Skip to main content

Bristol and Falmouth cutters could sail again

A Washington builder has bought the molds for the high-end sailboats, with a we’ll-see attitude

A Washington builder has bought the molds for the high-end sailboats, with a we’ll-see attitude

Cape George Marine Works, which builds a line of traditional sailboats in Port Townsend, Wash., has bought the molds for the Bristol Channel Cutter and the Falmouth Cutter, whose builder closed shop last spring.

The price of the cutters — close to $400,000 for the 28-foot Bristol Channel Cutter — was a “contributing factor” in the demise of that builder, the Sam L. Morse Co., acknowledges Todd Uecker, co-owner of CapeGeorge. “And it is a factor that we’re facing here, as well,” he says. “We hope that we can provide them [the cutters] at a reduced cost.”

Uecker and his brother, Tim, who build six Cape George Cutters from 31 to 45 feet, produce their own fiberglass hulls; Morse, however, contracted with another company to laminate its hulls, Uecker says. “Even some of the metal hardware is done in-house,” he says. Those factors should reduce the cost of the Bristol and Falmouth boats that CapeGeorge builds, he says.

While CapeGeorge and the Morse cutters are built similarly — “semicustom, hand-built boats,” says Uecker — the lines did not overlap; Morse’s largest boat was 28 feet and CapeGeorge’s smallest is 31 feet. “It seemed like a good fit for us,” Uecker says. “Irrespective of the economy of boatbuilding these days, we decided to pick these molds up. They were sort of in danger of being lost forever.”

The Bristol and Falmouth cutters were designed by Lyle Hess, inspired by the wooden boats of author/cruisers Lin and Larry Pardey. The boats are based on 150-year-old designs from the southwestern coast of England. Under two owners, the Sam L. Morse Co. built 126 Bristol Channel Cutters and 41 of the 22-foot Falmouth Cutters. The fiberglass hulls and decks were molded by Crystaliner Corp. in Costa Mesa, Calif., the same company that built the hulls for the Westsail 32 during the first four years of that design’s production, according to Bud Taplin, a former Westsail plant manager.

“These [Morse] boats have been on my radar since they started building down in California,” Uecker says. “I was thinking of building one myself years ago. I had talked with Sam Morse and Lyle Hess. Slowly, the germ of the idea of adding them to our lineup [was] sort of fostered by other people saying that would be a good thing to add to your boats.” Without revealing figures, Uecker says acquiring the Morse molds was “moderately expensive for us.”

Like the Morse boats, CapeGeorge cutters have fiberglass hulls, but the decks are wood, according to Uecker. And CapeGeorge boats are available in kit form, he says.

“The cost of small boats is high, and it’s something we fight every day,” says Uecker. “But we’re still a little niche market. We build one or two boats a year. We’re not looking to build 30 boats a year.”

CapeGeorge has no orders for either of the Morse boats, Uecker says, and sales of its existing line are slow. “Quite frankly, we’re doing a lot of repair work on older CapeGeorges,” he says. “We’ll see what the economy does down the road here for cost of materials and such,” Uecker says. “I’m referring to lead as lead bullion.” In 2005 a pound of lead cost the boatbuilder 60 cents. Now it costs $2, he says, noting that epoxy resin, a key ingredient in the fiberglass layup, is an “oil derivative,” and its cost is influenced by the price of oil.

“Essentially, we’re hoping we can keep building new boats,” Uecker says, adding, “We’re keen on supplying the backyard builder with bare hulls.”

Uecker says prices for the Bristol Channel Cutter and the Falmouth Cutter will be available in the fall. For more information contact Cape George Marine Works at (360) 385-3412 or visit .