Thursday, September 24, 2015

Librivox and Sailing Alone Around the World





The Spray
For years I have used Audible.com as a source for audio books that I listen to in the gym and while on long drives. My snobbishness makes me insist I only listen to unabridged books and I probably listen to eight or ten books a year on audible.  I read a lot more but listening to books make the workouts and the long drives go faster and I learn new things.  That said, this summer I learned of a new service, a free service, for books that are in the public domain.  Librivox uses volunteers to read books and as they are in the public domain (ie, published before the 1920s) there are no royalties to pay.   The first book I listened to was Mark Twain’s Roughing It, which I had read twice before and read parts of it many times.  Listening to it again allowed me to get it into my head since I was teaching a class on it this summer.  I was impressed with the quality of the reading and looked around for other “old books” that I’d interested in reading and that’s where I saw Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World.  As you may remember, I have read other books about those who have sailed around the world (the Dove, the Faith, and the Unsinkable).  I knew of this book, but have never read it.  I was in for a treat.

Joshua Slocum was a semi-retired sea captain when he “rebuild” and old sloop that was used for bringing oysters to market.  He pretty much had to redo all the wood on the boat, working on it in a pasture in Fairhaven Massachusetts.   When completed, the boat which he named "The Spray" was 36’ 9”.  On April 24, 1895, he left Boston to sail around the world.  Sailing in the Gulf Stream, he headed north, stopping in Nova Scotia (his childhood home) before crossing the Atlantic and stopping in the Azores and Gibraltar.  At night, when he was not on the helm, during a gale, he had a vision of a Spanish captain from the Pinta at the helm.  This mysterious crew was his only companion.  

Slocum decided against using the Suez Canal (the Panama was not yet built) because of the danger or Pirates and sailed south along the African coast where he was chased by pirates.   A gale was blowing and he was doing well, but was afraid his mast might break from the strain so he finally decides to reef the sails (shorten them).  The boat (whom he felt were pirates) began to gain on him.  The other boat left their full sails up, but before they could catch Slocum, their mast snapped.  Slocum heads back across the Atlantic, stopping in South Africa and sailing through the dangerous passages in the Straits of Magellan at the bottom of the continent. He sailed up the continent, stopping at Juan Fernandez Islands off Chili, before turning west and sailing across the Pacific to Australia.  In Australia, he began to give talks that help provide income for his trip.  

After Australia, he heads into the Indian Ocean, made several stops in as he rounded the Horn of Africa (and giving talks), then sailing north across the Atlantic.  On this last leg, he was nervous as he learns the United States is at war with Spain.  He doesn’t encounter any Spanish ships and returns back home to New England on June 27, 1898.   The book is a mixture of humor, descriptions of sailing and navigating (he used crude methods), adventures in gales and from natives off South America who tried to slip onto the ship at night but found that he had placed tacks on the deck and the stealth of their night adventure was loss as they cried out in pain and jumped overboard.  He recorded many conversations including the Dutch settlers in South Africa who did not believe the world was round and provided it with the Bible.  However, Slocum spoke in awe of God’s providence and creation just as he brought up many marine myths and legends.  It was a pleasure to listen to this book.  The narrator also incorporated the sounds of seagull at the end of each chapter that was a nice touch.  If you are interested in the sea, in sailing or in adventure, I recommend this book.  You might also like this video of Slocum’s life (I am not sure he thought of himself as Canadian, as the video indicates, as he sailed with the Stars and Stripes, but nonetheless, it's a good video:  



41 comments:

  1. Tacks? LOL....sometimes low tech works best!

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  2. Finally a book I don't have to go out and by based upon your review because I already own it and read it many years ago. I really admired the ingenuity of the guy of taking an old ship and converting it into his own vessel that he sailed around the world. I have no desire to sail on the open ocean but I would like to build a boat someday that I can sail the inland sea such as in William Least Heat Moon's "Riverhorse".

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    1. Glad to hear that you have read this one! Maybe you should do a trip down the Missouri and Mississippi

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    1. It was great writing and fun to read (or listen to)

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  4. I also read this book many years ago. I'm sure I'd benefit from reading it again.

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    1. Wow, I have several of you who have read it!

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  5. Clever move to insert the seagull for sound effects. This one seems like the perfect (audio) book for you.

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  6. I read Slocum's book decades ago, last time maybe in the 80's. It was always a dream of mine to do the 'milk run', winter over in La Paz Mexico, get a crew and head out south. Wish I had done it, all those years ago.

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    1. Another one who has read this book! There was a time I wanted to do a RTW trip like that

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  7. First I have to say I never read this book but I would like to read.
    Sounds fascinating.
    And is my country in it :)
    Juan Fernandez all say is beautiful and the seafood is amazing.
    Hugs!

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    1. Yes, he does spend time in your country! The book is also available in written form on the internet.

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    2. Gloria, try this url: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6317

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  8. First I have to say I never read this book but I would like to read.
    Sounds fascinating.
    And is my country in it :)
    Juan Fernandez all say is beautiful and the seafood is amazing.
    Hugs!

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  9. Well...as fall arrives and cooler temps move in I may move from outdoors to the gym in which case the audio books may be a nice gift to myself.

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  10. I have yet to get involved in audio books. I'm glad they are available though.

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    1. I wouldn't want to read every book that way, but it is nice when you are doing something mindless and it is also good for those without sight.

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  11. I may be an introvert but I wouldn't want to sail around the world alone. I'd be too lonely. LOL! I haven't tried out audio books yet but I can surely appreciate them. And seagull sound effects is a cool idea.

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    1. I am with you on this one--I don't mind wilderness trips alone, but the thought of weeks without people is a little too much

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  12. I found the site, but it won't allow me to download to the phone. So what I did was to download to the PC and then move over to the SDmini card storage for the phone through the SDHD port.Whoot whoot, Eric the Red while driving.
    Such blooming nerds eh.

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    1. Interesting, I was able to down load it to my iphone and then listened to it via bluetooth headset while in the gym--I actually have several books downloaded and am about through listening to Tom Sawyer (I've read it before, but unlike Huck Finn, I have not read it since a teenager)

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  13. I'd never heard of Librivox. Thanks for mentioning it here. I love to hear stories when I'm on long drives. I really enjoyed Anansi Boys this summer and the narrator was amazing.

    I wonder how long people will understand what "around the horn" means? I heard that from my grandmother so often that's it's part of my history and understanding of the world before the Panama Canal.

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    1. It took a bit of selling to the US people when they decided to cut the canal. And it eventually became such a hard sell that to get workers they had to hire from the British islands in the Caribbean. Here in Ireland we learnt the song 'Around Cape Horn we're bound to go, Sac-ra-men-to, Sac ra men to, around Cape Horn through sleet and snow to the banks of Sacramento' at school.

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    2. You know, so many of our common sayings come from nautical terms... By the mid-1850s, people were already crossing at Panama as their were regular "mail steamers" that took passengers to Panama, then across on a railroad, the on a steamer up the Pacific to San Francisco.

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  14. haha I could never sail, I'd be so seasick! this sounds super fascinating though, and I love that there's a seagull sound effect!

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    1. I just got back from being out on the water sailing for a few hours :)

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  15. I listened to one audio book. It's just not for me. It took something like 7 hours to finish listening to the book. I can read a book in 2 hours so it made no sense to me to listen to one.

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    1. Most of the books I listen to are from 10-20 hours in length--but if I spend 5 hours a week in the gym or take a trip, you can put a real dent into the book.

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  16. Sorry that I haven't been in touch I just got home from being very jet lagged in Italy for 10 days. I'm sorry to say that I've never listened to an audio book. I really should try it when I'm flying or exercising. BTW, have you seen the movie "Salt of the Earth"? I've been asking everyone about it. Hope you are well!

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    1. I've not seen it but I looked it up and it sounds interesting. I'll have to see if I can download it from Netflix?

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  17. sounds interesting! I've never listened to an audiobook!

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  18. I would not call it snobbishness. I would say it's a way to claim back the pleasure of listening to good literature the way it should be. :-) Thanks, nice post.

    Greetings from London.

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  19. I've become a big fan of audio books. They've really been taken to an art form based on the quality of many of the voice actors.

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  20. What an amazing adventure! I had no idea there was a sub genre of books about sailing around the world.

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