|Capt. Chris tested hundreds of boats during the first six years at BoatTEST and created a format that has been widely copied around the world.|
Born May 1, 1959 to Michael and Barbara Kelly, Kelly spent most of his childhood in Rye, N.Y., where his passion for boating was nurtured at the Durland Scout Center. He left Rye to attend Allegheny College, earning a Bachelor of Science degree.
As an undergrad, he also studied marine biology at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s West Indies Lab for Underwater Research in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Soon after, he founded his first company, American Marine Training, which offered courses for recreational boaters pursuing a Coast Guard captain’s license. The company became the third-largest captain’s course exam prep class in the country.
He sold the business in 1990 to join the editorial staff of Power and Motoryacht magazine, which had been started by Jeff Hammond in 1984. Editor Bonnie O’Boyle hired him, and she said recently, “Chris was so outgoing and had such a wonderful personality that I knew if he didn’t work out as an editor, we could make him a salesman.” After a few years, he became its executive editor.
In 1996, he started “Sea Trials,” a 30-minute cable TV program on the SpeedVision channel, which was owned at the time by his friend Roger Werner. Kelly used the same testing format that had been used at PMY and adapted it to TV, something that worked out well and provided the tests first used by BoatTEST when it was started.
When BoatTEST.com went live on Sept. 15, 2000, the name of Sea Trials was changed to BoatTEST Reports, and it stayed on SpeedVision until the channel was sold to Fox a few years later, which turned it into a NASCAR channel.
His work at BoatTEST.com earned him the Innovation Award from the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association in 2005 for outstanding contribution to the boating industry.
After leaving BoatTEST in 2006, his knowledge of the digital space landed him positions at major publishing companies, including Bonnier and Active Interest Media, serving as vice president/digital for AIM’s Marine Group.
“A real loss for the marine industry,” said Bentley Collins, vice president of sales and marketing for Sabre and Back Cove Yachts. “Chris was a leader and an innovator always looking for the next medium to get the word out about new designs and new concepts. In this case, the tragedy runs even deeper in my heart as his dear wife Jeanne is also a close friend and another member of the marine press corps. A very sad day for all of us.”
At the time of his death, he was Founder and Managing Director of VehiclesTest.com, a video-based site for car shoppers. In his spare time, he taught seamanship in Norwalk.
Kelly’s wife, Jeanne Craig, was editor of MotorBoating magazine, another Bonnier publication, for many years.
Kelly, whose hobbies included scuba diving and flying private planes, relished the opportunity to see and explore new places. He navigated waters around the world while traveling for business and pleasure. He was also active in his hometown of Rowayton, Conn. He was a Webelos leader for the local Boy Scouts and coached Rowayton Little League. He once said that one of his most cherished accomplishments was the privilege to coach the Rowayton Majors Softball Team, which won the Fall Ball Year End Tournament in 2015.
Kelly is survived by Jeanne Craig, his wife of 18 years, and their children, Kyle and Lauren Kelly, all of Rowayton.