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Sailing Alone Around the World (1899) is a sailing memoir by Joshua Slocum about his single-handed global circumnavigation aboard the sloop Spray. Slocum was the first person to sail around the world alone. The book was an immediate success and highly influential in inspiring later travelers.


Captain Slocum, a highly experienced navigator and ship-owner, rebuilt and refitted the derelict sloop Spray in a seaside pasture at Fairhaven, Massachusettsmarker during a thirteen-month period between early 1893 and 1894.

Between April 24, 1895 and June 27, 1898, Slocum, aboard the Spray, crossed the Atlanticmarker twice (to Gibraltar and back to South America), negotiated the Strait of Magellanmarker, and crossed the Pacificmarker. He also visited Australia and South Africa before crossing the Atlanticmarker (for the third time) to reach home after a journey of 46,000 miles.

The Book

There was considerable international interest in Slocum's journey, particularly once he had entered the Pacificmarker; he was awaited at most of his ports of call, and gave lectures and lantern-slide shows to well-filled halls. His journal, which is masterfully self-deprecating, was first published in installments before being issued in book form in 1900 (variously 1899). The book was lavishly illustrated.

Slocum tells his story as a sequence of adventures, understating his own part and giving credit always to the Spray. He even invents a crew-member, a supposed pilot of Columbus' Pinta, to take credit for the safety of the vessel while he sleeps.

The trip itinerary went as follows: Fairhaven, Bostonmarker, Gloucestermarker, Nova Scotiamarker, Azores, Gibraltarmarker, (Moroccomarker), Canary Islandsmarker, Cape Verde Islandsmarker, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiromarker, Maldonado, Montevideomarker, Strait of Magellanmarker, Cockburn Channel, Port Angosto, Juan Fernandez, Marquesasmarker, Samoamarker, Fijimarker, Sydneymarker, Melbournemarker, Tasmaniamarker, Cooktownmarker, Christmas Islandmarker, Keeling Cocos, Rodriguesmarker, Mauritiusmarker, Durbanmarker, Cape Townmarker, (Transvaalmarker), St Helena, Ascension Islandmarker, Devil's Islandmarker, Trinidadmarker, Grenadamarker, Newportmarker, Fairhaven.

Highlights of the journey included perils of sailing blue water, such as fog, gales, danger of collision, loneliness, doldrums, navigation, fatigue, gear failure. Other perils of coastal navigation included pirates, attack by 'savages', embayment, shoals and coral seas, stranding, shipwreck. In Tierra del Fuegomarker he was warned that he might be attacked by the Yahgan Indians in the night, so he sprinkled thumbtacks on the deck, and was awakened in the middle of the night by yelps of pain. He also took pride in the fact that the Spray sailed 2000 miles west across the Pacific without his once touching the helm.

The book was greatly admired by Arthur Ransome. Some editions contain an introduction by Ransome, who wrote in 1947: "A school library without this book is incomplete. It should be part of the education of every English or American boy."


Captain Slocum was an inspiration for many sailors, many of whom were encouraged by his book to sail great distances alone. He continued to sail the Spray for the remainder of his life until, in 1909, he and the Spray disappeared at sea on a journey from Martha's Vineyardmarker, Massachusetts, to the West Indies where he usually spent his winters.

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