JOSHUA SLOCUM 1844 - 1910




The American sea captain Josha Slocum, was born at Wilmot Township, Nova Scotia.  He went to sea as a cook at the age of 12 after running away from home.  In 1869 he was master of a trading schooner on hte coast of California and a year later commanded the barque Washington in which, after a voyage to Australia, he sailed to set up a salmon fishery in Alaska.


After an adventurous career as a merchant captain, including building a steamer of 150 tons on the jungle coast of Manila, Slocum became master and part owner of the full-rigged ship Northern Light, one of the finest American sailing vessels afloat at the time.  He then purchased the small barque Aquidneck in which he made several voyages before she was lost in 1886 on a sandbank off the coast of Brazil.


Joshua's second wife and two sons from his first marriage were still on board at the time of the wreck.  From the wreckage of his ship he completed a 35 foot canoe which he had been building on board before the incident.  He named this vessel Liberdade and brought his wife and two sons safely back to New York after a voyage of over 5,000 miles.


On his arrival in 1892, he began to write his first book, Voyage of the Liberdade, which was published in 1894 While Joshua was writing this book he was offered another vessel by a friendly sea captain and discovered her to be lying under canvas some distance from the sea in a field at Fairhaven, where she had lain for the past seven years.  This boat was the wreck of the sloop Spray.  Slocum bought her, rebuilt her with oak which he felled, shaped and treated himself and in 1895 left Boston in her.  His subsequent circumnavigation by way of Gibraltar, the Magellan Straits, Australia and South Africa, is believed to be the first single handed voyage round the world.


Having little money he supported himself by lectures at his various ports of call, earning enough to keep his family and cover his expenses.  He arrived back at Newport, Rhode Island in 1898, after which he wrote a second book about his experiences entitled: "Sailing Alone Around the World" published in 1900, which has become a classic of its kind through its simple direct style, wit and dry humour.


In November 1909 at the age of 65 Joshua set out on another lone voyage from Bristol Rhode Island, but was never heard of again.  It is thought the Spray was either run down by a steamer in mid-ocean or struck by a whale and sank.  This is because Spray was too sound a boat and Slocum too experienced a mariner to have been lost from any other cause.


The Liberdade, in which Slocum and his family returned to New York after the wreck of the Aquidneck is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington USA.

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