analog tachometers and a speedometer, so you can see at a glance what's going on. There are also switches and breakers ganged with their resets down the centre panel. The test boat had a power windlass as well as the optional underwater lights and an electric sunroof in the hardtop. Our Chris-Craft Launch 38 had just about every feature available!

Outdoor Galley With the lid up on the teak galley unit, you can see the grill on port, sink in the centre, cooktop on the starboard side and the three locker doors below are concealing the refrigerator, microwave and icemaker.

Cockpit Features
One of the coolest features on our Launch 38 was that the cockpit had a full outdoor galley. This included a mirrored, stainless steel backsplash revealed when you raise the cover. It's a big piece but easy to lift thanks to gas struts. To port was a Kenyon grill, a sink in the centre, and a good sized two-burner Kenyan cooktop to starboard.

The cook gets a big handrail for safety. Under the counter is an icemaker to port, a microwave in the centre, and a refrigerator to starboard.

Forward BerthWhat an elegant wide-angle view of the forward berth! The Launch 38 has a surprising amount of cabin room considering this design of boat.

The whole galley is trimmed out in teak plus there are port and starboard side lockers - two small and two large. Then you get underfloor storage and engine room access from the cockpit. The hatches are all finished on both sides, which is very elegant, and it means that all the edges are smooth to the touch.


Access forward is by a recessed side deck walkway trimmed out in teak. The bow can be configured as a large sun lounge - like a playpen for adults - with teak handrails, drink holders, and an angled backrest, making this ideal for sun tanning.

The bow seating also includes drink holders and a 12-volt power point plus speakers for the stereo. Under the sun lounge there is storage for a filler cushion for the foot well. In addition, LED footlights strategically placed around the boat make it safe and luxurious at night.


Stern and decks
Huge stainless steel cleats on the teak covering boards make it easy to secure the boat. We liked that the swim platform has a handhold that lifts up, and there is a boarding ladder under the deck on the starboard side.


It's amazing to see how much cabin space there is in this boat. Located five steps down, the light wood floor and forward glass panels make it bright and inviting. There is a big berth forward, and for storage there are four lockers in the side panels opening with gas struts. The test boat featured a Samsung TV forward and a second one in the aft cabin area. This area is mostly open, so it has a very spacious feel and portside lockers with four shelves and a separate hanging locker with a mirror.

 The HeadThe vessel sink in the head compartment on the starboard side is very stylish.

The head is very important to all-day cruising comfort. This yacht includes a separate shower compartment on the port side with LED lights and very elegant fixtures as well as an overhead hatch for daylight. The separate starboard side head compartment includes a vessel sink and a Tecma MSD plus a full mirror on the medicine cabinet, which is open. Towel racks are included.

 Stern CockpitThe deck level layout is very accommodating with port and starboard side walk-around's finished in teak decking and with the teak galley unit behind the three helm seats. Love the sapphire blue hull color!

Big boat, big power
The Chris-Craft Launch 38 has so many features, we almost forgot to talk about performance! The test boat had twin MerCruiser 8.2 litre V8 engines, each making 430 horse power. There’s lots of muscle here! They included automatic trim and tabs, too, with LED indicators so you can tab down for rough water, planing a big load, or to balance the boat in a side wind.

Just running with the tabs up, we planed off in about 15 seconds, but the Launch 38 was basically going full tilt by then - we didn't particularly notice much bow rise or when the bow came down. It is a big boat with a sweet ride and very stout construction that can run in the 40 mph range. Exact performance data was not available but our driving experience was very satisfying. The steering is effortless at all speeds, and even idling in gear we found that it tracks straight and true. This is a great speed for sight-seeing. The idea with the Launch 38 is to set your course using the Garmin GPS map screens to guide you. Get on the power for an exciting yet comfortable ride, and then anchor out and enjoy the day onboard.

Cockpit SeatingThe overhead view of the cockpit shows the handsome seating surfaces and in this picture, alternative type of flooring than the teak strip our test boat had. Chris-Craft offers a huge range of optional colours and finishes.

The Launch 38 would be a great way to see the Trent Severn or to cruise even long distances, sleeping onboard some nights and staying at hotels or B&Bs on others. At an anchorage, it’s great to have the walkaround design making this big boat very easy to handle. Our Chris-Craft Launch 38 was loaded with features like the sunroof. I love the analog instruments and those big MFDs make navigating a breeze. We reviewed the boat at the new Friday Harbour development and it’s a perfect boat for people who own those waterfront condos. From Friday Harbour, you can have an easy little boat ride but it’s also a magnificent boat for exploring and entertaining. The Launch 38 makes a huge lifestyle statement.



ENGINES: Twin MerCruiser 8.2 L V8 engines with 430 hp each, Digital Throttle and Shift, Seacore drives and Joystick Docking.

Performance Data (not available at press time)

Length Overall (w/o Swim Platform): 36'3" / 11.05 m
Centreline Length: 36'3" / 11.05 m
Beam Maximum: 12'6" / 3.81 m
Dry Weight: 16,000 lbs. / 7,257 kg
Fuel Capacity: 286 gal / 1,083 L
Water Capacity: 50 gal / 189 L
Holding Tank: 27 gal / 102 L
Price As Tested: $972,090.21 CAD at time of testing

Boat and price provided by: Pride Marine Group, Keswick Ontario.