Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum was from Nova Scotia, Canada. He owned several ships as well as commanding many others. After loosing one of his ships, the Aquidneck, on a sandbank in Brazil, he and his family sailed the Liberdade, a canoe of about 35 foot, from the site of the grounding to Washington DC USA, his new home. Perhaps owing to this demonstration of seamanship, a few years later a friend presented him with the honor of restoring the rotting oyster sloop that later became the famous 37 foot Spray. Three years later Spray embarked on her single-handed world circumnavigation. Slocum brought her 46,000 miles and wrote a book about the 3 year epic voyage which finished on June 27 1898. She inspires recreational sailors even today. Slocum is considered a hero of both Canada’s and the United State’s. If only more boat designers would be inspired by the Spray. Today there are over 5000 replicas of the vessel.

Slocum was a bluewater cruiser pioneer who was able to put his commercial sailing experience to good use in demonstrating proper design. His 138 foot bark Aquidneck had been used by his family for cruising and carrying cargo when the age of commercial sail was about over. It was common during this time for owners to skuttle their vessels for insurance but the Aquidneck was uninsured when she was lost. Slocum had been studying small boat design and was in the process of building a tender to Aquidneck at the time of the loss.

The Liberdade was that tender and she was junk rigged but also incorporated solid flotation in the form of bamboo bundles along her gunwales so that she would be self righting – not unlike RIBed tenders of the modern age. While being towed, Slocum must have realized that the design and construction allowed the vessel to exceed theoretical displacement hull speed safely. Charles J.Doane reports in Sail Magazine (May 2006 pg 70) that Liberdade was towed at an exciting 13 knots with Slocum’s son ready to chop the tow line free but the vessel did not break up or show signs of being about to. This test likely inspired Slocum to sail at speeds not considered safe for a small displacement hull of her size and Liberdade covered 180 miles in one 24 hour period. While inspiring, I do not consider Liberdade successful in that Slocum’s wife would not join Joshua on Spray for his circumnavigation telling him “Joshua, I have already made my voyage” on Liberdade. The two foot larger Spray is obviously successful given her replicas and this is among the reasons I have concluded that in a displacement hull the vessel must be at least 37 foot for bluewater cruising. A planing hull such as a Mac26x is the alternative.

28 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. Hello Frank. This is an interesting blog, discussing an interesting boat design. I’m looking into centreboarders and I’m writing to ask you to consider adjusting a paragraph of your blog ‘#5 – Keeled Sailboats are the Most Seaworthy Ocean Cruisers’. The para starts with ‘Murrelet is a 5 ton by volume documentable vessel.’ My concern is the sentence where you write, ‘If needed the mast can be dropped on Mac26x cruisers thereby reducing weight aloft which is a contributor to capsizing.’ Umm, actually, I’m quite sure that this advice is incorrect.

    After the Fastnet race disaster, the board of enquiry concluded that one of the best and easiest ways to reduce the chances of capsize was to add weight to the top of the mast. The board also found that a yacht losing its mast increased its chances of being capsized or turning-turtle. These findings are difficult to digest at first, but become convincing when physics is applied, in place of intuition. The weight of the long mast, which extends well away from the centre of gravity, creates a situation of high mass-moment-of-inertia. That is, a lot of energy is needed to make the mast move. The mast is fixed to the yacht and so it’s harder to make the yacht roll. Remove the mast and the yacht will tumble over much more easily. Naval architects know that one of the best ways to make a yacht seakindly is to have a reasonably high level of distributed masses – the more mass there is away from the centre of gravity, the harder it is to make the yacht deviate from it’s current position.

    It’s a very interesting consideration. 🙂

    Regards, Rick.

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  10. Contrary to marketers of lesser vessels who like to say otherwise, MacGregor Yachts is a builder of ocean sail boats and not a builder of boats meant for the first time purchaser.

    Macgregor 26M Bonnie Blue Sailing to the Dry Tortugas You Tube Chinook Madgic Spell

    The Executive Director of a national development program in the Republic of Kiribati got a fleet of Mac26x cruisers to the Marshall Islands where they were used for transporting medical and dental teams and supplies and were routinely sailed 500 miles from the Marshall Islands to the Republic of Kiribati. The director, holds a merchant marine license, has a hundred-ton ticket, has sailed the world in many vessels including Columbia’s and Catamarans, owned a Mac26x and in 2002 indicated he would like to purchase a used one – probably regretting the sale of his first. He is a real fan of the cruiser and has sailed them in rough conditions and nothing broke. It is that kind of praise that makes me question those who claim the Mac26x is not a blue water cruiser. For a crew of two it may be the ideal blue water cruiser.

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