thinking outside the tank

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Rio to Castillo Chicos

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at:

Today was the first outing for my new model of the Spray and it sees Slocum sailing from Rio on 28Nov1895 at the start of Chapter V.

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He sails south in mixed weather, starting with gales but becoming more moderate. His old, tin, one-dollar clock, presumably set to the correct time in Rio, gives him the same longitude as the expensive chronometer ticking on the bridge of the steamship South Wales which Slocum meets in longitude 48degrees west; Slocum feels confident in his navigational skills; but pride comes before a landfall and on 11Dec1895 the Spray sails straight on to the beach when Slocum mistakes sand-hills in the moonlight for a gentle ocean swell.

The trick to getting afloat is to take out an anchor, secure it firmly on the seabed, and use the windlass to haul the yacht out to sea. Slocum’s dory is not up to the task of carrying his main anchor and 40 fathoms of cable through the surf and out to a sufficient depth of water. The leaky boat is soon full to the gunwales. Slocum throws the anchor overboard and shortly after the dory capsizes. At this point Slocum writes:

I grasped her gunwale and held on as she turned bottom up, for I suddenly remembered that I could not swim.

His first attempt to right the dory is so enthusiastic she rolls right over and he’s back at square one clinging on for his life. It took three more attempts to right the boat and climb carefully aboard. Using one retrieved oar, he paddles back to the Spray to finish the job by carrying out the other half of the anchor cable. He is rather relieved to find that, by the time he carries the end back to the yacht, it just reaches the windlass, allowing him to “secure a turn and no more”. There’s nothing more he can do until the next high tide and he lies among the sand-hills to shelter from the wind and feeling “somewhat the worse for wear and pretty full of salt water”.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

If you like the presentation of Slocum’s voyage at:, then you may also enjoy Cook’s first voyage round the world at:


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