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BIRTH OF A BOAT
Shown here, ready for production, are men and materials to make a 33-foot Chris Craft sports fisherman. For the story of boat and builders, turn page
If boats had stud papers the way race horses do, the pedigree for the 33-foot deep-sea fishing boat shown at left would read, "By Artistry out of Mass Production." The particular artist in this case was A. W. (Bill) MacKerer, Chris-Craft's vice-president for manufacturing and engineering, and a marine architect of considerable skill. Three years ago MacKerer took a swing around the country and, in talks with dealers and anglers, sensed a need for a relatively inexpensive sport fisherman.
To design and build one would be no easy chore, for boats like this have always been the aristocrats of the motorboating world. The very best of them measure about 40 feet overall, big as powerboats go but barely big enough to carry the high-speed engines, huge cockpit, and endless paraphernalia of big-game fishing. For the most part, they have been custom-made or custom-altered by men to whom a mystical knowledge of fish and the sea has been attributed by their grateful customers. The high priest of the trade has, for the past decade, been John Rybovich (SI, Oct. 28, 1957) of West Palm Beach, Fla., who builds six masterpieces per year for something like $70,000 per copy. And hardly a stick on these 40-footers is not fashioned or fitted by hand.
That was the only way to make these boats until the Chris-Craft shown here was born. This little thoroughbred measures only 33 feet, yet she carries all the gear an angler needs, and can bang through a sea or battle a fish with the best of them. Furthermore, she is strictly a mass-production baby. Every four days, a vast but very well-ordered load of 26,851 screws, 2,425 board feet of mahogany and an infinite variety of metallic shapes (see pages 48-49) goes into one end of Chris-Craft's Pompano Beach, Fla. plant. Every four days a finished boat comes out the other end. The price of the bare boat: $19,840. Fully found, with all the optional extras such as electronic depth sounders, heavy-duty fighting chair and the canvas top, she costs $26,175—still not exactly a giveaway but nonetheless a good 60% below the price for her handmade predecessors.
The birth of the new boat actually began in late 1956 when MacKerer laid out the basic lines. He decided on a 33-foot length and a weight of six tons because it was "about as small a size as would perform well in heavy seas." His experience told him that a beam of 11 feet would keep the hull from burying. He drew in a sharp V shape in the entrance so the boat could enter heavy seas without pounding. He designed the galley and other components with mass production in mind, so they could be built independently. After he and Chief Engineer E. L. Eckfield determined the proper shaft angle and engine positions, the entire boat was laid out full-scale on a drawing board 80 feet long. Then the boys from purchasing and sales came in to approve the design.
FIRST O.K. FROM SALES
At Chris-Craft, this once-over by the top sales executives is no casual matter. Chris-Craft is the world's biggest producer of engine-powered pleasure craft. Last year at eight factories, scattered between the mother plant in Algonac, Mich, and the new headquarters at Pompano Beach, they turned out 8,000 boats in 42 different models. Total annual sales are around $40 million, and Board Chairman Harsen Smith was not about to rush out and lay an egg in the freewheeling traffic of today's boating market.
Therefore, the outlined image of the 33-footer got a close going-over before she was approved and the hull-framing date set. The production schedule ordered the first boat in the water 60 days after keel laying. Thereafter, a new boat was to appear every four days.
Meeting a demanding production schedule such as this one is not only a Chris-Craft specialty, it is almost the company's raison d'�tre. Since Chris-Craft first emerged from its humble beginnings 70 years ago as a duck-boat builder in Algonac, the compny has been strongly influenced by the assembly-line techniques of nearby Detroit. Since then, it has had its greatest success in production building of models that previously had been thought of as custom items. Today every one of its boats, from the 17-foot Sportsman at $3,335 up to the 66-foot Constellation motor yacht at $159,970, is turned out on a production line. The 33-footer is no exception.