29 October 2013
Sailing Alone Around the World, by Joshua Slocum
Posted by Callan Bentley
One thing I got out of reading (listening to) Atlantic, by Simon Winchester, was a recommendation to read a classic story of adventure: Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World. As you might suspect, it’s an account of Slocum’s solo trip sailing his small boat, the Spray, around the world. He was the first person to accomplish this feat. The book, I was delighted to find, is in the public domain, and so was available as a free download from Project Gutenberg. I used the Overdrive app to read it on my iPad. I also use Overdrive to listen to audiobooks that I can download from my public library’s website. It’s proving to be a most useful app.
So, as for the book: Slocum builds the Spray himself, and then sails it around the world, and has a lot of fun doing it. His writing is a wry delight – much is tongue-in-cheek observations about his own surreal situation or societal mores, or else it’s simple, heartfelt reflections on the joys of being at sea, of exploring, of solving problems. Storms rage, wildlife visits, he navigates port bureaucracy and conversation with natives and colonists alike. It’s not a long book, and it’s mostly quite interesting. And you can’t beat the price. If you’re into travelogues as a genre, or if you enjoy sailing, I’d recommend it.
I grew up in a place where Slocum’s name is well-known. There’s a little house in my home town, in front of it, at roadside, is a boulder with a brass placque. The placque honors Joshua Slocum. The house is Slocum’s West Tisbury house, from which he sailed on his ill-fated final voyage.
After Slocum, you might read “A thousand miles in the Rob Roy Canoe”, http://www.eldritchpress.org/jm/TM.HTM
And, The Boy, Me, and the Cat.
And then there’s always Robin Lee Graham’s “Dove,” the autobiographical account of a 16-year-old boy’s solo sailing voyage around the world that was first made famous in one of National Geographic’s most popular series of articles.
The only book I like better than Slocum’s is Alone through the Roaring Fourties by Vito Dumas. It’s hard to find a solo sailing book that’s not too heavy-handed but still communicates the hardship and fear but also the joy and solitude.
You might have mentioned that he departed in 1895 and returned in 1898. No GPS!
I’d love to know what kind of safety equipment Joshua had back then! I’m sure they don’t have the kind of knives and pfd’s like they do nowadays!
I am a high school science teacher and have been adapting primary source, maritime books for Google Earth touring. One of the books I use in marine science class is “Sailing Alone Around the World”. Feel free to check out and share the material at: http://Sailthebook.net
This is really neat. I just finished reading his book- couldn’t remember when I first heard about it. Awesome read!
Bernard Moitessier, author of the book The Long Way.
“You do not ask a tame seagull why it needs to disappear from time to time towards the open sea. It just goes, that’s all”.