Morris Yachts Designs and History


By Bob Marston
Partner, Wellington Yacht Partners

In 1972 Tom Morris left his previous life in Philadelphia to pursue his passion of boat building. At that time I’m sure he wouldn’t have imagined his vision would someday result in the establishment of Morris Yachts, one of America’s finest yacht brands.

Tom Morris embarked on his craft building Friendship sloops in Southwest Harbor, Maine. He purchased the fiberglass hulls and decks from Jarvis Newman and fit out the boats under the Morris name. I remember his son Cuyler telling me how he and Tom would literally go into the woods and hand select the spruce trees to be used for the spars.

In 1974 Tom connected with designer Chuck Paine, who was promoting a new design. It was the Francis 26, a robust double ender with excellent sea handling characteristics, capable of sailing anywhere. As the relationship between Tom and Chuck grew, so did the model offerings with the Linda 28, Annie 29, Leigh 30 and the Justine 36 Series soon after.

In the late 1980s the company started to focus more on its cruising yachts. These were the Morris Ocean Series 38, 42, 44 and 46 Models. The Morris Ocean Series were great-performing, aft cockpit, trunk cabin style sailing yachts with pretty lines and exquisite craftsmanship. The success and quality of these designs soon gained recognition in the yachting community, and Morris Yachts found itself with owners  throughout the world.

In 1999 Morris Yachts expanded their production capacity by purchasing the Able boatyard in Trenton, Maine. At the same time they added a series of Offshore Cruiser Racer models with the Morris Ocean  45, 48 and 52RS. One of the most notable boats was FIREFLY, a Morris Ocean Series 45, which did extremely well in distance races.

In 2004 Morris Yachts announced its Sparkman and Stephens designed Morris M36 that set the bar for the luxury day sailor market. The Morris M36’s beautiful over-hangs and low profile cabin top were an instant classic.  A performance keel, spade rudder and fractional carbon rig made the M36 a pleasure to sail, and the huge cockpit was enough to take three couples for an afternoon sail easily.

The success of the Morris M36 soon spun off into other models… the Morris M29, Morris M42 and Morris M52.  A standard feature of all the M Series was the ability for the helmsman to handle all control lines from the wheel, making the yachts truly able to be singlehanded, while keeping guests in the cockpit free from entanglement.

After some 45 years of boat building, one thing is for certain:  The Morris Family is passionate about sailing, and anyone who has had the chance to get aboard a Morris Yacht will agree.

At Wellington Yacht Partners we know Morris Yachts and their clientele well. We are happy to discuss the differences between models and share our own experiences with these fine yachts.