As far as 35th birthdays go, Morris Yachts tossed themselves a doozy of a bash over the weekend of August 18th. The guest list included old family friends like the Leighs and Justines and Annies, which mingled in Northeast Harbor with Morris siblings, employees, owners, and, of course, many other models of lovely sailboats launched from the Morris sheds on Mount Desert Island over the years.
On Friday, nine boats were entered in the afternoon’s Concours d’Elegance, a boat show that took place along the company’s float adjacent to its launching facility for the M-series daysailers. And later that evening, after a sit-down dinner for 200-plus guests under the white tent stretched over the Morris service docks at nearby Bass Harbor, show judges announced that each entrant was a winner, and there’d be prizes for all. The rewards even included trivets for each of the showboats’ owners, made from discarded teak scraps by employees who had quietly visited each boat that afternoon, recalling details of their construction and upkeep over the years.
As Production Manager Steve Mullane reminded the crowd, “You may think you own a Morris yacht, but to the crew, they’re all loaners.”
And before the evening turned to fireworks over the water and a sizzling dance band, a good number of friends of the family stood to deliver toasts to Morris Yachts founder, Tom, his wife Tina, and the emcee for the evening, son Cuyler, who now runs the company.
Weaved into the vignettes was the story of how in the early 1970s, Tom had gone to the boat show in Newport, Rhode Island, to try peddling a Friendship sloop he’d built. There, sales weren’t so hot, but he had the good fortune to meet the then-unknown designer Chuck Paine, who had bold ideas that Tom and his company deftly turned into reality. That, said Tom, was the beginning of a collaboration and friendship that’s now spanned three decades.
On Saturday, a rainy and raw morning made for fluid plans, but as skies cleared and a blustery northwester howled in, Morrises and their owners cleared the harbor and beat their way up Somes Sound in a dazzling display of sails and spray. The reward for an afternoon of hard sailing: lobsters and revelry back in port-and some great photo-ops for those of us who had to catch a flight home, but were lucky enough to take the back road out of town that runs smack beside the racecourse.