This week's audiobook is a really old book - Sailing Alone Around the World by Captain Joshua Slocum. In this travel adventure story, Slocum recounts his precedent setting solo sailing journey around the globe in his sloop Spray, which he began in April 1895. The trip took three years two months and covered over 42,000 miles. During that time, Slocum never sprang a leak in the boat that he had rebuilt himself. He did, however, lay over in port to refit the masts, sails, and rigging several times, giving him ample time to meet people around the world. He was mostly treated kindly by port authorities and colonial governors and many other sailors were hospitable, but he did spread carpet tacs on the deck at night to foil some harborside thieves.
Early in the journey, he expressed some mild loneliness, but he found books, dolphins, and birds to be good companions. He went months sometimes without speaking to anyone other than the ghost of helmsman from the Pinta, whom he brought aboard off the Iberian Coast. He found singing helped during the lonely times, turning to old sailors' tunes and hymns. His favorite books were by Robert Louis Stevenson, whose widow he met during the voyage. He also met President Paul Kruger of the Transvaal, who stubbornly insisted that the world was flat.
While alone at sea, Slocum heard no news, but when he pulled into port, he caught up as best he could. Sometimes he found letters waiting for him. Mostly, he talked to the locals, who told him what other sailors had told them when they arrived. This is how he learned of the war between Spain and the United States just as he sailed into the Caribbean on his way home to New England. He got past the Transvaal and Orange Free State as they heated up for the Boer War of 1899-1903. As these two wars indicate, colonialism was still an unquestioned reality of international affairs. Modern readers may be dismayed by his description of native peoples of Terra del Fuego as "savages." They may also dislike that he killed every shark that he could. Otherwise, he claims that he disliked ending any life - fowl, fish, or mammal.
I enjoyed listening to the familiar voice of narrator Nelson Runger reading Slocum's text. I am uncertain whether the book's charms came more from the text or from Runger's narration. I gladly recommend the audiobook.
Slocum, Joshua. Sailing Alone Around the World. Recorded Books, 1988. ISBN 9781436104739