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

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

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:

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: Devonport to South Solitary Island

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

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By 18Apr1897, Joshua Slocum judges that the southern summer is over and it is time to head north away from the winter which is “rolling up from the south”. He sails from Devonport in bracing winds that carry him quickly around Cape Howe at the south-east corner of mainland Australia. He exchanges signals again with the residents of Cape Bundooro and then has a fine sail with clear skies to Port Jackson, Sydney, where he anchors in Watson’s Bay, close to the entrance to Sydney Harbour. He is impressed by the number of boats of all shapes and sizes working and having fun in the harbour:

The harbor from the heads to Parramatta, up the river, was more than ever alive with boats and yachts of every class. It was, indeed, a scene of animation hardly equalled in any other part of the world.

A few days later the weather is much rougher and a steamship, struggling into harbour from the heads, while Slocum is ashore, collides with the Spray and rips away her anchor and chain. The captain of the steamship takes the Spray in tow to pull her out of further danger and she is returned later by some of his crew¹:

But what yawing about she made of it when she came with a stranger at the helm! Her old friend the pilot of the Pinta would not have been guilty of such lubberly work. But to my great delight they got her into a berth…

Slocum sails from Sydney on 09May1897 in fair weather and with strong winds from the south-west. He falls into an easy routine, reading day and night, and occasionally trimming the sails. He remembers the struggle, several months earlier, when he had to fight southwards past these headlands, to Newcastle; he compares his life now with that of the old circumnavigators. He feels that he’s having rather an easy time of it².

Ten miles short of Port Macquarie, Slocum comes upon a yacht in distress. She is manned by the three most incompetent crew he has ever encountered; their appreciation of the perilous situation they are in is scant and their ineptitude has resulted in the loss of their sounding lead and their dinghy. They refuse his offers of help; he wants to tow them to Port Macquarie but they are not interested. He reads later, in a Cooktown newspaper, that the yacht was lost off Crescent Head but the crew was saved.

Pressing on, Slocum comes up to South Solitary Island, a “dreary stone heap in the ocean just off the coast of New South Wales”, and exchanges signals with the people on it. By way of identification, he raises the Stars and Stripes and assumes that the people ashore know all about his voyage for their next message is simply: “Wishing you a pleasant voyage”, and Slocum writes: “…which at that moment I was having.”

The section of Joshua Slocum’s journey reported here continues Chapter XIV of Sailing Alone Around the World, and this post is a trailer for the adventure that I am retelling in Google Earth at:


  1. To get the Spray to yaw as she was sailed back to Watson’s Bay by her lubberly crew, I needed to implement an ‘AnimatedYaw’ directive in TourMaker. This function oscillates the heading of the model, by the number of degrees in the ‘angle’ parameter, to either side of the calculated bearing between the two Placemarks that define the model’s movement over the ground.
  2. Slocum had on board “a full set of admiralty sheet-charts of the coast and Barrier Reef”. It’s worth taking a look at the journal of the man who first surveyed the eastern coastline of Australia and created the first version of the charts that enabled Slocum to have a relatively carefree voyage in these waters: Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Round the World.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012

Joshua Slocum in Google Earth: the Azores to Gibraltar

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Joshua Slocum sailed single-handed around the world aboard his yacht Spray between April 1895 and June 1898. He was the first to achieve such a feat.

You can follow the voyage at:

Today I added Chapter IV of Slocum’s book to the presentation.

Between Faial and Pico

Slocum leaves Horta on 24Jul1895; at first the winds are light but only a few miles out the Spray is almost dismasted by a violent squall running down off the mountains. After emergency repairs and some help from a local ‘sailorly chap’ he is soon on his way.

Through the generosity of the Azoreans his ship is laden with fruit; Slocum partakes freely of the plums and also digs into a Pico white cheese given him by General Manning, the American Consul-General; the result: violent stomach cramps and great pain which lasts for two days.

Slocum is delirious and convinced that he is visited by the pilot of Columbus’s ship Pinta who steers his yacht through the night.

The apparition at the wheel

I am the pilot of the Pinta come to aid you. Lie quiet, senor captain, and I will guide your ship tonight. You have a calentura but you will be all right tomorrow.

Slocum realises that his boat is in fact capable of sailing steadily on a course with very little attention. His health improves and so does the weather. He catches a turtle and hauls it on board using the halyard for the mainsail wrapped around a flipper.

He awoke with my harpoon through his neck, if he awoke at all…the turtle-steak was good.

The Spray hits another gale and her jib is ripped to shreds; progress slows to 51 miles per day. On 04Aug1895 Slocum writes wryly:

Early the next morning, August 4, I discovered Spain. I saw fires on shore, and knew that the country was inhabited.

Having just finished my project of Captain Cook’s first voyage round the world, I recognise this immediately as a phrase that Cook often uses in his journal during the circumnavigation of New Zealand and when exploring the east coast of Australia.

I discovered Spain. I saw fires on shore and knew that the land was inhabited.

From Trafalgar, where he makes his landfall, it’s a short trip for Slocum and Spray to reach Gibraltar. He anchors by the old mole among the ‘native’ craft where it looks rough and uncomfortable…

At anchor by the old mole in Gibraltar

…but is soon towed by a British steam-launch into a more comfortable berth by the arsenal.

Slocum enjoys British hospitality in Gibraltar for 3 weeks; the ship is repaired; he attends a round of parties and takes a trip to the Moroccan shore on a fast torpedo-boat.

At each place, and all about, I felt the friendly grasp of a manly hand, that lent me vital strength to pass the coming long days at sea.

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 26, 2012 at 8:40 pm

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