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Meets Joshua Slocum and the SPRAY

Meets the OREGON

As she Races  around South America

By Joshua Slocum
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Joshua Slocum and the SPRAY signals the OREGON
The SPRAY raises its signal to the disappearing OREGON (far right)
in an illustration from Slocum's book Sailing Alone Around the World.


Joshua Slocum rose to fame by being the first man to circumnavigate the earth alone. Slocum, a commercial ship captain, saw steam begin to replace sails as the motive power of ships, but refused to give in to the newer technology. His circumnavigation cruise, therefore, took place in a sailboat, the SPRAY, a thirty-seven foot long sloop. His trip took three years to complete, beginning in 1895. He had departed from Boston, Massachusetts, traveled east until he was about to enter the Mediterranean. Here he learned about issues with pirates and reversed course. He sailed west, passed through the Strait of Magellan near the tip of South America, crossed the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, passing Africa's Cape of Good Hope. Heading west towards Brazil, he found himself sailing into a war zone, though he did not know war had been declared. Amazingly, in the expanse of the ocean, he found himself being passed by the Battleship
OREGON as she neared the end of her race around South America to join the North Atlantic Squadron. Below is Joshua Slocum's account of the encounter.

Slocum's offer of remaining together for "mutual protection" was not taken up by
Captain Clark of the OREGON!

The Account:

"On May 10 there was a great change in the condition of the sea; there could be no doubt of my longitude now, if any had before existed in my mind. Strange and long-forgotten current ripples pattered against the sloop's sides in grateful music; the tune arrested the oar, and I sat quietly listening to it while the SRPRAY kept on her course. By these current ripples I was assured that she was now off St. Roque and had struck the current which sweeps around that cape. The trade-winds, we old sailors say, produce this current, which, in its course from this point forward, is governed by the coastline of Brazil, Guiana, Venezuela, and, as some would say, by the Monroe Doctrine.

The trades had been blowing fresh for some time, and the current, now at its height, amounted to forty miles a day. This, added to the sloop's run by the log, made the handsome day's work of one hundred and eighty miles on several consecutive days, I saw nothing of the coast of Brazil, though I was not many leagues off and was always in the Brazil current.

I did not know that war with Spain had been declared, and that I might be liable, right there, to meet the enemy and be captured. Many had told me at Cape Town that, in their opinion, war was inevitable, and they said: "The Spaniard will get you! The Spaniard will get you!" To all this I could only say that, even so, he would not get much. Even in the fever-heat over the disaster to the MAINE I did not think there would be war; but I am no politician. Indeed, I had hardly given the matter a serious thought when, on the 14th of May, just north of the equator, and near the longitude of the river Amazon, I saw first a mast, with the Stars and Stripes floating from it, rising astern as if poked up out of the sea, and then rapidly appearing on the horizon, like a citadel, the OREGON! As she came near I saw that the great ship was flying the signals "C B T," which read, "Are there any men-of-war about?" Right under these flags, and larger than the SPRAY's mainsail, so it appeared, was the yellowest Spanish flag I ever saw. It gave me nightmare some time after when I reflected on it in my dreams.

I did not make out the
OREGON's signals till she passed ahead, where I could read them better, for she was two miles away, and I had no binoculars. When I had read her flags I hoisted the signal "No," for I had not seen any Spanish men-of-war; I had not been looking for any. My final signal, "Let us keep together for mutual protection," Captain Clark did not seem to regard as necessary. Perhaps my small flags were not made out; anyhow, the OREGON steamed on with a rush, looking for Spanish men-of-war, as I learned afterward. The OREGON's great flag was dipped beautifully three times to the SPRAY's lowered flag as she passed on. Both had crossed the line only a few hours before. I pondered long that night over the probability of a war risk now coming upon the SPRAY after she had cleared all, or nearly all, the dangers of the sea, but finally a strong hope mastered my fears."

(As a service to our readers, clicking on title in red will take you to that book on

Slocum, Joshua, Sailing Alone Around the World, (New York: the Century Co., 1919) 264 -266.

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