thinking outside the tank

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Port Tamar to Cape Turn

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

Slocum sails from Port Tamar on 03Mar1896. The wide Pacific is before him and the Spray takes her first “bath” in it after passing Cape Pillar. Although the wind is fair at first a storm is brewing. It’s too dark to turn back for the land so Slocum must run out to sea. By the morning of the following day the wind rises to a “terrific force” and all that Slocum can do is to run before it under bare poles and trailing two long ropes astern to steady the course.

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For four days Slocum rides out the storm, eventually managing to raise a reefed forestaysail and grab some hot food. He realises that there is little chance of working back north and west along the coast of Tierra del Fuego and is already planning a run to Port Stanley in the Falklands. Effectively, he is thinking of switching his plan back to the original one, which was to sail round the world in an easterly direction.

Then he sees a high mountain off the port beam through a gap in the clouds and turns up for it. He doesn’t say which island he thinks it is, only that he is mistaken in its identity. Night falls before he reaches the land and what follows is a frantic and exhausting night of dodging rocks and shallows using the sight and sound of the breakers to tell him where the danger lies.

By the morning, he can see that he is in the Milky Way of the sea and that it was Fury Island that he had seen the previous day. Darwin had written of this patch of sea:

Any landsman seeing the Milky Way would have nightmare for a week.

Slocum comments:

He might have added “or seaman” as well.

By sailing with great care, the Spray reaches calmer waters inside the galaxy of rocks, and Slocum realises that he is in Cockburn Channel which connects with the Strait of Magellan opposite Cape Froward – his position on 20Feb. However, despite this setback and the trouble he had with Fuegians in the strait, he is more than content:

I was exultant over the prospect of once more entering the Strait of Magellan and beating through again into the Pacific, for it was more than rough on the outside coast of Tierra del Fuego.

By nightfall on 08Mar1896, the Spray is at anchor in a snug cove at Cape Turn – where Cockburn Channel turns north towards Cape Froward. Slocum is exhausted and must sleep, but not before spreading Pedro Samblich’s carpet tacks about the deck, making sure that some of them are “business end” up. Sure enough, at about midnight, he is woken by the howl of barefoot savages as they find his early warning system.

This section of Joshua Slocum’s journey is the first part of Chapter VIII of Sailing Alone Around the World, an adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

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


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