On Board: Chris-Craft Corsair 36

The Chris-Craft Corsair 36 Hard Top is an American beauty offering eye-catching looks, superb craftsmanship and sporty performance.

October 9, 2013

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Yes, you can fall in love with boats, and Chris-Craft’s Corsair 36 Hard Top is sure to steal more than a few hearts. I tested hull No. 1, and I did my level best to keep my feelings in check, but even on the first-edition model, it was hard to find any flaws in her. Forest Johnson

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Exhilaration was the word of the day as my test vessel skipped across the light chop of Sarasota Bay, Florida, at a top average speed of 41.6 knots. Two of the recently introduced 430 hp Volvo Penta V-8 gasoline engines, equipped with Power Trim Assist, delivered serious power throughout their rpm range, and the sterndrive Volvo Penta Duoprops held true. (Volvo Penta diesels or Mercury gasoline engines are optional.) Tight turns at full throttle were as effortless as docking at idle.

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The love quotient for the Corsair 36 HT increased when those motors were juiced and deep, throaty growls emanated from the exhaust. The sound was reminiscent of American muscle cars of yesteryear. I felt a few palpitations as the melodic outlets were tuned perfectly to the corresponding level of power. But when quiet times are necessary, you can use the selectable exhaust from Corsa Performance Marine to turn down the volume. The system is electric, utilizing solid state relays in the control module for prolonged reliability, and with the flick of a switch a diverter is actuated that channels the exhaust straight through the hull or down through the prop.


The engines’ abilities were matched to the 36 HT’s wave-slicing, modified-V hull form with 14-degree aft deadrise. She handled like a sports car, agile with a moderate inboard lean on hard-over turns.


Selecting the days to go boating is a nonissue, because the integrated hardtop allows for cruising in most any weather condition. An electronically retractable glass sunroof offers fresh air when you want it and complements the forward, curved split windshield. Large side windows add to clear sight lines all around.


The starboard-side helm station sports a retro design. (Like those aforementioned muscle cars, perhaps?) Volvo Penta analog/digital gauges are mounted in a stainless-steel backing, and the fiberglass dash is contoured around the dials. A mahogany and stainless-steel steering wheel with center Chris-Craft-branded floating hub rounds out the setup. To keep the helm compact, switches and breakers are set close to the wheel and require the captain to reach around the wheel to access them. This should keep the wandering hands of guests or kids away from the operational side of the yacht. There’s plenty of flat surface on the dash for the Raymarine hybrid touch display, Volvo Penta engine monitor, joystick control and throttles. Side-mounting the VHF radio and other ancillary devices keeps the helm clutter down.


Focusing on comfort, the Corsair 36 HT’s main deck layout is equally smart. To port is a well-padded, bolstered companion helm seat outlined with a metal tube frame like the one around the captain’s seat, giving those sitting or standing a place to hold on. And you will want to have a solid grip when streaking across the sea at wide-open throttle.


You could also sit back on the settees to port and starboard. They curve around aft toward the centerline access door and are custom upholstered at the Chris-Craft factory. Generous padding adds comfort, and side lounge pads allow for full-length stretching. Underneath the seats is plenty of stowage for fenders and the like, and there’s a fridge/freezer, wet bar and entertainment center for cocktails in the cockpit.


At first blush, I wondered, “Why no table?” But with a single switch one rises from the cockpit sole and hinges open. It’s nicely finished too. When stowed, the table sits in a recess, resting on rubber bumpers allowing washdown water to self-drain through an outlet.


Belowdecks, I discovered that this yacht’s beauty is more than skin deep. A simple, functional layout makes the Corsair 36 HT a great day boat, weekender or extended cruiser for a couple or small family. Forward is a V-shaped dining area on a raised platform with a 15-inch LCD TV mounted on the peak, overhead skylights with screens and shades, and a triangle-shaped high-low teak table. Lower the table, and the plush cushion seats pull out to convert this space into a double berth. Cherry veneer and handcrafted cabinets warm up both this area and the galley.


Foodies need not worry, because the portside galley is designed to help you keep guests well fed. A recessed two-burner Kenyon electric cooktop and recessed stainless-steel sink with Grohl faucet are hidden by matching countertop covers and allow for basic meal prep. When not needed, these covers can be stowed in custom compartments in the step wells. An Isotherm under-counter fridge, built-in Contoure microwave oven and Black & Decker coffee maker round out the galley offerings.


More accommodations are amidships in a stateroom under the helm deck. There’s surprisingly sufficient room to access the double berth, cabinets and cedar-lined closet. A couple of reading lamps, an opening porthole, a flat-screen TV and a stereo make this spot a comfortable hideaway. Everyone has to share the single head, which features an in-counter basin sink with Grohl faucet and cherry cabinets. The shower stall also contains the electric toilet. Acrylic folding doors section it off. Thankfully, there’s a teak shower grate to stand on.


The engine room is nestled in the aft end of the Corsair 36 HT, under the cockpit seating. Hinged at the end near the platform, the deck lifts, seating and all, via electric dual-­actuators. Everything that needs servicing is located here, including the hot water heater, generator, batteries and pumps. Also notable is that, if an engine ever needs replacing, the deck can be removed, no cutting necessary. Chris-Craft paid attention to the details with a deep channel and catch basins that surround the deck for drainage, minimizing the moisture that enters the 36 HT’s engine compartment.


Attention to detail also applies to this boat’s exterior look. Her lines are sleek thanks to a straight and uninterrupted sheer line, giving her an appearance longer than her 36 feet. The hardtop’s design is like a swept-back wedge, offering the illusion of movement even while sitting still. The design also encompasses an aft-deck sunshade canopy, which came in handy for the sporadic bouts of rain showers that punctuated my test day. During one rain squall, I diverted and took a tour of the Chris-Craft factory in Sarasota and was impressed by more than 20 different hulls in various stages of production. I had an overhead view of the production floor from the gantry, and I gained a real appreciation for the layouts, generous usage of teak trim and metallic highlights (some hull colors are identical to those used on Bentley automobiles). Most everything is sourced by a division or vendor of Chris-Craft and, in the Sarasota area, American made.


While not all relationships last forever, some of them leave quite an impression. My time with the Chris-Craft Corsair 36 Hard Top was brief, but I’ll never forget her. Chris-Craft, 941-351-4900;

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