BASS HARBOR, Maine — After two years of work, Morris Yachts will celebrate the departure Wednesday of Shearwater, the first of several training vessels the yard is building for the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
A send-off ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at the Morris Yachts service yard in Bass Harbor, to be followed by an open house and tours of the facility until 2 p.m.
The 44-foot sailing vessel is the first of eight Leadership 44 boats the yard has been contracted to build for the Academy’s Leadership training program at a cost of about $800,000 a piece. Shearwater was test-launched earlier this month.
“Shearwater has been a big part of our lives here at Morris Yachts and we are happy to be able to show folks the work we have done,” said Cuyler Morris, president of Morris Yachts. “We were awarded the contract at a critical time and we won it over many excellent boat yards, so it was a great endorsement and honor to be selected.”
The contract for the 44s came during a downturn in the economy that hit Maine boatyards hard. With the initial contracts for four boats, and, finally, for eight, Morris was able, in 2009, to begin rehiring workers that had been laid off.
The boats were designed by David Pedrick and were based on his design for the U.S. Navy Sail program but with modifications stipulated by the academy. The private fundraising effort to pay for the eight vessels, one for each of the academy’s student companies, has been successful.
The Morris Yachts boats will replace the decades-old Luders-designed vessels the academy now uses. They are designed to be a floating leadership platform for the academy’s Coastal Sail Training Program. The college also uses the American Eagle, a 295-foot, steel-hull cutter in its sail training program.
The leadership training program takes Coast Guard Academy cadets entering their junior year, places them in teams of six with a safety officer and has them plan and provision the boat for a 12-day voyage. They rotate various positions on the boat, so each cadet gets various experiences, including the opportunity to lead the team.
Among the invited guests expected at the open house are designer David Pedrick and Allen Kruger, a program manager with the academy; U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, who serves on the academy’s Board of Visitors; Cmdr. Brian Gilda, deputy sector commander with the U.S. Coast Guard in Southwest Harbor; and representatives from U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins’ offices.
With Shearwater ready to depart Maine, the shipbuilding crews at Morris Yachts are concentrating on fulfilling the rest of the Coast Guard Academy contract. Hulls 2 and 3 already are under construction and the boat yard expects to complete the remaining vessels within the next 18 months, with a total of four boats being delivered by the end of this year and the rest in 2012.