A builder of world voyaging boats passes

Sad news from Southwest Harbor, Maine. Tom Morris, the founder of Morris Yachts passed away yesterday, December 7th. Morris, seen at left in a photo by John Snyder, had been battling cancer for some time. He was a builder of beautiful voyaging boats and will be missed by voyagers all over the world.

Statement from Morris Yachts: Morris Yachts is saddened by the loss of their founder Thomas D.C Morris on Sunday, December 7th. Tom was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2007 and fought it valiantly. To those who knew him it will not be surprising to know that he outlived all the doctors’ prognoses. He died at home in Southwest Harbor, Maine surrounded by his loving family.

The understated Morris was not a native of Maine, but his connection to the Pine Tree State goes back more than a century. Beginning in the mid-1880s, his family began what was to become a long tradition of summer vacations in Maine. Tom was born in Philadelphia in 1940 and developed an early passion for sailing on the family’s A Class sloop, which his grandfather acquired in 1913. Five generations sailed the A Class number seven before the family donated her to the Mystic Seaport museum in 1975 where she is on display.

After an early career in business, Morris gave in to his love of sailing and moved to Southwest Harbor, Maine where he set up shop finishing fiberglass Friendship sloops built by Jarvis Newman. In 1972, he opened the doors of Morris Yachts in a boat shop he built behind the family house on High Road in Southwest Harbor. Production of the Frances 26 designed by Paine began in 1974 and set the course for the company’s future.

One of the company’s slogans – “Each one an Owner’s Original€š” was backed up by Tom’s close involvement in the build process. As a result, Tom became close friends with his owners and was wined and dined at their homes wherever he went. He enjoyed this immensely.

As a boatbuilder, one need only step aboard a Morris to witness his prowess. Go through any Morris and you will see his many influences – no detail was too small a true mark of a consummate sailor – hand-holds where they should be, wide, clutter-free decks, a well thought out galley. The only compliant one might have with him as a sailor is that he was light on the provisioning. He would show up for a delivery with a sleeve of saltines and a can of herring and maybe a can of corn beef hash. All Morris crew knew to bring along extra eats when doing a delivery with Tom.

When his son Cuyler became President of the company in 2001, Tom was able to spend more time sailing. In his new role as Ambassador-at-Large, he sailed the first Morris yacht S/V Escapade a Morris 46, to Scotland which also happened to be his first transatlantic. As the company’s official delivery skipper he has sailed both the Morris 38 and the new M42 up and down the Atlantic seaboard taking them to the various boat shows Morris attends. Last year, he took delivery of his very own Morris M42 and cruised it down to Charleston, SC last spring.

Tom enjoyed nothing more than strolling through the Morris shop and talking with the guys, meeting and visiting with owners and sailing anywhere, any time under any conditions. His legacy will live on through Morris Yachts and all those that knew and loved him.

By Ocean Navigator