History and LegendBy the Bay of Fundy | Life Before the Spray | Return of a Legend | Lost At Sea

 

After three years sailing alone around the world, Captain Joshua Slocum returned at Newport, Rhode Island, on June 27, 1898. It was a homecoming in geography only; home was the Spray, each port, and the sea.

The outbreak of the Spanish American War overshadowed his feat, but the Captain set down to write his tale. Though his formal education had ended in the third grade, Captain Slocum was well-read and enjoyed the sea tales of Daniel Dafoe and Robert Louis Stevenson, even as he lived his own. During his journey, the Captain took inspiration from touring Robinson Crusoe’s cave on Juan Fernandez Island and sitting at Stevenson’s writing desk at Samoa.

Sailing Alone Around the World was published in 1900, selling out 17 printings and earning the Captain enough fame to be an attraction at the 1901 Buffalo Pan-American Exposition. He towed the Spray the length of the Erie Canal and anchored her for seven months in a channel at the fairgrounds.

Expo-goers paid a small fee to board and tour the Spray, including President McKinley, who signed the Captain’s guestbook, and was soon after shot by an assassin. Theodore Roosevelt rushed to Buffalo and was inaugurated on September 13, 1901, with Captain Slocum in attendance. The two men began an acquaintanceship that included Slocum visiting both the White House and Roosevelt’s summer home, Sagamore Hill. It was there, on Oyster Bay, Long Island, that the Captain took young Archie Roosevelt out for a weeklong sailing education.