Introduction

replica whaleboat and modern dragger
Geoff Rand
A replica whaleboat and modern dragger represent the old and the new in the maritime economy of Fairhaven/New Bedford harbor. For most of the 19th century the port was home to the world's foremost whaling fleet. Today the scallopers based here typically bring in the nation's largest annual catch as measured in dollars.

"Come to Fairhaven and I'll give you a ship. . ."

This offer in 1892 from a retired whaling captain was apparently irresistible to Joshua Slocum, a blue-water shipmaster stuck in Boston without a command. The next day Slocum was in Fairhaven to begin a six-year project that would make him the world's first solo circumnavigator.

The 'ship' in the offer "proved to be a very antiquated sloop called the Spray. . . affectionately propped up in a field, some distance from salt water. . ." where she had been for seven years. But after "$553.62 for materials and thirteen months of my own labor" Slocum had the newly rebuilt Spray ready to slide into the Acushnet River.
{Slocum, pp 72-76}

Slocum's account of his adventure may not be the founding narrative of small boat cruising. (In New England, that distinction probably belongs to Robert Carter's 1864 A Summer Cruise. . .) But Sailing Alone Around the World has rightfully inspired every subsequent generation of both cruising sailors and armchair explorers.

more on Fairhaven. . .