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Morris 52

2008 November 10

A powerful passagemaker blends seagoing comfort with an elegant interior

The Morris 52 is the latest creation in designer Chuck Paine's striking Bermuda Series of high-performance offshore cruisers. "We've probably done 50 boats or so in the series, but most have been one-offs," Paine said. "The exciting thing about the Morris 52 is not only the extraordinary quality of the build but the fact that the boat is pulled from a female mold making it available on a semiproduction basis." The Morris 52 is inspired by Paine's earlier design, the Apogee 50, one of the first true performance cruisers. "The Morris 52 will deliver speeds of 10 knots or more in trade wind conditions, but can still be easily handled by a couple in their later years," he said.

Paine and Tom Morris have collaborated on some of the world's finest sailboats and the new 52 is another example of how to marry form and function. Paine's raised-saloon center-cockpit design achieves the advantages of light and space below without the bulky profile of an exaggerated pilothouse on deck. The hull shape features a long waterline, modest beam, stable hull sections and Paine's latest generation high-lift endplated bulb keel. Paine and Morris just can't seem to produce a sluggish cruising boat. Although the Morris 52 is engineered for crossing oceans and luxuriously appointed, sophisticated construction techniques and ultramodern materials keep the 52 surprisingly light-even loaded, the displacement-to-length ratio hovers around 200. When it comes to passagemaking, 200-mile days will be more the norm than the exception for this powerful sloop.

I recently hitched a ride on hull No. 1 for a SAILING boat test. Conditions were ideal as we cleared the Bayside Marina in downtown Miami, Florida, and made our way into the shimmering waters of Biscayne Bay. Owner Tom Brodie, a surgeon from Indianapolis, Indiana, couldn't wipe the grin off his face as his new boat accelerated smartly on an easy reach. The morning easterly was filling in, blowing at around 10 knots true as we glided south with the speedo flirting with 7 knots.

The details
The hull of the Morris 52 is a composite construction using ATC Core-Cell closed-cell foam sandwiched between layers of Kevlar E-glass laminates. Vinylester resin and ISO NPG gelcoat are used throughout the molding process. Stringers and floors are foam-cored fiberglass reinforced with unidirectional fabrics. The deck is also cored with Core-Cell, except in areas where fasteners are required where the core material is high-density foam. Structural bulkheads are marine plywood bonded to the hull and deck while nonstructural bulkheads are lightweight Decolite core panels-a perfect example of using superior materials to eliminate unnecessary weight.

The lead ballast is externally fastened to an integral fiberglass keel stub, which is the best possible arrangement, combining the advantages of internal and external keels. Vigilantly nixing unneeded weight from the deck and topsides allows for an extremely low center of gravity, a key factor in the excellent performance and seakindly nature of the design. Paine's highly efficient keel foil includes an elliptical bulb trailing into a T-shaped endplate to reduce turbulence created by water vortices, a technique developed by aeronautical engineers. The standard draft is 6 feet, 9 inches with a 5-foot, 11-inch shoal-draft optional. The spade rudder includes a carbon fiber post and upper and lower self-aligning bearings.

On deck
The cockpit of the Morris 52 is fairly compact, especially for a boat of this length, but quite functional. Hull No. 1 was fitted with a handsome teak wheel and a pedestal and steering system by Edson. The trunkhouse of the raised-saloon does not obstruct visibility and the sail controls are easily reached from the helm. The primary sheet winches are Harken 66s STC and the secondaries are Harken 53 STCs. While some center-cockpit designs leave you feeling a bit exposed to the elements, the Morris 52 cockpit is most secure. A rugged canvas and stainless spray dodger is standard and an optional stainless safety rail rimming the aft coaming makes an excellent handhold both in the cockpit and on deck. There is even a hint of a bridgedeck and two large scuppers will quickly remove any green water that does make its way into the cockpit.

The main halyard is led aft to an electric Harken winch located under the dodger. A Harken Big Boat traveler system is located just behind the cockpit providing efficient end-boom sheeting, an advantage of the center-cockpit layout. The mainsheet system is double ended. The standard genoa control system includes Harken Big Boat tracks set well inboard for tight sheeting angles with pin-stop cars. It would be nice to see an easier adjustable lead arrangement, especially because the furling headsail requires frequent lead changes. Husky 5-inch Harken double blocks mounted on angled stainless bases serve as the turning blocks, ensuring fair sheet leads back to the cockpit winches.

As expected, the deck hardware is top quality, beginning with the stainless stemhead fitting that is specially designed to accommodate a 60-pound CQR on the starboard roller and a 60-pound Bruce anchor to port. Teak handrails are standard and the Morris nonskid offers excellent traction, even when the decks are wet. The aft deck includes a lazarette, a dedicated propane locker and convenient access to the rather subtle stern step arrangement. While Paine's transom includes the de rigueur swim step, it blends naturally into the flow and is hardly visible when viewed in profile, a deft Down East approach on how to include this functional feature without distorting the boat's lines.

The standard aluminum spar has an air draft of just over 67 feet, but a waterway-optional rig reduces that figure to 64 feet, allowing you to sneak under the fixed bridges that span the Intracoastal, albeit with your heart in your hand. A Leisure Furl boom is standard along with a Forespar mechanical vang. The standing rigging is discontinuous rod while all running rigging is supplied by New England Ropes. A North Sails Soft NorLam full-batten mainsail designed for the Leisure Furl boom is standard along with a North 105-percent furling headsail. This small, just barely overlapping headsail provides plenty of power for the Morris 52 without the load and handling requirements of a larger genoa. An asymmetrical chute is the perfect compliment to the standard sail package.

Down below
"No yard anywhere in the world has the capability to build a more highly finished interior," Paine said. When you drop below on the Morris 52 you will probably agree with him; the interior is simply lovely. The saloon is flooded with light accentuating the rich cherry joinerwork with a satin finish. If you have something against cherry, Honduras mahogany can be substituted for no additional cost. And if you don't like mahogany, you can have any wood you want because as a limited production, semicustom builder, Morris encourages owner participation during the building process.

The 52 is available with two standard interior plans. Plan A includes an island double berth in the forward cabin with a separate head and plenty of floor space. There is a cork-lined hanging locker and bureau with beautifully made drawers. The saloon includes a wraparound settee and dining table to starboard with a settee opposite. Morris does a masterful job of blending luxury with function. The cabin sole, for example, is 5/8-inch Meranti plywood, vacuum bagged with 1/8-inch teak and basswood veneer overlay, creating a light, strong and handsome floor that can also be easily removed to access the bilge. The headliners are closed-cell foam laminates held in place with cherry battens. The windows in the saloon are made from laminated safety glass and include a slight, 7-degree bend that makes them significantly stronger-a classic Morris touch.

The forward facing nav station is tucked away to port with the electrical control panels mounted outboard. A quick inspection reveals an immaculate, well-organized wiring harness. A quarter cabin, or crew quarters, with upper and under single berths is behind the nav station. The galley is in the starboard walkthrough, another advantage of a center-cockpit layout. The double stainless sinks are to port, under the companionway and cockpit sole and three-burner Force 10 propane stove is outboard. There is plenty of counter space, nicely finished in Corian and the shelf space behind can be adjusted-a clever feature. An engine-driven Seafrost refrigerator and freezer with front-opening doors is standard and emphasizes the Morris 52's serious cruising intent. Engine-driven compressors are efficient and, most importantly, don't draw on the house batteries.

The aft cabin features an offset island double berth that allows for more floor space, and when combined with the mirror mounted on the forward bulkhead, creates a sense of spaciousness. Two hanging lockers and a host of drawers and shelves offer plenty of storage. The aft head includes a separate stall shower and Corian countertops. Ventilation throughout the boat is adequate, with stainless steel opening portlights and several deck hatches.

The Morris 52 is powered by a Yanmar 4JHE turbo-charged 100-horsepower diesel. A Tides Marine shaft seal is standard as is a three-blade feathering Max Prop. Two aluminum fuel tanks combine to hold 150 gallons of diesel, providing close to a 1,000-mile range under power. With the Morris 52's easily driven hull and efficient sailplan that's enough fuel to last a long, long time. The standard mechanical systems throughout the boat, from the Racor fuel filtration system, to the Whale deck wash down system, incorporate solid engineering and top-quality parts.

Under Way
Back in the bay, I finally wrestled the helm away from Dr. Brodie. We brought the boat up a bit, 50 degrees off the apparent wind, but instead of heeling we just accelerated. The trade wind was gaining momentum and we surged over 7 knots. The helm was extremely light, and although we didn't have much sea state, it was clear the Morris 52 is quite stiff. Cracking off onto a close reach with the apparent wind near 20 knots, we topped 8 knots, pretty impressive going for a cruising boat with a 105-percent headsail.

The sail control systems are very well thought out, and the loads are not excessive. Despite its size, the 52 is a relatively easy boat to handle. We spent some time experimenting with the Leisure Furl boom and tied in a reef for fun. Roller furling booms will soon become standard equipment on most new boats, they make sense and any early engineering problems have been overcome. I was impressed with the Leisure Furl boom's ease of operation. Coupled with the Harken headsail furling system, shortening sail is a snap. Just as important, making sail is also easy so you won't be tempted to get lazy and spend hours motoring on passage during squally weather

The Morris 52 is the result of an inspired design and brilliant execution. It is however, quite expensive, as quality always is. Still, if you have reached a point in your life where you desire to travel the world under sail and you don't want to compromise on performance or comfort, this just may be the boat for you.