Dodge Morgan's voice crackled over the radio: "I'm 13 miles due east of St. David's Light. I'm going to make another tack now. Over."
The seas southeast of Bermuda were cresting to six-foot swells as a brisk 15-knot wind gusted from the west-northwest. Six miles out, all eyes aboard Wave Walker, the lead chase boat out of St. George's Harbor, scanned the horizon for Morgan's vessel, American Promise, which hadn't been positively identified since it set out from Bermuda last Nov. 12 to circumnavigate the globe. Five months and some 26,280 miles without a sighting. Minutes later—11:12 a.m. Atlantic time, Friday, April 11, to be exact—a sail appeared out of the haze on the horizon.
"American Promise, American Promise. We have a visual," radioed Grant Robinson, barely able to contain the thrill in his voice. Robinson was the project manager from design through construction for the boat that had now carried Morgan, sailing singlehanded, around the world nonstop in record-shattering time.
"Well, at least I haven't become invisible," Morgan radioed back.
American Promise, a 60-foot cutter designed by sailmaker Ted Hood, heeled jauntily into the wind, doing 10 knots as she crashed through the deep-blue swells. "She's even got a clean bottom," said Robinson, a native of New Zealand who lives in Beverly, Mass., as Promise's red, white and blue hull came into view. "She doesn't look any the worse for wear at all." Promise's deck, too, looked spit-and-polished. Even her sails appeared almost factory fresh. Indeed, she might have been coming in from a morning's sail. "We see you've still got some paint on her," Robinson radioed.
"What do you mean 'some paint on her'?" replied Morgan. "She's only been used once."
Moments later Morgan appeared, standing in Promise's cockpit, and the 54-year-old sailor from Cape Elizabeth, Maine looked every bit as fit as his vessel—tanned, clean-shaven, his Marine-style crewcut grown out to a sun-bleached, stylish length. Barefoot, wearing foul-weather pants and a blue windshirt, Morgan raised his fist in triumph. "He looked better than he did when he left," Morgan's wife Manny would say after their reunion ashore.
"Welcome back, mate," radioed Robinson, blinking back tears and signing off. Then he said, "I never thought I'd cry to see a boat come in. The baby comes home."
At 12:17 local time, American Promise crossed the imaginary line east of St. George from which she had begun her easterly voyage exactly 150 days, one hour and six minutes earlier. "When I saw that first boat," said Morgan later, "it hit me like a mallet that I'd done it."
Only three men before Morgan—none of them American—had sailed around the world alone without stopping. No taking on additional food or water; no assistance accepted from another vessel; no using the motor for propulsion. The fastest of the three previous solo circumnavigations was by Chay Blyth of England in 1971. Blyth sailed his 59-foot ketch British Steel in a westerly direction—and therefore into the teeth of the prevailing winds of the southern ocean below the equator—in 292 days. Morgan sliced that mark nearly in half. He also bettered the fastest solo circumnavigation that permitted stopping: the 159-day voyage of Philippe Jeantot of France in 1982-83 in a four-leg, three-stop singlehanded race that started and finished in Newport (Jeantot's time did not include the days he spent in port).