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"To go to sea for pleasure, at its best, is to attempt a voyage of discovery into one's truest self, warts and all." O ne mo rning a fisherman cam e upo n a sailboat beating down the After all those years at sea, Slocum naturally had gathered English Channel, with her helmsm an , M cMullen , leaning back, plenty of expertise, but he declined to brag or lecture abour ir. sti ff hand on the till er and his sightless eyes starin g at the luff of Words like "proper" and "seamanlike" may appear regularly in the jib. M cMullen's cruising books, but they are absent from Sailing Although he appeared never to have raced, McMullen per- Alone Around the World. Seam anship to Slocum was not a feat o f so nified the semi-m asochistic atti tude of the racing sailo r. To even adva nced technology but a natural o utgrowth of innate co mm o n sense and a li ttle time on the water. "I can better appreciate the relationship between one's o nly say here," he wro te, "that much comes character and the sea, we can look at his temto one in practice, and that, with such as love peramental opposite-an amiable, down-atsailing, m other-wit is the best teacher, after the-heels sea captai n in a clumsy fi shing sloop. experience." What Slocum was m ost interestA centu ry has passed since Joshua Slocum ed in was th at "bette r no tion of infi ni ty" that co mpleted the first singlehanded circumnavigation, yet the freshness of his achievem ent is moved Pepys so profo undly. Earl y in the voystill with us, thanks to his enchanting book age, as Slocum wres tled with the first pangs of loneliness, "During these days a feelin g abo ut his experi ence. His inAuence, widely of awe crept over m e. My m emory worked known as "the spell of the Spray," is as strong with star tling power. The ominous, th e insignow as it was when Sailing Alone around the nifi cant, th e great, the small, the wonderful , World was published in 1900. the commo nplace-all appeared before m y Altho ugh Slocum had been going to sea mental vision in m agical successio n. Pages of fo r forty years, th e spi ri t of adve nture was as fresh in him at age fifty-one as it was when he my history we re recalled which had been so was a boy Aeeing his abusive father and nalong fo rgotten that they seem ed to belong to tive Nova Scoti a in a fishin g schooner. With a previous existence. I heard all the voices of nothing better to do with his life in 189 5- he the pas t laughing, crying, telling what I had Joshua Slocum, 1888 could not find a captain's berth in the declin- Slocum was the first man to sail heard them tell in m any corners of the earth." ing American merchant fleet, and his wife had single-handedly around the world Long before he had found his profession a t th rown him out of the house-he decided to (1895-98); he sailed in a 36' 9" sloop sea, and now he fo und him self. give the sea a new kind of try, just fo r the fun At the end of his long voyage, Slo(re-rigged as ayawl during the voyage). cum wanted his readers to know that such a n ofir. Perhaps he could make it pay by writing, which he had taken on as a seco nd career. O nce Spray turned o ut adventure is the healthiest thing anybody can do. ''As for agin g, to have a near-m agical abili ty to steer herself fo r days o n end, the why, the dial of m y life was turned back till m y fri ends all said , adventure became technically possible. 'Slocum is yo ung again."' Toward the end of hi s book, Slocum Slocum's m essage is a kinder versio n of M cMullen's: skill is says with D ylanesque succinctness, "To yo ung m en contemplatimportant, bur what counts m os t is character. There was more ing a voyage, I would say go." 7 H ere is the spell of going to sea hobbit th an G andalf in Joshua Slocum . H e was the nautical twin voluntarily. Who can resist it? Certainly not Thomas Fleming of Bob Dylan's M1'. Tambourine Man, with one hand waving free D ay, whose fo unding of the Bermuda Race was in no small pa rt and no fen ces facing. inspired by the adventures of his fri end Josh Slocum.

Sea History 115 - Summer 2006  

8 Battle Off Flamborough Head: A Pivotal Victory for American Independence, by Joseph F. Callo • 12 Black Hands, BlUe Seas: Paul Cuffe and...

Sea History 115 - Summer 2006  

8 Battle Off Flamborough Head: A Pivotal Victory for American Independence, by Joseph F. Callo • 12 Black Hands, BlUe Seas: Paul Cuffe and...

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