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Joshua Slocum – Sailing Alone Around the World

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Written by netkingcol

September 16, 2013 at 8:19 pm

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Cape Town to St. Helena

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

With the Spray in Alfred dry-dock and a free railway pass in his pocket, Slocum heads inland, making a journey to Kimberley, Johannesburg, and Pretoria. He meets President Krüger, a confirmed believer in the flat-earth hypothesis. Judge Beyers introduces Slocum to Krüger, but makes the mistake of saying he is sailing “round the world”.

“Impossible,” says Krüger angrily; you mean “in the world.”

Slocum checks on the Spray and finds all is well; then he visits Dr. Gill, astronomer royal, at the Cape Observatory. Gill organises a lecture about the voyage which is so well attended that Slocum earns enough money to cover his expenses both during his extended stay in South Africa and the voyage home. In fact Slocum spends three months in South Africa; this is longer than the fastest non-stop solo sailors of today take for the entire voyage.

It’s 26Mar1898 before Slocum is towed out to the offing by the tug Tigre where the spray wallows in a heaving sea without wind for more than a day. It’s a good view:

The light morning breeze, which scantily filled her sails when the tug let go the tow-line, soon died away altogether, and left her riding over a heavy swell, in full view of Table Mountain and the high peaks of the Cape of good Hope. For a while the grand scenery served to relieve the monotony. One of the old circumnavigators (Sir Francis Drake I think), when her first saw this magnificent pile, sang, “‘t is the fairest thing and the grandest cape I’ve seen in the whole circumference of the earth.”

On the second day, the swell shortens; Slocum interprets this, correctly, as meaning that a wind is on the way. He gets under sail and rapidly pulls away from the cape. Once more the pilot of the Pinta is at the helm and Slocum is able to spend long days avidly reading the books he picked up at Cape Town.

Fifteen days later, on 11Apr1898, Slocum is called on deck by the quack of a booby:

Very early that morning I was awakened by that rare bird, the booby, with its harsh quack, which I recognised at once as a call to go on deck; it was as much as to say, “Skipper, there’s land in sight.” I  tumbled out quickly and, sure enough, away ahead in the dim twilight, about twenty miles off, was St. Helena.


The sections of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here conclude Chapter XVIII 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

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Port Natal to Cape Town

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

Slocum sails from Port Natal [Durban] on 14Dec1897. The passage to Cape Town is about 800 miles. When the Spray is at her best it would take Slocum about one week to cover this distance; however, he expects the weather to be rough even though he has waited and waited for the southern summer to develop. His expectations are met:

On Christmas, 1897, I came to the pitch of the cape. On this day the Spray was trying to stand on her head, and she gave me every reason to believe that she would accomplish the feat before night. she began very early in the morning to pitch and toss about in a most unusual manner¹, and I have to record that, while I was at the end of the bowsprit reefing the jib, she ducked me under water three times for a Christmas box.

A large English steamer passing ran up the signal, “Wishing you a Merry Christmas.” I think the captain was a humorist; his own ship was throwing her propeller out of water.

Two days later the Spray is passing Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the African continent, 13 days from Port Natal and with 120 miles still to cover. The winds are more moderate now, but there is still one more gale to come. He shelters in Simons Bay [False Bay] until the wind slackens then he beats the Spray around the Cape of Good Hope, accurately named by early Portuguese navigators as the “Cape of Storms.”

Thirty-five nautical miles later, the Spray runs into calm water in the shelter of Table Mountain. Slocum is in reflective mood; despite sailing alone for so long he anchors in the bay, “clear of the bustle of commerce”, and takes a day to contemplate his achievement of negotiating both Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope single-handed.

The next day, he sails the Spray into dry dock where she remains for three months. Slocum does not record the date of his arrival at Cape Town; perhaps it was two or three days after passing Cape Agulhas, which would make it 29Dec or 30Dec1897.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here opens Chapter XVIII 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

Notes

1. To simulate pitching and tossing “in a most unusual manner”, I combined animations on all three axes by specifying AnimatedPitch, AnimatedRoll, and AnimatedYaw in the TourMaker Input File for this section of the passage.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Mauritius to Port Natal

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

Fully provisioned and rested, Slocum sails from Port Louis, Mauritius on 26Oct1897. At first the winds are light and he draws away from the island slowly. By the next day he is passing the island of Réunion. The sea is too rough to consider landing, but a pilot comes out of Galets on the north-west corner of the island when Slocum hands over a Mauritius paper.

A course is set to Cape St. Mary, the southernmost point of the island of Madagascar. The trade winds are weakening now and by 30Oct1897 Slocum finds himself becalmed:

The sloop was now drawing near the limits of the trade-wind, and the strong breeze that had carried her with free sheets the many thousands of miles from Sandy Cape, Australia, fell lighter each day until October 30, when it was altogether calm, and a motionless sea held her in a hushed world. I furled the sails at evening, sat down on deck, and enjoyed the vast stillness of the night.

On the following day, a light breeze carries the Spray past Cape St. Mary. About one week later and for the rest of the voyage to Port Natal (Durban) strong gales batter the yacht and heavy thunderstorms were prevalent¹.

Here the Spray suffered as much as she did anywhere, except off Cape Horn. The thunder and lightning preceding this gale were very heavy.

It takes the Spray 18 days to cover the 800 miles between Madagascar and Durban, an average of 45 miles per day made good. This is less than half the distance per day that she is capable of. In reality, the course is not a straight line because the “succession of gales of wind…drove her about in many directions.” So, the Spray is sailing as fast as ever, but on some crazy zig-zag course dictated by the winds².

Slocum stays in Port Natal for four weeks; he meets all the members of both yacht clubs and sails on the crack yacht Florence; he meets Henry Morton Stanley, the Welsh-born naturalised American who is a renowned explorer of Africa; and he encounters a trio of men who believe that the world is flat. They visit Slocum actually expecting to find information that will support their hypothesis. He must disappoint them:

With the advice [to them] to call up some ghost of the dark ages for research, I went ashore, and left these three wise men poring over the Spray‘s track on a chart of the world, which, however, proved nothing to them, for it was on Mercator’s projection, and behold, it was “flat”.

The Spray sails from Port Natal on 14Dec1897 and is once more: “off on her alone,” as they say in Australia.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here concludes Chapter XVII 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

Notes

1. Thunder and lightning or rather lightning followed by thunder was a fresh challenge to my animation skills. Again, I used models created in Google SketchUp to represent the effect of lightning; I added to this a couple of thunder tracks from the WavePad sound effect library. Normally I would try to enhance TourMaker by adding a directive that would generate the thunder and lightning automatically. This time I hand-coded it. Each lightning model flashes on and off twice (by setting visibility=1 then visibility=0 ) with each period of visibility lasting about 100ms. A few seconds later the thunder-clap audio is output.

2. I realised that a better animation of a rolling yacht would result from oscillating the angle of roll about the current ‘Roll’ setting, rather than about the vertical. This would create the effect of the yacht being heeled over in the wind while  waves introduce an additional periodic rolling motion. I have amended TourMaker accordingly

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Rodriguez to Mauritius

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

Slocum sails from Rodriguez on 16Sep1897 and the Spray covers the 330 nautical miles to Mauritius in a little over three days. Again there is disbelief followed by surprise when it is learnt that he is sailing alone. The port doctor considers he must be well to have sailed so far alone and gives him free pratique – the licence that grants access to a port which certifies that the ship is free of contagious diseases.

Once more there is a keen interest in his voyage; he gives a lecture at the opera house [Port Louis Theatre?] and he meets the local dignitaries including the mayor, the governor, and the American consul.

He stays on the island for a little over 5 weeks — from 19Sep to 26Oct:

At Mauritius, where I drew a long breath, the Spray rested her wings, it being the season of fine weather…It was still winter off stormy Cape of Good Hope, but the storms might whistle there. I determined to see it out in milder Mauritius, visiting Rose Hill, Curipepe [Curepipe], and other places on the island.

He visits the governor’s residence at Reduit and, at the flower conservatory near Moka, a botanist names a newly discovered plant Slocum.

A group of seven young ladies persuade Slocum to take them for a sail “tomorrow”. The problem, he soon remembers, is that he has already agreed to dine with the harbour-master, Captain Wilson on the same day. He hatches a plan to take the women to sea but to make the voyage as rough and uncomfortable as possible so they will want to turn back, allowing him to make his dinner appointment.

The plan backfires:

We sailed almost out of sight of Mauritius, and they just stood up and laughed at seas tumbling aboard, while I was at the helm making the worst weather of it I could…The more the Spray tried to make these young ladies sea-sick, the more they clapped their hands and said: “How lovely it is!” and “How beautifully she skims over the sea!” and “How beautiful our island appears from the distance!” and they still cried “Go on!”

He has to sail over 15 miles out to sea before they are ready to return. The yacht soon reaches the island but Slocum makes the mistake of sailing close inshore towards Port Louis:

…for as we came abreast of Tombo [Tombeau] Bay it enchanted my crew. “Oh, let’s anchor here!” they cried.

Slocum doesn’t get the Spray back to Port Louis until the following day for the young ladies insist on going for a swim in the surf and then sleeping on board overnight. They sleep on deck under a tent of sail.

Next day, Captain Wilson himself appears in the launch to tow them all back to Port Louis.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here opens Chapter XVII 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

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Keeling Cocos to Rodriguez Island

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

After five weeks at the Keeling Cocos islands Slocum points the Spray in the direction of Rodriguez Island. On this course the wind and the seas are abeam which makes for an uncomfortable voyage; the yawl rolls unpleasantly and Slocum is drenched when he ventures on deck; yet the Spray holds her course faithfully.

A discrepancy appears between Slocum’s assessment of his position by mental calculation and what the log is telling him. He trails a four-bladed rotator which gives him a measure of the Spray‘s speed through the water. After 15 days the log  differs from his own estimated position by 150 miles. Distrusting the instrument, and knowing his ship well, he “kept an eye lifting for land.”

He notices a stationary patch of cloud beyond the horizon while the clouds of the trade-wind float on their way. He says: “this was a sign of something”; that something, of course, being an island with the cloud forming above its mountains. Sure enough, as he sails on, the dark outline of Rodriguez Island appears ahead.

Hauling in the log, he finds that two of its impeller blades are bent out of shape, probably crushed by a shark; this explains the discrepancy and Slocum’s fine judgement is vindicated once again.

He arrives on the windward side of Rodriguez which is not very welcoming; he hauls around to the leeward side of the island where a pilot comes out to the Spray to guide her through the narrow channel between coral reefs that leads to the inner harbour of Port Mathurin, the village that is the capital of the island.

Slocum has looked forward with relish to this land of plenty and a return to relative civilisation:

For many days I had studied the charts and counted the time of my arrival at this spot, as one might his entrance to the Islands of the Blessed, looking upon it as the terminus of the last long run, made irksome by the want of many things which, from this time on, I could keep well supplied.

On the first evening ashore, in the land of napkins and cut glass, I saw before me still the ghosts of hempen towels and of mugs with handles knocked off. Instead of tossing on the sea, however, as I might have been, here was I in a bright hall, surrounded by sparkling wit, and dining with the governor of the island!

Slocum stays on Rodriguez for eight days, replenishing his supplies with, among other items, sweet potatoes and pomegranates. It’s still too soon to head for the Cape of Good Hope, so the next step of the voyage is the short hop to Mauritius…


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here concludes Chapter XVI 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

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Christmas Island to Keeling Cocos

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

It’s 550 miles to the Keeling Cocos island group from Christmas Island. The atoll represents a low-lying target less than ten miles across, so Slocum is aware that careful navigation is required. With his old tin clock that has only a working hour hand this will clearly be a challenge.

Using decades of sailing experience, he reads the future in the sky and in the waves. Seeing high cloud that cuts across the trade-wind pattern, he deduces that a storm is brewing in the direction of the Cape of Good Hope and adjusts his course accordingly to allow for the different combination of wind and current that this brings.

Five days later, his intuition is rewarded when he sights the coconut trees of Keeling Cocos ahead while he is half way up the mast. The relief is so great that he slides down the mast, sits on the deck, and “gives way to his emotions.” He has achieved a remarkable feat and part of it belongs to the Spray‘s ability to hold a course :

I didn’t touch the helm, for with the current and heave of the sea the sloop found herself at the end of the run absolutely in the fairway of the channel. You couldn’t have beaten it in the navy!

Slocum stays on the islands for five weeks; remember he’s allowed himself a leisurely pace so he doesn’t arrive too soon off the Cape of Good Hope. Apart from that, why shouldn’t he linger here? After all: “If there is a paradise on this earth it is Keeling.”

The Spray is hauled ashore for some routine maintenance; then his attempt to haul her afloat fails, and the children of the island are delighted to think that a kpeting (a crab) is holding her down by the keel.

Later, Slocum decides it would be a good idea to ditch a few tons of cement ballast and in its place to carry away some of the giant clams called Tridacna. What isn’t such a good idea is to set off across the bay with one of the locals in:

…a rickety bateau that was fitted with a rotten sail, and this blew away in mid-channel in a squall, that sent us drifting helplessly to sea, where we should have been incontinently lost. With the whole ocean before us to leeward, I was dismayed to see, while we drifted, that there was not a paddle or an oar in the boat! There was an anchor, to be sure, but not enough rope to tie a cat, and we were already in deep water. By great good fortune, however, there was a pole. Plying this as a paddle, with the utmost energy, and by the merest accidental flaw in the wind to favour us, the trap of a boat was worked into shoal water, where we could touch bottom and push her ashore.

After this escape, he presses on with his Tridacna plan but uses a safer boat to gather them.


The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here opens Chapter XVI 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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