Pipe Lit
Book review by Thomas Martin

Sailing Alone Around The World... by Joshua Slocum

In the late 1800’s Joshua Slocum turned a Oyster boat, already one hundred years old, into a schooner of his on design. Massachusetts locals in New Bedford gifted it to him as a joke. In 1895-1898, he sailed it around the world. Alone!

Slocum rebuilt the century old boat such that it was not only seaworthy but could also steer itself allowing the captain to sleep or read in the cabin during his expedition. The cabin was a virtual library lined with bookcases and stuffed with his collection. On his bureau sat his pipes and tobacco which he refers to several times in the book (which can be found free online in text or audio). In South Africa he met, and spent time with Oom Paul.

He returned to Briar Island, Nova Scotia, as part of the first leg of his journey around the world. He recalls the story of the eccentric tailor who kept his gun powder in his pocket. The tailor was famous for always smoking on his Dundeen, and infamous for that “evil moment” when he put the lighted pipe in his pocket.

On the Island, he stocked his boat with “Yarmouth” Butter, potatoes, and fresh water. He mentions not where he got his tobacco, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn it was from L. J. Peretti’s in Boston, at the beginning of his journey. 115 years later, I very much enjoy their tasteful blends.

At one point, Slocum was delirious with fever and wrote about one of his “fever dreams.” Unable to sail, he dreamed about a visit from one of Columbus’ crew, Pilot Pinta who had come to his aid with “a large quid of black twist,” perhaps it to was held together with nails like the kind Ken C smokes… Nonetheless, in his dream Pinta got to work crewing the Spray until Slocum was able.

When ashore the Captain liked to “rusticate” in the forests and among the streams. Until reading this book, I only knew of the word “rusticate” as it applies to pipes. In this context the word means to sojurn in the country. He did much of this in South Africa as he was treated like royalty. He stayed four months. If he stayed a few more years, he would have witnessed the beginnings of the Calabash. South Africa was then inhabited by Boers and Afrikaans of Dutch Dissent who later warred. Soldiers of that war took home the Calabash pipe as souvenirs.

Joshua Slocum had no more than a third grade education yet authored several books. His dry wit and humor are both endearing and entertaining. Like most crusty old pipe smokers, get to know them and you’ll find them intelligent and gentle. Much of his humor is actually at the expense of the “nationalistic conservative” and President of Transvaal, Oom Paul Kruger. Oom Paul believed ardently that the world was flat. Kruger was apparently not alone in his belief.

In this cartoon which appeared in the Cape Town Owl dated March 5, 1898, Slocum was portrayed smoking a clay Dundeen next to a placard which read:

“Captain Slocum of the “Spray” states that during his recent visit with President Kruger, he told him that he was sailing his ship around the world.”

“You don’t mean sailing around the world, it is impossible,” said the President. “You mean sailing in the world.”

When the Captain tried to explain to him that the world was not flat, he shut up like an Oyster.

And such is the story, at least a it relates to the pipe, of Joshua Slocum, The Man Who Sailed Around The World- Alone… in an old Oyster boat.

To read online visit: http://www.ibiblio.org/eldritch/js/saaw.htm

To read more about Slocum visit:

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