Home' Afloat : AFLOAT July 2014 Contents Take monthly with water July 2014 53
Just inside the entrance to the Member’s
Bar at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia
is the magnificent book Round the World in
Kathleen, beautifully illustrated by marine
artist Jack Earl and superbly written by his
first mate Mick Morris.
The book tells the wonderful story of
the circumnavigation of the globe by Earl, a
founding member of the CYCA, and Morris
in the Kathleen Gillett, a double-ended ketch,
between June 1947 and December 1948.
Each week, a dedicated member of the Club
turns a page for fellow members to read.
During their voyage, colourful reports
from Mick, with illustrations by Jack, were
also published regularly in the magazine
The restored Kathleen Gillett is now
one of the prized floating exhibits at the
Australian Maritime Museum at Darling
Harbour. Sadly her skipper and first mate
have hung up their sail bags, Jack Earl some
years back and Mick, at the age of 90, in
March this year.
Mick, also a past member of the CYCA,
had a remarkable and colourful maritime
career, ranging from being a 19-year-old
‘Admiral’ of a fleet of sailing luggers in New
Guinea during World War II to competing
in the second Sydney Hobart Race in 1946,
later the Admiral’s Cup and twice winning
the prestigious Scandinavian Gold Cup in
the International 5.5 metre class.
After retiring with his wife Phyllis to live
at Buderim on the Queensland Sunshine
Coast, Mick typed up some aspects of his
life for his children and grandchildren.
His wartime career in New Guinea makes
Arriving at Milne Bay as a member of
the Army Water Transport Unit, he was
interviewed by the Colonel along these
“Now Sapper Morris, you know all
about sailing? ”
“Good, now I want you to pick up nine
pearling luggers at Bui Bui and start running
from here with stores etc down to our base
Kwiari, about 30 miles.”
“ Well, there I was,” said Morris. “An
“Never seen a native in my life – no
language, except signs – nine bloody great
sailing vessels – no engines and 50-odd
‘Admiral’ Morris successfully
commanded his flotilla for the rest of the
war as the Allies moved forward, even
shooting down a Japanese bomber. He
ended with the rank of Warrant Officer
First Class, his final role being to return
the luggers and other craft to the locals
in New Guinea.
His sailing career, which had started in
dinghies in Sydney, certainly didn’t end with
the war. Within a few months of discharge
he was sailing in the 1946 Sydney Hobart
in the big schooner Mistral.
“On New Year’s Eve (1946) we beat up
the Derwent and I have never been so cold
in my life,” Mick recalled in his notes.
The following year he joined Jack
Earl and other crew members in their
circumnavigation of the world, followed by
more Sydney Hobart races.
After a break of 10 years, Mick changed
tacks to race in the International Dragon
class at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron,
before joining Gordon Ingate as crew in the
International 5.5 metre class then, like the
Dragon, an Olympic class.
Gordon and his crew of Pam were chosen
to represent Australia at the Scandinavian
Gold Cup and 5.5 worlds in Norway and
“ Pam was shipped to Norway chock
full of flagons of Hardy’s wines – a gigantic
success in Scandinavia where grog is
prohibitive in price,” Mick recorded in his
typewritten notes for his family.
“ We raced Pam at Hanko, down from
Oslo, against Kings and Crown Princes,
Olympic gold medallists and wealthy
American winners et al and we won the
Scandinavian Gold Cup which, in those
days, had the cachet of the America’s Cup.”
In 1975, Mick Morris skippered his own
boat Antares II to victory in the Scandinavian
Gold Cup followed by a world championship
win in Switzerland.
In between, he was back to ocean racing,
helming Norman Rydge Jr’s Koomooloo in the
1971 Admiral’s Cup. After success in earlier
races of the Cup Koomooloo was placed in the
top three, 50 miles from the finish, when
the rudder carried away.
To mark the 60th anniversary of the
completion of circumnavigation of Kathleen,
the Australian National Maritime Museum
on 7 December, 2008, invited Mick and
Phyllis, their family and friends for a
sentimental sail on the fine old vessel. As I
recall on the day, Mick was as full of spirits
as always, still skilful on the helm.
Mick Morris is survived by his wife
Phyllis of 63 years, their children Peter,
Geoffrey, Michael and Vanessa and their
families, including eight grandchildren and
two great grandchildren. h
MICK MORRIS, 90
SAILOR OF MANY ROLES
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