Sunday, March 15, 2015

Captain Joshua Slocum to John Crabb and Beyond Longitude Plus or Minus 180

Captain Joshua Slocum to John Crabb and Beyond Longitude Plus or Minus 180  

John Crabb on his Spray "Lady Heron" in Corpus Christi, TX 

This Post is Dedicated to John Crabb who I have only met once and just briefly talked with him aboard his home built Spray Hull Sailboat "Lady Heron". I hope he is still there when we return to Texas in April. I have a lot more to talk to him about now and I will take a couple of bottles of wine along to encourage the conversation. 

John Crabb is the second person I have met who actually built his own boat, finished it and has immediate plans to take off cruising. The first was a man in Rockport who built a 42' trawler modeled after one of my favorite power boats a Lord Nelson Victory Tug. I looked through my blog archives thinking I surely wrote a post about him but nary a picture! Why didn't I document that incredible moment? Here was a man who spent 10 years building a boat and I attended the Christening celebration and watched the vessel splash into the Gulf waters. Many people around the Rockport community had contributed their labor, expertise, or money to the project. There were a couple of hundred there attending the ceremony and many important community members spoke of the accomplishment. Wine was consumed  and finally champagne toast were in order as the Christening and the ultimate Splashing of the vessel was witnessed by all. Tours of the vessel were given by the Captain and his proud Admiral. We were very busy at the time replacing all of our water and fuel tanks so I am sure that consumed all of our concerns at the moment, but I sure wish I had a picture of that boat!. 
What struck me so much about John Crabb is that he did not model his vessel so much after another vessel but more after the man Joshua Slocum  who built the boat known as a "Spray". Slocum was a very experienced Sailing Ship captain in the mid to late 1800's who had sailed the world's oceans and he came to a point in his life where he was looking for a new challenge. A friend offered him a worn out vessel to refit for a new commercial interest. But during the refit he decided he would do something everyone said could not be done and that was to take the vessel he named "Spray" and single handedly circumnavigate the world in this fully restored 36'-9" North Seas Oyster Sloop. Single handing a circumnavigation in any type of vessel was impossible as far as anyone was concerned at the time. He was surely sailing off to a quick death. Heck in the late 1800's not everyone was convinced the Earth was Round!.

Due to whatever forces in life that drive men to do what ever it is they are doing I have always tried to fill my downtime with reading material that furthered whatever my interest were at my particular stage of development. In my early 20's it was all about spiritual and intellectual enlightenment of the Carlos Casteneda or Robert Pirsig variety. Then any thing to do with education, as I learned to progress in my chosen profession. Next it was soccer as I grew up with my kids coaching and playing soccer then of late it has been Sailing and Sailing. No time for fiction, I can count on my fingers the number of fiction books I have read in all this time. 
Almost every Sailor or person who thinks about cruising about on ocean waters has read Joshua Slocum's "Sailing Alone Around the World" But until I met John Crabb I was not at all inclined to do so. Buying, preparing and eventually Sailing around the Gulf of Mexico for almost two years required much more than reading some account of single handing the planet in the late 1800's. I of course new of Slocum's accomplishment since he is consistently referred to in a wide range of current publications regarding sailing and cruising. I just did not realize the importance of his accomplishment has had on the entire world sailing community (and that includes power vessels as well). I focused on Manuals like "How to use Radar" or cruising guides or "Safety at Sea"!

I have now finished Captain Slocum's book and fully realize without his "One Small Step for Man" the rest of us may be a bit shorter on the rod. I found this list of Solo Single Handers : With about 68 entries, a very few have actually gone around twice. It does not seem to include circumnavigations completed as a result or participating in a race such as the Vende Globe like this one with 259 entries:  Each Certifying Association seems to have their own requirements for completing a circumnavigation but either way all the stories must be incredibly interesting. I recognize very few of the names on the list but I am sure I have read many of them in the various publications through the years. A couple stand out to me like John Guzzwell and his 20'-6" Wood Yawl Trekka: 

Can you imagine spending 1955-1959 on this little Wooden vessel crossing the worlds biggest oceans? I wouldn't do it but Joshua Slocum inspired this man from Victoria B.C. to accomplish it.

This is Dodge D Morgan who was the first to sail around solo Non-Stop in 150 days. 
Dodge D Morgan chose a 60' Cutter Sloop for his around the world and the first Non-Stop setting a Solo record. This was in 1985 notice he has all the modern technologies that could be had at that time. No wonder he did not want to stop, who would want to try and moor a 60' Yacht single handed in all the worlds ports and anchorages? I see that most of the solo voyages are in vessels 30-40' and an amazing number in the 24-29' range. I often single hand our 42' Sloop but that would be on Fair Weather Days, the last time I was in Corpus I really wanted to take her out but it was blowin 30-40 and I just do not want to do that without at least a First Mate on board. It is the docking that scares me, No reason to put a nick on the Hull and create more work.

 A lot of the Circumnavigations done of late are record setting attempts for fastest nonstop. Not interested at all, the point of traveling around the world is to see it, not pass it by. 
In 1990 Captain William "Bill" Pinkney was one of the first Black Men to sail solo around . He teamed up with PBS and they managed to stream video into classrooms around the world. I heard about it and made sure we took advantage of that in my class.I wanted my students seeing how one man accomplished a very difficult goal of sailing around the world Solo taking it one step at a time.

"``Capt. Bill is a national treasure,`` said Chicago Public Schools Supt. Ted Kimbrough, who was among hundreds attending the celebration at Navy Pier. ``We are happy to have him among us so our children can touch a live hero who represents courage, intelligence, the intuition to do the right thing at the right time. That is the kind of example our children need today.``
As if making history were not enough, Pinkney took time during his travels to talk regularly to schoolchildren in Chicago and Boston via shortwave radio. The students then charted his 27,000-mile course on classroom maps."
It is incredible to see that Spray Designs are still being built today. Some, Like John Crabb's are Home built, others come in various forms of completion where you can have part of the work done and finish it yourself or just have them do the whole thing. Bruce Roberts is in the business of building you a Spray design anywhere from 22'-55' and I am sure if you bring the money he will build them any size you want! see

Or perhaps visit and buy a used version that has already been sea trialed for you see:  This is a very interesting way to see all the possibilities of what you can do with a Spray Hull anyway. I was not to surprised to also find on Yachtworld Power boats with a Spray Hull as well:
in the case you are not into sailing and buying lots of fuel for a round the world trip is no issue.
Solo or single handing  sailing is just what it says, 1 crew on board to do all the work. What happens when the Crew has to Sleep or do something like eat or other activities that are not sailing? It took Joshua Slocum 3 years and 2 months to complete his voyage, Ninety years later Dodge Morgan did it non-stop in 150 days. Both men had to sleep, eat and poop. So who is minding the vessel during those moments? The regulations Mariners swear to up hold require a "Proper Lookout at all times" So how do they do it? Joshua learned how to set his helm and set his sails so the vessel would steer itself. His many years as a Merchant Mariner and Captain of many sailing ships that traveled the world provided him with a 6th sense and when his vessel needed tending he would spring awake in time enough to avoid trouble or even death. I can see from the picture that Dodge had a Wind Vane steering system that is a passive system that uses the wind blowing across a large vertically mounted paddle to steer. He may have additionally had a Autopilot that would had been the latest technology of the mid 1980's. But there is no "proper Lookout" to take over when they are doing things other than sailing.Through my experience I have learned how many Solo Sailors manage, some Set a timer for twenty minute periods. They sleep in the cockpit and when the timer goes off they jump up look around to make sure there are no ships about to run them down, then they repeat the cycle till they get enough sleep. Some just goto sleep and let the self steering or autopilot do the work and just hope for the best. Others have the latest technology with AIS, Radar and VHF alarms and if the alarm goes off they wake up and deal with the issue. One of my Florida Friends who Single hands his 44' sailboat will sail far enough off shore so that there is no way he can drift to shore in less than 4 hours and just Heaves To, Which is a way to set your sails and just drift. I will never forget a photo taken from the internet where a big container ship had just pulled into port and a 60-70' mast was still wrapped around the bow, No one knows what happened to the rest of the boat. I sometimes Single Hand but just on Day Sails or short Day hops when cruising.
Double Handed means there are two on board and there is usually a routine established where each person takes a 3 or 4 hour shift. There are hundreds of couples out there sailing all parts of the world in this manner. Here you at least have a fighting chance with one pair of eyes and a brain awake to meet unforeseen challenges. They can always wake up their mate if they need help. Even with one awake and at the helm at all times I do not believe that that even qualifies as a "Proper Look Out at all times" If you remember the Titanic, even a Lookout stationed on the bow of the ship in miserable cold rainy weather did not save the ship from hitting a Iceberg.
Then there is the term "Short Handed". I wondered just what is the definition of that? On my first trip across the Gulf Of Mexico helping some friends sail their boat to Florida we had 4 crew but the Captain required two to always be on "watch". in our nearly 5 day trip across we had two near death experiences. One a gear failure in stormy seas late at night and the other a Ship that we narrowly avoided from running us over. We had 4 hour on/off shifts but we were all still sleep deprived. sleep deprivation can make proper decision making very difficult. On my second trip across the Gulf we had three crew on our boat. I established 3 hours on 6 off with just one crew on watch at all times. We had a great trip across, everyone had plenty of rest to stay sharp and prepared. On both of my trips across the autopilot steered the vessel 98% of the trip across.
The Short Handed Sailing Association defines the term : The crew of the yacht be limited to one, two or three persons. see 

Joshua Slocum has inspired every pleasure/recreational boater both power and sail whether they know it or not since his incredible Voyage in 1895-1898.No matter if they sail, lakes, bays, or go coastal cruising, racing or cross an ocean. He has inspired all of the modern technology, Hull design and self reliance of sailors of even the most modern and technological laden vessels. He is the one name that is recognized in every country that has water that supports a vessel. Right now in 2015 Sailors are making plans for their first venture out into the oceans and they can only hope to measure up.


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