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Maine builder crossing the Atlantic

Tom Morris is heading to Scotland to deliver his first European order — but hopefully not his last

Tom Morris is heading to Scotland to deliver his first European order — but hopefully not his last

Tom Morris, founder of Morris Yachts, recently set sail on his first trans-Atlantic voyage to deliver a yacht to Scotland. It is also the Maine boatbuilder’s first sale in Europe.

“There’s been a growing interest in Europe for U.S. boats,” says Morris, reached at his office before he departed for Scotland.

The interest has been fueled in part by the weakening U.S. dollar, says Morris. U.S. boatbuilders also have earned a reputation for quality, he says.

Iain Saunders was searching for more than a year for a classic yet modern sailboat. He visited the Bass Harbor, Maine, yard several times before deciding on the Morris 46.

Construction on the boat began last August. Esplanade, named for Saunders’ father’s first command on a British Navy destroyer, was finished in April.

While many Morris yachts have made a trans-Atlantic crossing, this is the first Morris boat to be sold to a European. The company hired a consultant to ensure that the yacht was built to European specifications.

The company, which specializes in semi-custom work, also added personalized details to the yacht, including an extra 55-gallon water tank, the installation of a 62-hp Nanni diesel engine (chosen for its quietness), and several other sound attenuation features. The yacht also has two alcoves built to fit the cages of the couple’s parrots.

The interior of raised paneled mahogany features granite counter tops and two custom table inlays. One features the compass rose and the other the family crest of a stag, mermaid and a naval officer’s sword. The inlay works comprise more than a dozen types of wood and hundreds of pieces.

Morris has decades of experience sailing the waters of Maine. This is to be his first trans-Atlantic voyage.

“I’ve always wanted to do a trans-Atlantic,” says Morris.

Morris is accompanied by owner Saunders; Saunder’s nephew, David Saunders-Watson; and Saunder’s employee Brian Matthews. The trip will be everyone’s first trans-Atlantic.

It’s not just another crossing, however. The voyage, which began June 1, is sponsored by JP Morgan. The goal is to make the crossing in less than 28 days. If Esplanade reaches Scotland prior to that, the investment firm will donate $40,000 to Camp and Trek, a Scottish holiday camp for youngsters who care for invalids in their families. JP Morgan will also donate additional money for each day under the 28-day goal.

Morris Yachts was founded in 1972. Morris’ son, Cuyler, joined the family business in 1995 and is now its president. Morris Yachts, which builds sailboats from 34 to 70 feet, has expanded in recent years into a complete yacht service organization including brokerage, chartering and custom yacht construction.