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The Screaming 50s lived up to their reputation soon enough, as Promise encountered a tropical storm that howled through the South Pacific. The three-day storm blew with 70-mile-per-hour winds, repeatedly administering 70-degree knockdowns to a battened-down Promise. Four or five times she was laid flat down on the water. "We'd sort of lie there for a few seconds and then she'd right herself and I'd start picking things up," says Morgan, who rode out the storm in the cabin. "It was very inconvenient, but the boat didn't seem to mind." In one day the storm blew Promise, with sails furled, 175 miles on her way. When the storm finally subsided, Morgan—exhausted—radioed Rice that he and Promise had come through O.K. Rice reported back that there was a huge iceberg in the area and to stay on the alert. Morgan stayed awake all night doing so, but never saw the iceberg.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of a solo circumnavigation is the rounding of Cape Horn. The seas are usually wild and the Cape itself fog-shrouded. Not so when Promise rounded the Cape on Feb. 28—Day 108. Morgan chose that day to again dress in his tux. He and Manny were married on Feb. 29, 1972, a leap year, so the 28th serves as their anniversary three years out of four. Morgan popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate the occasion, and the day cooperated. After 18,000 miles at sea, he got his first glimpse of land. "There were 18- to 20-foot seas, 15 to 18 knots of wind behind me, and extraordinary visibility," he says. The Cape, he says, has "magnificent headlands that drop right down to the shore like lion's teeth."
Feeling at last that the worst was behind him, Morgan promptly ran out of wind off Rio de Janeiro. "Find me some air," he radioed Rice. The weather expert soon found him some air, all right: a howling storm that blew straight into Promise's bow for the next eight days. "You wanted air," was Rice's answer when Morgan complained about the weather.
"Remind me never to ask you for a drink when I get home," Morgan replied. "If I don't specify, you'll probably bring me hemlock."
But that was the worst of it. That, and of course the solitude—day after day on a slate-gray sea, no land and few birds or fish in sight. Morgan guesses that for nearly 80% of his voyage, he never spotted another living creature.
Then, suddenly, he was back, greeted by all the fanfare St. George, Bermuda could muster—bands, keys to the city, press conferences, autograph seekers, friends and family. He seemed relieved later in the day to be able to return to the peace of American Promise. "She really does look good, doesn't she?" he said, pausing before stepping aboard. "I haven't had a chance to get off and look at her."
Below, in the cabin, he talked quietly about the voyage, relieved to be away from the hubbub. Asked how he had kept abreast of news events, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, for instance, Morgan stiffened. "A space shuttle blew up? There were people aboard? Oh my god," he said.
Later, he said this: "The feeling out there of being alone is immense. If you want to know how insignificant each of us is in the whole realm of things, sail around the world. It made me ask myself, 'In what realm are we important?' We're important to the people who mean the most to us—family and friends. We can make a difference by being honest with them and demanding of them. Other than that...hey, out there on the sea I'm just one little hummer."