PORTLAND – It has been 25 years since Dodge Morgan sailed nonstop around the world by himself, setting a record for an American and breaking the previous world speed record.

More than 150 people gathered Sunday night in Portland to pay tribute to his record-setting journey.

The event, which was held at The Portland Co. on Fore Street, was sponsored by the Maine Maritime Museum of Bath.

Amy Lent, the museum’s executive director, said Morgan donated all of the paperwork and shipbuilding records related to his historic voyage to the museum.

After watching the documentary film that followed Morgan as he sailed around the world, guests were invited to tour Morgan’s 60-foot sailing vessel, American Promise, which is now being used by the Rozalia Project to collect marine debris from the world’s oceans.

American Promise, whose main mast stands 87 feet, was docked Sunday at Portland Yacht Services.

“For Dad, it was always about the journey, not the finish line,” Hoyt Morgan told the audience.

Hoyt Morgan, 37, lives in New York City now. He was 12 years old when his father left Portland to begin his historic voyage. Dodge Morgan’s daughter, Kimberly, 34, lives in San Francisco and was unable to attend Sunday’s tribute.

Silence fell over the audience as the documentary film “Around Alone” — Morgan’s voyage was recorded using six on-board cameras — played in its entirety.

Morgan, who set sail on Nov. 12, 1985, from Bermuda, completed the 27,459-nautical-mile voyage in 150 days, 1 hour and 6 minutes. He broke the record of 292 days, set in 1971 by a British sailor.

Morgan also became the first American to circumnavigate the globe without stopping and without assistance.

The film made clear how difficult the voyage was for Morgan as he battled loneliness, a dead calm sea and 40-foot waves. But, Morgan would not have had it any other way.

“I feel it is the duty of each and every one of us to reach as far as we can, no matter the cost,” Morgan says before departing from Maine.

At the time, Morgan’s family lived in Cape Elizabeth. During the final years of his life, he lived on Snow Island in Harpswell. Morgan died in September at the age of 78.

During the early stages of his voyage, Morgan welcomes a mustard-colored bird who came on board.

“I doubt whether he’ll make it, but none of us live forever,” Morgan says, looking into the camera.

Morgan is forced to stop over in Bermuda after his automated self-steering system malfunctions.

Despite the delay, the 53-year-old Morgan eventually sets out across the Atlantic heading for Africa and the Indian Ocean.

“This time, God willing, we’re good,” Morgan says. “The solitude is pervasive. It is hard to describe how remote and alone one feels out here.”

During his voyage, Morgan saw no one, but occasionally spoke with ham radio operators. One of those operators, Tony Sieas of Bermuda, spoke at Sunday’s tribute.

“The ham radio became my social life,” Morgan says. “I made friends with ham radio operators from around the world.”

As the days grind on, Morgan encounters a sailor’s worst nightmare on Day 86 of his voyage — dead calm seas and no wind.

“It is devastating sitting here and looking out at an open, calm sea,” Morgan laments. “I’m just ready to lose my mind. I can’t take it. I don’t know what to do.”

Morgan overcomes his psychological fears by taking things one hour at a time, refusing to look too far ahead.

After crossing the Indian Ocean and South Pacific, Morgan reaches Cape Horn in South America, the beginning of the final leg of his journey.

“This is incredible. I can see glaciers and the snow-covered mountains of Chile,” he says.

Morgan celebrates his arrival at the Cape by donning a suit jacket and cracking open a couple of bottles of champagne.

In Bermuda, he is greeted by a flotilla of vessels. The date is April 11, 1986.

Hoyt Morgan said his father would have been pleased to see so many people celebrating his accomplishments because he always wanted his journey to be shared by others.

“My dad wanted everyone to be involved,” Morgan said. “This was a nice way to do it.”

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

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