Over a century ago in Fairhaven, Joshua Slocum rebuilt an old sloop called the ‘Spray.’ On this new vessel he became the first person to sail alone around the world.
Sloop Spray Souvenir Booklet , 1901 – Reproduced from the copy in the Millicent Library
Joshua Slocum’s Story
Captain Joshua Slocum had navigated the shoals of his own personal misfortunes in the past. and now, in his late forties, with steam power signaling the end of the age of sail, Slocum faced yet another challenge—the loss of his livelihood.
Eventually, an opportunity surfaced.
“Come to Fairhaven and I’ll give you a ship,” said his old friend Captain Eben Pierce when they met in Boston in March 1892.
Instead of a command and a ship, however, Slocum found in Fairhaven an antiquated sloop named the Spray and, in a way, rebuilt his life.
When all was said and done, he had accomplished one of the great achievements of nautical history by becoming the first person to sail alone around the world. His account of that voyage would become a classic of nautical literature.
“And as for aging,” he wrote, “why, the dial of my life was turned back till my friends all said, ‘Slocum is young again.’”
Slocum rebuilt the Spray plank-by-plank as it stood in a field in the Poverty Point area of Oxford, one of the oldest sections of Fairhaven.
His “shipyard” was but a stone’s throw from the harbor that separated Fairhaven from the great whaling port of New Bedford. After a year and a month, the 36-foot, 9-inch Spray was launched, and Slocum spent several more months in Fairhaven, fitting out whaleships farther down the harbor. Slocum’s historic voyage began in Boston on April 24, 1895, and officially ended more than 46,000 miles later at Newport, Rhode Island, on June 27, 1898.
But in the hearts of Slocum and the Spray, the journey would not be over until they returned to the place of their beginning.
So, on July 3, 1898, Slocum sailed up Buzzards Bay to Fairhaven and again secured the Spray to the Poverty Point shore. Captain Joshua Slocum could bring the Spray no nearer home.
—Robert Demanche, from the brochure published by the Joshua Slocum Centennial Committee
An Intrepid Navigator: Capt. Slocum Arrives in Fairhaven from a Voyage Around the World
Fairhaven Star , July 9, 1898
Captain Joshua Slocum, the intrepid navigator, who in April, 1895, started from Boston in the 33 foot yawl Spray on a trip around the world, dropped anchor above the bridge, within a short distance from the spot where the Spray was built, Sunday. Captain Slocum has sailed something like 46,000 miles since leaving Boston, and during the entire trip he was entirely alone. The captain came to Fairhaven for a little rest, to put the Spray back in condition, and renew his acquaintance with his many friends in Fairhaven. The hold of the Spray is filled with all kinds of curiosities gathered from various parts of the world. Judging from the books of newspaper clippings in the captain’s possession, he is considered an excellent lecturer and has been honored by high officials everywhere. He has a stereopticon and 300 excellent slides which he uses to illustrate his lectures.
Captain Slocum said he intends to remain around here a few days and will then go cruising with his wife and son. He intends to go to London before long.
Among the mementos brought home by Captain Slocum is a big bamboo stick given him by the widow of Robert Louis Stevenson. The bamboo was grown by the novelist. Captain Slocum also received several books from the library of the late novelist.