NORTHEAST HARBOR, Maine — In a struggling economy where demand for luxury products such as seven-figure corporate jets, $400,000 sports cars and high-end yachts is flat, Cuyler Morris was feeling “lucky” this weekend as he overlooked a gathering of loyal owners of his family’s pricey, hand-built sailboats.
“We have about 20 boats and over 100 crew and passengers,” Morris Yachts’ president said of the three-day rendezvous, which was scheduled to coincide with the 40th anniversary of a business launched in 1972 by his father Tom at age 32. “That’s about the same participation we had at the 35th anniversary event. Given the state of the world, we feel pretty lucky.”
Morris Yachts used the occasion to announce plans to bring to the luxury boat market an updated and streamlined version of its popular 48-foot, Ocean Series yacht, which is being marketed as the Ocean Series 48 GT, the “GT” designation standing for “Grande Touring.”
“This is a special boat, and the new 48 GT is a grand adventure for us as it marks our revitalization of the whole Ocean Series,” said Morris Yachts CEO Doug Metchick. He told a Saturday gathering of Morris owners and company employees that the project is “taking a proven design and really making it relevant for tomorrow’s buyer.”
Improvements now being engineered, he said, will enhance performance under sail, simplify sail handling and offer a new cockpit layout designed to improve access. Optional amenities will include a pull-out freezer and a compact washer/dryer system. The owner’s stateroom will include a glass, circular shower.
“This is really a new boat,” Metchick said. “The circular shower is a little Star Trek-like, but it’s cool.”
Metchick said he expects the first Ocean Series 48 GT will be ready for sale next year.
The boat is expected to sell for about $1.25 million, although a company official said a product development team is still working on exact specifications and pricing.
Saturday’s “coming out” for the Ocean Series 48 GT was held at the company’s dock in Northeast Harbor in an old, three-story wooden boathouse colorfully decorated with jibs, a mainsail and a red-and-white spinnaker suspended from the ceiling. Amid cocktails and finger food, entertainment at the family-oriented, three-hour affair was provided by the spontaneous antics of the children of Morris employees, including one as young as five months.
Morris bills itself as Maine’s oldest family-owned boat-building company, and it recently forged an alliance with another family-owned Maine business that also prides itself on craftsmanship. Moser furniture company, which sells high-end, hand-crafted furnishings in elegant showrooms in major U.S. cities, is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Founder Thomas Moser’s son David is the company’s chief designer and recently began working with Morris Yachts on rethinking luxury sailboat interiors.
David Moser gave a talk to Morris yacht owners over the weekend on the elements of design. A sculpture he created was presented as a trophy to the yacht on hand that was judged by Moser and others to be the most pristine in what amounted to a Morris yacht beauty pageant.
The new alliance between the two companies is being touted as two long-established and successful family-centered companies sharing Thomas Moser’s belief that “Maine-made is the gold standard for fine craftsmanship and material integrity.”
With over 300 boats built to date that are moored in four continents, Morris Yachts and its 100 employees in Trenton, Bass Harbor, Northeast Harbor and Newport, R.I., are hopeful their newest product line will help to ensure continued success despite the rough seas of an uncertain global economy.