Creativity engineered into legends – and the tradition goes on.

Chris Smith, grandson of Christopher Columbus Smith who founded the Chris Craft Company, will be 90 years young on July 4, 2017.  

Happy Birthday, Chris Smith!

Chris Smith is a member of Water Wonderland Chapter. However, many ACBS members have personally met Chris Smith at events from coast to coast in his 16′ Rocket or the 27′ Sea Skiff Odyssea.

Chris Smith is still a boat designer and builder.  This account of the latest project is written by Zach Baum, the 15-year-old great-grandson of Chris Smith:

What does a fourteen-year-old know about life and work?  Nothing.  Mom and Dad thought I needed to develop a work ethic.  (Like playing video games isn’t work?)   So in July 2016, we asked Great Grandpa to help me build a boat.  

We looked at a book of designs and I picked three that I liked.  Instead of building one of the three, Grandpa designed a cross between the Continental and a model he had built previously.  The next step was a trip to the lumber yard to buy $6,000 of wood just to get started.  Grandpa managed to scale it back so the first bill was only $3,580, but additional trips were to come.  (Much better until we learned what the motor would cost.) 

We drew the plan on paper on the basement floor to scale of the actual boat, and finally, a month later, we were able to cut the first piece of wood. It took another month to get all nine frames completed.  By the end of October, the frames were glued to the keel and it actually looked like a boat. 

By the end of December, after many mis-cuts and redos (translate “You’re doing it all wrong”) the planks were on and the bottom was ready to paint.  In January we painted the bottom and flipped the boat over to work on the top.

In February we planned the interior and Uncle Mark and my mom planked the bow.  By mid-April, we had the motor installed and it took some time to get the final touches on (paint, varnish, cleats, exhaust, outdrive, and interior installed).  We tested the engine on June 15 and ordered propellers after we knew the engine would run (it didn’t on the first turn of the key – who knew you needed the kill switch on the throttle hooked up?  Good catch Dad!) 

Our first boat ride was on June 21st.  We named the boat 14-89: The Legacy Continues, because I was 14 and Great Grandpa was 89 when we started the project.  The Legacy Continues refers to the Chris Craft legacy, though this one is labeled a Chris Smith and Son’s boat.  So, now that I am fifteen, do I know any more about life?  I know that building a boat is very difficult and a lot of hard work.  I know that Great Grandpa is very old and does not understand teenagers.  I learned that I still have a lot to learn especially about driving the boat, but that’s for this summer and the rest of my life.

Warmest wishes to Chris Smith on his 90th Birthday.  Thanks for the memories and the Legacy.

Chris Ann Smith Braaf helped collect the story and the pictures.  Zach’s Grandma Susan Smith Hendrickson helped in composing this account.  Thank you to Zach Baum and all of the Smith family for your commitment to ACBS and to continuing the legacy.  

Chris Smith seated, standing l-r: 4 generations: Susan Irene Hendrickson, daughter Shawna Baum, Jeremy Baum, and 15-year-old Zachary Baum  

14-89 The Legacy Continues designed and built by Chris Smith and Zach Baum when Chris was 89 and Zach 14.  

Smith Family celebrating this 2017 Holiday Weekend and Chris Smith’s 90th Birthday in 14-89 The Legacy Continues


  1. What a legacy. A wonderful family who live and love wooden boats everyday. They are kind, giving and sharing and Chris will take the time to sit and talk with you about anything boats. Happy Birthday Chris…..

  2. Gorgeous boat! What an absolutely amazing experience! Zach, it was a challenge for all of you to complete such an incredible work of Art and love. I’m sure you love the boat now, but 65 years from now and even sooner, you’ll realize just how amazing your time and project with your Great Grandpa is!
    We were lucky enough to tour Chris Smith’s basement at his invitation a few years ago. He prefaced our visit telling us he had a few things saved. Did we have half an hour or so? Wow! Talk about an amazing collection of more than just a few things!
    Our journey through Chris Craft history through Chris’ memories and mesmerizing stories took over three hours. It was just about a religious experience! We saw his drafting desk where Boat designs developed. So many great photos and stories that went hand in hand. Ask him about the day he as a young kid managed to soak models being photographed for an ad and their hair and makeup had to be redone to re photograph the ad! The story comes with a great smile and laugh!
    It was one of those experiences that will stay with us our entire life!
    Happy Birthday, Chris! Happy Boat, Zach!

  3. What a great story and what a way to celebrate! I circulated it to friends with a picture of certain other 14-year old at the helm of his family’s Continental on Lake George. I should also say how tickled I was with Chris Smith’s amusing interjections during Tony Mollica’s 2014 remarks at Skaneateles. A legacy indeed!

    • Well, First of all HAPPY BIRTHDAY !…And best wishes for many Happy Returns !.

      I I had heard GrandPa was building a boat….It’s nice to get the rest of the story. Thanks Chris Ann for sharing.

      I’ve heard Chris tell many interesting tales and look forward to the time when I can hear more


  4. Absolutely wonderful!! & Zach Great Grand dad understands more than you will know! I know this is hard to believe he was a teenager himself & he raised them as well. He just doesn’t want you to make tthe same mistakes he did. The boat is magnificent & you should be proud of your contribution ! I hope I get a chance to see the boat at one of the shows , & hope you & Great granddad are there. Best wishes !!
    John marck

  5. Nice job Zach!! My Great Grandfather and your Great, Great Grandfather were friends. (James Warren Gilbert). My Grandfather, uncle, and father worked at the Chris Craft factory in Algonac. I am sure that you are very proud of your legacy as well as your beautiful boat. Over time, I am sure that you will make your own wonderful memories. Congratulations on a job well done and happy 90th to your great grandfather!!

  6. My mom Regina Berger when she was a teenage in Algonac, Michigan in the 1940’s watched Chris Smith’s grand kids – Bernard & Neil Smith. Their father also worked at the Chris Craft factory in Algonac.
    Chris Smith who was a duck hunter and made his own boats made some really neat wood fast boats. They just glided on the water too!

  7. I lived and lake Charlevoix and knew the wonderful family. We had a beautiful Cris craft for water skiing. And my father had the larger 34 and 44 ft cabin cruisers. Every couple of larger ones he kept in. Holland Michigan area. My furtive homecoming trips from Swizerland. We’re to go boating and actually spend weeks on the boats. . Since I live in Niceville Florida. And have seen loopers on the beautiful constellation 60 footer. Keep up like new. My good friend went to the wooden boat school in. Maine. And has renovated a nice 40svrun about. It’s fascinating to go to the Atlanta boat show and see the new boats. But the craft is in the oldies. BTW I’m a Sailor. Haha but love the Traverse City wooden boat show every summer

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