Morgan 46

Lots of room at relatively low cost makes this aging center-cockpit cruiser a prime candidate for upgrading.


Because the Morgan 46 has been known by many different names, and Morgan Yacht Inc. has had several owners, identifying any given 46 is as difficult as identifying baseball players without a scorecard.

The Company
Forming a yacht-building company was the last thing on Charley Morgan’s mind when he completed his education at the University of Tampa. He wanted to enroll in the aeronautical engineering program at MIT but, unable to afford the tuition, went to work for a sailmaker and began producing Dacron airfoils used vertically rather than metal airfoils used horizontally. After several years he opened his own loft, which allowed him to follow his aeronautical instincts in the development of racing sails and, eventually, the design of Paper Tiger, a 40-foot racing yawl.

Paper Tiger, which was built to the CCA rule as a heavy weather boat capable of competing in the Fastnet race, was one of the first fiberglass hulls constructed; she won the SORC two years in a row. Morgan followed that success with the design for Sabre, also a race winner, that became the prototype for the Columbia 40.

Feeling himself on a roll, Morgan decided to form a boatbuilding company. His first product was equally successful—a 28-footer called the Tiger Cub, which he eventually sold to Columbia, which sold it as the Columbia 30.

The design that vaulted the company to the forefront of the industry, however, was the Morgan 34, a performance cruiser that was followed by several other designs, including the Out Island series, cruisers designed for the Caribbean charter trade.

“Our boats were well constructed and well-received, we grew quickly, and were profitable,” Charley recalled. For a short time the company was the largest in the industry, at one point producing one Out Island 41 every day. Morgan estimated that 6,000 to 7,000 boats were produced.

Morgan also designed Heritage, the last wooden 12-meter launched in the US for competition. Morgan sailed with Olin Stephens during the America’s Cup trials, when she was defeated by Intrepid, which went on to defeat the Australian Gretel II.

By 1968, the company was on the verge of offering its stock for sale when it was bought by Beatrice Foods, an international conglomerate. Morgan continued to run the company until 1972, when he retired. Beatrice later sold the company to Thor Industries, which produced the first versions of the Morgan 46. Morgan was later purchased by Catalina Yachts, which operates it today, still in Largo, Florida.

Charley Morgan still pursues his first love: In the company of a group of retired physicists, engineers and scientists, he designs boats and airplanes in a Florida studio.

Design History
Naval architect Henry Scheel and Charley Morgan worked together in the development of the designs of the Morgan line of yachts. However, Scheel later moved to Maine where he designed the Scheel 45, an expensive custom cruising yacht that sold for $130,000.

By today’s standards its 1960’s look would be considered old fashioned. It has a spoon bow, pleasing sheerline, and little overhang. Though she’s a center cockpit boat with a high profile, she doesn’t appear ungainly and, as one owner said, “from the right angle she almost looks elegant.”

Scheel eventually sold the design and molds to Thor Industries, which manufactured 25 of the boats as the ketch-rigged Morgan 45 at a base price of $90,000. The design was later modified for use in The Moorings charter fleet; the hull was unchanged, but the rig, deck and interior were reconfigured.

Perhaps solely for identification purposes, the new boat was renamed the Morgan 461, 46 of which were produced. Belowdecks, two single berths in the forepeak were replaced by a V-berth, a third stateroom with railroad style berths was located in the passageway between the saloon and aft quarters, and one of two chart tables was replaced by a cabinet.

The appearance of the boat was altered dramatically. The rig was changed from a ketch to a sloop. The height of the doghouse was lowered, which reduced standing headroom below to 6′ 8″ but presented a more pleasing profile. A large lazarette on the stern was replaced by a companionway leading to the aft stateroom.

The third iteration of the design, the Morgan 462, which is most commonly found on the used boat market, is ketch rigged, and has a larger foretriangle than its predecessors. The interior was reconfigured as a two-stateroom arrangement and the passageway that provides berths in the charter version was equipped with a table-height workbench and prodigious storage area for tools. The space could easily be converted to sleeping quarters, or, as one cruising couple discovered, plumbed and used as a wet bar separate from the galley.

Sales literature for the Morgan 45 advertised the LOA as 45′ 0″; LOA for the 461/462 was advertised as 46′ 6″, which may reflect the builder’s poetic license since the hulls are identical. An educated guess by those who worked for Morgan at the time is that the latter measurement reflects the addition of a built-in bow roller.

(Adding to the confusion, after the Catalina takeover, the company produced a Morgan 451, a performance cruiser based on a Nelson/Marek design that bears no relationship to the original boat, and today markets a Morgan 45 that is a center cockpit, stretch version of a 44-footer.)

Production of the Morgan 461/462 ceased in 1982. Potential purchasers can identify used yachts by identification numbers beginning with the letters MRY (Morgan Yachts), and ending with the numbers 461 or 462.

Deck Layout & Accommodations
The 46’s design, deck layout and accommodations reflect her intended use as a long-distance cruiser.

The deck is uncluttered, and has a high crown and wide side decks, which provide a degree of security when moving forward on the weather side, as does a 2″ high toerail. On the boat we inspected, we were quite surprised that the 18-year-old nonskid still provided excellent grip.

The boats came standard with double lifelines, as well as bow and stern pulpits. The anchor roller has double rollers offset from the centerline, which provide a fair lead when two anchors are necessary. Most owners equip their boats with 45- to 50-pound anchors.

The center cockpit, more than 6′ long, has comfortably wide seats and high coaming that provides a measure of security when heeled, a plus in a center cockpit boat, we think. One owner reported that, during his daughter’s birthday party, 10 adults fit comfortably in the cockpit while 16 children occupied the saloon. The steering pedestal is a substantial fiberglass structure on which is mounted a 35″ destroyer-type wheel that does not interfere with movement about the cockpit.

Sail controls are well-positioned for single or doublehanded sailing. The main traveler is aft of the cockpit, easily reached by the helmsman. Primary winches, Lewmar 48s, are slightly aft of the steering pedestal, also within easy reach.

Though some owners consider the boat poorly ventilated, there are 14 ports, seven on each side of the hull, and three hatches, two located forward of the companionway, a third over the aft cabin. We’d guess that the key to comfort in hot climates will be circulation, rather than ventilation. One owner complained that he had to replace all of the “cheap plastic” ports when he purchased his boat.

Though there are different layouts in the 461 and 462, the most common configuration in the saloon is an L-shaped arrangement with a 7′ long dinette to starboard and a dining table mounted on the bulkhead. This provides seating for 6-8 people. To port is a 7′ long settee that converts to a double berth, and a pilot berth outboard.

Some boats were constructed with a U-shaped dining area, and the port settee was replaced by two chairs. Adequate stowage for books and small items is to starboard in a cluster of four closets and bookshelves, with additional storage behind and below the settees.

Forward of the saloon is a head that is accessible from the saloon or forward stateroom. Foul weather gear and clothing are stowed in a 5′ tall hanging locker opposite the head, and in a second 5′ tall locker and several drawers in the forward stateroom, which is enclosed by a solid door.

There’s plenty of elbow room in the galley, but no wasted spaces. Located to starboard directly below the main companionway opposite the navigation station, the galley is U- shaped with 15 sq. ft. of counter space. The space is cavernous, especially when compared to the size and space of galleys on newer boats. Boats were originally equipped with electric stoves, one of the first items we’d replace. They also had 8- and 12-cubic foot ice chests, which many owners report to be under insulated; retrofitted refrigeration units reduce usable space by about 2 cubic feet.

Dry storage lockers are around, above and below the double sinks, stove and ice boxes, so finding space for provisions for distance cruising shouldn’t be a problem.

The nav station has a 40″ wide by 20″ deep chart table and shelves and bulkheads that provide spaces for mounting electronics and storing charts and books. We give the station good marks because it’s possible to look at a large section of a chart, and instruments are at eye level on the forward bulkhead. However, the boat earns demerits because large instruments such as a radar or chart plotter must be mounted behind the navigator, who will have to remember that he is facing aft when giving steering instructions.

The owner’s quarters and the aft head are in the stern, accessible from a deck hatch or via the aforementioned passageway through the workshop.

The aft head, located behind the engine, is voluminous, as you would expect on a cruiser. It is equipped with a handheld shower and bathtub. We received several comments about the tub. One owner said it was perfect for storing beer or scuba gear, another cut it in half and uses it as a shower stall.

The double berth in the skipper’s quarters is slightly V-shaped to allow room for a steel ladder. Odds are that occupants will either sleep together athwartships, or separately outboard. On many boats, the ladder has been removed, though one owner mounted his on the ceiling, retrieving it when necessary.

Ventilation and lighting in the compartment are through the 30″ hatch, two opening ports, and one smaller hatch. Stowage is in an 18″ by 40″ hanging locker and eight drawers below a double berth, and to port, another hanging locker approximately 4′ wide and 4′ deep.

Considering the overall arrangement of deck spaces, the galley, nav station, and crew accommodations, we think this boat would make an excellent long-distance cruiser. On the 18-year-old boat we looked at, we were impressed that the teak veneer, wood and vinyl surfaces, like the non-skid, were still in excellent condition. But not all boats have fared as well. Obviously, much depends on how well individual owners have taken care of things.

While researching the construction history of the Morgan 461/462, we were assisted by Pete Brown, a marine surveyor in Treasure Island, Florida, who was the national service manager for Morgan Yachts during the boat’s production period. Mike Quinn, who ran the production line at the same time and is currently production manager at Morgan Yachts, also provided background, as did several current and former owners.

The most common comments about the hull’s construction was that it is “bulletproof” and “rock solid.” Brown called it “really rugged.” The Morgan 45 had an Airex-cored hull, but the 46 is a solid fiberglass laminate constructed of two half-hulls bonded together. After the gelcoat was sprayed onto the mold, the lay-up consisted of a ply of hand-rolled chop followed by several alternating plies of 24-ounce woven roving and chop. The two half-hulls were married by several layers of bonding tape; the first layer of tape is 8″ wide, creating a 4″ bond over the seam. That layer was covered by successively wider layers, the final being 20″ wide. One owner measured the hull when replacing a through-hull and said it was 2″ thick. Chainplates are secured outboard of the toerail in an area reinforced by additional layers of fiberglass.

“The construction was built to The Moorings specifications, and may be the strongest Morgans every built,” Brown said of boats recently surveyed. “I’ve never seen a failure.”

Neither he nor any of the owners surveyed reported serious blistering problems, though several boats have required minor repairs.

Prior to bonding hull and deck, all of the cabinetry, five bulkheads, the chain locker and plywood cabin sole were glassed to the hull using layers of 2415 Fabmat, and 24″ wide strips of 1.5-ounce mat. We found no evidence of hull flexing, nor has Brown.

The deck was cored with marine grade plywood and set on an inward turning flange on the hull. The hull-deck joint was bonded using 3/4″-wide urethane tape on the inner edge, and polyurethane putty on the outboard edge. It was further secured using #14 stainless steel screws, and by the teak toe rail, which also was fastened with #14 stainless screws.

Several owners, as well as Brown, reported minor leaks. However, because the hull is uncored and the deck encapsulated in fiberglass, the primary damage from leaks was to interior surfaces. Quinn said that he is aware that some older charter boats damaged in storms have experienced the loss of the bonding putty on the outer edge, which becomes brittle when exposed.

The boat we inspected, which had been cruised in the South Pacific, showed no signs of delamination or water damage on wood surfaces.

The keel is a custom lead casting weighing 6,000 pounds that was lowered into a cavity in the hull mold. A solution of marble dust and resin were poured into the cavity to fill voids, after which the top of the area was glassed over with 2415 Fabmat.

Because the tanks were located in areas that would be difficult to access in the event of failures, Morgan constructed fiberglass tanks with gelcoat on the inner surfaces to prevent contamination. Brown told PS that he’s never seen a failure, though hoses and fittings will eventually need to be replaced. He cautioned that when replacing a fitting it is important to prevent bedding compound from falling into the tanks.

The actual capacity of the boat’s water and fuel tanks, compared to reality, has created a stir. The fuel tank, which the company advertised as having a capacity of 175 gallons, is located at the foot of the mast. However, one owner, after running out of fuel, was able to put only 155 gallons in the tank.

The boat has two water tanks: 110 gallons are located under the galley sole, and 85 gallons at the foot of companionway. Part of the controversy is caused by the fact that because boats used in the charter business didn’t require 155 gallons of fuel for a one-week cruise (or 175, if it ever held that much), the 85-gallon water tank often was used instead for fuel. Subsequent owners, unaware of this switch, were left with the impression that tankage figures are off by 70-90 gallons. The best approach is to check the location of the tanks to determine their designed use and capacity, and check the hoses. Plastic tubing was installed for water tanks, vinyl fuel hose for fuel.

The first boats produced for the charter fleets encountered problems with the hydraulic steering system, Brown told us. Early models of the 461 had a Scotch Yoke steering system that failed because of weak hydraulic cylinders. Those were retrofitted with Hynautic steering systems, and no further problems were encountered. One owner complained that the steering was ‘stiff’; another said his tiny daughter could steer the boat easily. Many commented that five revolutions of the wheel lock-to-lock is excessive, especially considering that the rudder turns just 30° in either direction.

The boat suffered from a design flaw Brown characterized as being “just dumb,” and a second that created a steering problem when motoring in reverse.

The main mast and mizzen are both stepped through the deck. There have been no problems with the main mast, but the foot of the mizzen mast is anchored in the sole of the aft head compartment on teak and holly plywood. Consequently, water may accumulate in the head and wick into the mast support structure, causing it to collapse. Brown recommends installation of a drain and pan at the foot of the mast.

The steering problem is the product of the engine shaft being slightly off center. While this allows for easy removal of the shaft, it makes it difficult to back down in a straight line. One owner commented that “having to back this boat will keep you, and everyone in sight, entertained for hours.”

Aside from the minor blistering problems and deck leaks, the boat generally receives high marks for its construction.

The comment of one owner summarized the general comments of several others: “This boat is not for a person looking for a race boat.”

Considering its design, rig and displacement, that’s no surprise. The Morgan 46 does, however, provide a seakindly motion and has proven itself capable of sailing in a blow.

Most agree that the boat does not point particularly well, a reflection of the ketch rig, relatively small sail area, and outboard spreaders, which prevent trimming a headsail closer than 14°. Sailing in 12-14 knots of breeze, the Morgan 46 sails at 6 knots at 75° to the true wind, approximately 80% of its calculated hull speed of 8.4 knots.

In winds below 8-10 knots, odds are you’ll be motoring, or settling in for a long drift. Most owners report she’ll motor at 6-7 knots when equipped with the factory-installed Perkins 4-154 engine.

We think the best candidate for ownership of the Morgan 46 is a sailor who will be spending most of his time in bluewater, or living aboard and making overnight passages. Other boats in the same price range will make better daysailers, especially in areas where light winds predominate.

The boat is solidly constructed and well-furnished. We like the workbench arrangement near the engine room.

Used boats can be found for about $100,000 on up. As with any older boat, prospective buyers should be prepared to invest a fair amount of time and money in order to make the boat ready for ocean cruising.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida.


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