“The Spray will Come Back”: Solo Circumnavigator Joshua Slocum

Braitmayer Family Gallery
Exhibition Opened: May 10, 2017

A Man for All Oceans book coverThis exhibition, based on Stan Grayson’s newly published A Man for All Oceans: Captain Joshua Slocum and the first solo voyage around the world, explores the life of Slocum particularly in regards to his monumental and most well-known voyage alone on the Spray.

At noon on April 24, 1895, a former sailing ship captain named Joshua Slocum cast off his dock lines in East Boston and set out to sail alone around the world in the 37’ sloop Spray. At the time, most people, whether seamen or landlubbers, viewed Slocum’s plan as either foolish or dangerous or both. Ocean cruising in yachts of modest size as it is known today did not exist then. Sailing for pleasure or as a way to enjoy nature and live simply was still a largely new idea. Joshua Slocum’s lone voyage would do much to inspire others and to change time-worn perceptions.

More than once during his 38-month circumnavigation, Slocum was reported as having gone missing. There were times when it was presumed he had been lost. But when Slocum ghosted into Newport, Rhode Island, at 1 A.M. on June 27, 1898, he proved all the doubters wrong. Slocum and his beloved Spray had sailed into history.


Around the World 1900 book cover

In March, 1900, Slocum’s book about the voyage was released in New York by The Century Company, publisher of one of that era’s most popular magazines. With the appearance of Sailing Alone Around the World, Joshua Slocum became for a time among the more famous people in the United States. In clear, graceful prose – the book has sometimes been compared to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden – Joshua Slocum told of his voyage’s perils and its pleasures.

But no matter how many people bought Sailing Alone or came to hear one of the author’s popular lectures about his voyage, Joshua Slocum remained a mysterious man. By design, his book shared few personal details about the adventurous, tumultuous, sometimes violent life he had lived.  The result was that readers have always wanted to know more, much more, about Slocum the man.

A Man for All Oceans reveals Slocum’s life story more fully than ever before. Grayson, a yachting and maritime historian and small boat sailor, based his book on years of painstaking research using source materials of Slocum’s own times.  These documents have at last provided answers to long-standing questions that Slocum scholars have asked for years, while also adding much new insight into Slocum’s life. The book finally enables readers to get up close and personal with one of history’s greatest sailors. The New Bedford Whaling Museum and Tilbury House Publishers invite you to meet Captain Joshua Slocum.
For more information about Slocum click here.

Caption above: Slocum, Joshua. “Sailing Alone Around the World”. New York: The Century Co., 1900.
Banner caption: Charles Henry Gifford, Spray. Oil on canvas, 9 x 13 ¼ in., 1892-1895, Gift of Albert E. Lees, III.


A Man for All Oceans: Captain Joshua Slocum and the first solo voyage around the world, by Stan Grayson is available in the Museum gift shop The White Whale or online.