SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD (complete 1+2) (3/3)
From Captain Joshua Slocum@21:1/5 to All on Fri Jan 25 04:19:21 2019
[continued from previous message]
or since in all my life than I was at the finish of that day. Too
fatigued to sleep, I rolled about with the motion of the vessel
till near midnight, when I made shift to dress my fish and prepare
a dish of tea. I fully realized now, if I had not before, that the
voyage ahead would call for exertions ardent and lasting. On August
27 nothing could be seen of the Moor, or his country either, except
two peaks, away in the east through the clear atmosphere of
morning. Soon after the sun rose even these were obscured by haze,
much to my satisfaction.
The wind, for a few days following my escape from the pirates, blew
a steady but moderate gale, and the sea, though agitated into long
rollers, was not uncomfortably rough or dangerous, and while
sitting in my cabin I could hardly realize that any sea was running
at all, so easy was the long, swinging motion of the sloop over the
waves. All distracting uneasiness and excitement being now over, I
was once more alone with myself in the realization that I was on
the mighty sea and in the hands of the elements. But I was happy,
and was becoming more and more interested in the voyage.
Columbus, in the Santa Maria , sailing these seas more than four
hundred years before, was not so happy as I, nor so sure of success
in what he had undertaken. His first troubles at sea had already
begun. His crew had managed, by foul play or otherwise, to break
the ship's rudder while running before probably just such a gale as
the Spray had passed through; and there was dissension on the Santa
Maria , something that was unknown on the Spray .
After three days of squalls and shifting winds I threw myself down
to rest and sleep, while, with helm lashed, the sloop sailed
steadily on her course.
September 1, in the early morning, land-clouds rising ahead told of
the Canary Islands not far away. A change in the weather came next
day: storm-clouds stretched their arms across the sky; from the
east, to all appearances, might come a fierce harmattan, or from
the south might come the fierce hurricane. Every point of the
compass threatened a wild storm. My attention was turned to reefing
sails, and no time was to be lost over it, either, for the sea in a
moment was confusion itself, and I was glad to head the sloop three
points or more away from her true course that she might ride safely
over the waves. I was now scudding her for the channel between
Africa and the island of Fuerteventura, the easternmost of the
Canary Islands, for which I was on the lookout. At 2 P.M., the
weather becoming suddenly fine, the island stood in view, already
abeam to starboard, and not more than seven miles off.
Fuerteventura is twenty-seven hundred feet high, and in fine
weather is visible many leagues away.
The wind freshened in the night, and the Spray had a fine run
through the channel. By daylight, September 3, she was twenty-five
miles clear of all the islands, when a calm ensued, which was the
precursor of another gale of wind that soon came on, bringing with
it dust from the African shore. It howled dismally while it lasted,
and though it was not the season of the harmattan, the sea in the
course of an hour was discolored with a reddish-brown dust. The air
remained thick with flying dust all the afternoon, but the wind,
veering northwest at night, swept it back to land, and afforded the
Spray once more a clear sky. Her mast now bent under a strong,
steady pressure, and her bellying sail swept the sea as she rolled
scuppers under, courtesying to the waves. These rolling waves
thrilled me as they tossed my ship, passing quickly under her keel.
This was grand sailing.
September 4, the wind, still fresh, blew from the north-northeast,
and the sea surged along with the sloop. About noon a steamship, a bullock-droger, from the river Plate hove in sight, steering
northeast, and making bad weather of it. I signaled her, but got no
answer. She was plunging into the head sea and rolling in a most
astonishing manner, and from the way she yawed one might have said
that a wild steer was at the helm.
On the morning of September 6 I found three flying-fish on deck,
and a fourth one down the fore-scuttle as close as possible to the
frying-pan. It was the best haul yet, and afforded me a sumptuous
breakfast and dinner.
The Spray had now settled down to the tradewinds and to the
business of her voyage. Later in the day another droger hove in
sight, rolling as badly as her predecessor. I threw out no flag to
this one, but got the worst of it for passing under her lee. She
was, indeed, a stale one! And the poor cattle, how they bellowed!
The time was when ships passing one another at sea backed their
topsails and had a "gam," and on parting fired guns; but those good
old days have gone. People have hardly time nowadays to speak even
on the broad ocean, where news is news, and as for a salute of
guns, they cannot afford the powder. There are no poetry-enshrined
freighters on the sea now; it is a prosy life when we have no time
to bid one another good morning.
My ship, running now in the full swing of the trades, left me days
to myself for rest and recuperation. I employed the time in reading
and writing, or in whatever I found to do about the rigging and the
sails to keep them all in order. The cooking was always done
quickly, and was a small matter, as the bill of fare consisted
mostly of flying-fish, hot biscuits and butter, potatoes, coffee
and cream - dishes readily prepared.
On September 10 the Spray passed the island of St. Antonio, the northwesternmost of the Cape Verdes, close aboard. The landfall was
wonderfully true, considering that no observations for longitude
had been made. The wind, northeast, as the sloop drew by the
island, was very squally, but I reefed her sails snug, and steered
broad from the highland of blustering St. Antonio. Then leaving the
Cape Verde Islands out of sight astern, I found myself once more
sailing a lonely sea and in a solitude supreme all around. When I
slept I dreamed that I was alone. This feeling never left me; but,
sleeping or waking, I seemed always to know the position of the
sloop, and I saw my vessel moving across the chart, which became a
picture before me.
One night while I sat in the cabin under this spell, the profound
stillness all about was broken by human voices alongside! I sprang
instantly to the deck, startled beyond my power to tell. Passing
close under lee, like an apparition, was a white bark under full
sail. The sailors on board of her were hauling on ropes to brace
the yards, which just cleared the sloop's mast as she swept by. No
one hailed from the white-winged flier, but I heard some one on
board say that he saw lights on the sloop, and that he made her out
to be a fisherman. I sat long on the starlit deck that night,
thinking of ships, and watching the constellations on their voyage.
On the following day, September 13, a large four-masted ship passed
some distance to windward, heading north.
The sloop was now rapidly drawing toward the region of doldrums,
and the force of the trade-winds was lessening. I could see by the
ripples that a counter-current had set in. This I estimated to be
about sixteen miles a day. In the heart of the counter-stream the
rate was more than that setting eastward.
September 14 a lofty three-masted ship, heading north, was seen
from the masthead. Neither this ship nor the one seen yesterday was
within signal distance, yet it was good even to see them. On the
following day heavy rain-clouds rose in the south, obscuring the
sun; this was ominous of doldrums. On the 16th the Spray entered
this gloomy region, to battle with squalls and to be harassed by
fitful calms; for this is the state of the elements between the
northeast and the southeast trades, where each wind, struggling in
turn for mastery, expends its force whirling about in all
directions. Making this still more trying to one's nerve and
patience, the sea was tossed into confused cross-lumps and fretted
by eddying currents. As if something more were needed to complete a
sailor's discomfort in this state, the rain poured down in torrents
day and night. The Spray struggled and tossed for ten days, making
only three hundred miles on her course in all that time. I didn't
On September 23 the fine schooner Nantasket of Boston, from Bear
River, for the river Plate, lumber-laden, and just through the
doldrums, came up with the Spray , and her captain passing a few
words, she sailed on. Being much fouled on the bottom by shell-
fish, she drew along with her fishes which had been following the
Spray , which was less provided with that sort of food. Fishes will
always follow a foul ship. A barnacle-grown log adrift has the same
attraction for deep-sea fishes. One of this little school of
deserters was a dolphin that had followed the Spray about a
thousand miles, and had been content to eat scraps of food thrown
overboard from my table; for, having been wounded, it could not
dart through the sea to prey on other fishes. I had become
accustomed to seeing the dolphin, which I knew by its scars, and
missed it whenever it took occasional excursions away from the
sloop. One day, after it had been off some hours, it returned in
company with three yellowtails, a sort of cousin to the dolphin.
This little school kept together, except when in danger and when
foraging about the sea. Their lives were often threatened by hungry
sharks that came round the vessel, and more than once they had
narrow escapes. Their mode of escape interested me greatly, and I
passed hours watching them. They would dart away, each in a
different direction, so that the wolf of the sea, the shark,
pursuing one, would be led away from the others; then after a while
they would all return and rendezvous under one side or the other of
the sloop. Twice their pursuers were diverted by a tin pan, which I
towed astern of the sloop, and which was mistaken for a bright
fish; and while turning, in the peculiar way that sharks have when
about to devour their prey, I shot them through the head.
Their precarious life seemed to concern the yellowtails very
little, if at all. All living beings, without doubt, are afraid of
death. Nevertheless, some of the species I saw huddle together as
though they knew they were created for the larger fishes, and
wished to give the least possible trouble to their captors. I have
seen, on the other hand, whales swimming in a circle around a
school of herrings, and with mighty exertion "bunching" them
together in a whirlpool set in motion by their flukes, and when the
small fry were all whirled nicely together, one or the other of the
leviathans, lunging through the center with open jaws, take in a
boat-load or so at a single mouthful. Off the Cape of Good Hope I
saw schools of sardines or other small fish being treated in this
way by great numbers of cavally-fish. There was not the slightest
chance of escape for the sardines, while the cavally circled round
and round, feeding from the edge of the mass. It was interesting to
note how rapidly the small fry disappeared; and though it was
repeated before my eyes over and over, I could hardly perceive the
capture of a single sardine, so dexterously was it done.
Along the equatorial limit of the southeast trade winds the air was
heavily charged with electricity, and there was much thunder and
lightning. It was hereabout I remembered that, a few years before,
the American ship Alert was destroyed by lightning. Her people, by
wonderful good fortune, were rescued on the same day and brought to
Pernambuco, where I then met them.
On September 25, in the latitude of 5 degrees N., longitude 26
degrees 30' W., I spoke the ship North Star of London. The great
ship was out forty-eight days from Norfolk, Virginia, and was bound
for Rio, where we met again about two months later. The Spray was
now thirty days from Gibraltar.
The Spray's next companion of the voyage was a swordfish, that swam
alongside, showing its tall fin out of the water, till I made a
stir for my harpoon, when it hauled its black flag down and
disappeared. September 30, at half-past eleven in the morning, the
Spray crossed the equator in longitude 29 degrees 30' W. At noon
she was two miles south of the line. The southeast trade-winds,
met, rather light, in about 4 degrees N., gave her sails now a
stiff full sending her handsomely over the sea toward the coast of
Brazil, where on October 5, just north of Olinda Point, without
further incident, she made the land, casting anchor in Pernambuco
harbor about noon: forty days from Gibraltar, and all well on
board. Did I tire of the voyage in all that time? Not a bit of it!
I was never in better trim in all my life, and was eager for the
more perilous experience of rounding the Horn.
It was not at all strange in a life common to sailors that, having
already crossed the Atlantic twice and being now half-way from
Boston to the Horn, I should find myself still among friends. My
determination to sail westward from Gibraltar not only enabled me
to escape the pirates of the Red Sea, but, in bringing me to
Pernambuco, landed me on familiar shores. I had made many voyages
to this and other ports in Brazil. In 1893 I was employed as master
to take the famous Ericsson ship Destroyer from New York to Brazil
to go against the rebel Mello and his party. The Destroyer , by the
way, carried a submarine cannon of enormous length.
In the same expedition went the Nictheroy , the ship purchased by
the United States government during the Spanish war and renamed the
Buffalo . The Destroyer was in many ways the better ship of the
two, but the Brazilians in their curious war sank her themselves at
Bahia. With her sank my hope of recovering wages due me; still, I
could but try to recover, for to me it meant a great deal. But now
within two years the whirligig of time had brought the Mello party
into power, and although it was the legal government which had
employed me, the so-called "rebels" felt under less obligation to
me than I could have wished.
During these visits to Brazil I had made the acquaintance of Dr.
Perera, owner and editor of "El Commercio Jornal," and soon after
the Spray was safely moored in Upper Topsail Reach, the doctor, who
is a very enthusiastic yachtsman, came to pay me a visit and to
carry me up the waterway of the lagoon to his country residence.
The approach to his mansion by the waterside was guarded by his
armada, a fleet of boats including a Chinese sampan, a Norwegian
pram, and a Cape Ann dory, the last of which he obtained from the
Destroyer . The doctor dined me often on good Brazilian fare, that
I might, as he said, "salle gordo" for the voyage; but he found
that even on the best I fattened slowly.
Fruits and vegetables and all other provisions necessary for the
voyage having been taken in, on the 23d of October I unmoored and
made ready for sea. Here I encountered one of the unforgiving Mello
faction in the person of the collector of customs, who charged the
Spray tonnage dues when she cleared, notwithstanding that she
sailed with a yacht license and should have been exempt from port
charges. Our consul reminded the collector of this and of the fact -
without much diplomacy, I thought - that it was I who brought the
Destroyer to Brazil. "Oh, yes," said the bland collector; "we
remember it very well," for it was now in a small way his turn.
Mr. Lungrin, a merchant, to help me out of the trifling difficulty,
offered to freight the Spray with a cargo of gunpowder for Bahia,
which would have put me in funds; and when the insurance companies
refused to take the risk on cargo shipped on a vessel manned by a
crew of only one, he offered to ship it without insurance, taking
all the risk himself. This was perhaps paying me a greater
compliment than I deserved. The reason why I did not accept the
business was that in so doing I found that I should vitiate my
yacht license and run into more expense for harbor dues around the
world than the freight would amount to. Instead of all this,
another old merchant friend came to my assistance, advancing the
While at Pernambuco I shortened the boom, which had been broken
when off the coast of Morocco, by removing the broken piece, which
took about four feet off the inboard end; I also refitted the jaws.
On October 24,1895, a fine day even as days go in Brazil, the Spray
sailed, having had abundant good cheer. Making about one hundred
miles a day along the coast, I arrived at Rio de Janeiro November
5, without any event worth mentioning, and about noon cast anchor
near Villaganon, to await the official port visit. On the following
day I bestirred myself to meet the highest lord of the admiralty
and the ministers, to inquire concerning the matter of wages due me
from the beloved Destroyer . The high official I met said:
"Captain, so far as we are concerned, you may have the ship, and if
you care to accept her we will send an officer to show you where
she is." I knew well enough where she was at that moment. The top
of her smoke-stack being awash in Bahia, it was more than likely
that she rested on the bottom there. I thanked the kind officer,
but declined his offer.
The Spray , with a number of old shipmasters on board, sailed about
the harbor of Rio the day before she put to sea. As I had decided
to give the Spray a yawl rig for the tempestuous waters of
Patagonia, I here placed on the stern a semicircular brace to
support a jigger mast. These old captains inspected the Spray's
rigging, and each one contributed something to her outfit. Captain
Jones, who had acted as my interpreter at Rio, gave her an anchor,
and one of the steamers gave her a cable to match it. She never
dragged Jones's anchor once on the voyage, and the cable not only
stood the strain on a lee shore, but when towed off Cape Horn
helped break combing seas astern that threatened to board her.
To succeed, however, in anything at all, one should go
understandingly about his work and be prepared for every emergency.
I see, as I look back over my own small achievement, a kit of not
too elaborate carpenters' tools, a tin clock, and some carpet-
tacks, not a great many, to facilitate the enterprise as already
mentioned in the story. But above all to be taken into account were
some years of schooling, where I studied with diligence Neptune's
laws, and these laws I tried to obey when I sailed overseas; it was
worth the while. And now, without having wearied my friends, I
hope, with detailed scientific accounts, theories, or deductions, I
will only say that I have endeavored to tell just the story of the
adventure itself. This, in my own poor way, having been done, I now
moor ship, weather-bitt cables, and leave the sloop Spray, for the
present, safe in port.
One day you will work out why you have been sent this.