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1968 Chris Craft Cherokee 32 By Susan Gateley


or 17 years, I have sailed a Chris Craft. Yes, the iconic American powerboat company of the 20th century did build sailboats. Not many, only a few hundred, but the ones it produced that I’ve seen were good designs of average-to-above-average construction quality, with good bronze hardware thru-hulls and Monel tankage. In 1963, the company offered its first sailboat, the Sail Yacht, a 35-foot full-keel sloop that was called a motorsailor that was equipped with a midships cockpit, and perhaps in a nod to her origins, a windshield. Chris Craft was then near the peak of its corporate arc, cranking out steel, wooden, and fiberglass cruisers, runabouts, and ski boats by the thousands that were sold through a nationwide network of dealerships. The Sail Yacht, a sweet-looking, sea-kindly classic, was followed over the next 12 years by a dozen different sloops and ketches, including the 32-foot Cherokee that I sail on, Titania, one of the so-called “Indian series” produced between 1966 and 1970. The Cherokee and her two bigger sisters, the slooprigged, 37-foot Apache and 42-foot Comanche were similar


October 2014


designs—designed to be cruiser-racers—all from the board of Olin Stephens, then among America’s foremost yacht designers. Each design features moderate displacement, (about 8700 pounds for the Cherokee), a cast-iron fin keel with ballast bulb, and a skeg-mounted rudder. They were typical CCA designs (Cruising Club of America racer-cruiser designs) of the mid 1960s with slender beams (nine foot for the Cherokee), relatively long overhangs and a modest freeboard by today’s standards. Though pleasing to the traditionalist’s eye, her beam does not offer the below-deck accommodations of a newer boat, but the lean hull and overhangs make her and her two big sisters (the Apache and the Comanche) well-behaved when hard pressed in a blow or a knockdown, unlike many of the wide modern designs that are prone to going out of control in a sudden gust. And even with a fin keel, the Cherokee tracks surprisingly well in following seas. The PHRF rating ranges from 191 to 220 according to the US Sailing Association’s website. She’s not a speedster, but she is a good all-around performer and quick enough to turn and accelerate to be a fun daysailer. Her deck and cabin top, like those of the Apache and Comanche, are cored with a rigid lightweight foam material, and the deck hardware is backed by steel plates rather than rot-prone plywood (see below for one issue associated with them). The deck is bolted-riveted and glued to the inwardturned hull flange. The adhesive is a 5200-like material of savage tenacity that does NOT let go—as we learned when we re-bedded our teak cockpit coamings and replaced one bulkhead-mounted compass a few years ago. The chain plate attachment on the Cherokee does not rely on an interior plywood bulkhead mounting, unlike some of the other Chris Craft designs. Instead, the chain plates are connected to a heavy stainless plate backed by a large dense foam-cored glass laminate attached under the side deck. Though unconventional, it seems to do the job with no hidden rot issues as so often is the case with bulkhead-mounted chain plates. The original accommodations were adequate by 1968 standards when 32-footers rarely sailed with refrigerators, hot water heaters and air conditioners. The Cherokee had six berths and not a whole lot of storage area. As we were a cruising couple with no kids, we promptly converted two berths into storage. The first bunk to go was the decidedly marginal

Southwinds October 2014

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