By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

The 38 Launch is a high-end bowrider dayboat that continues the alluring Chris-Craft mythology.

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  • Ultra-cool and exclusive
  • Excellent dayboat layout and facilities
  • High attention to detail and finish


  • Second cabin is somewhat confined

REVIEW: CHRIS-CRAFT 38 LAUNCH priced from $870,008

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Summer has finally arrived and I’m looking forward to relaxing time on the water with family while soaking in the sun caressed by a cool breeze in a quiet bolthole somewhere.

The majority of Australians live near the ocean, and our beach and water culture is imbibed in us. All our capital cities apart from Canberra are on the water, and even that has an annexe on Jervis Bay. It’s as though our forebears arrived, saw the ocean and decided never to leave, and except for outback treks to get in touch with the "real Australia", we try hard to avoid the red dust. Why bother? The real action is where the salt meets the sand.

There’s only one thing better than living near the sea, and that’s just getting on the water for a fix of boating fun. So the Chris-Craft Launch 38 on review makes perfect sense.


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Chris-Craft is one of the longest running boat brands in the world with a heritage dating back to 1874 when a young Chris Smith built his first timber punt in Michigan. Following a time when it made mahogany speedboats to rival anything out of Italy and then a period in the doldrums in the ’80s, it maintains a reputation for quality fibreglass builds, especially in the high-end dayboat ranks.

Its Launch 38 was released last year as a makeover of the previous 36, and although the company describe the Launch models as its "open bow" range, the 38 is much more than your average pumped–up bowrider.


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Finished in an optional deep sapphire gelcoat, the hull of the 38 twinkled in the early autumn sunshine. The colour scheme is beautiful, summery and very American. It looks sensational, but maybe, as a $15,000 extra over standard white, it should. It’s not just the sapphire shade that appeals though. Sensuous, classic curves, a high-riding helm and oversized sportsboat lines are distilled into the essence of modern boating. Throw in two thumping V-eights and the mix is complete.


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Eleven and a half metres is a fair bit to play with for a bowrider dayboat, and Chris-Craft has put its own spin on the category by combining walkaround features and a bow sun pad straight out of the European school. Separate relaxing spaces include an aft cockpit that’s convertible to a dining or lounging precinct. And at the helm are two companion chairs with individual bolsters to keep the skipper company. Below decks are accommodation and ensuite facilities to extend the boat’s use to cruising and overnight stays.

A teak-clad, full-width swim platform covering the stern has its own dive ladder stored underneath and well out of the way. A central stairway with gate takes you to the main deck where a hot freshwater shower will freshen you up after a swim.

Plushly quilted lounges sweep around the transom, and an accompanying table lifts on an electric ram for dinner. Forward is a wet bar with sink, fridge, ice maker, electric barbecue, and two-burner cooktop. You could settle in here quite comfortably. Over the deck is synthetic seagrass matting, which can be clipped out to reveal a non-skid fibreglass deck.

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Walkways on either side of the helm lead forward to the bow where a low sun pad and a two-seater, rear-facing lounge snuggled into the bow can be joined with an infill to form a monster tanning platform. Teak handrails and coaming covers hint at the romantic age of timber boats, or, for an even more traditional look, you can go all out with optioning teak decks and furniture.

From the offset companionway at the helm, it’s four steps down to a cabin with an island queen in the bow and a low midsection space with side-by-side double and single beds. Cream walls are perfectly moulded while soft vinyl panels and splashes of Zebra timberwork lend a dash of contemporary living.

The shower is to port of the stairs and has proper head height and includes shelves and a moulded vanity. Across the passageway is the head with an electric-flush toilet and an on-trend vanity with floating circular bowl and a funky waterfall mixer.


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Each of the three diamond-patterned helm seats has bolsters, armrests and cup holders although the central position lacks a footrest. The sharply raked screen is angled to send the breeze well overhead, and everyone gets clear vision on all quarters.

Ahead of the skipper’s starboard position is a broad dash waiting for a choice of navigation screen up to 20in and a neat panel of more than 20 well-marked switches. A 4in VesselView screen supplies engine data, while higher up are retro-design analogue tachometers and a speedo.

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Twin digital throttles are flush-mounted to starboard of the racy timber wheel, and a Mercury Axis Joystick is within easy reach on the other side. The Axis system offers foolproof docking and Skyhook GPS control to maintain position in tide and wind.

A pair of 8.2lt petrol V-eights rest in the engine room and I noted reasonable access for regular maintenance. Pumping out 380hp per side and matched to Bravo 3 legs with counter-rotating props they meet the sporty image of the 38. Options include more significant horsepower Volvo diesels and also sets of twin or triple outboards to a total of 900hp.


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Even with the standard 760hp power option, the test boat has lusty acceleration and a respectable turn of speed. The engines feel torquey with a low rumble at slower speeds. Cruising at a lazy 3500rpm gave 22kts and a total fuel burn of 128Lt/h and a range of 160nm. Turn up the wick to 4500rmp and speed reaches 35kts and fuel usage jumps to 230Lt/h

From the commanding helm position, I was quick to feel confident in the hull’s handling, which is fast and precise, leaning naturally into turns and without any of the wandering or body roll you sometimes experience in this style of cruiser. The props bite firmly and hang on tight in sharp turns with full power. The ride is soft, and the boat is very stable at rest.

Although we didn’t venture past the Heads, the launch is a capable offshore cruiser, and I can see many owners slipping up to Pittwater or heading out to Rottnest for the weekend.


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Performance matches the stunning looks, while the quality finish and attention to detail are supreme. The Chris-Craft is a class act. Price, as tested, is $929,186 with options like the Axis Joystick (gotta have), remote anchor winch (also a must) and the metallic blue gelcoat (it’s kinda nice). It’s hard not to be sucked into the allure of the Chris-Craft mythology. It lives on in the 38 Launch in dedication to quality and thoughtful design. 





Mercury Axis Joystick, windlass, metallic paint





TYPE Open Bow cruiser

LENGTH 11.63m

BEAM 3.81m




FUEL 1037lt

WATER 189lt


MAKE/MODEL Mercury 8.2

TYPE Fuel-injected petrol V8

RATED HP 380hp





Sarasota, Florida USA


Premier Marine

Sydney Boat House

Unit 4, 2 Waterways Court

Rozelle NSW 2039

Ph 02 9328 0999


Check out the full review in issue #499 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.


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