Dodge Morgan dies at 78; first American to sail solo around the globe with no stops

Dodge Morgan, the first American to sail solo around the globe without stopping — and in record time — died of complications from cancer Tuesday at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. He was 78.

Morgan set a world record in 1986 when he completed the solo sail in his 60-foot American Promise in 150 days, 1 hour and 6 minutes, beating British sailor Chay Blyth, who took 292 days to accomplish the same feat in 1971.

Ted Hood, who designed Morgan's boat, said the American Promise was a rugged sailboat with two of everything, including a spare generator and a spare rudder, and was designed for sturdiness, not speed.

"Everyone said there's no way that boat is going to get around the world in record speed, but it did," Hood, a 1974 America's Cup winner, said Friday from his office in Portsmouth, R.I.

Morgan, a native of Malden, Mass., born in 1932, worked at his uncle's boatyard when he was a boy and later became part of the sailing scene in Marblehead, Mass.

By the time he fulfilled his dream of sailing around the world, Morgan had served in the Air Force, earned a communications degree from Boston University and become a successful businessman.

He made a fortune by building a radar detector company called Controlonics. The Massachusetts-based firm later changed its name to Whistler, named for the whistling sound made by its earlier marine radar systems.

Morgan eventually took his love of sailing to Maine, where he lived in Cape Elizabeth and then on Snow Island in Harpswell, where he spent his later years.