It was a rainy day for a boat show, even by Newport, Rhode Island, standards. Still, the docks were packed this mid-September afternoon with boats and rigging that sang like Sirens to a weather-oblivious breed of transom kickers. At the end of Bannister’s Wharf, the fuel dock bustled as harbor launches vied for any opening to load passengers. And in the midst of it all, out of the drizzle came a salty-looking figure singlehanding a heck of a good-looking sailboat.
Cary Ali, hull number one in the new M42 line from Morris Yachts, glided by and came around smartly a few wharves down. It wasn’t readily apparent how Tom Morris, the company founder and its present-day on-water ambassador, planned to dock the boat and pick me up for a ride, but he didn’t appear nearly as concerned about it as the launch drivers looking on.
As Cary Ali drew near, her jib rolled onto the Schaefer roller furler, which was installed with its drum recessed below the deck. The main stowed neatly, and with the boat under power, Tom calmly nosed her sweeping bow into a space between launches. I hopped aboard-no pulpit, lifelines, or pushpit to wrestle over-and we were off. By the time I’d made my way along the wide, uncluttered teak decks to the roomy cockpit, with its comfortable cushioned seats and drop-leaf table, Tom’s finger was on the control button of one of two Lewmar 50 self-tailing electric winches mounted near the helm, and the main was on its way to the top of the Hall Spars carbon-fiber fractional rig.
Out came the self-tacking jib, and with a dip of the rail, we were off for an invigorating dash through crowded Brenton Cove. I found that the high-aspect rudder and generous-sized, 44-inch-diameter wheel made weaving through the boats an easy chore, and as we jibed to head for more open water, Tom brought the main across with a simple tug of the sheet.
The M42 was introduced earlier in the year as the big sister of the Sparkman & Stephens-designed M36. Just a month after our test sail, it stole the heart of CW’s Boat of the Year judges and was named Best Special-Purpose Cruiser. Six more feet in length gives the M42 interior volume enough to offer 6-foot-3-inch headroom. It’s still an elegant daysailer, but owners have the option to cruise for a weekend, a week, or longer. Below, it features an open saloon fitted out in traditional style with white bulkheads and glossed, solid-mahogany trim. There’s a full galley, hot and cold pressure water, and a head with a wall shower set behind a neatly contrived fold-out enclosure.
“That’s made in Maine,” Tom reminds me as I tinker with its brass latches.
Forward, there are settees fit for a nap and a drop-leaf mahogany table located beneath an opening butterfly skylight. Ahead of the keel-stepped mast is a big V-berth that’s set off from the bow by a watertight bulkhead and anchor locker. Access to the locker is through a deck hatch that hides a Lewmar windlass and a fold-out bow roller.
Hull number one sports an optional teak deck and an exquisite all-wood exterior bulkhead in the cockpit; the cockpit itself comes standard with a teak sole.
The M42 powers along with a 39-horsepower Yanmar connected to a saildrive and a two-bladed Flex-O-Fold propeller. With a cored, vinylester composite hull and moderate-draft bulb keel (a deep-draft version is also available), the boat is quick and responsive.
Under sail, the M42 would be a delight to gunkhole along a shore-or a pleasure to settle into for a long offshore watch. All sail-control lines run under the deck and emerge close to the helm for easy singlehanding. In a moderate chop off Castle Hill, we breezed along while closehauled, making a little better than 6 knots in 12 knots of apparent wind. When a puff hit, the boat would start to head up, but just a little pressure on the helm brought the bow back down as we surged ahead. Whether I was sitting to leeward or to weather, Cary Ali was a hoot to drive.
With a sail-away price in the $600,000-plus neighborhood, the M42 won’t be a boat for every skipper, but it should fit the bill for those willing to pay for what Tom calls “the pure joy of sailing.”
LOA: 42′ 3″ (12.88 m.)
LWL: 30′ 0″ (9.14 m.)
Beam: 11′ 3″ (3.43 m.)
Draft: 5′ 8″ (1.73 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 707 sq. ft. (65.7 sq. m.)
Ballast: 5,500 lb. (2,495 kg.)
Displacement: 14,362 lb. (6,515 kg.)
Water: 50 gal. (189 l.)
Fuel: 25 gal. (95 l.)
Mast Height: 59′ 8″
Engine: 39-hp. Yanmar with saildrive
Designer: Sparkman & Stephens
Morris Yachts, (207) 244-5509, www.morrisyachts.com
Mark Pillsbury is Cruising World’s senior editor.