Cruising Divison Yacht Profile-
1958 Sparkman & Stephens 40ft centerboard Yawl
We spotted Morasum for sale in May 2010 and flew to Brisbane to inspect her. We were very excited as she appeared to be similar to Finisterre, a classic S&S design that is well represented in a coffee table book by Franco Pace on S&S designs.
When we inspected her, we knew instantly that she was what we were looking for – she was almost identical to Finisterre and in fairly good original condition. The original documentation from 1958 was there – plans (blueprints), drawings and correspondence from S&S – from design selection through to construction and commissioning. There were clippings from The New York Times from when she was held by the Chinese Navy, from Hong Kong from when she initiated the China Sea Race and also letters from Rod Stephens and Carlton Mitchell from when they had sailed on Morasum in Hong Kong. Along with Morasum these documents in themselves will require conservation.
So we purchased Morasum in June 2010 and after six months work she was finally ready to sail to Pittwater from Manly, Queensland. Morasum had not left the marina for 6 years so there was a lot to do to make her seaworthy again. We also had to replace the mast as the original Sitka Spruce mast and boom were coming apart. We have shipped the main and mizzen masts and booms back to Sydney, our hope is to one day have them split and reglued. This initial work is only the beginning and it will take us years to achieve full restoration. All our efforts at this stage have gone into stabilizing her before we can start to return her to former glory. Our objective is to try and keep Morasum as original as possible but also to ensure we can enjoy her as a safe and practical cruising yacht.
Morasum was commissioned by Simeon Baldwin, a member of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, and was launched on his birthday Oct 23, 1958. Through the internet I have been able to make contact with the original owner’s son, Simeon Baldwin Jnr and he has provided me with the following history.
Morasum was built in Hong Kong at a small shipyard, Wing On Shing, that was primarily a yard for steel lighters. The shipyard's owner always tried to have at least one wooden yacht in construction in order to keep his carpenters well occupied with their craft. The Sparkman & Stephens plan (Design #1245) was inspired by the Finisterre (1954, #1054). One major modification from the plans as drawn involved the centerboard. The original design called for a bronze board. The redesign was a Borneo Billian (iron) wood with lead inserted in its tip for weighting to allow free fall. This worked very well in practice. After outfitting in 1958, we were pleased to host for weekend cruises, at different times, joined by Rod Stephens and Carlton Mitchell, Finisterre' owner. Their knowledge and experience was invaluable as we learned how to best trim and sail her.
We had lived in Bangkok, Thailand from 1947-53, where my father had an aviation parts distributorship, and a majority of the oriental wood (Siam teak) used in construction came from mills in Thailand. The name, Morasum, is Thai for monsoon (มรสุม). We moved to Hong Kong in 1953, where my father opened a branch of his aviation business.
Most of her sailing was done in Hong Kong waters, and after many local cruiser races, I was aboard for her first open water crossing in December 1959 from Hong Kong to Manila in the Philippine Islands. This cruise was designed as a test of the concept of a Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club Hong Kong to Manila race which became the bi-annual 565nm China Sea Race first contested in1962. The Morasum sailed this race four times, and cruised it twice before my father 's death in 1973. She always finished well up in the race standings. Her last China Sea Race was in 1972 when she took 4th in Class B.
On a local yacht club cruise to the Portuguese colony of Macau over Chinese New Year, the Morasum and my father, plus several other yachts and their crews were captured by the Communist Chinese. The other yachts were released after a short duration but my father was detained from February 15 to December 7, 1969, before being released. This event might be the germ of a story linking my father to the CIA, which is untrue, by the way. The yacht required considerable work to bring her back to top condition and my father's health was never good after that period of solitary confinement.
Morasum has a wonderful motion at sea. I remember a 24-hour period during the 1959 sail to Manila when we averaged 7+ knots under jib and mizzen alone. The midwatch was one I will never forget. This was on the tail end of a tropical depression/typhoon that had moved through the area.
After my father's death in the 1973 I had her deck shipped to San Francisco and sailed her on the West Coast and then down to San Diego where I lived at the time. I was forced to sell Morasum, to Chuck Williams in 1985 and her journey continued. He sailed her in local harbor beer-can races and Ancient Mariner races in San Diego, cruised Baja California, the Pacific and then, after falling in love with an Australian lass, he sold to Geoff Phegan and she ended up in Manly QLD.
Morasum on a recent cruise to Hardy's Bay
For us Morasum has an exciting history and is an excellent example of a Classic Yacht designed by Sparkman & Stephens. She deserves preservation and restoration and we hope that we can do her justice and that she will be around for many years to come.
John & Jenny Cronan