love of the thing itself


        I went to Project Gutenberg the other day to find a link to Joshua Slocum’s SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD to send to an acquaintance, and ended up downloading his THE VOYAGE OF THE LIBERDADE for myself.  I thought I had read LIBERDADE a long time ago, but I hadn’t.      

         Slocum built the LIBERDADE with the assistance of his 15 year old son, Victor, in four months after the 326 ton trading ship, the AQUIDNECK, which Slocum owned and captained, went aground and was lost in a small Brazilian harbor one hundred and fifty miles southwest of Sao Paulo.  He and Victor then sailed the LIBERDADE five thousand five hundred miles back to the United States, hand steering watch and watch, four hours on, four off.  Slocum’s second wife, Henrietta, and his young son, Garfield, were also aboard.

        Slocum passes quickly over the almost miraculous building of the boat in a remote harbor with few tools and materials.  Fortunately good wood was close at hand.

        When the sails blew out soon after the voyage began, the LIBERDADE was towed at speed to Santos; and from there coastal hopped until Pernambuco from where she sailed 2150 miles non-stop to Barbados in 19 days. 

        Jill and I sailed off that coast, going directly from Rio de Janeiro to the British Virgin Islands.  Once around the bulge of Brazil, trade wind and strong currents are behind you.  Slocum claims one current assisted day’s run of 220 miles; but the LIBERDADE’S average was 103.

        As you can see from this drawing the LIBERDADE was an open boat.  She should have sailed well downwind.  She was relatively light with little wetted surface.

        By the time they reached the United States Henrietta had had enough.  She never made a voyage with Joshua again.  Thus are single-handers sometimes made.

        I enjoyed the first part of the book which was about the AQUIDNECK as much as I did the latter part about the LIBERDADE.  The business of making a ship pay.  Slocum finding cargos, delivering them, ever seeking the next.  There was also cholera, small pox and a mutiny during which Joshua shot and killed a man.

        The voyage of the LIBERDADE was audacious.  Perhaps as much as setting out in the SPRAY to become the first man to sail alone around the world. 

        Slocum had his own doubts about moving down from sailing a ship to the 35’ LIBERDADE, but once underway he wrote, “The old boating trick came back fresh to me, the love of the thing itself gaining on me as the little ship stood out; and my crew with one voice said, ‘Go on.’ ”