14 November 2009

RIP Joshua Slocum

Recognition this morning of Nova Scotia's Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail alone around the world. The mariner wrote about his adventure in the aptly titled Sailing Alone Around the World (1899), a travel classic still published around that same world, but not in his own country.

Slocum loved a good book and was a fervent reader, sometimes at his own peril. Here he is after departing the Cape of Good Hope on his good sloop the Spray:
The wind was from the southeast; this suited the Spray well, and she ran along steadily at her best speed, while I dipped into the new books given me at the cape, reading day and night. March 30 was for me a fast-day in honor of them. I read on, oblivious of hunger or wind or sea, thinking that all was going well, when suddenly a comber rolled over the stern and slopped saucily into the cabin, wetting the very book I was reading. Evidently it was time to put in a reef, that she might not wallow on her course.
It was one hundred years ago today that Slocum and the Spray set sail for the West Indies... and disappeared. Though an optimist, I don't expect we'll ever hear more from him. Slocum's end was probably pretty horrible – he never could be bothered to learn how to swim. No, much more pleasant to think that he simply drifted off while reading in bed.

1 comment:

  1. Many of the old-time sailors never learned to swim. There's a certain sense to it: you may die horribly if you fall overboard and can't swim, but you'll die even more horribly if you fall overboard and can swim if there's no one to rescue you.