NewsRocky Mountain Classics Chapter

The Story of Chris’-Craft II was written by Chris Ann Braaf with pictures submitted by Bob and Chris Ann Braaf.

Somewhere around the turn of the century Bob and I were looking for a small cruiser which we could trailer.

inspection of barn find

Living in Colorado meant we had only a small lake to boat on and many other exciting places to boat. So, while we were in Michigan for MAC2000 we went to look at a boat just outside Traverse City. This boat met all our criteria for a dream boat. It was a 1957 Chris-Craft cruiser, had 2 engines, and was only 8.5 feet wide (towable on a trailer without permits). In the dark barn, the boat looked really good. So good that my Dad, Chris Smith, grandson of the founder of Chris-Craft, thought that there must be something wrong with the boat. After a thorough inspection, we purchased the boat, had a trailer made, and towed her back to CO.

Then our adventures began.

The boat lived on the boat trailer in our garage. We towed her and boated on Lake Alcova, Wyoming, Grand Lake, CO, Lake Granby (our nearest lake), Lake Dillon, CO, Lake Loveland, CO, and Navajo Lake which is in both Colorado and New Mexico. After about four years in the semi-arid western US, it was taking longer and longer to soak the hull each year so we finally declared it time for a new bottom. We removed the engines, sent them off to be rebuilt, and towed the boat to Charlie Peak’s shop, on a hill above Lake Alcova, Wyoming. After two years and quite a few dollar bills (including new canvas), we got a basically new boat from the Shear down, with a 5200 bottom. Chris’-Craft II should now live to boat on until it is at least 100 years old.

Before the new bottom

Chris Smith and Charlie-Peak during rebuild

Our boating adventures after that consisted of our local boat shows/rendezvous (Horsetooth Reservoir, Grand Lake, Lake Dillon, Lake Loveland) and various annual ACBS shows and meetings in September. Chris’- Craft II has been to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho twice, Flathead Lake and Priest Lake in Idaho, Lake of the Ozarks, a Mississippi River cruise in conjunction with a Quincy, IL, boat show on the way to Chicago’s Lake Michigan waterfront and to then to the Lake Geneva, IL, annual ACBS show, and to the Table Rock, MO, annual ACBS show. Somewhere in there, the boat made visits to Lake Michigan’s east shore near Holland/Saugatuck, MI, and to Lake Powell, AZ and Lake Meade, NV.

While Bob was working in Seattle, Washington (1,260 miles each way), we leased a covered slip on Lake Washington where we could leave the boat in the water and boated (sometimes in the rain!) every month of the year for two years. We participated in the annual Opening Day boat parade from Lake Union through the Cut to Lake Washington, and other events, as part of the Pacific NW Chapter. We boated to Olympia, Anacortes, La Connor, and Port Townsend on weekends, and to Port Orchard, WA, for the annual Chris-Craft Rendezvous in 2015. We trailered the boat to Lake Chelan, WA, a beautiful mountain lake which is 50 miles long (highly recommended, if you ever have the chance to visit). 

Lake Washington, Seattle

Port Orchard, Washington

After Bob’s retirement at the end of August 2016, we boated from Lake Washington to Bellingham, WA, met up with some friends and cruised, the San Juan Islands for a week. Then we met my brother Mark Smith and his wife Alice, and my cousin Sandi and her husband Bob Trocinske, who rented a boat out of Bellingham, and we cruised the San Juan Islands for another week. That was our most awesome month of boating.

Friday Harbor San Juan Islands

After completing our annual Special Olympics ski coaching obligations in the winter of 2017, we departed from home on a sunny March day (when Berthoud Pass, 11,300 ft elevation, happened to be dry of snow), for our “Epic Trip” of 2017. We visited friends and family all along the way to Florida and participated in the Sunnyland Chapter boat show at Lake Dora, FL. A week later, we attended the week-long Sun ’n Fun Air Show at Lakeland, FL, where we camped on the boat in the woods for two weeks along with hundreds of motorhomes. From the air show, we headed to Biscayne National Park and the Florida Keys for a week of boating. Then we trailered the boat up the Gulf coast, stopping to visit family, friends (thanks, Wilson & Pat Wright) and several museums, many times camping aboard, all the way to the Keels and Wheels Boat Show in Texas, south of Houston. Do you know that many campgrounds have never seen a camper that looks like a boat on a trailer? Or that Chris-Craft never designed cabin windows that would keep out a pouring Louisiana rain storm at 65 miles per hour? That “Epic” trip (without major mishaps) alone was 6,800 miles!

Our upcoming adventure will be cruising the Arkansas River with the Heartland Classics Chapter in Oklahoma and Arkansas followed by the Southwest Chapter & Wooden Boat Assn Hill Country Boat Show at Lake LBJ near Austin, Texas. Looking forward to lots of future events.

Thank you, Chris Ann and Bob, for letting us enjoy the epic adventures of Chris’ Craft II.

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