Skip to main content

DVD Review: Around Alone

In 1983, Dodge Morgan, then 53, sold his electronics company and made a promise to himself: he would sail around the world, alone, without stopping. He hoped to complete the 27,459-nautical-mile voyage onboard his 60-foot cutter, American Promise, in 220 days. That would require him to sail 100 miles a day at an average speed of 6.25 knots. As Morgan boarded American Promise in
  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

In 1983, Dodge Morgan, then 53, sold his electronics company and made a promise to himself: he would sail around the world, alone, without stopping. He hoped to complete the 27,459-nautical-mile voyage onboard his 60-foot cutter, American Promise, in 220 days. That would require him to sail 100 miles a day at an average speed of 6.25 knots. As Morgan boarded American Promise in Bermuda, dressed in a tuxedo and red suspenders, his weather router Bob Rice reported, “I don’t think you’ll run into a terribly large problem of being becalmed.” But even experienced weather routers can blow a call or two.

Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, but after watching filmmaker Chris Knight’s Around Alone, you’ll believe that a film—at least, this film—is worth a thousand photos. Around Alone has a you-are-there-ness that neither written words nor photos can match. Chris Knight, a lifelong cruising sailor, was, as Morgan wrote, “ideally suited to the challenge of filming my voyage...He idiot-proofed the cameras and supervised the installation of a smart—and very durable, it turned out—electrical circuit to control their operations.”


On board American Promise, Knight installed six Super 8 sound cameras in waterproof canisters that automatically filmed at preset intervals. Three were programmed to expose 30 seconds of film every four hours if there was enough light, and to expose film if the boat was knocked down to more than a 45-degree angle. In all, Morgan exposed some nine hours of film during the voyage, an average of three minutes a day.

Around Alone follows Morgan throughout his journey, beginning with the construction of American Promise with designer Ted Hood and continuing on to sea. There, the cameras become Morgan’s confidant, and he is a good off-the-cuff commentator.

There are moments of greatness: on Day 48, a deep low in the southern Indian Ocean creates 40-to-50-foot chaotic seas and Morgan tells the camera, “It’s one-on-one chaos, so let’s see who holds out. I may not be able to get through this day, but I can get through the next hour.”

There are moments of humility, like his 1986 New Year’s resolutions: “I won’t covet my neighbor’s wife; I won’t argue with my boss; I won’t stray very far from home, since this is home.”

And there are moments of tribulation. By Day 91, American Promise had been becalmed in the “Roaring 40s” for a week. Being becalmed, says Morgan, is the most difficult condition in a sailboat. “It is devastating, and I don’t know what to do. Nothing can be done. It’s all grim determination.” He finds himself wishing the journey would end, and with 10,000 miles to go, he feels close to the edge.

But on Day 109, he sees the coast of Chile. He’s gone 18,500 miles, and he’s reached the ultimate sailor’s landfall. He celebrates with two bottles of beer—one for the boat and another for Cape Horn—and declares, “Now we’re going home! What a sight, what a sight.”

American Promise arrived back in Bermuda on April 11, 1986, after a voyage of 27,500 miles over 150 days, 1 hour, 6 minutes—the fastest at that time for a singlehander. On September 14, 2010, Dodge Morgan died at the age of 78. American Promise was donated to the U.S. Naval Academy for its offshore sail-training program. She now serves as mothership for the Rozalia Project for a Clean Ocean.

This summer, the Maine Maritime Museum will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Maine sailor Dodge Morgan’s record-breaking solo circumnagivation on Sunday, August 21 at Portland Yacht Services in Portland, Maine. For more information, visit http://dodgemorgancommemoration2011-eorg.eventbrite.com/


Around Alone (57 minutes)

Produced by The New Film Company, Inc. www.newfilmco.com

$29.95

Related

thumbnail_Jump-1

The Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race Returns

It’s been four years since racers last sailed the cold North Atlantic in the venerable Marblehead-to-Halifax race—and finally, the wait is over. The Boston Yacht Club and the Royal Nova Scotia Yacht Squadron have announced the 39th Marblehead-to-Halifax Ocean Race set for this ...read more

Wendy-2048px

Meet Wendy Mitman Clarke, Editor-in-Chief of SAIL magazine

Learn more about how she and the magazine’s team are committed to building on SAIL’s legacy of more than 50 years as an authentic voice about the sport and the sailing life, delivering stories that educate, inspire and inform. ...read more

maintenance-02

Cruising: Old Sailors Never Die

“Old sailors never die, they just get a little dinghy.” It may be a hoary old joke, but one of my problems at age 79 is I can no longer get easily in and out of a little dinghy, and neither can my (several years younger than me) wife. For this, and various other reasons I will ...read more

01-LEAD-DSC_0953

The Mighty Compass

Here’s to the humble magnetic compass, without a doubt the sailor’s most reliable instrument onboard. It’s always there for you and with the rarest of exceptions, always operational. Yes, I love my chartplotter, autopilot, radar, and AIS. They help me be a safer and more ...read more

02-En-route-Jost-Van-D

Chartering: Swan Song in the BVI

Joseph Conrad once wrote, “The sea never changes.” And while this may or not be true, something most definitely not open for debate is the fact we sailors, “wrapped in mystery,” as Conrad put it, are continually changing—whether we like it or not. I found myself thinking these ...read more

220307FP51_1JML0332

Boat Review: Fountaine-Pajot Aura 51

If you can sell more than 150 catamarans off-plan before the resin has even hit the fiberglass, you must be doing something right. Despite costing around $1.1 million once fitted out and on the water, Fountaine-Pajot’s new 51 has done just that. The French yard has been at it ...read more

00LEAD-IMG-9035

Ready to Fly a New Sail

It’s a typical humid, southern Chesapeake Bay summer day when I show up on the doorstep of Latell & Ailsworth Sailmakers in the one-stoplight, one-lane-roadway, rural tidewater town of Deltaville, Virginia. I’m late getting here to work on a new jib for my 29-foot, Bill ...read more

m5702_RACE-AREA-6

Dates for the 2024 America’s Cup Announced

Ever since making the controversial decision to hold the next America’s Cup in Barcelona, Spain, instead of in home waters, Defender Emirates Team New Zealand has been hard at work organizing logistics for the event.  The Racing Area for the Challenger Selection Series and the ...read more