Chris-Craft Carina 21

Your image need boosting? Look no further than the Chris-Craft Carina 21

I don’t always drive a small runabout, but when I do, I prefer the Carina 21.” Be warned, when you drive this stylish new boat from Chris-Craft, you might just lapse into the persona of the “world’s most interesting man.” It’s that cool.
Unique Factor
If you think all 21-foot bowriders look pretty much the same, it’s clear you don’t know Craft. From stem to stern, the Carina 21 is all original. Forget about waiting 50 years — this is an instant American classic. Perhaps no part of the Carina 21 is more unique than its vertical, aka plumb, bow. The Carina and the closed-bow version of the same hull, the Capri 21, are the only members of the Chris-Craft clan that have the plumb bow. They’re also the smallest boats in the fleet, measuring 21 feet, 2 inches long. Another signature feature of the Chris-Craft design is its Aft Hull Tumblehome Design, which is most noticeable when viewed from behind. Instead of hull sides that rise vertically, they curve inward toward the top. Any tangible benefits from this design? Not really, but it sure does look cool.The elegance quotient is off the charts and is especially noticeable at the helm, where you grasp a mahogany wheel that is handmade and imported from Italy. The Chris-Craft–branded gauges are enclosed in molded dash pods that give the helm a 1958 Corvette look. Polished 316 stainless steel is everywhere from the windshield header to the rails around the bucket seats to the standard U.S. flag-bearing pole and a bow pole with Chris-Craft pennant. The seating upholstery features diamond-pleat inserts and utilizes Silvertex, which looks like fabric but is actually high-performance, easy-to-clean vinyl. Classy touches such as the standard teak bow accent and side steps provide some serious eye candy.The standard equipment list is vast, with at least 25 items that would be options on other boats — the Rockford Fosgate stereo with a subwoofer and tweeters, for example. But, all this opulence comes with a price. Adding a few options could easily push the Carina 21’s standard $72,442 price tag into six-figures, so this isn’t a boat for the masses; it’s for discriminating buyers who appreciate fine craftsmanship and artistry and don’t mind paying for the privilege.PerformanceChrisCraft-09-2014_06
Our test boat features the standard 270 hp Volvo Penta 5.0L GXiC sterndrive V-8 engine with the single-prop SX outdrive, which is right down the middle for powering options. There is an available MerCruiser 4.3L V-6 that produces 220 hp, but the engine would be a terrible place to try to economize. To me, 5.0L is the starting point for acceptable performance. Time to plane was 4.5 seconds with moderate bowrise. The 5.0L accelerated smoothly and pushed the Carina 21 to 30 mph in 8.7 seconds. About 30 mph seemed to be the Carina’s happiest speed, with the Volvo Penta loafing along at 3000 rpm. Top speed cracked the 50 mph barrier by about 0.3. On the Chris-Craft website, you’ll find the results of a performance test performed by Volvo Penta technicians with the Carina 21’s biggest available engine, the 320 hp 5.7L GXiC. Time to plane was 3.8 seconds, time to 30 mph was 7.1 seconds and top speed hit the triple-nickel: 55.5 mph. The upcharge for the bigger engine is $7,952, but hey, in for a penny…

Part of the Carina 21’s sleek, classic look derives from its relatively narrow 7-foot, 11-inch beam. Its deadrise is 18 degrees, which is perfect for this hull. Any more of a vee and it would tend toward tippiness, given its narrow footprint. During test day on Sarasota Bay, on the west coast of Florida, conditions were calm, but we had an abundance of large wakes to run across because Chris-Craft’s larger boats were being tested, too. The Carina’s narrower beam allowed it to slice through waves with less resistance for a comfortable ride.

Cornering on the smallest Chris-Craft is outstanding; it can be cranked to the stops without prop blowout. I was initially worried that the vertical bow section might be prone to bow-steering, or swerving off in an unintended direction, but it didn’t happen. After the sea trial, I took a closer look and discovered the lower section of the vertical stem is actually raked, so the plumb bow is more of a styling statement.

Best Uses






If one of your goals in boating is to improve your social life, this is your ticket. Everywhere you stop, you are going to be talking to lots of people who will be drawn to the boat like moths to a flame. I like that Chris-Craft designers didn’t spend all their time making the Carina 21 just look good; they also spent a lot of time making it comfortable. The seats are all comfortable and offer good support. The passenger capacity is seven, and there’s a place for everyone — three on the stern bench, two in the crew buckets and two bowriders. The huge stern sunpad does eat up space that could have gone to the cockpit and bow section, but up front the lack of real estate length is mitigated by the beam being carried far forward. Although the recliner seatbacks are fairly upright, people sitting up with their feet on the deck will find the coaming pads nicely angled for comfort.

Skiing is definitely in the mix, with a standard ski tow and a centerline storage locker that’s 9 feet long and has adjustable dividers for a custom fit. The large swim platform has a boarding ladder hidden underneath, and to help you hoist yourself aboard after a set, there’s a pop-up grabrail.

Preferred Setup
Since this is a modern throwback design, it would behoove you to teak it up, to further that design element. There are two different levels. For an upcharge of $3,114, the Heritage Trim Edition gives you a teak walkover (you might never put the sunpad filler cushion in place again), teak-trimmed rails and a teak swim platform. The Heritage Edition gives you the teak full Monty, which includes all of the above in addition to a teak sole in the cockpit for another $6,075.

For an extra $5,421, you can option the Carina 21 with a choice of 14 painted hull colors (three are non-metallic). You can get it with white or beige gelcoat only, but Chris-Craft makes a strong pitch for owners to upgrade to urethane paint for its higher gloss, reduced porosity, reduced maintenance, ease of matching for repairs and higher resale value, in addition to just looking prettier.

Owner Review


LOA: 21 ft., 2 in.
Beam: 7 ft., 11 in.
Fuel: 36 gals.
Engine: Volvo Penta 270 hp 5.0L GXiC
Base Price: with test power $72,442
Standard Equipment:

Mahogany wheel, teak bow and side steps, Rockford Fosgate stereo w/subwoofer and tweeters, automatic fire-suppression system, Bimini top, depthfinder, SS trumpet horn

Optional Equipment:

Snap-in carpeting, trim tabs, bow docking lights, bow and cockpit cover, convertible top, Heritage Edition, transom shower, trailer, Volvo Penta Duoprop (Bravo 3 for MerCruiser)




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