Thursday, January 13, 2011

Morgan 31

The Morgan 31 is another of SA's much loved boats - this one could be billed as a pocket cruiser, though its actually much more than that. It really is a "proper blue water cruiser" capable in just about any conditions. She has great accommodations for her size, including a full heads and shower and a very spacious saloon and chart table. The cockpit stretches right back to the transom (no aft lazarette) allowing large space in the cockpit and cabin. The two examples I have been in both had the feeling of little ships, and in my view are really serious contenders for couple-cruisers. They really "look the business"!

The Morgan 31 was designed by Angelo Lavranos - around 1970 - while Angelo was working for Angus-Primrose in the UK - making it the oldest of these three designs. Looking at the underbody - I wondered whether it was a modern interpretation Contessa-32, but Angelo tells me it was designed specifically as a blue-water cruiser, inspired from the well known North Atlantic 29, but making use of modern materials (GRP) and rig (Bermudan Sloop). I suspect the cabin is far bigger too.

Chris Bonnet used Morgan-31s for years for offshore sail training, and students still rave about them - for being safe, capable, forgiving and comfortable. They are good passagemakers and have more speed than one would expect. While the long keel allows them to track extremely well, the counterside is that the helm is not very responsive compared with fin-keel designs. Manouevering in tight spaces is not their strong point - but if you want a boat that will go straight for days on end, with very little help from the autopilot, this is it! The long keel (and shallow draft) are also great if you want to splash about in the shallows of the Chesapeake for example, and you wont be catching ropes on the rudder or the prop. For a small, safe, comfortable, traditional, spacious cruiser, its hard to argue with this design. Not for round-the-cans though - she is a purpose-built cruiser.

The rig is a masthead sloop, with dominant genoa. This is a great cruising rig - dominant headsails drag the boat forward (rather than push it from behind) and keep the boat tracking well, keeping centre of effort (heeling) forces low (compared with the mainsail),  whilst being easy to furl on roller furlers, and easy to reduce sail in extreme conditions. Often its quite ok to sail under genoa alone. Simple to handle.

The engine is placed under the stairs and out of the way, whilst driving an almost horizontal propshaft.

The ends are quite narrow, and the mid-section is a traditional wine-glass profile, making for a very comfortable ride - obviously at the expense of a quite large wetted area and the complete inability to plane. However these attributes won't matter at all for the design envelope this boat is intended for, and certainly benefit her purpose as a cruiser.

Morgans were built originally by Morgan Mosenthal (in Durban I think), and very solidly built at that - I saw a 5cm plug of GRP cut out of Pato (Hout Bay) for the echo-sounder! This particular boat had no osmosis after some 35 years . . . Morgan 31s are still generally in very good shape and well worth a look if you want a budget, safe, comfortable cruiser for two . . . . 

 I remember reading recently that a new party/company in Durban had acquired the moulds and were about to build some more.

Overall, a throughbred blue-water cruiser with good space, safety and comfort, ideal for a cruising couple on a budget, or for those who know they simply don't need more!

Some history - note the prices!!! (left-click for full size)