43 Years of Boatbuilding

Lyman-Morse is a custom boat building yard on the coast of Maine with a distinguished history. Since the early 1920s, over 200 boats have been built at our yard. For over a century, graceful Alden Malabar schooners and sturdy Friendship sloops slid down the ways here in Thomaston. In the late 1970s the boat building company expanded its focus to produce a variety of exceptional custom sailing yachts and custom motor yachts for world class naval architects and discriminating owners.

Here is our story:

In 1978 the old Morse Boatbuilding Company was closing, but when Cabot Lyman approached Roger Morse about renting the old building he found that Morse had already contracted with Clayton Ewing and Porter Schutt to finish their Jarvis Newman 46 hulls using that facility. With Roger’s encouragement Cabot contacted Clayton and Porter to discuss his plans, and with agreement from all parties proceeded to purchase the land and buildings, and assume the contracts to build DYNA and EGRET, thereby forming Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding.

As it turned out, Clayton was a blue-water medal winner, Commodore of both the New York Yacht Club and Cruising Club of America. Along with his close friend, Porter, they were willing to trust Cabot, a fledgling Maine boatbuilder, with their projects. What a great way to start a business!

Before long, the new company had completed four of these lobster boat conversions, but through numerous conversations with potential clients they realized that the marketplace was not offering quality high-end sail boats in a certain size range. With help from Neil Bond and Frank Simon we started development and planning for the Lyman-Morse Seguin 44 series.

Fortunately, we hit the market at just the right time as the boatbuilding industry was transitioning from custom work to production work in an effort to lower cost and appeal to a larger market. The era starting from the late 70’s to the mid 80’s produced some of the finest cruising boats in history and we were proud to be part of it. Hinckley, Cambria, Little Harbor and Alden were all successfully building high-end 44’s that were all exceptionally well rounded cruiser/racers.

Our hard work soon paid off when Mitch Neff from Sparkman & Stephens arrived at the yard with Bob and Roberta Schmidt, two extraordinary people, who signed up for hull #1 and the Sequin 44 class went from dream to reality. Not only were we lucky to have the Schmidts and Mitch as friends, but Rod Stephens took a liking to the project and became Cabot’s mentor. Rod spent lots of time with us at the yard and in the Lyman family’s home. Cabot has fond memories of Rod always arriving for dinner with a second pair of shoes – “to be worn inside the house,” he would say – where he would sit in a straight chair, drink only milk, and end up on the floor playing with our three sons. In the boatyard he could often be seen climbing hand over hand up a mast to check something out.

About this time the industry started changing from bulk fiberglass to engineered composites, from simple woodwork to more sophisticated joinery, with new machinery and systems being designed daily. What an exciting time to be a young boat builder and with just 3 men doing the heavy lifting, we were suddenly looking at a two- year backlog. As luck would have it, some very exceptional employees – many of whom are still with us – began to arrive who were flexible, talented and dedicated. Maine has turned out to be, perhaps, the finest place in the country to find exceptional and dedicated people to work with. The work ethic here is simply unsurpassed. Maybe it’s their self-reliance, independence and stubbornness that makes them special, but no one ever said it would be easy.

The Seguin 44s put us on the map as we produced fifteen very customized boats that are still in extremely good condition and traveling far and wide. The many miles under their keels are a testament to the quality of this design. We know where they all are and talk with the owners regularly – a great treat for all of us. We found SCRIMSHAW this year in California after 25 years off our radar. She is in good hands.

As the the ’90s rolled around we were reaching a size where more expertise in composites, computer systems, and electronics would be required. We also needed to pay attention to our growing service business and Stuart Farnham came to work in 1992 to help us do just that.

We are often asked, “What’s it like to build boats in Maine,” and after forty-two years in the business we have come to realize that it’s all about dedicated workers, making new friends, and having fun doing something you love. It is truly remarkable how fast the decades have gone by.