Sunday, 15 September 2013

A slight connection from Captain Joshua Slocum

You know how I look for connections between my life and my forthcoming visit to French Polynesia - well one was handed to me on a plate. One of my managers, an enthusiast of boats, was excited when I explained I would be sailing around the Marquesas Islands for a great adventure on a ketch which I wasn't familiar with. He loaned me a copy of a book titled Captain Joshua Slocum The adventures of America's Best Known Sailor - written by son Victor Slocum. It is an extraordinary book telling the life and challenges faced by Slocum across the seas in the 19th century. Around 1895 he built a ketch (The Spray), and became the first person to sail around the world alone - and the boat was only 36 feet long! Pretty impressive. I was particularly alert when in late May 1896 Slocum remarked that he passed without stopping 'the high and beautiful island of Nukuhiva'. I look forward to seeing this island from the sea within the next three weeks. I will touch down at the Nuku Hiva airport en route to the island Hiva Oa, Saturday week, but eventually I will sail back to Nuku Hiva to finish my glorious adventure. Then I loved the fact that Slocum, after passing the Marquesas continued on via Samoa to Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. I enjoyed a number of wonderful working sojourns in Newcastle and it was the place I was married amidst lots of very happy friends. But I wonder what Slocum was seeing there in spring 1896 - I wonder what the city/town looked like then. From Newcastle, Slocum continued south towards Melbourne and then on 25 January 1897 he crossed Bass Strait and stayed awhile at Beauty Point on Tasmania's north east. From there he sailed west to Devonport where, as he was leaving on the 16 April 1897, he remarked 'Tasmania is the fruit garden of the world'. Even when I lived in Devonport in the early 1970s, many of the surrounding small towns were focused on apple growing and other fruit orchards. Regrettably over the years, as the world's need for fruit changed, orchards were plowed under. Now there is a revival of interest and a great deal of fruit is grown again in the district. Slocum was based in Devonport for 3 or so months and Devonport's Joshua Slocum Park remains today as a recognition of his great feat (he was really only half way around the world when he was near my home town). Will have a look at the Park with different eyes next time I am up there for the opera.

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