Fit to Smash Ice

Have you ever felt like you were down and out, back against the wall, with nowhere to go?  Me too.  That reminds me of a story I recently heard about Joshua Slocum, a Canadian seaman and adventurer.

After several years as captain and part owner of the Northern Lights and later the Aquidneck, Slocum found himself penniless after the Aquidneck ran aground.  He was broke after paying his crew, and forced to build a makeshift canoe to sail his wife and children home.  Slocum later lost his wife and longtime sailing companion, and found himself completely down and out, with nowhere to go.

Eventually an “opportunity” surfaced.  A friend offered to let him have a laid up old oyster sloop known as The Spray.  The Spray had not been at sea in 7 full years, and was completely in shambles, much like Slocum himself.

When people passed by they constantly asked Slocum if he was breaking the ship down, to which he kindly replied “no.”

Slocum spent 13 months of his life rebuilding the ship, and finally completed his labor in 1883.  He decided to keep the name Spray.  The boat was 36 feet, nine inches length over all, including the bowsprit and 14 feet, two inches wide.  The Spray was different than other ships in that she had neither a center-board or a keel.  Slocum spent $563.62, basically every penny he had to his name, and 13 months of labor repairing the old ship.

When news of the ships completion spread, people came from far and wide to see it.  Officials pronounced the vessel “A-1” and “fit to smash ice.”

On April 24, 1895, Slocum set sail from Boston aboard the Spray and attempted to become the first man to solo circumnavigate the earth.  He attempted this journey with no private funding, no modern navigational equipment, no self-steering device, no refrigeration, and a badly damaged clock functioning as a chronometer.  Many considered the journey to be impossible.  Slocum proved his critics wrong and completed the 46,000 mile journey in three years; avoiding storms, pirates, and hostile aboriginals along the way.  Slocum’s story is now a legend, and his book Sailing Alone Around the World is considered a classic of travel literature.

For Slocum and the Spray, the long hard journey of redemption was finally complete on July 3, 1898.

So if you’re ever feeling down, hurting, or just plain out of luck, remember that redemption is just around the corner, and you will one day be fit to smash ice again!

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