netkingcol

thinking outside the tank

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: St. Roque to Grenada

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Follow Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World at: http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

Slocum is very sensitive to changes in the feel of the Spray; new sounds, new rhythms, all convey important information to him. On 10May1898, he hears and feels the extra ripples, remembered from earlier voyages, created by the Guiana Current which sweeps around Cape St. Roque and runs at 2 miles per hour along the northern coast of South America all the way to Trinidad. For several days in succession he makes one hundred and eighty miles per day.

War with Spain has broken out. Cuba and the surrounding Caribbean is one of the principal theatres. There were some in Cape Town who warned him:

“The Spaniard will get you! The Spaniard will get you!” To all this I could only say that, even so, he would not get much.

Near the mouth of the Amazon the Spray is overhauled by the warship Oregon. She shows the flags “C B T” which mean: “Are there any men-of-war about?” to which Slocum replies: “No,” and adds for our benefit: “I had not been looking for any.”

The Spray passes Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana, and on the grey morning of 17May1898 he sees the dreary Devil’s Island on the lee bow.

On 18May1898 Slocum sees Polaris, the north star, for the first time in three years as the Spray reaches latitude 7° 13’N.

The island of Tobago bears west by north, distance twenty-two miles on the evening of 20May1898. It’s many years since Slocum has been this way and unknown to him, because his chart of the West Indies was eaten by the goat he had on board from St. Helena to Ascension, there is a new lighthouse at Galera Point on Trinidad. As he sails along the north coast of Tobago he thinks he sees waves breaking on a reef. He throws the sloop offshore but continues to see the white tops of the waves wherever he goes. It seems that no matter which way he steers the reef is all about him. Finally, as the Spray is lifted slightly higher on a wave, the realisation dawns that he is seeing the light from Trinidad playing rhythmically on the waves.

Taking no risks, he tacks back and forth for the rest of the night and then heads out for Grenada, seventy miles to the north-west. He anchors in St. George roads at midnight on 22May1898 and sails into the inner harbour the following morning. The voyage from Cape Town to Grenada has taken forty-two days.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here opens Chapter XX of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:  http://www.hazelhurst.net/Slocum

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

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