Joshua Slocum Centennial - Smithsonian Magazine
For Immediate Release
A hundred years ago, on June 27, 1898, Joshua Slocum sailed into Newport, Rhode Island and into history. After 46,000 miles of battling pirates, jagged reefs and deadly storms, Slocum had become the first man to sail around the world alone.
There was no fanfare as Spray, a refurbished oyster boat with only rudimentary equipment, arrived in Newport in the dark hours of the morning. Luckily, Slocum*s own account of his journey was the best press he could have received: Sailing Alone Around the World brought fame and admiration for its enigmatic author, called a *sea-locked Thoreau* despite a third-grade education. Now translated into six languages, *Slocum*s book did more to promote small boat sailing and voyaging for the common man than any book that*s ever been written,* claims Mike Martel of the Joshua Slocum Society International.
This summer, thousands of sailing aficionados, yacht clubs and members of Slocum Societies around the world are expected to descend on New England*s harbors. They will gather to commemorate the man, the boat, and the voyage that inspired would-be adventurers everywhere.
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Smithsonian Magazine May 1998
Around the World Alone
Joshua Slocum was the first to do it, a hundred years ago, then wrote about it; the world is still awed by his seamanship--and his prose
Slocum began his voyage by sailing from Boston, across the Atlantic. In Gibraltar, as he headed toward the Suez Canal in his small wooden sailboat, Spray, a decrepit oyster dredger that he had rebuilt himself, he was warned that he didn't stand a chance of making it through the swarm of pirates in the Mediterranean. So, reasoning that there are two directions in which to round the world, Slocum started back across the Atlantic, setting course for Brazil. Nevertheless, he was soon being stalked by pirates. With luck and quick maneuvering he was able to elude them, but just barely. It was the first of many narrow escapes--from savages, deadly currents and rocky coasts--over the next three years. His solo passage through the hellish Strait of Magellan is arguably the most remarkable in history.
Joshua Slocum had grown accustomed to difficulties. As a seaman he'd suffered several setbacks and was virtually broke. His first wife had died young and he never really recovered from losing her. Slocum wasn't just a boat bum. Despite leaving school after the third grade, he became an accomplished writer. His dry wit, wry humor and Yankee observations about nature led some to call him a "sea-locked Thoreau." His book, Sailing Alone Around the World, has been translated into more than six languages and is still very much in print. It has done more to promote small boat sailing and voyaging than any book ever written, says Mike Martel, of the Joshua Slocum Society International. Slocum is a legend among those who sail small boats around the world, and there are Slocum Societies on three continents. A variety of commemorative and educational activities are planned for the June 1998 centennial of Slocum's voyage.
Abstract of an article by Per Ola and Emily d'Aulaire, originally published in the May 1998 issue of Smithsonian Magazine. All rights reserved.
Posted here with permission of the author.
Copyright 1998 Smithsonian Magazine All rights reserved.
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