Book Review: Sailing Alone Around the World

The cover of Sailing Alone Around the World.
The cover of Sailing Alone Around the World.


I found this book while I was travelling, so naturally I had to read it. The week of 12-18 May 2014, I was atop Kitt Peak Mountain in southern Arizona. I had travelled there to use one of the (many) telescopes at the summit. I’ve written about this place many times, no need to go into again here. In the cafeteria on the mountain there’s a small collection of books, left there over the years to (most likely) provide some sort of entertainment on long cloudy nights. My supervisor and I perused the used book collection (as I so love to do) and nothing really stood out to me, except for Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum. One glance at the cover and I knew I was going to read it. It’s funny how that works.

I’ve been travelling my whole life. Thanks to my parents, I’ve seen a large chunk of Canada and the United States (from the back seat of a minivan). I turned these experiences as a child into a passion as an adult. Now I try to travel as much as possible (though not nearly enough for my liking). In recent years, I’ve done two motorcycle trips alone (one Toronto > Halifax, the other San Diego > Flagstaff > Tucson). Further, I took sailing lessons as a kid! This book sounded perfect.

The premise: in 1895, Captain Joshua Slocum (having already had many years sailing experience) took up the challenge that ‘no one could sail around the world with a crew of one.’ At the time, this seemed impossible to many. Slocum, however, was surprised people thought it impossible and took the challenge to show that it certainly was possible (but also likely for his love of the ocean). The book, Sailing Alone Around the World, is his memoirs of the events which lasted from the building of his sloop the Spray, to his departure from Fairhaven, Massachusetts on April 25, 1895, to his arrival in Fairhaven again, on June 27, 1898. It took him 3 years, but Slocum circumnavigated the globe on his own. His tale is filled with pirates, outrageous storms, battling natives of South America, and even his meeting of the late Robert Louis Stevenson‘s wife Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne in Samoa. Here is an image from the book that plots his route around the world.

The route.
The route Slocum took from Massachusetts East around the world.

Also, since this book was published in 1900, it is now FREE as part of Project Gutenberg. You can get it here. I also found a youtube video wherein a gentlemen has plotted Slocum’s course on Google Earth, and provided markers/waypoints along the way. I embedded the video:

The book is a sailor’s view of the world, full of sailor talk, adventure, introspection, and pragmatism. His attitude throughout the whole is of a humble appreciation for his abilities and the Earth. Highly recommend.

Happy Reading!

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