Captain Joshua Slocum, was the world's first solo circumnavigator, setting sail from Gloucester in 1895. He Visited five continents and the exotic islands of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. The captain returned to America in 1898, and wrote Sailing Alone Around The World


"I was born on a cold spot, on coldest North Mountain on the side of Mount Hanley facing the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world.”

“The wonderful sea charmed me from the first.”
J.S, Sailing Alone

”I was born in the breezes.” Joshua Slocum penned what may be the most beautiful phrase in all of nautical literature; Slocum also died in the breezes.

“Mine was not the sort of life to make one long to coil up one’s ropes on land, the customs and ways of which I had finally almost forgotten, and so when times for sailing got bad, as at last they did, and I tried to quit the sea, what was there for a old sailor to do? Thus the voyage which I am now to narrate was a natural outcome not only of my love of adventure, but of my lifelong experience.”
-J.S, Sailing Alone

“To know the laws that govern the winds, and to know that you know them, will give you an easy mind on your voyage around the world; otherwise you may tremble at the appearance of every cloud.”

1892, midwinter Boston, "I, being cast up from the ocean met on the waterfront a retired whaling captain who said: 'come to Fairhaven give you a ship, she wants some repairs'. The very next day I was there. Antiquated, more like salvage, beached on props in a field, her name was 'Spray".
-J.S, Sailing Alone

"Felling White Oak in a nearby-pasture with my axe, for her keel, ribs, stem-piece, brest-hooks, ribs, all from this wood. Bent into shape in my self-constructed steam box where required. Georgia White Pine, inch and a half thick for planking and the balance of construction, her mast fitted from fresh New Hampshire Spruce as well as appurtenance's for short cruising.”

“The 'Spray' changed her being so gradually that it was hard to say at what point the old died and the new took birth". The 'Spray', 36.9 inches long, 14.2 inches wide, the holds 50 inches deep, two cabins 24 inches off the bulwark's, gave me 6 feet of interior height. A gift of a large two cabin seaman's lamp, lighted my cabin at night and was contrived into a stove by day. Launched shortly thereafter, she sat at anchor on Buzzards Bay floating like a swan.”
-J.S, Sailing Alone

Cipriano Andrade, a naval architect who in June 1909 published in Rudder magazine a survey of the Spray's lines, dimensions, sail plan, displacement, and probable response to the variety of extreme conditions Slocum experienced during his voyage. He took the figures by which he calculated from a half-model rather than from the hull herself.
Andrade concluded, "the curve of stability shows that Spray was theoretically uncapsizable," and that her theoretical hull speed was an impressive eight knots. (She made, for a known fact, noon-to-noon runs exceeding an average speed of eight knots, though during most of them she got a lift from one current or another, such as the Gulf Stream.)

As Thoreau tendered the accounts for his constructions projects ('In all, $28.12', Walden), so does Slocum ($553.62). Slocum finds his route across the ocean by instinct and intuition; He has become a creature of the sea. 'The wonderful sea, and on the last, The Spray . . . did not . . . sail to powwow about the dangers of the seas. The sea has been much maligned.

In Sailing Alone, the land is the dangerous element. Inshore, pirates lie in wait for unwary small craft; on shore, thieves, and bureaucrats.

He laid in two barrels of ships bread (a large thick cracker of course quality) in tin cans while dry and fresh sealed with solder lasting three years as good as new. A quantity of flour, codfish, potatoes, butter, tea and coffee. To guard these stores and himself for personal safety, in oceans still habituated by cannibals and pirates, he carried his favorite rifle, a Martin-Henry, rifle and a revolver.

His medicine chest consisted of Brazil nuts, pepper, cinnamon and table salt. Slocum had always' enjoyed a strong constitution, with unusual stamina and strength.

The library of the 'Spray' included such books as Darwin's 'The Decent of Man', and 'Expression of the Emotions, 'Boswell's Life of Johnson,' Newcomb's Popular Astronomy,' The Life of Macaulay,' Mark Twain's 'Life on the Mississippi,' Todd's Total Eclipses of the Sun,"Bates', The Naturalist of the Amazon,' Shakespeare..."

“The only fresh fish I had on the open sea was flying fish that came aboard of their own accord. I was in tropical waters most of the time and had flying fish for breakfast pretty constantly. Often I'd get up in the morning and find a dozen on deck, sometimes they'd get down the forescuttle right along the frying pan.”

He painted the sea as an unspoiled wilderness at a time when the interior wilderness of the United States was turning, almost overnight, into a massive quilt of barbed-wire enclosure.

“May 7th 1895. Sailing from Gloucester MA. Skipping along smoothly, I let go of my last hold on America. Cruising to Brier Island and Halifax Nova Scotia, for a 3 week stop-over with Kin and old friends.”

“Sailing 18 days from Cape Sable Nova Scotia to Fayal and Horta I made the Azores. The beauty of these islands in mid ocean is a picture to behold. Ashore, socializing in Fayal with the kindness of the islanders I toured the island. For 3 days, I was feted, they bestowed upon me daily, fresh bread, butter, Pico cheese, and a variety of vegetables. I stowed an abundance of these food-stuffs in the 'Spray'. I set sail four days later to cross the Atlantic for Gibraltar.”

Slocum, Casting off from the Azores sailing for Gibraltar, making supper the same day "stuffing himself with cheese and plums" given to him by the generous Horta villagers. By evening he was doubled up with severe cramps stretched out on the cabin floor. When he awoke from his delirium and pain, he saw a bearded foreign sailor, large red cap, shaggy whiskers at the helm ’Señor I have come to do you no harm at the helm. I am Columbus's pilot of the 'Pinta' pilot come to aid you. Lie quiet and I will guide your ship 'Spray' to-night.’ A vision brought on by delirium? The next day he doffed his cap and disappeared".

“Harpooning a huge sleeping turtle, flying fish landing on deck provisioned me well along with my Horta vegetables. The bill of fare that evening was turtle-steak, tea and toast, fried potatoes, stewed onions; with desert of stewed pears and cream. The ship's crew was well agreed. Three days later, a sudden gale sprang up, wild sea's, the bowsprit sail blown to ribbons. August 4, under close-reefed main-sail I discovered Spain. The 'Spray' passed thru the Strait of Gibraltar, where she cast anchor 3 p.m. the same day. A senior British Admiral secured for the 'Spray' a birth in the 'Mole' at the Royal Armory, her company was a great many battleships, destroyers, stationed there, all of which I was entertained royally on. Thanks to the Admiral, the Spray was overhauled courtesy of the Crown"

September 11th, the 'Spray' had a fine run south along the coast thru the channel between Africa and the Canary Islands. On September 10 the 'Spray' passed the island of ST. Antonio the north western most of the Cape Verdes and hauled for South America and dropping anchor at long overdue island destinies. I settled down for my voyage back across the Atlantic.. Dropping anchor at Juan Fernandez, Robinson Crusoe's Island, then sailing for Samoa and my old friends Robert Louis Stevenson and wife. Hauling anchor for Brazil, casting anchor at Pernambuco, landed me on familiar shores. Montevideo.
-J.S, Sailing Alone

Theodore Roosevelt made the connections in a fan letter to Slocum: “…entirely sympathize with your feelings of delight in the sheer loneliness at the vastness of the ocean, in was just my feeling in the wilderness of the west.”

“Though I do not feel oppressively lonely on my solitary voyage, I am always glad to get to port. I am, paradoxical as it may seem, really a sociable man.”
-J.S., to a reporter

"In many ways a sailor is like an actor: if he's been in the business a long time, he can improvise just about anything"

“Still in dismal fog I felt myself drifting into loneliness, an insect on a straw in the midst of the elements. I lashed the helm, and my vessel held her course, and while she sailed I slept. During these days a feeling of awe crept over me. My memory worked with startling power. …. I heard all the voices of the past laughing, crying, telling what I had heard them tell in many corners of the earth.”

“The loneliness of my stage wore off when the gale was high and I found much work to do, when fine weather returned, then came the sense of solitude, which I could not shake off. Sleeping or waking, I seemed always to know the position of the sloop Even when I slept I dreamed that I was alone.”
- J.S., Sailing Alone

Where the sloop avoided one danger she encountered another. For one day, well off the Patagonian coast, while the sloop was reaching under short sail, a tremendous wave, the culmination it seemed of many waves, rolled down upon her in a storm, roaring as it came. “I had only a moment to get all sail down and myself up on the peak halliards, out of danger, when I saw the mighty crest towering masthead-high above me. The mountain of water submerged my vessel. She shook in every timber and reeled under the weight of the sea, but rose quickly out of it, and rode grandly over the rollers that followed.”.

He was fully capable of determining his position on the globe, He tells us, “if I doubted my reckoning after a long time at sea I verified by reading the clock aloft, made by the Great Architect, and it was right.”; And the great sailor is referring to his use of the lunarian method, which was fast becoming a lost art.

January 26, 1896 the 'Spray' being refitted and well provisioned in every way, sailed for Buenos Ares, at the legendary River Plate, a treacherous place for storms. Sailing next to Rio de Janeiro, then from Rio to Maldonado Bay. The 'Spray' was now ready for sea and his biggest challenge yet. Cape Horn, the worlds worst patch of the world's worst waters.
-J.S, Sailing Alone

“I will not say that I expected all fine sailing on the course for Cape horn direct, but while I worked at the sails and rigging I thought only of onward and forward. Where the 'Spray avoided one danger she encountered another.”

He had to be able to repair his own sails, and know exactly how strong to make their stress areas. Also, to be able to sew a uniform stich, so that the sail was smooth and even.

On January 28th the 'Spray' then bore away for the strait of Magellan and Cape Horn, the Milky Way, her biggest challenge yet. Entering the strait Joshua and the 'Spray' were confronted with, among other dangers, rain squalls and gales, hostile natives repelled by sharp tacks scattered on deck, williwaw's (burst of wild mountain winds) tearing the sails to rags, reefs, confused tide currents. But let's have Peter Rowe tell the story along with experienced 'Spray' yachts-men. The story of brutal sailing for 44 days.
-J.S, Sailing Alone