Noted boatbuilder passes

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Thomas de Witt Cuyler Morris passed away Dec. 7, 2008. Born Nov. 20, 1940 in Bryn Mawr, Pa., Morris was founder of Morris Yachts in Bass Harbor, Maine, builder of world class voyaging boats.

Morris was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2007 and fought the disease, outliving all the doctors’ prognoses. Morris crossed the bar at his home in Southwest Harbor surrounded by his family.

Throughout his life, Morris was a visionary entrepreneur, he — like the boats he built — was understated, confident, strong, and purposeful. For the last 35 years he built boats that have become classics and that have set the standard for custom and semi custom coastal and offshore sailing yachts.

He moved to Southwest Harbor, Maine, in 1972 and began his boatbuilding career in a 30’ x 52’ building behind his home. Initially the work was finishing Friendship sloops built by renowned Maine boatbuilder Jarvis Newman.

In the late 1970s, the company, until then named Thomas D.C. Morris Yacht Builder, incorporated as Morris Yachts. While he was attending a boat show with a 25’ Pemaquid-type Friendship sloop, Morris was introduced to another icon of Maine yacht design, Chuck Paine of Camden. Paine drew plans for a design he called Frances, a 26’ double-ender. He and Morris quickly struck a deal to build the boat, and a hull mold was made.

In 1976, the boat shop was moved and the company became established on the Southwest Harbor waterfront. In 2001, Morris’ son Cuyler became president of the company. In 2003, Morris Yachts began working with the legendary yacht design firm of Sparkman & Stephens. The idea was to build a daysailer that would not only be beautiful, but also a solid performer that would be easy to sail. The new design became the M-36, introduced at the 2003 Annapolis Boat Show — more than 50 have been built.

Subsequent S&S designs in the M Series include a 42 and 52 footer. The company’s ocean series includes boats between 36 and 62 feet in length.

Morris’ legacy will live on through Morris Yachts, the boats he built and all those that knew and loved him. A celebration of his life will be held at Morris Yachts, Bass Harbor Yard, Sunday, June 21.

By Ocean Navigator