The Australian owner of Seabear shares a lifetime  of sailing and boats with Grace Trofa

4 images

Courtesy of owner and Adobe Stock

My Life In Boats: the owner of 21m yacht Seabear shares a lifetime of sailing and boats

23 February 2024 • Written by Grace Trofa

The Australian owner of Seabear shares a lifetime of sailing and boats with Grace Trofa.

I’ve been a sailor all my life – I grew up in a place called Newport, Australia, right on the water. I’ve done about nine Sydney Hobart races; the first was in 1947, right after the war, on a 22-metre schooner called Mistral. I was 19 at the time. With no rails, no lifelines, no radio, it was quite the adventure in those days. It still is, as you get hit with those roaring 40s.

John Morris has owned a string of yachts since his first, Saracen II
Courtesy of owner

My first real boat was the 11-metre Saracen II, designed by Camper & Nicholsons, I raced her in the 1968 Hobart race and did quite well, third in our grade. I’ve done many ocean races, including two transpacific, but always as an amateur. I built Sunbird, a 12.8-metre cutter and raced her along the Australian coast to New Caledonia in the Vanuatu Race. We had terrible weather and many boats had to retire. Then I built Monsoon II in New Zealand, a 22-metre cutter. She was the last of my sailing boats. My next boat was Achilles, a 37.8-metre ex-minesweeper built in Britain for the Royal Navy but never commissioned. A group of us here in Australia brought her over. She was a magnificent boat. That minesweeper could go anywhere, she was triple plank timber.

Another lovely boat was Pescadora, a 22.2-metre trawler hull; I spent money tidying her up a bit in New Zealand. Then I got the 27.4-metre Bahama designed by Jack Hargrave and later, the 35-metre Dreamtime, both built by Lloyds Ship. Now I’ve got Seabear; she is only 21.9 metres but 110 tons.

John is second from the left
Courtesy of owner

I’ve lived in Port Douglas for 52 years. I discovered it when I was looking for a safe harbour to keep Sunbird. It was like a ghost town, maybe 200 people. We bought a small piece of land on the water and lived on the boat while the house was being built. I bought cane farms and started small developments, then larger developments like the Mirage Hotel. We got the local government to agree that no building would be higher than a coconut tree. The rich and famous live here but, thank goodness, it’s not much talked about as yet.

Superyachts now want to explore the Pacific; they go to lovely spots like Fiji and the Solomon Islands, but they are bypassing Australia because they think they must go to Sydney. It’s not necessary; Cairns, 1,000 nautical miles north of Sydney, has an international airport and is closer to the cruising grounds they favour. The Super Yacht Group in Cairns is a nonprofit formed by the yachting community and can do it all for you.

His current yacht is Seabear (top), on which he hopes to explore more of the Great Barrier Reef and destinations north
Courtesy of owner

I’ve always wanted to spend more time exploring the Great Barrier Reef and then go north to New Guinea and the Solomons, but I’ve been so busy with our latest development, the Escape Villas. Seabear is the kind of boat you can take to sea in any condition. I’m happy to handle her myself, but I have a captain. At 95, I like to sit back a bit but I still do watches.

Credit: Adobe Stock

I’ve always admired Seabear. When she came up for sale, I jumped on a plane to Brisbane and bought her on the spot. I know boats well enough to know a really good boat. Granted, she can only do about 10 knots but for cruising you want to take your time, that’s part of the enjoyment, to just mosey along, looking at birds, fish  and the clouds.

First published in the March 2024 issue of BOAT International US Edition. Get this magazine sent straight to your door, or subscribe and never miss an issue.

Read More/My Life In Boats: powerboat racing champion Tim Ciasulli on his 27m Sunreef in build

More about this yacht

Lloyds   34.5 m •  1986

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