By Dale Crochet member of ACBS

My fascination with the classic Chris-Craft goes back 35 years ago when I went to a family reunion with my new girlfriend at a lake in northeast Ohio. It was love at first sight….with her dad’s 1956 Custom Sportsman.

The family has a reunion every year and I would anxiously await the opportunity to go up and help my now father-in-law get his boat launched. He would always have me help him with just a bit more varnish work or maintenance before we could play. The rest of the week you’d find me behind the wheel cruising the lake.

As he grew older, one day he said he was thinking of selling the boat as it was getting too much for him to maintain. We settled on the price of $1 and with his blessing, I changed the name to honor the other 1956 treasure he gave me, “Miss Laurie Ann”. I brought the boat to her new home just outside of New Orleans.

The boat was a daily user until a storm named Katrina came through. Unfortunately my garage (painted to show off the boat), and home were no match for the 25-foot tidal surge and the boat was virtually destroyed.

We rebuilt our home over the next couple years, but I always told my wife our rebuild wasn’t complete without a Chris-Craft in the boat house. I would stay up nights searching the Internet for a replacement. The game plan was a little bit larger boat because our lake can actually be a bit rough for a 17-foot. Then one night there it was “17′ Chris-Craft Custom Sportsman For Sale”, an exact duplicate build sheet, 106 serial numbers apart from our original. As fate would have it, the boat was located about an hour south of my father-in-law’s new Florida home. The next week we were going down for a Thanksgiving holiday visit, so I picked him up and we went down (just to have a look)….. and fell in love all over again!

She’s a relatively lightly used well preserved original boat that only saw the inside of an upstate New York barn from 1978 until 2005. However the last 10+ years she was used several times a week sometimes a few times a day and runs like a clock.

I did keep the old hull and I’m thinking I may clean up the bilge and make a glass top table for an outdoor kitchen.

I’m hopelessly in love with Miss Laurie Ann!

9 Comments

  1. Thank you for this joy to sadness to wonderful recovery story. I have many memories of the 17 ft. Chris Craft Custom Sportsman while growing up at Portage Lakes in N.E. Ohio. What a popular and great family fun boat it was, and still is for many. Your story is a reminder one of life’s real pleasures and the meaning it can bring.. George Morgan ACBS-NCO

  2. I always enjoy stories that have happy endings. Sometimes the content provides more than a story; it provides answers. In your picture the gas vent is on starboard rather than stern. All the 17 Sportsmans I’ve seen have it on the stern,—but mine is on the starboard aft quarter as is yours. My Sportsman is titled as a ’56 but was built early ’55. The utility is perhaps the most useable boat there is. Thanks for the insight.

  3. Great story! I remember the pre-Katrina boat and now the Miss Laurie Ann. The boat is immaculate! Tell us Dale, is King John the only other person to pilot that classic besides you and Laurie?

  4. I see you have some photos of the Madisonville boat show. I assume you live in New Orleans or Slidell. I hope to see you and the boat at next years festival.

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