A Life Alone In The Vast Sea – Naresh Kumar

Joshua SlocumOn April 24, 1895 Captain Joshua Slocum set to sailing.

He was the first man to sail alone in a small boat, ‘spray’ around the world. He repaired the old boat and started on his historical mission. This is the story of Captain Joshua who braved the torrents of sea all alone.

Barbarous Red Indians had surrounded the ‘spray’. They were shouting, give whatever you have. The only man visible on the boat ‘spray’, was replying, “No, no…” But they were not listening to him. They rowed their boat nearer to ‘spray’. One of the men climbed up to ‘spray’. He was Black Pedro, a criminal, who was wanted by police for murdering many innocent people. He went inside the cabin. Now the owner of the ‘spray’ got frightened. However, he didn’t lose his mental balance. He disguised himself and fired at their beats. The Red Indians now got frightened. They could see three men on the boat. Black Pedro ran away. The owner of the boat saved himself. This intelligent sailor was nobody else but Captain Joshua. He created the illusion that there were three sailors by once changing his cloffies, and at other time by making a puppet dressed in sailors uniform. Black Pedro thought that there were three sailors so he ran away.

Thus Joshua saved his life and was able to complete his 46000 mile long sea journey.

A Life Alone In The Vast Sea - 2Joshua started his journey on 26th April, 1895 from Boston on 36 foot long boat called ‘spray’. He was the first one to travel across the sea in a small boat for three years all alone.

Captain Joshua was a rare adventurer who decided to sail across the sea all alone in an old boat. His decision was incidental. Once in 1892 he had gone to his friend’s place in Boston. There he saw a boat lying useless since last seven years. Suddenly 48 years old Jashua behaved like a youth of 20. He decided to sail across the sea in that boat. However, before embarking on his adventure, he repaired the boat and for many days he did fishing on this boat so as to acclimatize the boat with the sea.

He started sailing in that boat in 1895. His first stoppage was Gloucester harbour. He stayed there for a fortnight and bought necessary items. Next he went to West Port Harbour in Nova Scotia, where he stayed for a week and secured all his goods for the boisterous Atlantic.

The first week in the Atlantic went by peacefully. To forget his loneliness, Joshua made moon his friend, talked to moon loudly, sing songs. His loneliness used to wear off only with the high gale. During gales he used to get busy in controlling the boat from turning upside down but after the gale, the same solitude used to return. By July 10, ‘spray’ reached 1200 miles east of Cape Sable. He had covered this distance with the speed of one hundred fifty miles per day in first eight days. By this speed he soon reached island of Fayal and took four days rest. He refused the services of a young pilot, because he wanted to experience the happiness of sailing all alone.

A Life Alone In The Vast Sea - 3On July 24, he again started on his adventure. But it was an unlucky day for him. After having a good feast of cheese, butter and plums he suffered from stomach ache. On top of it there came a tidal storm. He had become nearly unconscious while fighting on two fronts when an unknown person helped him. Had that person not helped him it was sure that ‘spray’ would have disappeared into the vast sea. That unknown person helped him to sail till Joshua was again on his feet. And surprisingly, that man disappeared as he had come. To Joshua this was a mystery and it remained a mystery all his life. He could never come to know who that unknown kind friend was?

On 4th August ‘spray’ reached Spain with the speed of 51 miles per day. At Gibralter, Joshua was given a warm welcome and this love and respect rejuvenated his spirits.

To avoid any encounter with the sea robbers in Suez Canal and Red Sea, he changed his route to Cape Horn and the Western. But even this route was not devoid of longshore pirates and thieves. He was followed by pirates. But nature helped him to outwit them. A strong wave overtook the ‘spray’ and shook her every timber. At the same time pirates were thrown back. Joshua’s life was again saved. After this incident the journey was smooth for three-four weeks. On 5th October he reached Brazil and stopped at Pernambuco harbour. He met his friend Dr. Perera and started on his journey on 24th October. Dr. Perera supplied him with the eatables.

With the sea being calm, Joshua’s boat was now travelling with the speed of 110 mile per hour. Till 15th December he had a good sailing. But at Uruguay he committed a mistake. In an effort to escape storm, he pounched on a hard sand. The boat lost her shoe and part of her false keel. He had to anchor at Maldonado. The agents of the Royal Mail Steamship company repaired the boat in free. By 29th December Joshua reached Buenos Aires, and celebrated Christmas at his old friend’s place. He had to stay in Buenos Aires for quite sometime as the repaired boat was still not ready or the daring sea journey.

A Life Alone In The Vast Sea - 4On 26th January, 1896, ‘spray’ was finally fit to sail. Joshua once again started on his voyage. Twice he was encircled by the barbarous people. The second time Joshua could only save his life by giving all the eatables to them. And the third time again he was rescued by nature. A strong wind blew away the boats of thieves into pieces and ‘spray’ sailed ahead without any mishap.

For three days and three nights ‘spray’ kept on turning with the storm. The storm threw her away from the Cape of Horn. Once again Joshua had to face Black Pedro. The latter recognized Joshua and didn’t attack Joshua for fear of the gun. So once again Joshua was saved and he finally entered Pacific ocean.

After sailing for so many days Joshua anchored on July 16 at Apia in the kingdom of Samoa. Joshua organized a feast on his boat and invited the king. On August 20, ‘spray’ stood out of the harbour and continued its journey.

Joshua sailed for 42 days continuously. On October 10, ‘spray’ arrived Sydney. This was the place where Joshua had many friends. He stayed here for many weeks. He sailed from Sydney only on December 6. He went to Mauritius in Indian ocean and from there he sailed towards his birth place. He coasted along towards Bass Strait and Melbourne at the southern most tip of Australia. He celebrated Christmas while sailing with the people standing on the shore of Cape Bundooro.

From Bundooro, he sailed to Tasmania. This was done so as to avoid bad weather in Australia. He visited Tasmanian goldmine. The people of George Town gave him a warm welcome. From this snug little place he sailed for Devonport and anchored there on April 16, 1897.

A Life Alone In The Vast Sea - 5The season of winter had been peaceful. There was hardly any upheaval. Joshua had nothing better to do except read stories about sea voyage. On September, he reached Mauritius. He took eight days rest there and he realized that he had almost covered 90 per cent of his journey but America to him still appeared to be further away. In his journey from Mauritius to New Port, his most memorable moment was at St-Helena. He stayed in the Royal Palace and spent night tossing and turning. He waited for the ghost of Napoleon to appear as people had warned him that, Napoleon’s ghost visited that palace. But his wish was not fulfilled. Next day, he went to the house where Napoleon was imprisoned and hence satisfied his curiosity.

‘Spray’ sailed towards Granada and from Granada she sailed to Antigua, where inhabitants welcomed him.

By June 4,1898, ‘spray’ was heading towards her final destination. And the end of the journey came on June 27, 1898, after a cruise of more than 46,000 miles around the world, which took him three years, two months and two days. No other ship, during that period, had ever performed the feat for so long. It was, in fact, a ‘mid summer night’ sail.

∼ Naresh Kumar

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