Chris-Craft lovers floating in PO this weekend

Dozens of Chris-Crafts will drop anchor in Port Orchard this weekend, starting Thursday afternoon. - Courtesy Photo
Dozens of Chris-Crafts will drop anchor in Port Orchard this weekend, starting Thursday afternoon.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

While Chris-Craft boats might be easy to love, most owners would probably agree that taking care of them is far from easy.

“It is a labor of love,” said John Deane, chairman of the Pacific Northwest Chris Craft Rendezvous, which is celebrating its 20th year at the Port Orchard Marina this weekend. “Any boat is an effort, and when you start getting into vintage and antique boating, its even more work.”

Deane, 45, says he owns two Chris-Crafts, one “hanging in the barn,” and one that he has owned for 14 years and currently lives on in the Port Orchard yacht Club.

“It is a 1954 Constellation named Tomkat,” Deane said, explaining that company made wooden boats until the mid-1960s, when they started making them out of fiberglass.

Deane said the wooden ones are more popular, though they are definitely more work.

“They are harder to keep up and maintain, and they call for more attention to detail,” Deane said.

However, the cold waters of Puget Sound are ideal for wooden boats, he said, since warmer water destroys the finish on wood boats.

“We have the largest cruiser event in the world,” Deane said, attributing the large turnout every year to not only the amount of boaters who call the region home, but to the hospitality of both the Port Orchard marina and the surrounding city.

“We reserve the entire guest moorage at the marina,” he said, praising the marina staff for its accommodations. Once the Bremerton Marina was completed, Deane said the group considered moving its rendezvous across Sinclair Inlet, but ultimately decided to stay in Port Orchard because of “tradition.”

Deane said the group is expecting about 100 boats for the event, which began Thursday night with a “get-acquainted pot-luck,” and tonight there is a BBQ dinner and live music on the marina’s activity float.

For kids, there will be face painting, and the Manchester pirates will be visiting, as well.

Deane said nearly all of the events are open to the public, with one exception being the awards dinner and auction Saturday night in the marina park.

He said the marina will be open to visitors from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., and the public is invited to admire the boats from the dock. Many owners may also be on hand to talk about their boats or offer tours.

“Look for the ‘open for boarding’ signs,” Deane said.

While the owners are of course proud of their boats, Deane said the event is decidedly not meant as a boat “show,” but as a way for Chris-Craft lovers to socialize, share tips and enjoy Port Orchard.

“We take pride in the fact that it is not a show,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if your boat isn’t in great shape. It’s a get-together.”

Deane said his affection for Chris-Crafts began because his parents owned one when he was growing up in Minnesota, and he kept up the tradition after moving to Seattle, then Port Orchard.

Chris-Crafts began in 1874, when Michigan brothers Chris and Henry Smith built their first wooden boat, according to the company’s website. Ten years later, they opened their first “mass-productions facility” in Algonac, and became known for their tendency to “drink moonshine” and fight with pistols drawn while building boats.

By 1901, the company name was changed to “Chris Smith & Company,” and in 1922, the Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company was formed.

By 1924, Chris-Craft becomes a standardized brand name, and in 1927 Chris-Craft is recognized as world’s largest builder of mahogany constructed power boats. Deane said the company switched to cedar temporarily during World War II, then returned to mahogany before switching to fiberglass by the 1970s.

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