Solo Skipper Has Record in Sight

--Bearing four pounds of his favorite popcorn, the family of Maine skipper Dodge Morgan left for Bermuda to be reunited with the man about to break the world record for a solo circumnavigation. After five months alone at sea, Morgan, 54, a corporate entrepreneur, is due to return to St. George's, Bermuda, on Thursday. Morgan set sail last Nov. 12 and is expected to cut nearly in half the current record of 292 days for a solo, 27,500-mile, non-stop voyage around the world, set by Englishman Chay Blyth in 1971. Morgan's wife, Marian, 42, and their children, Hoyt, 12, and Kimberly, 9, left their home in Cape Elizabeth, Me., for the family reunion, carrying along "Dodge's Christmas stocking, the popcorn, his baseball and glove, several clean shirts and a dozen back issues of the Maine Times," his wife said.

--An alligator that was rescued from an owner who had wired the animal's jaws shut set out from Boston for freedom in the back of a station wagon driven by a Museum of Science worker who intends to let the 'gator go in a Georgia swamp. The 5 1/2-foot-long alligator, named Dickens, was given a send-off by Girl Scouts who got to know him in weekend classes at the museum. They hung on his cage flowers and banners and ribbons that read, "Goodbye, Dickens." Museum curator David Gorrill left with Dickens riding in a wooden case in the back of the station wagon. The two are expected to reach the Okefenokee Swamp wildlife reserve, a protected park, today.

--Louise Waid and Tilly Bothwell had two centuries of baking experience between them. But it wasn't enough to unseat the reigning apple-pie champion. Both figured that they knew how to make an apple pie, and the judges agreed, at least for the start of the final round of the "best apple pie in New England" contest, run by the historic Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, Mass. "Most of the rest of the people had fancy fillings, with nuts and even peaches and whiskey. We just baked a plain old apple pie," Waid said. The team from the Quaboag Nursing Home faced eight other finalists from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. But Waid, 104, and Bothwell, 100, just weren't good enough to beat the defending champion, Clara Chalmers of Bedford, N.H. Chalmers, 79, whipped up the "best apple pie in New England" in the annual contest. "The pie was just the same I've made for 51 years," said Chalmers, who used the lucky pie tin that she got as a wedding present 50 years ago. "She's definitely got the best apple pie in New England," said Martha Salem, whose family owns the inn. Waid and Bothwell used a "simple little recipe," but their pie was not among the top three finishers.

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