Boat Review – by Pat Carson

Boat Review

Chris Craft Catalina 27 and the Launch 25GT

Chris Craft Day Boats

I am driving to Sausalito on a brisk early morning in May with the bright sun rising to east and the full moon setting to west, and I am thinking about when I was growing up in Seattle and how boats in some form or another were part of my life. For the most part our family had small fishing boats until finally a homemade sailing pram joined our family fleet. My grandfather who lived in Minnesota on the other hand had a real boat. His Chris Craft was the envy of the family, and I spent all my time on it when we visited his lake house in the summers. My dad could not afford a Chris because he was busy raising a family, but we had grandad and his Chris.

Today the folks at the local Chris Craft dealer, H&M Marine Services in Sausalito, have arranged for me to do a boat review on two new Chris Crafts, the 2022 Launch 25 GT and the 2021 Catalina 27. The Catalina is owned by H&M’s sales manager, Tahoe Boaz, and the Launch GT has just been prepped for customer delivery. After both boats are launched and ready to go, I hop on the Catalina with Tahoe and settle in behind that classic mahogany steering wheel as we head out of Clipper and through Richardson Bay with plans to head out under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Ben enjoying another day in the office on the Launch 25GT.

Ben Hirschfeld, one of the owners at H&M, is on the GT and is doing an admirable job keeping up with us as we make crazy turns and circles. With a little encouragement from Tahoe, I take the Catalina up to full power and we are quickly sprinting past the camera boat towards the Gate at nearly 50 miles per hour in choppy seas.

Both boats handled the Bay waters very well. Photo courtesy of H&M Marine and Brian Raphael.

The camera boat is being operated by Ethan Hirschfeld, one of the other owners of H&M Marine Services and is joined by photographers Brian Raphael and Ty Mellott. As we come around Point Cavallo it is rough with a 2.5 knot ebb and with west winds approaching twenty knots the chop is getting quite large. Our Catalina with her wide flared bow is known for her excellent spray control and dry ride and I am trying as hard as I can to get some spray on the windscreen and hopefully at least get Tahoe’s jacket a little wet. After a few minutes I give that up and decide it is time for a few high-speed passes around the camera boat and see if we can send some spray their way while they get some shots of our undersides.

The Catalina 27 making easy work of direction change. Photo courtesy of H&M Marine and Brian Raphael.

After a lengthy spirited run to the Golden Gate Bridge and back to the location of the bobbing camera boat, we have time for a few more high-speed and low speed passes before heading into the calm water off Point Stuart on Angel Island. As I pass the camera boat, I make a final snappy “S” turn at 40+ and then head across the Bay toward Angel Island. As the water calms, I have the 27 wide open and with minor trim adjustments she is topping out at 52 miles per hour with those twin 200 HP Yamahas tipping the red line. That is quite good for a boat with full fuel, two persons on board and all of Tahoe’s fishing gear stuffed in the lockers.

Both of our test boats were the Heritage Edition which includes the full teak decking along with other teak accents. Major options on the Catalina are the pilothouse hardtop with the LED lighting and aft sunshade and the twin Yamaha 200 horsepower outboards with the Optimus 360 joystick control. This is a well-equipped boat with minimal effort not having to go thru pages of build options. Interesting to note that a standard item on the Catalina is Garmin’s flagship navigation system which includes the GPSMAP 8412xsv multifunction display with depth sounder, engine data and stereo system integration. The Garmin VHF radio is also standard. Including top of the line products, which are options on other manufacturers’ boats, reinforces the point that Chris Craft are designed to be the best product available.

Steady and very comfortable in the Launch 25GT.

The 25 GT, also the Heritage edition, was powered by the optional Volvo 6.2L 380 horsepower dual prop with major options being the electric folding top and the Imron metallic blue hull. Designed as a midsize sporty, luxurious and multifunctional bow rider, the Launch 25 GT is watersports friendly, quick, responsive and a beautiful day boat. On boarding the smallest of the Chris Launch series, the mix of wood, highly polished stainless steel and high-quality vinyl throughout affords a quite stunning bow rider.

Helm of the Catalina 27.

Once we arrive in the vicinity of Ayala Cove it is time to trade boats so that I can have some time on the smaller GT. Our 25 GT is the smallest of the boats currently produced by Chris Craft and is available with either outboard power or sterndrive. With the sterndrive option you can order the Wake Surf Edition if that is your thing. We engage the position hold feature on the Catalina, open the standard equipment starboard side boarding door and when Ben brings the GT close it is easy to step across. Climbing into the helm seat of the GT I find an ultra-comfortable bolstered bucket seat and teak footrest on the deck. At the helm I really like the mix of classic and contemporary styling with a mahogany steering wheel and the classic round speedometer adjacent to a Garmin flagship touchscreen 9-inch multifunction display all set in a mahogany dash.

Helm and forward seating of the Launch 25GT.

Bringing the throttle up on the GT and putting the 380 horses to work, she glides up on plane almost instantly and we settle in at a rock-solid cruise speed of 42 MPH. Heading into the calmer waters around the north side of Angel Island, I put the boat thru several hard-over turns and find control is precise, quick and responsive. Having the camera boat in sight at the south side of Angel Island hovering around Point Lone it is time to aim and fire with a straight-line wide-open pass for a few beauty shots. The Chris Craft legendary hull design with the wide flared bow and tumblehome transom really do provide for a sporty and luxurious ride.

Forward storage and head on the Catalina 27.

Having had the opportunity to run both boats around for several hours it is time to make a short rest stop at Sam’s in Tiburon and check out the beautiful interiors of both boats. Looking over the details on the Catalina it is clear that Chris Craft designed every inch of her 26 feet-6 inches for comfort and function. This is the smallest of the Catalina center console line with the larger siblings being the 30 and the 34. Our boat has integrated fishing rod holders in the gunwales, a live well behind the helm seat and a cockpit large enough to land the big fish. But with the hardtop this boat looks and functions more like a luxury cruiser. She is truly a gorgeous multipurpose day boat with an enclosed head compartment forward of the helm with holding tank and pump out.

These two make any dock look good.

There is plenty of room and seating for seven – with room for two on the aft bench, one if the forward seat in front of the helm, two more at the bow and the two at the wide seats at the helm. The two seats at the bow have flip up backrests for those that want to just relax. Do not forget the signature starboard side dive door that is included on many models throughout the Chris Craft lineup. As I poke around and start opening lockers and pull up seat cushions to reveal storage areas, you will notice that all the cushions are on floating hinges and not just a loose cushion. There is also a 20-gallon freshwater tank and a sunshade that covers most of the cockpit. Of course, there are enough cup holders for everyone on board to rest a beverage.

The spacious interior of the Launch 25GT is inviting.

The Catalina 27 did not get carried forward for 2022 and is no longer available. The Chris Craft Catalina series is now comprised of the Catalina 24, the Catalina 30 or for those that want something a little longer, the Catalina 34.

Our Launch 25 GT is the sterndrive variant and has a great transom design with a large sun lounge seat that can either lay flat for lounging or has a tilt up back rest that provides aft facing seating for two. Access is via the teak swim step or the starboard side dive door making passenger boarding safe and easy. The 25 GT has tons of seating with two at the stern, the bow has forward facing loungers with folding armrests on both sides with room for two, four in the L-shaped seating area behind the helm, add seating for driver and the navigator and there is room for ten, all with their own dedicated cup holder. Under all the seating are storage lockers with the hinged seating and more storage under the deck for longer items such as skis and boards.

Our boat is equipped with the articulated electric folding arch with the integrated canvas and ski tow. Push a button and the arch folds in just seconds for trailering or to reduce the height for storage. Ready to order one of the Launch series boats? Customization is endless. In addition to Mercury or Volvo sterndrives from 350 HP to 430 HP you can chose from a 300 HP or 350 HP Mercury outboard, choose a Bimini top or the awesome electric folding arch. There are three gel coat colors to choose from and eleven colors of Imron hull paint available. How much teak accent do you want? Choices are for some teak in the standard trim level, more teak in the Heritage package and lots of teak in the Heritage 2 package. The interior vinyl options with contrasting stitching are too numerous to count.

I do not get many opportunities to review smaller day boats and I appreciate the opportunity that Ethan and Ben have provided. While we are decompressing at lunch, Ethan and I are talking about my impressions of the boats. When asked what I got for performance numbers I told him 52 MPH on the Catalina and a smidgen past 50 on the GT. Apparently Ethan has had the GT up to 55 MPH; I feel a challenge and will be back to improve on my poor performance.

To arrange for your sea trial of the Catalina 27 give Tahoe a call. I understand that he will be putting his barely year-old boat on the market soon so that he can order a new Catalina 30. Chris Craft currently builds around 365 boats per year and like many of the other boat builders, the factory is full building boats for customer orders and have no room to build inventory boats. All these custom orders have a short 16 week build cycle.

Hirschfeld and McCormack Marine Services is a family business started in 2000 by brothers, Ethan and Ben Hirschfeld, and a close friend Shane McCormack. The team of seventeen professionals at H&M, in addition to being an authorized dealer for Chris Craft, Donzi and Defiance boats, operate a full-service repair shop with certified marine mechanics and electricians. They truly do service what they sell. Contact them by visiting or call 415-332-3507.

The Chris Craft company is headquartered in Sarasota, Florida, with a twenty-acre manufacturing facility and continues to build luxury powerboats with designs that pay a tribute to the past. When it comes to classic lines, elegant style and performance you cannot find a better fit than a Chris Craft. If you are in the market for a day boat that looks as good as it functions, then you need to look at Chris Craft’s latest works of art. These are not your grandfathers Chris Craft; these are better!

Time for me to sit back with a fine cigar and glass of Port while I dream about thrashing around San Francisco Bay on another new yacht attempting to spray the photographers. Until next month please keep those letters coming. Do you have a good story to tell, I love a good story and with permission I would love to run it in the Bay & Delta Yachtsman.

I found the perfect Port and cigar spot on the Catalina 27. The teak table that can be mounted either in the bow or in the cockpit is a perfect spot to relax after a grueling day of boat tests.