At noon on the 24th of April 1895 Slocum slips casually away from Boston M.A. Three years two months and two days later on the the 27th of June 1898, after a cruise of some 46,000 miles, at 01:00
he dropped anchor in Newport harbour. on the 3rd of July Slocum took the Spray round the coast and up the Acushnet river to Fairhaven where he made her fast to the very same pile that he had driven in to the bank to moor her after launching. "I could bring her no nearer home".
'Sailing Alone Around The World' was to be the third attempt at writing, this being the most successful by far helped Slocum to buy his first ever home ashore. This home, Fag End by name, had enough land for him to plant an orchard and experiment in the growing of hops.
Eight years after his return Joshua Slocum was charged with attempting to violate a twelve year old girl on board the Spray he spent 42 days in jail. He plead guilty to indecent assault and was discharged.
At 65 years of age with the Spray a mere 15 years from her 'rebirth' Slocum set sail on his fourth consecutive annual trip to the west indies he never arrived.
Years later Slocum was declared legally dead. The date of death being set as the 14th of November 1909 that being the day that he set sail.
Many theories have been voiced as to the contributing factors and the conclusion of events. But one fact is irrefutable there can be only one First.
Captain Joshua Slocum was born on 20 February 1844 in Nova Scotia. He was the fifth of eleven children. His father was a hard disciplinarian and from his early teens, he made several attempts to run away to the sea. At the age of fourteen he became cook on a local fishing schooner and soon afterwards he and a friend shipped out on a droger bound for Dublin. From Dublin, he went to Liverpool becoming an ordinary seaman on the British merchant ship Tangier which was bound for China. As a seaman, he rounded Cape Horn twice, touched at Batavia (now Jakarta), the Moluccas, Manila, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, and San Francisco. While at sea he studied for the Board of Trade Examination and at the age of 18 received his certificate as Second Mate. In San Francisco, he became an American Citizen and after a stint at salmon fishing and fur hunting, he returned to the sea piloting a coastal schooner. His first command in 1869 was the barque Washington which he took across the Pacific from San Francisco to Australia and then onwards to Alaska. In 1871, while in Sidney, he married his first wife, an American named Virginia Walker. They went on to have four children, all born in different countries.
In remote Alaska, the Washington ended up dragging her anchor during a gale, ran ashore and was a total loss. However, Slocum managed to save the cargo and crew, bringing them back safely in the ship's open boats. The shipping company was impressed by this feat of leadership and seamanship and gave him command of the Constitution which he sailed to Honolulu and later Mexico. After the Constitution He commanded the Benjamin Aymar in the South Seas. However, when the owner sold the vessel, he became stranded in the Philippines. There he organized native workers to build a 150 ton steamship and in partial payment for the work was given the 90 ton schooner, Pato. Reviving his fortunes, he crossed the North Pacific to British Columbia. During this period, Slocum fulfilled his wish to become a writer by becoming a temporary correspondent for the San Francisco Bee. Crossing to Hawaii, he sold the Pato and bought the Amethyst which he sold in Hong Kong for an interest in the full-rigged ship Northern Light. This was his "best command" and was considered the "finest American sailing vessel afloat" at the time. However after two years he sold his interest and bought the barque Aquidneck in which he sailed to Buenos Aires. While there his wife, Virginia, died at the age of 35. They were quite close and he took the loss hard. The following year, 1886, he married his cousin Henrietta Elliott and the Aquidneck ran between Baltimore and South America. During this time he lived through a cholera epidemic, an outbreak of smallpox (which killed several of his crew), and later a mutiny in which he was forced to shoot two men. A few months later, in 1887, his ship ran aground and broke up in Brazil, marooning him and his family and ruining his fortunes. Unwilling to return to the United States as a castaway and a pauper, he used native help and the wreckage of his ship to build a 35 foot, junk rigged, dory which he named "Liberdade". The next year he, his wife, and children sailed this small, homemade craft across 5,500 miles of open ocean to South Carolina. Slocum wrote his first book "Voyage of the Liberdade" about the trip. In recognition for this feat the Liberdade was placed on view at the Smithsonian Institution.
After their return from Brazil, Slocum's wife refused to go to sea again. Slocum next took the job of delivering the steam powered, ironclad, torpedo boat "Destroyer" from New York to Brazil to aid in putting down a revolution. The ship did not prove particularly sea worthy and the trip became an ongoing battle to keep her from foundering in the rough seas encountered. Adding insult, the Brazilian government took delivery of the boat and never paid him for his services. Upon returning, he recounted this new adventure in a second book.
By this time, the age of sail was being replaced by the age of steam and like many older captains, Slocum fell on hard times. His books were not particularly successful and he worked as a shipwright until 1892. At this time a friend gave him the hull of an old Chesapeake Bay oyster sloop named Spray which was rotting in a field by Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Many believe the gift was a joke. However, Slocum salvaged parts of the old hull to build a new and slightly larger boat, drawing his considerable experience into her design. Although he always referred to the new cutter rigged 37 foot Spray as a sloop, later an aft spar was added and she was turned into a yawl. The sawed off and boarded up bow of a cape dory skiff became his tender.
Slocum was determined to become the first man to single-handedly sail around the globe. On 24 April 1895 Captain Joshua Slocum and Spray of Boston slipped off on their journey. He was over 50 years old at the time, had no private funding, no modern navigational equipment, and his only chronometer was a damaged tin clock. Many said a solo circumnavigation was impossible. However, he was aided by the remarkably well balanced design of Spray which allowed her to remain true to course with the wheel lashed.
Slocum first crossed the Atlantic and had intended a route past Gibraltar, into the Mediterranean, and through the Suez Canal. However, after being chased by and very narrowly escaping capture by Moorish pirates, he turned around, and decided to re-cross the Atlantic, taking a safer westerly route. He headed down and around the coast of South America, through the Straight of Magellan. There he fought off many storms and on several occasions hostile aboriginals. He was forced to adopt such tricks as going down one hatch, changing clothes and emerging out the other to make it look like several people were on board. His precaution of covering the deck with carpet tacks at night saved him once when natives stealthily slipped aboard while he was asleep. From the Straight he crossed to Australia and Tasmania, then around Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. From there he crossed the Atlantic a third time, returning up the coast of South America, through the Caribbean (without charts), and back to Fairhaven, Massachusetts. On 03 July 1898 he tied Spray up to the same mooring post he had left from 3 years and two months before.Slocum rapidly became a celebrity as news of each leg was broadcast throughout the western world. However, his feat was somewhat overshadowed by the Spanish American War. Upon returning he wrote a book about his experiences titled: Sailing Alone Around The World. --
Je lâche les rames et ne fais qu’un bond. Je brandis l’ancre au bout de mes bras et la lance par-dessus bord juste au moment où tout chavire. J’attrape le plat-bord et tiens bon alors que le bateau se renverse – je viens de prendre conscience que je ne sais pas nager. » – Joshua Slocum, Seul autour du monde sur un voilier de onze mètres, 1900.
Le capitaine néo-écossais Joshua Slocum part de Boston le 24 avril 1895. Il sera de retour chez lui le 3 juillet 1898 après avoir effectué le premier tour du monde à la voile en solo et vécu une multitude d’aventures.
Slocum est fier d’être néo-écossais, un peuple qu’il décrit comme « vigoureux, robuste, et fort ». Il dit « être tombé sous le charme de la mer dès les premiers instants. » Il navigue sur de nombreux voiliers et en commande plusieurs. En 1892, désœuvré, Slocum hésite entre chercher un nouveau commandement, ce qui est rare, et travailler dans un chantier naval, ce qui coûte cher (cotisation professionnelle élevée). Une vieille connaissance résout son dilemme en lui offrant un bateau en mal de réparations.
C’est un vieux sloop d’à peine 12 m de long du nom de Spray. D’après les gens du coin, il a été construit « en l’an 1 ». Ils n’en reviennent pas que Slocum veuillent le retaper. Son travail sur le bateau s’effectue sous les savoureux commentaires et sinistres prédictions des vieux loups de mer. Slocum fait fi des oiseaux de mauvais augures; le vieux Spray donne un nouveau sens à vie.
Le petit bateau enfin prêt, Slocum prend la mer. Il a l’intention de croiser Gibraltar, de traverser la Méditerranée, puis le canal de Suez, vers la mer Rouge et de continuer vers l’est son tour du monde. À Gibraltar, des officiers de la Marine britannique le persuadent de modifier son itinéraire et de plutôt poursuivre vers l’ouest pour éviter les nombreux pirates qui écument les deux côtes de la Méditerranée. Admettant qu’on peut faire le tour du monde dans les deux sens, Slocum fait demi-tour.
Malgré tout, des pirates lui tombent dessus. Slocum doit son salut à énorme vague qui submerge leur bateau, une felouque, et lui permet de s’enfuir. C’est la première d’une longue série d’aventures et d’« échappées belle ».
Au large de l’Uruguay, ayant serré la côte de trop près, le Spray s'échoue. En se débattant avec l’ancre, Slocum se rend compte que, avec le câble, elle est trop lourde. L’eau atteint déjà le plat-bord. Slocum réussit à faire passer l’ancre au moment où le bateau chavire. C’est alors qu’il prend conscience qu’il ne sait pas nager. De peine et de misère, il aboutit sur la plage, épuisé et à demi-noyé. Or, la péripétie connaît un heureux dénouement. Des villageois amènent le garde-côte et échangent du beurre, du lait et des oeufs contre des biscuits du bateau.
Au fil de son périple, Slocum renoue de vieilles amitiés et en crée de nouvelles, troquant des vivres selon ses besoins et les occasions. Un de ses échanges avec « un bon Autrichien ayant roulé sa bosse » le laisse avec un sac de clous à tapis qui s’avéreront plus précieux que de l’or.
Alors qu’il contourne la pointe de l’Amérique du Sud, le Spray tombe sur un coup de vent qui lui fait faire demi-tour. Sur une mer démontée, le voilier est soufflé près de la côte sud de la Terre de Feu. Slocum n’a pas d’autre choix que de continuer vers l’est contournant complètement la Terre de Feu. Il va devoir retraverser tout le détroit de Magellan.
À son deuxième passage, il rencontre un groupe d’indigènes de la Terre de Feu qui lui lancent des « yammerschooner », une indication qu’ils veulent « lui faire la conversation ». Mis en garde contre les féroces renégats, surtout leur chef « Pedro le Noir », Slocum ne les laisse pas s’approcher du sloop. Il les éloigne en tirant un coup devant de leur pirogue. Pendant plusieurs jours, les indigènes continuent à lui tourner autour. Finalement, excédé et ayant besoin de dormir, Slocum élabore un système ingénieux pour l’avertir de l’approche des intrus. Il éparpille sur le pont les clous à tapis, la pointe vers le haut, sachant que personne ne peut marcher sur un clou sans émettre au moins un couinement. Quand, vers minuit, les harceleurs montent à bord… un concert s’élève.
Le voyage de Slocum est reconnu comme un exploit de matelotage. Il n’est certes pas un navigateur du dimanche. Par ailleurs, même s’il n’a qu’une troisième année, il est un écrivain accompli, réputé pour son humour pince-sans-rire. Son livre, Seul autour du monde sur un voilier de onze mètres, ravit les lecteurs, qu’ils aient le pied marin ou non. --