When thinking about boats, sometimes it’s good to go outside near the water, especially when staying at a hotel in the northern part of Miami Beach. In fact, it’s almost criminal not to walk out on the sand and greet the day, like I did this morning. The waves are curling and breaking on the beach in gentle fashion, and the sun quickly lifts off the horizon. Hearing the natural pulse of the ocean is a good reminder that you've got a pulse, too, and lucky to be there enjoying the present moment.
I spent a couple of hours like that yesterday, out on Biscayne Bay, where I had a chance to sail a classic new boat, which is anything but an oxymoron these days. Morris Yachts has found a good formula with the fourth model in its M series of luxury daysailers, the M-29. Shortest of the range, the new model treated me to a nice afternoon of sailing in 6 to 13 knots of wind.
What I liked best about the 29-footer wasn’t that it has a large, comfortable cockpit, stylish good looks with modern underbody, or that a sailor could singlehandedly operate the boat with ease. All of those come in handy, but what I really like is that, as an overall package, the Sparkman & Stephens design really sails well. With company president Cuyler Morris offering guidance, we tacked out of the Coconut Grove channel in light air from the Shake-A-Leg Miami docks, and with a self-tacking jib on a foredeck track, there was little to do but steer.
The boat had a lively feel to her, and when sailing upwind, we could sail closer than 45 degrees to the wind. Downwind, with an asymmetric spinnaker, we hit close to 7 knots. I could tell from the feeling in the tiller that a few more knots of breeze and a wave or two under the transom would have us moving a good bit faster.
We’ll save the detailed review for later, but leave it for now that sailing this modern classic with its bulb keel, carbon mast, and carbon rudder was more than pleasant. And with a main set between lazy jacks, a roller-furling jib, a bow-launched spinnaker, and all running rigging, including the spinnaker halyard and retrieval line, led to the cockpit, the boat has the potential to make a singlehanded sailor with or without guests happy, too, any day of the week.
I’d be remiss in saying that I didn’t miss Tom Morris, the founder of Morris Yachts and Cuyler’s father, who died late last year. In recent years, as Cuyler took over the lead post at the Maine boatbuilder, Tom assigned himself the job of doing demos during shows such as this one in Miami. On this day, I had the feeling Tom was somewhere nearby, nodding in approval.