This 19-footer was Chris-crafted, but not in the way you might think
To the uninitiated, Christopher Potter’s boat is the spitting image of a classic 1939 Chris-Craft Barrel Back, featured in movies such as “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
But it’s not. The 19-footer Potter keeps in Kemah is the result of 10 years of hard work and love. It’s a vessel Potter himself pieced together, plank by plank.
The boat is named after his daughter, Miranda, who was born in 2004, about the same time Potter began work on the vessel, he said.
“I grew up in New England, always admiring those old boats,” Potter said. “I thought it would be neat to build a boat using a kit, but there are none. But there are several product blueprints.”
A true 1939 Chris-Craft Barrel Back boat today might cost about $100,000, Potter said. And it would cost the same to hire a company to build a replica.
But by the time Potter finished his own replica in 2014, it cost about $37,000, he said.
The most expensive part of the boat was windshield brackets, which Potter had to custom-order from a California company for about $7,500 apiece, he said.
“I told the man that sounded pricey, and he told me he was the only company in the country making those like that,” Potter said with a smile.
The finished product is a 19-foot long and 6½-foot wide boat, weighing about 1,500 pounds and featuring a 4.3-liter GM Vortec six-cylinder engine, Potter said. The boat can reach speeds of about 40 mph.
Potter built the boat entirely in his garage, he said. The family moved in the 10 years it took him, so he had to take the boat project with him.
Potter constructed the hull in three layers, the outer one of mahogany. The hull is designed so that it doesn’t get wet and expand.
And the boat’s seats draw some inspiration from Potter’s day job as an airline pilot, he said.
“It’s fake leather,” he said. “They look more like aviation seats than boats. I had one of my friends in the airline industry do them.”
Potter’s boat is inspired by the Chris-Craft models that came out in the early 1900s. Chris-Craft Boats was founded in 1924, and became known initially for racing boats in the 1910s and 1920s.
The company later expanded to produce pleasure boats, of which the Barrel Back was one.
Although Potter completed work on Miranda in 2014, it only has about 120 hours on the engine, he said. For the most part, Potter keeps the boat in storage in Kemah, but takes it out for major events such as the annual Keels & Wheels event at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.
But working on the replica boat has given Potter the bug for boat-building, he said. He’s already at work on a replica of a 1950s Cabin Cruiser.
This time, his daughter is telling him to name the new boat after his wife, he said with a laugh.