By: JOHN FORD, Photography by: JOHN FORD

Presented by
  • Trade-A-Boat

Chris-Craft enjoys a century of boat building innovation, and John Ford reports that the new Catalina 30 Pilothouse adds a new dimension.

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• Beautiful sea manners and sporty spice

• Overnight accommodation for weekends away

• Superb finish and impeccable heritage


• Price barrier

When Chris-Craft updated their Catalina 29 to the latest 30’ version, they added 11" to the overall length and overnight accommodation in a well-appointed cabin below. They also poured in a touch of hyperbole with their claim that the new console design is a pilothouse. But the average Joe, who gets behind the wheel with a cold stream of air-conditioned comfort sneaking past the open enclosure, couldn’t care less if the Chris-Craft iteration strays from the textbook version of a pilothouse.

The company has been redefining boating for generations with gorgeous design - miles ahead of the pack.

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Their lineup boasts an extensive range of sporty and luxurious models with the emphasis on luxury, so the Catalina models stand out as the rebels of the family. The mere thought of sullying the decks with fish scales, let alone even more unspeakable components, seems scandalous.

Have a look at the photos and tell me you’re going to hose down the diamond pattern upholstery at the end of the day. You aren’t. But if you’re lucky enough to have one, your boat detailer might.

Let’s put that aside for the moment and look at the Catalina dispassionately (as if that would be possible). Decked out in a grand Sapphire Blue paint scheme, its graceful lines drew admiring glances everywhere we went. Yes, it’s my boat and don’t I look fantastic.


A signature tumblehome flows forward in perfect symmetry on a swooping sheerline to a full flare and sharp entry. If they made boats any sexier, they would have to put a shroud around them. The hardtop is a sculptured artwork that assumes the shape of the forward lounging area from above and looks streamlined from the sides. Chris-Craft designers must have sweated out endless nights on their CAD machines to conjure the perfectly integrated wrap-around glass enclosure into the hull to make the optional Pilothouse the essential selection on the 30. While it doesn’t enclose the helm station completely, it extends far enough around the helm to offer protection to crew and electronics from the elements.

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Monster kill tanks, complete with macerators in the cockpit, a rocket launcher wedded in behind the lounge, a set of fish-finding electronics and a pair of 350 Verados straining to gallop to the shelf — all scream fishing. Everything else is the pleated luxury and white shoe refinement of an exclusive harbour cruiser.

Teak decks and trim combine with a cream leather-looking vinyl to impart a nostalgic element to the modern lines and fulsome power supply. Here’s a boat where the craftspeople take pride in their achievement.

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A well-padded lounge wraps around the curve of the bow and joins with a twin forward-facing sunpad to make a separate socialising area up front. You get an idea of the extent of the bow flare with the broad expanse of the teak and fibreglass gunwale extending past the seating area into open space. The lounges come away for fishing, so you get a casting platform over the fibreglass seat bases, which are filled with beautifully moulded storage spaces.

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Naturally enough, the cockpit shows the Catalina’s potential dual role because it dramatically swaps between relaxing and fishing. Seats lift from the transom and the sides to team with a teak table, which folds from the helm to make a dining or drinking space under an awning that extends electronically from the pilothouse roof. Return everything from their hidden places, and the cockpit is a large fishing platform including a side door to haul in the catch.

The side door is beautifully crafted to swing inboard on big hinges and stow safely away, while an equally impressive dive ladder folds out from a hatch in the cockpit sole. A second door at the transom and a swim platform with another ladder ensure there’s no waiting time for swimmers to get back on board.

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The Pilothouse takes the footprint of a centre console, so there is room either side for access to the bow while making room for a cabin below. A pantograph door opens flush with the portside section of the console to facilitate passageway forward and the entrance below. There I found a north-south double bed, an electric head and a sink in a well-lit and comfortable enclosure that would extend the 30’s versatility to cruising overnight.

Dual helm seats with bolsters and arm rests are as comfortable as you would expect, but I found the position a little low for safe vision close ahead when moving in busy sections of the harbour. Standing solved any problem.

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The press of a button flips the dash into play and reveals dual 12" Garmin 7612xsv Multifunction displays with chart plotter, a sounder and a well-marked array of switches. Twin throttle controls are centrally mounted on the dash, and with the driving position to port, the engine controls are ideally positioned for right-handers.

Who doesn’t love the sound and fury of a high-end Mercury Verado? No one with a pulse. The twin setup on the Chris-Craft makes music and mayhem and delivers plenty of speed to thrill. We saw 46kts at 6000rpm from the new engines, and with a 6400 upper limit, there are potentially a few more knots hidden in the black beasts.


After time on the harbour, with fuel usage runs and exploring the handling, a long swell running offshore tempted us wide of the heads where the true nature of the Catalina was revealed. A century of boat building experience lives in every fibre and every curve in the hull. Ride and handling matched the vain, glorious image, in a way that demanded just another wave, just another notch of throttle, just another 50 litres of juice. I can imagine a day you take your mates fishing to the shelf and when you get there, they just want to go straight back in for the fun of the ride.

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The Chris-Craft Catalina 30 defies categorisation because it defies logic. It’s pure opulence, and you want to take it fishing? Or it’s the nicest handling fishing boat in town, and it’s got impeccable, pleated cream lounges? If the price isn’t a barrier, then go ahead and have your fun. I bet you won’t be disappointed. 




Electronics package, underwater lighting, windlass, engine upgrade, and hull paint.





TYPE Deep-V monohull


BEAM 3.1m

WEIGHT 3946kg


DRAFT 61cm






MAKE/MODEL Twin 350hp Mercury Verados

TYPE Supercharged, fuel injected petrol straight six



WEIGHT303kg ( 20" Leg)


PROPELLER 14"x 19"


Chris-Craft USA


Premier Marine

Sydney Boathouse

Unit 4, Waterways Court

Rozelle NSW 20239

PHone (02) 9328 0999


Check out the full review in issue #504 of Trade-a-Boat magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.


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