Astonishing Small Boat Voyages: The First Single Handed Circumnavigation of the Globe - Part 3 off 3.
“On the 24th June 1897, the Spray, well fitted in every way, sailed for the long voyage ahead, down the Indian Ocean”. With these words Slocum describes his departure from Australia. With the trade winds still blowing Slocum launches himself into the Indian Ocean. Slocum plans his voyage so not to arrive off the coast of Southern Africa before mid summer in the southern hemisphere. His experience tells him to avoid the winter months in the south. He decides to take it easy and first sets course for the Keeling Cocos atoll islands. Slocum follows the latitude line of 10deg 23” S for days on end. With a ship’s clock which had lost its minute hand Slocum claims to have calculated his longitude. He sailed within sight of Timor and Dana Island and on the 11th July he sailed past Christmas Island. On the 17th July Slocum found Cocos & Keeling dead ahead. He boasts about his accurate navigation. He dropped anchor there that afternoon. He had run 2700 nM since leaving Australia over 23 days earlier. He claims not to have spent more than three hours at the helm during the entire crossing. Spray could maintain a straight course with her helm lashed when the wind was on the beam or astern. Keeling and Cocos have an interesting history but suffice to say for now that Slocum describes the island as heaven on Earth. He hauls the Spray up on the beach for underwater maintenance and after some difficulty gets her re-floated and departs on the 22nd Aug.
Slocum’s next port of call is the mid-ocean island of Rodriguez where he spent eight days re-provisioning the Spray. His arrival caused some consternation as no one can believe that his is the only crew member of the Spray. After some initial suspicion the islanders demonstrate their generosity with invitations to dinner. From Rodriquez Slocum shapes a course for Mauritius where is arrived in the 16th September. Slocum rested at Mauritius until the 26th October. During his stay he was encouraged to give lectures on his adventures. He seems to have been particularly touched that the proprietor of a local flower conservatory named a new plant he had discovered that very morning the “Slocum”. On the 26th October with the end of the southern winter he departs Mauritius. The following day he came upon Reunion but with a heavy swell running he decided not to land and continue towards South Africa. Between the 6th and 9th November he experience as hard a gale in the Mozambique Channel as any he had since he had left Cape Horn.
He ran down the African coast until Port Natal the port of the garden city of Durban. Soon after arrival Slocum was introduced to the great explorer Mr Stanley who took great interest in Slocum’s voyage. Sloum met Mr Stanley a second time “but got no more hints in navigation from the famous explorer” Slocum says in a disappointed tone! After an entertaining stay in Durban which included an argument with three Boer flat earthers he departs Durban for Cape Town on the 14th December 1897. Slocum arrived in Capetown at Xmas. Slocum spent three months touring South Africa and giving lectures on his voyage which enabled him to fund his stay and re-provision the Spray for his dash across the Atlantic. On the 26th March 1898 the Spray left Capetown. Slocum made excellent progress logging his fastest 24 hour run during this part of the voyage. On the 11th April he anchored off St Helena. One has to marvel at his navigation skills. It must have required a lot of skill and precision to arrive at an island just nine miles long in the vastness of the South Atlantic. At St Helena he gave another two of his lectures and visited the exile home of Napoleon, Longwood House. On the 20th Aprilthe Spray once again put to sea and 7 days later he arrived at Ascension. After a short stay at Ascension the Spray departed. On the 8th May she crossed her outward track, made on the 2nd October 1895, near the island of Fernando de Noronha. With this event Slocum immortalised his place as the first man to circumnavigate the globe single handed. He continued to the Caribbean and then Boston his point of departure but from this point on his place in the history of sailing was assured.