Tag Archives: NStYA

Fred Morris and the Elizabeth


Fred Morris’s yacht the Elizabeth on its cradle at the Charlottetown Yacht Club in the early 1950s. In the water is the Wink, owned at one time by Ian Rankin.

One of the Charlottetown Yacht’s Club’s longest-serving commodores was Frederick E. Morris. Morris was a successful businessman who was involved with the company which built the Montreal Street Railway and he was described in his obituary as “something of an electrical genius.”    Descended from a Charlottetown family, he was grandson of “John Brick” Morris who was reputed to have built the first brick house in Charlottetown.  Fred Morris lived most of his adult life in Montreal and later in Vancouver where he taught music.

It was for his music that he was best known on P.E.I. and across Canada.  He had studied under the great Polish pianist Jan Paderewski and was famous for his interpretations of the music of Chopin. Morris summered on Prince Edward Island and for a time had a house at Number 10,  the Esplanade, a street overlooking the harbour near where the Culinary Institute now stands. His summer visits were usually accompanied by a piano recital.

Fred Morris owned the sailing yacht Zenith early in the 1930s although the first mention of Morris in relation to boats was note of his purchase of a large gasoline-driven houseboat in Halifax in 1930.

When the Charlottetown Yacht Club was re-organized in 1936 Morris took a leading role and served as Commodore into the 1940s.  He was involved in the development of sea scouting in Charlottetown and was also one of the founders and served as Commodore of the Yacht Racing Association of the Northumberland Strait.  Although he does not appear to have raced himself at this time his large motor cruiser the Elizabeth was a presence at many regattas.


The Mic moored to the stern of Fred Morris yacht Elizabeth

Fred Morris was Commodore of the Charlottetown Yacht Club for several years before the Second World War. His large motor yacht the Elizabeth, was the largest power boat in the fleet. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Northumberland Straits Yacht Racing Association and served as head of that organization  as well. At the time of his death he was Honorary Commodore of the C.Y.C.

In 1950 and 1951 there was competition for the Commodore Morris Cup either presented  by, or in honour of Fred Morris. This is another of the many another yachting trophies which seems to have disappeared over time.

Morris died late in 1950 at age eighty. He was survived by two children; Harry and Marian.

Mac Irwin and the origins of Northumberland Strait yacht racing

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Class 3 yacht “Mic” owned by Simon Paoli in a stiff breeze – Charlottetown Harbour about 1936

The 1930s saw a quickening of interest in yacht racing in towns all along Northumberland Strait. Yacht Clubs had been founded or had had re-organizations in Pictou, Charlottetown, Borden, Summerside, Amherst and Shediac.  Several clubs had regattas and regular club racing and visiting boats from other clubs were always welcomed at the local events.  However it was a loose arrangement. There were no standard classes and attempts to introduce handicaps were not always successful.

A movement to formalize racing began in Shediac  and in February of 1936 a meeting was held in Moncton which resulted in the creation of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait. Each of the Yacht Clubs on Northumberland Strait was represented on the new organization’s executive and Mac Irwin of the  Charlottetown Yacht Club was elected vice-president.  In an interview with the Charlottetown Guardian Irwin noted that standardizing the classes would end the “wearisome task of setting handicaps and the unpreventable dissatisfaction which usually follows handicap races.”  Irwin noted “… there was nothing friendly about the “friendly”  competitions rival clubs used to hold.”

Irwin, who had built a large number of sailing and motor craft in his workshop at the rear of the Irwin Print building on Richmond Street, was asked to submit a design for the organization’s “model yacht.”   His proposal for the “Mic-Mac” class was accepted as the association’s standard.  By the end of May 1936 the first boat built to the new design had been launched in Charlottetown. The Mic was owned by Simon Paoli and the boat had been built by Irwin himself.  At the time of her launch Irwin had a second boat, later to be called the Mac under construction for his own use. Other boats were being built in Summerside, Pictou and Shediac. All were expected to take part in the 1936 season’s racing.


Commodore Fred Morris’ motor cruiser “Elizabeth” prepares to tow Class 3 yacht “Mic” about 1936.

With the development of a standardized design the new boats became class 3 of the  Yacht Racing Association’s measurement system.  The “Mic-Mac” boats measured 22 feet overall with a 16 foot waterline, 6 foot beam and had a hollow spar rising 28 feet above the deck. The racing boats displaced 1600 pounds with 600 pounds of the weight being in the lead keel.   The craft carried a maximum 200 sq.ft. of canvas.  Spinnakers were not allowed in the class.  Crew was limited to three.  While there were older boats in Class 3 any new boats had to strictly abide to the measurement rules.

In the years between 1936 and the outbreak of the Second World War there was active racing competition on the Strait. Except for the largest classes boats were usually towed to the regatta ports. Almost all activity, except at the club level, was suspended for the duration of the hostilities although races under the banner of the Yacht Racing Association of Northumberland Strait were continued beginning in 1947. By that time however the popularity of the Class Threes had been eclipsed by the popular Snipe boats which were smaller and easier to build.




1000 chicken dinners for 1st Shediac-Charlottetown race in 1964

Charlottetown Guardian 10 August 1964 page 5.

This was the first of what was to become an annual event.  The race which started on Friday evening had been avidly covered by the Guardian. The Saturday morning paper had a report from a special correspondent in Shediac who gave the positions as of the onset of  darkness and Thrumcap, owned by Dr. L.A. Johnston of Montague was in the lead. A crowd of from 1500 to 2000 had been on hand at Shediac to view the start.

Four trophies were presented at the race finish

  • Oland Cup – first boat to finish
  • Premier’s Cup – winner on corrected time
  • Irwin Printing Trophy (Mac Irwin Cup) – first Island boat
  • Carmen Dixon Cup – first New Brunswick boat

I wonder how many of these trophies are still in existence.