Thursday, July 01, 2010

Obeying Neptune's Laws

Sailing Alone Around the World
by Joshua Slocum

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 . . . I studied with diligence Neptune's laws, and these laws I tried to obey when I sailed overseas; it was worth the while.(p 234)

More than one hundred years ago at the end of the century prior to the last a fifty-one year old man set sail for a trip around the world.  Joshua Slocum capped his sea-going career with this trip in a sail boat, named The Spray, that he built himself and, upon his return, he memorialized his trip by writing the narrative of his trip, Sailing Alone around the World.  His career had waned with the gradual demise of large sail-going ships and he put all of his years of experience on them, plus some help from friends and strangers along the way, into this voyage.  The story he told about it still has power to grip the reader's imagination yet today.

Many incidents are shared as he travels from place to place and is in and out of danger on several occasions, mostly due to the vagaries of mother nature.  Some of those incidents were survived mainly through his own good luck in combination with his sailing experience, for it is clear that nature is more powerful than any sailing vessel, surely one so small as his single manned craft.  Early on in his voyage he is chased by pirates, but eludes them and goes on to enjoy the hospitality of the British at Gibraltar.  Their would be more hospitality that he would experience during his long three year trip and there would be a deadly encounter with a native, but no more pirates.  I was impressed with his devotion to reading which he kept up both with books that he took with him and books that he obtained along the way.   This was undoubtedly a life-long habit and it must have been helpful as he sat down to narrate his travels upon his return.  I also marveled at the ebb and flow of time as the journey seemed to go more swiftly than one would expect a span of three years to unfold.  There was one theme that grew over the course of the story, Joshua was not alone after all.  His sailing ship, The Spray, had become much more than a mere container bobbing on the waves.  No, it had become his close companion whose heart and soul was one with Joshua - a wonderful occurrence that only seafarers and readers could appreciate.  At the conclusion of the book I had admiration for this humble man who took on a challenge that would defeat most men much younger than his fifty-one years and who succeeded. 

If the Spray discovered no continents on her voyage, it may be that there were no more continents to be discovered; she did not seek new worlds, or sail to powwow about the dangers of the seas. The sea has been much maligned. To find one's way to lands already discovered is a good thing (p 234)

Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. The Adventure Library. 1995 (1900)

1 comment:

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