Captain Joshua Slocum
|Born on the 20th of February 1844, the fifth of eleven children,
the young Joshua Slocum was not given the best of starts in life.
His life began on the land of his family. 'Slocum the exile', a Quaker
who left America (circa 1783) because of his opposition to war, was considered
a loyalist by the British government of Nova Scotia, and as such was granted
500 acres of farmland. This farm was in the Bay of Fundy, Annapolis
County, 'a sea faring community'. His maternal grandfather was the
lighthouse keeper of the Southwest Point Light.
By the time he was eight years old the family had moved to Briar Island where he was to help his father make leather boots for the local fishermen. This was not the life that he was to follow. He made several attempts to run away to sea, when he was fourteen he became the cook on a local fishing schooner. In 1860 after the birth of the eleventh Slocum child and the subsequent death of his mother Joshua (then 16) left home for the last time.
Sailing under both British and American flags Joshua Slocum worked his way to many ports and also from ordinary seaman to mate.
His first command came in 1869. Crossing the Pacific from San Francisco to Australia, China, Japan and the Spice Islands. It was during this 13 year Period that he met American, Virginia Albertina Walker. They Married in Sydney Australia on the 31st of January 1871. She sailed with Slocum, giving birth to 3 sons and one daughter (all on board ship), until she died on the 25th of July 1884 aged 35. She is buried in Buenos Aries.
From 1882-1884 he commanded and was part owner of the 'Northern Light'. When he sold his share of 'Northern light' he bought the 'Aquidneck', this he sailed until the end of 1887 when he was trading on the South American coast with his second wife, Henrietta Elliot (1862-1952) and his children to his first marriage (Joshua and Henrietta had married the previous year). It was at this time that the Aquidneck was wrecked on a sandbar. Paying off the crew Slocum was unwilling to 'return as a castaway'.
And so Slocum set to work and built 'Liberdade'. She was a cross between a Cape Ann Dory and a Japanese Sampan, she was rigged as a Chinese Junk. These three styles would have been well known to a sailor of Slocum's experience, and all three have a simplicity of design and execution. Liberdade took her name from the freeing of the slaves of Brazil because the day of her launching coincided with the day of emancipation.
Joshua, Henrietta and two of the sons sailed Liberdade 5,500 miles to Washington D.C.
This was effectively the end of Slocum's professional sailing career.
The age of the steamship had arrived and, as Slocum's very soul belonged
to sail, his day had passed. He turned to the pen in 1890 and wrote
'Voyage of the Liberdade', a self financed publication which made no impact
on the public and no money for the author.
Many theories have been voiced as to the contributing factors and the conclusion of events. But one fact is irrefutable there can be only one First.