A visit with Dodge Morgan

Dodge Morgan center, L-R: Gene Piermonte, Gordon Bailey, Debbie Bailey, Homer Shannon, Dee Shannon. Photo by Carol Piermonte

September 2021

By Homer Shannon

It was the morning of July 14, 1999. Three boats from the American Yacht Club in Newburyport, Mass.; Carpe Diem, Overtime and Cinderella, were anchored way up in Quahog Bay. Homer and Dee Shannon from Cinderella had just returned from a short trip in their dinghy to collect mussels. They were tying up the dinghy and getting their things aboard when they noticed a small launch-like craft approaching their boat. It was a somewhat odd vessel with a man and a woman aboard, and it had the distinct thump-thump of a one-cylinder engine. The boat came alongside, and the man asked if Homer or Dee knew the time. It was apparent that the stranger was looking for a little conversation. He was quite an engaging fellow, and the Shannons’ obliged him with small talk about the Maine coast and where they had sailed from.

Shortly, Gordon Bailey aboard Carpe Diem noticed the activity and hopped over in his dinghy with his wife Debbie to join the conversation. The conversation turned into a regular gam, and soon it was apparent that proper introductions were necessary. Homer and Dee introduced themselves, and Gordon introduced himself. As Dodge began to introduce himself, Gordon commented, “You don’t have to introduce yourself, I know exactly who you are, you’re Dodge Morgan.”

He looked a little amused and stated, “And so I am!” The conversation continued with Dodge’s personal commentary on Boothbay Harbor. “I try never to go there. It’s like being on the inside of a pinball machine.”

By and by the conversation broke up and Dodge left. But later in the day he returned to Carpe Diem and invited the Baileys and their friends to join him for cocktails at his home on Snow Island, which is in the middle of Quahog Bay. Everyone was excited with the prospect. Gene Piermonte and Gordon had read “The Voyage of American Promise” and were very familiar with Dodge Morgan’s achievements.

At around three o’clock, the Shannons, Baileys and Piermontes (from Overtime), dinghied over to the dock at the south end of Snow Island. Soon Dodge came down to greet them and, following a tour of the boathouse, led the group up to his magnificent home. It was designed by noted Portland architect Winston Scott and blended in perfectly with the natural landscape of Snow Island. Although it looks out over the water, you really can’t see it from a boat.

Upon entering the house, the first thing the group noticed were the stacks of liquor cases, floor to ceiling, that filled the entryway. “Not taking any chances on Y2K,” Dodge commented. “If the world is going to end, I’m going to be ready.”

The second observation was how perfectly the home matched the personality of a man who had spent months alone on a small boat. It was large but not grand. It was warm, but not cute. It was spare, but not barren. Essentially it was everything you need but nothing more. Exactly what you want on a boat.

After touring the house, Dodge suggested making some drinks. “Summer rules are in force,” he stated. Uh, what are summer rules? Summer rules mean that Dodge points out where all the liquor, mixers and glasses are and then you make drinks for yourself. And for him. “Make mine a Tanqueray and tonic!” he said.

The group spent an hour or so letting Dodge regale them with stories of his trip around the world and other adventures on the seas. He was a delightful host, relaxing with fellow sailors and enjoying the rewards of a productive and interesting life. He had commitments later that evening, and the party broke up around six o’clock. It was an experience any sailor would treasure, even more so now that, sadly, Dodge is gone.

Homer and Dee Shannon live in Windham, New Hampshire, and sail out of the American Yacht Club in Newburyport. They retired in 2015 and enjoy sailing their Bristol 29.9 sailboat both locally and on extended cruises to Maine and the south coast of Massachusetts.