“The design of the Morris 36 by Chuck Paine is as perfect as I have seen. I could own this boat with absolutely no change.” This ringing endorsement was part of legendary yacht designer Bob Perry’s design analysis column in Sailing magazine when this 36-foot Maine-built beauty hit the market in the mid-1980s.
I’m certainly no Perry as an analyst, nor am I trying to be, but after sailing the Morris Justine 36 Dauntless, I have to agree.
When I left my own boat to go sail Dauntless, flags and burgees throughout the marina were just starting to snap in the breeze on a warmer than average fall day in Seattle. And by the time we’d squeaked the boat out of her slip on Lake Union and stored the fenders, gusts approaching 15-knots were funneling northward up the lake from downtown.
We raised the full-batten mainsail out of the Schaefer furling boom and were soon making tracks back and forth across the lake. With just two aboard, we easily handled sheeting and steering duties and put the gorgeous blue cruiser through her paces upwind and down.
While sailing upwind I took my usual spot to leeward of the helm and played the tell tales in the shifty Lake Union breeze. Each time a gust would hit, Dauntless smoothly put her shoulder down and charged forward in a surge of speed. With a traditional, graceful-looking sheer, fin keel and skeg hung rudder, the boat not only looks great, but sails exceptionally well.
On her performance, Perry remarked, “This will be a fast sailing yacht.” Once again, he was correct.
In 11-knots and close hauled we were briskly sailing along in the upper 5-knot range and when the wind kicked up a little higher, the low sixes were constant. At one point, we decided to bear away in a puff and ease the sheets to a close and then beam reach to see how fast we could get her going and we easily surpassed the 6.5-knot mark before needing to jibe away. That wasn’t quite hull speed for Dauntless’ LWL of 29-feet 6-inches, but it wasn’t too shabby given our limited runway and inconsistent wind.
Overall Dauntless was a blast to sail, and being from the Chuck Paine design table, this came as no real surprise when we finally rolled up the sails and dropped the fenders over the sides.
What makes Dauntless standout from peers her age, and many other boats, is that she was actually owned and extensively refitted by Morris Yachts at one of their facilities in Maine to the tune of $200,000 and a year’s worth of work. And her list of gear and upgrades now reads like a boat that was built in 2013 instead of 1985.
Dauntless’ owner then purchased her directly from Morris and she even came with a factory certified one-year warranty — which shows, and is kind of remarkable for a 30-year-old cruising boat. But for Morris, that isn’t surprising.
Not an unfamiliar name in the Pacific Northwest, but one that might not be ubiquitous among local sailors, Morris Yachts is a Maine original. Founded by Tom Morris in 1972, the aim of the company then and now was and is to build “Maine-quality” boats by skilled designers and craftsman. Chuck Paine came aboard in 1974 and designed three previous Morris models leading up to the Justine 36. Morris, Paine and their team undoubtedly refined and improved upon all of their cruising boats over those years, all of which are notable for being fast, comfortable and visually appealing.
With numerous facilities still operating in Maine, quality, craftsmanship and attention to detail remain hallmarks of Morris Yachts as they build or refit new and used boats one at a time.
A CLASSIC INSIDE & OUT
Whether sailing, walking the decks or poking around down below, the word that kept coming to mind while aboard Dauntless was, simple. Not in a negative way. But in a simplicity of design way where the layout and onboard systems are purposefully devised and built to be orderly, functional and clean. And even though Dauntless is equipped with gear such as an electric winch for the in-boom furling main and a new chartplotter and electronics — things sailing purists generally don’t consider simple — they are worked so seamlessly into the overall look and feel of the boat that they are hardly a hassle and actually make sailing the boat much easier.
The T-shaped cockpit is appropriately sized for a boat of this vintage and the self-tailing winches are made of bronze, which adds to the classic look and feel of the boat. The primary winches for the genoa sheets are well within reach while steering and can be handled by a single crewmember in the cockpit while tacking and jibing. Storage areas for lines and winch handles are underneath each of these winches. Winches and clutches for the mainsheet, halyards and control lines are well placed on the cabintop.
The cockpit’s tall coaming creates deep, comfortable seat backs and the seat behind the helm nearly spans the width of stern. Just behind this seat is a propane locker with two tanks, and lazarettes on each side swallowed our fenders and dock lines while we sailed. Protecting the cockpit is a new bimini and dodger by Iverson’s that perfectly compliments the color of the nonskid.
Moving forward of the dodger on deck, the base of the mast is uncluttered and to achieve the proper angle for unfurling and furling the mainsail, the rigid boom vang needs no adjusting. Teak handholds line both sides of the cabin trunk and the tan nonskid and gleaming brightwork are impeccably kept. Like the winches, the ports are also made of bronze and the two big hatches are new. At the bow is a new Lewmar V-3 windlass with a single anchor roller housing a Delta anchor. There is probably room for a dinghy on the foredeck, but you’d want to carefully choose which one and figure out how to get it up there without marring the unblemished deck and wood.
Dropping down into Dauntless’ cabin, I was struck first by the airy, open feel created by the use of white wood paneling throughout. This classic look is complimented with wood trim and lots of light pouring in from overhead hatches and port lights. At night, her new interior lights will likely do an admirable job of illuminating the boat as well. And the Espar forced air heater would make it a cozy hideaway on a winter’s evening at anchor.
One of the most unique features down below on Dauntless, and maybe in the whole boat, is the cabin sole. Made of chocolate-colored solid teak, the look creates a balanced feel to the lighter colors of the interior and adds to the unpretentious, timeless feel of the vessel. I’ve never seen anything like it, which is good.
Differing from many modern cruising boats, the layout of this Justine 36 will appeal to those who value traditional styling in a boat’s interior. Again, the feeling created in this space is one of simplicity.
To starboard of the companionway is a U-shaped galley with new Force 10 three-burner stove and oven, microwave, double sink, top-loading fridge and an abundance of storage. A cavernous, top-loading pantry is to starboard of the sink and above is a rack to store cups.
Behind the companionway steps is the ship’s electrical panel and underneath is a 39hp Yanmar that was installed by Morris in 2013. Aft and to port is a long quarterberth with a nav-table at its head that can be used while standing. Though it might be difficult to use in a heaving seaway — which I’m not sure I’d do much of anyway — the nav station is a large and functional workspace with handy storage areas above and below. You don’t see this particular setup often, but I like it.
With a bench seat to port and an L-shaped settee to starboard, the saloon has room for a crew of four to six to sit comfortably for a meal around the drop-leaf dinette table. The settees are also long enough to stretch out on and would make great sea berths with the addition of lee cloths. Storage is above and outboard of the settees and a sizeable hanging locker is positioned forward of the port settee.
Forward of the saloon is the head to starboard and the V-berth. At the foot of the bunk is the anchor well, with a fan and shelves flanking either side. The storage space keeps adding up in this cabin with drawers to port and space underneath the bunk.
The boat’s single head was part of the 2013 refit and looks new in every way. Though this isn’t a large head, there is an overhead hatch and opening port light that will let steam out while showering and a large sump underneath the floor to take care of the gray water. Once again, storage is ample and the plumbing is accessible.
When the Morris Justine 36 debuted in the mid-1980s, it fell squarely onto the larger end of boats in the cruising market. Nowadays, that number has jumped nearly 10 feet. But even though longer, beamier boats seem to be garnering a lot of attention and look good in glossy magazines, there are many boat buyers who want to stay in the mid-30-foot size range. For those looking to get in a boat of this size, I see Dauntless being perfect for a singlehander, cruising couple or small family who wants a sailboat that is manageable both around the dock and while sailing; one that can be used quickly for a day sail or weekend, but can also be comfortably taken out for longer cruises. And though there is a fair bit of wood to be cared for outside, for her age this will be a boat that is lower on the maintenance scale due to the vast amount of recent upgrades that have gone into her. Fortunately, even through the extensive refit done by Morris, the simple soul of the original design remains and is what rises to the top while sailing or walking through the boat.
Perry concluded his review with an apt summation of the Morris 36 by introducing the reader to a nautical term:
There is a word “yare.” This word was used to describe a boat where everything was perfect. Just saying “good boat” implies too much subjectivity. Saying a “good looking boat” implies not enough objectivity. Yare means that all the elements are in balance. I could never bring myself to calling block and tackle “block and tackle” but I think we have a yare boat here.
Well said, Bob. Well said.