Morris Yachts: Building the World's Best Luxury Sailboats on the Coast of Maine
“Superyacht is a frame of mind, not a measurement.” Though Maine’s Cuyler Morris doesn't build the world’s largest sailboats, many would say he builds the best. Morris Yachts are known the world over for their exclusive, exquisitely crafted sailing yachts, “the Stradivarius of the seas.” The family-owned firm, founded in 1972, does not aim to become a megabrand, but their reputation for luxury, performance and unparalleled quality stands as the envy of many larger marques. The business is flourishing, with a new sales office recently opened in Newport, Rhode Island.
On a recent excursion to Mount Desert Island, Maine, we toured the Morris boatyard and went sailing with Mr. Morris aboard one of the company’s beautiful hand-built yachts, experiencing the pleasures and privileges of a Morris owner for the space of an afternoon. The trip took us past some of the East Coast’s most exclusive real estate and summer retreats of some of the wealthiest families in America, a suitable setting for a sail on such an exclusive craft. And while a Morris yacht turns heads in any harbor, like the estates on MDI, they are made first and foremost for the private enjoyment of the owner.
Morris’ main business is building semi-custom sailing yachts from 29 to 80 feet . Their newest creation, the M46, is a sleek 46 footer priced from $1.1M, which puts it at the very top of the market for yachts of that size. Morris customers know they’re getting their money’s worth by buying a boat that is built to last a lifetime, with every single detail constructed to exacting specifications. You don't even need to be an expert sailor, since the boats are designed to be easily sailed by a single person so that owners can make the most of their time on the water — even beginners can quickly master their controls.
Both of Morris’ signature lines, the elegant M-Series and sporty Ocean Series, have set benchmarks for excellence among discerning yachting enthusiasts. Over the years, the brand has worked with world-renowned yacht designers Sparkman & Stephens, C. W. Paine and David Pedrick. For our afternoon of sailing Mr. Morris took us out on an M36, a stylish 36-foot “daysailer” priced from $419,000 that epitomizes everything the brand has to offer. When the model made its debut in 2004, Yachting magazine noted, “The attention to detail and quality of workmanship is dazzling.”
At the time the M36 was the only daysailer on the market to feature a self-tacking jib, sail handling systems and helm control pods, and essential — though extremely expensive — equipment for easy single-handed sailing. Since then many boatbuilders have sought to emulate the company's designs at a lower cost — “often copied but never perfected,” as Morris puts it. The M-Series yachts are designed for spending a few hours or a weekend on the water in perfect comfort and style, while the Ocean Series is made for longer excursions with more time spent aboard and belowdecks.
Classic materials like mahogany, teak, steel, brass and chrome abound aboard a Morris yacht, giving it a timeless appearance. You also find many high-tech elements like carbon fiber and Kevlar composites for masts and spars. Put in an order for an elegant new M46 and you will be provided with a dedicated project manager, naval architect and an interior designer to carry out your personal vision for the vessel. The layout offers two private cabins with en-suite baths, a spacious main saloon, a full-sized galley and integrated wireless home office, with total accommodations for up to six guests.
Interiors can be completely customized to owner’s specifications using the finest materials and fixtures sourced from around the globe. And you can even learn to sail one in only three days. It might sound improbable, but having sailed the M36 we fully believe it to be true. The starboard electric winch means you can raise the mainsail from the cockpit with the touch of a button, and operating the rest of the equipment is equally simple. Powerful but quiet engines take over when the sails are furled. Every Morris yacht buyer receives three days of private instruction, custom designed to match the requirements of each owner — which is included in the purchase price.
Mr. Morris himself has been known to provide said instruction when he has the time, an indication of his commitment to the company that bears his name and was founded by his father Tom Morris over 40 years ago. As well as newly constructed yachts, Morris also runs a brokerage service for pre-owned vessels, including a few classic craft that are up to Morris standards. There are currently 32 pre-owned yachts listed for sale via the Morris website, ranging in price from $38,000 to $3M. And of course Morris will build you a completely custom yacht should you so desire.
In addition to sales and brokerage, Morris also runs a luxury charter service from their full service marina in Northeast Harbor. While a million-dollar sailboat might not be a practical purchase for everyone, the charter service provides access to a wide range of Morris yachts that are privately owned and therefore impeccably maintained. As an entrée to the Morris Yachts experience, chartering a yacht can be surprisingly affordable and the location provides the perfect means for exploring one of the most beautiful sections of the Maine coast.