thinking outside the tank

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: the Canary and Cape Verde islands

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You can follow Joshua Slocum’s single-handed voyage round the world at:

Today I added ‘Canaries and Cape Verde Islands’ to the presentation. After avoiding pirates, Slocum settles down to a routine with which, as an experienced sailor, he is very familiar; the biggest difference from being master of a trading ship and sailing on the Spray  is that he is totally alone – “in the realization that I was on the mighty seas and in the hands of the elements.”

“Columbus, sailing these seas more than 400 years before, was not so happy as I”

Apart from reading, writing, and minimal cookery, the routine involves tending to the sails and rigging, but again Slocum finds that his little sloop follows a remarkably straight course. For instance, after 16 days of sailing from Gibraltar, he finds the island of St. Antonio, in the Cape Verde group, exactly where he expects it to be:

The landfall was wonderfully true, considering that no observation for longitude had been made.

But before reaching the Cape Verde Islands, Slocum first navigates through the channel between Fuerteventura and the African coast, after which the wind blowing off the desert during the day brings out clouds of reddish-brown dust, only for it to be blown back at night by a north-westerly wind.

“At 2 P.M., the weather becoming suddenly fine, the island (Fuerteventura) stood in view, already abeam to starboard and not more than seven miles off.”

He meets a couple of freighters carrying cattle from Argentina to Europe, and laments the loss of camaraderie and ritual formerly displayed by ships meeting on the high seas:

The time was when ships passing one another at sea backed their topsails and had a “gam” and, on parting, fired guns. But those good old days are gone. People have hardly time nowadays to speak even on the broad ocean, where news is news, and as for a salute of guns, they cannot afford the powder. There are no poetry-enshrined freighters on the sea now; it is a prosy life when we have no time to bid one another good morning.

On September 10 the Spray passed the island of St. Antonio, the northwesternmost of the Cape Verdes, close aboard.

As the Cape Verde islands fall astern, Slocum once more feels the solitude of “sailing a lonely sea”. He even dreams of being alone.

He also writes:

I seemed always to know the position of the sloop and I saw my vessel moving across the chart, which became a picture before me.

This happened to me on a cruise of the research ship R.R.S. Shackleton sailing in the Mediterranean and heading for Augusta, Sicily. I had never sailed there before, but looking out of the port-hole I saw an island abeam, and I just knew that it was Pantelleria.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Note: to view the presentation you will need to install the Google Earth plugin in your web browser


Written by netkingcol

August 29, 2012 at 11:28 am

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