Rocket Design Flaw? Ohhhhh Ship! Here We Go!


We got this question from long time Woody Boater Rocket Man. Take it away Mr R Man!

First let me start by saying this is in no way a knock on Chris Craft runabout design. These boats are an engineering marvel and I love my Rocket. It rides like a Cadillac (where it was built) and is a dream to own. I know this boat inside and out after have done the full restoration myself and experienced all of the quirks of the labor force – all port side bottom screws straight and uniform while the starboard side was erratic and messy (probably one of those off season farmers or something).
I was poking around inside the cockpits (double cockpit forward) and looked under the gunwale and noticed what could be a design flaw or maybe just an oversight ?
What I found was that all step pad support structure is not the same. The forward cockpit step pads – both port and starboard – have a 1 ½ inch thick block under them. The aft cockpit has only the covering board directly underneath it.


Aft Port Step pad in foreground

This first photo shows the area in question under the gunwale and two of the step pad mounting screws protruding through the covering board.

This photo shows the forward screw protruding with a block just forward of it.


So I am assuming that the blocks that are there were put there to create the proper shape for the framing to help create the curve and also for strength in the stepping area but why on this model was one set directly under the step pad in one case and not in the other ? A design flaw or otherwise ? Seth Katz may have an idea from his Rocket restorations.

BTW – both step pads are in the same dimensional position relative to the cockpit (closer to the rear than middle) and I took great care to put them back in the identical position during the restoration (all was original when I started).
Also there were no drawings available for this model. The hull is very similar to the 17 sportsman but obviously the decking is very different.

I do plan on shoring up the area under the aft cockpit step pads as this is where I usually enter and exit the boat – original or not.

1953 Chris Craft Rocket “Rocket Man”

14 replies
  1. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    Rumor has it there was a journeyman on one side and an apprentice on the other. The apprentice would take short cuts to try and keep up.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      Hi Jim,

      In this case port and starboard are identical and both missing support under the aft step pads. Your statement is so true of the bottom screws though.

  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    Were the rear step pads original equipment to the boat or added later? If not original that would explain the lack of a block underneath it for support. Someone added rear step pads to my continental, so now I’m curious what’s underneath them!

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      The original brochure photo shows all four step pads in the same locations so it looks like original equipment.

  3. Ross
    Ross says:

    I read somewhere that an apprentice boatbuilder said to his boss, no one will see it and it doesn’t matter. His boss said three people will know it is not right. You, me, and God. That is three to many !

    My thought, I am pretty sure God does not care about it

  4. KW
    KW says:

    The Devil is in the details. Every thing was an option at Chris Craft it probably only came with fwd cockpit step pads and the dealership added the aft ones.

  5. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

    I think back to my conversation with Chris Smith, at Hessel afew years back. He said “remember these were production boats. Depending on the demand and time of year, they were not always perfect”.

  6. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    The rocket was built to be affordable by eliminating a few things and using methods to build faster . The end grain of the topside side planks show end grain at the aft . Instead of having them capped by the transom planks. I wonder who’s idea was that ?

  7. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Echoing Chris Smith – Chris Craft was arguably the largest production boat builder of the era(s) and as such, churned them out as fast as possible. It could be argued they were the Bayliner of the time… 😉 The structural components were pre-cut and stacked on the racks, waiting for the order from the dealer, then the boat built, three coats of finish applied and then
    shipped. On to the next one! Imperfections and variations were inevitable! Adds character… 😊

      • Dick Dow
        Dick Dow says:

        Hi Troy – When it gets down to it, all mass/multiple produced products are essentially “kits”. That doesn’t mean they aren’t well-engineered or well-built, but it does eliminate the one-off/custom concept ideal that tends to be applied to the boats we play with. Certainly, individual touches could be added, ordered from available options or specifically requested by the customer, but those fell within a fairly narrow scope. For those wanting truly custom, one-off boats, there were (and are) good sources. All one needed was the vision, time and money. Chris Craft, Century, Gar Wood (and others) were production boat builders. It’s wishful thinking to view them otherwise. 🙂

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