“….as the day wore on I watched the birds all flying in one direction, and said, ‘Land lies there’”.
Joshua Slocum (“Sailing Alone Around the World”)
Joshua Slocum, of course, was my great, great grandfather and was the first man to ever sail around the world alone. In a very small sailboat. With nothing but a used compass and his wits. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned old Joshua before – he is, after all, the only “famous” person in the family. The rest of us have all been pretty dull folk over the years. He, on the other hand, accomplished what most people thought was impossible. In an old, small boat and by himself. He even wrote a book about it. A good read if you can find it.
Anyway, I was reminded of his great adventure this past weekend when I went down to the Port of Rochester on Lake Ontario. It’s at this point that the north-flowing Genesee River enters the lake. It’s also the place where countless sailboats fill the river and lake in the summertime when conditions are good. And Saturday conditions were extraordinarily good. Skies were partly cloudy, the temperature was in the 70′s, and there was a very nice breeze blowing in from the lake. Perfect for sailboats.
When I arrived, there were dozens of boats out on the lake. I think that maybe some kind of race or regatta was going on. Photographically, my problem was that they were all too far away. All I’d brought with me was the Olympus EM5 with a 45 mm lens. Not nearly good enough for capturing boats at a distance. So as I was standing at the end of the pier I silently wished that they’d all head back into port. Son of a bitch, that’s exactly what they did. All of them, in groups of 2′s and 3′s, right up the river, and right past me. Since the wind was out of the northwest, most left their sails up as they headed in (usually, they pull them down and come in under power).
My guess is that each of the boats you see here is equipped with all kinds of electronic gear. If nothing else, they all have radios (Joshua did not). Most probably have some kind of GPS system. Interestingly, a number of sailors have replicated his voyage over the years. Some have even done it in replicas of the Spray (Joshua’s boat). But none (that I know of) has ever done it with only a compass.