By BETHE DUFRESNE, Day Staff Writer
NEW LONDON – Back at home after a four-and-a-half-year solo sail around the
world, neither Brechin Morgan nor his 27-foot cutter, Otter, show any signs of
Only the American flag Morgan flew along the way suggests an epic journey.
Bleached from years of sun reflected off water, the flag has no blue field
and its stripes are the color of milky rust.
Flying as it did in the ports of some nations deeply angry at the United
States, it could have been a target.
But Morgan says he never once considered taking it down, or replacing it with
a Canadian flag his wife, Sandy, had sent him just in case.
He didn't have to. Before and after Sept. 11, 2001, he was welcomed
everywhere he went.
The 56-year-old Milford sailor pulled into New London Monday afternoon,
greeted at the dock behind Fred's Shanty on Pequot Avenue by friends and family,
including brother John Morgan of Waterford, with whom he will be staying until
The official welcoming party was Saturday on Block Island, his departure
point in November 1998.
His mother, Alice Getchell Morris of Deep River, wryly observed that his
arrival there was five minutes earlier than expected, but a year-and-a-half
later than planned.
Morgan, wearing a T-shirt that read "Otter 'Round the World, 1998-2001,"
didn't seem to mind the kidding. His aim was never to set a record, or even to
challenge the elements. "If I'd wanted to do that," he said, "I'd have gone
around the Horn."
Instead of Cape Horn, which has thwarted or drowned many a sailor, he opted
to go through the Panama Canal.
Dockside on Otter Monday, he said he has just begun to process some of his
more ethereal experiences, notably the 25 days he spent sailing about 3,000
miles from the Galapagos Islands to the Marquesas.
To keep his bearings, he said, he divided his time into workdays and
Still, "time disappears" as we know it when gazing at nothing but the Pacific
for days on end. "Clouds became entities," he said, "and you start feeling the
wind on your skin like you've never felt it before.
"I don't think anybody conquers the sea," said Morgan pensively, his hair
bleached blonde, his eyes very, very blue.
And "just because you face your fears doesn't mean they go away."
But the sea was good to him. "I have been allowed to pass over it," he said,
"for whatever reason."
Ironically, and perhaps propitiously, the toughest part of the trip turned
out to be the beginning.
"Three days south of here I hit a full storm," said Morgan, "with 20-foot
seas and 55-knot winds."
He was already weak from some anxiety-induced seasickness, and he and his
boat, a 1983 Fiberglas Pacific Seacraft that he had owned for a year but never
sailed alone or far out to sea, were relatively new to each other.
"When I heard those explosive noises every time a wave would hit the hull,"
said Morgan, he thought the worst.
What calmed him were all the stories he had read about sailing since he was a
child growing up around Guilford.
Some of the great old sailing vessels had masts 170 or 200 feet high. In his
mind, suddenly he was up there in this storm.
"And I thought to myself," he said, "this isn't so bad." After that first
storm, he never again felt in danger -- not even crossing the Red Sea, where
large, well-armed U.S. vessels were loathe to readily identify their
nationality, Morgan said.
Morgan estimated that, all told, he spent only six to eight months under
He had owned a sign company, and been disillusioned with the stresses of a
competitive business life, before he turned the business over to his grown
daughter from a previous marriage and took a chance on the sea.
Aside from the cost of the boat, he estimated his expenses at about $600 a
Anything could have happened, he realized. When he was crossing the Red Sea,
he said, there were six ships that didn't make it. Five ran up against reefs,
and one was lost to a storm. Fortunately, there was no loss of life.
Morgan's immediate plans now, he said, include hiking to shed some pounds he
put on after he started cooking pasta, and writing a book about his trip.
He plans to illustrate it from numerous watercolor sketches he made on board,
filling 10 sketchbooks.
His book won't have the harrowing drama of his favorite reading material
under sail: Melville's "Moby Dick," Patrick O'Brian's novels about British naval
history and Joshua Slocum's "Sailing Alone Around the World," a memoir by the
Nova Scotia native who made the first recorded around-the-globe solo sail from
1895 to 1898.
Last weekend on Block Island, Morgan was visited by a member of the
International Joshua Slocum Society International, which has its headquarters in
Bethel, and has inducted Morgan into one of the world's most elite clubs.
About 100 global solo sails have been documented by the society, Morgan said,
although he's heard from others that as many as 200 may have taken place. That's
fewer than the number of people who have flown on the space shuttle, or so the
newest solo sailor has heard.
Morgan has been sailing since age 8, but by any standard this trip was an
amazing feat. He said he actually didn't set out to do the whole trip alone
until he got through the Panama Canal and felt secure enough to make it.
Before he left, his wife, New England sales representative for a paper
company, told him she'd been thinking of taking a leave of absence and coming
along. "I said, 'Great!' " recalled Morgan, but she wasn't serious -- only
Sandy Morgan did tag along, in a sense. She met up with her husband several
times a year in various exotic locales, including Tahiti, New Zealand, Egypt and
Other family members also joined Morgan on land stops from time to time.
Brother Geof Morgan and Brec's son, Scott, came for a trek through Nepal; his
mother met him for a week in Malta last August.
A lively talker who keeps close track of world affairs, Morgan said he
relished the many conversations he had with Muslims, mostly about their despair
over President Bush, in countries such as Yemen and Sudan.
"Eighty percent of this trip has been wonderful," said Morgan, satisfied that
he had met his goal of seeing the world, having a good time and coming back