A MAN FOR ALL OCEANS: CAPTAIN JOSHUA SLOCUM AND THE FIRST SOLO VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD

 

Master mariner Joshua Slocum (1844-1909) was the first person to ever sail around the world alone in 1895-1898. When asked by incredulous reporters why he would take on such a dangerous journey, he replied, “Because my wife would not come with me.”

Such was the matter-of-fact, stoic nature of the 51-year-old sailor when he embarked on a seafaring journey no one had ever before attempted. And maritime historian Stan Grayson’s excellent biography of Joshua Slocum is a triumph of maritime history and masterful storytelling.

Grayson is an experienced blue water sailor, too, so this story rings true in maritime color and history as he tells of Slocum’s childhood in Nova Scotia, running away to sea as a teenager, serving as a crewman and later as the master of ocean-going merchant sailing vessels.

As Grayson relates, Slocum was a skilled seaman, boat handler, navigator and captain. He survived shipwrecks, mutiny, murder attempts and violent storms in his sea-going career, and then he decided to circumnavigate the world alone in a 37-foot sloop/yawl named “Spray.”

Best is Grayson’s exciting portrayal of that fabulous three-year voyage. Slocum sailed from Boston in 1895 and returned 38 months later after remarkable experiences. He was chased by Moroccan pirates off Gibraltar, hallucinated in delirium that Columbus’ pilot stood at his helm while he was sick (and kept him perfectly on course), fended off hostile natives rounding Cape Horn (with a rifle and a box of carpet tacks) and combated extreme loneliness at sea. These harrowing situations caused him to “make resolutions about future good behavior if he survived.”

Slocum and the Spray disappeared without a trace in 1909 while he was sailing alone again to South America. See Slocum’s own book, “Sailing Alone Around the World,” published in 1900 and never gone out of print.

TIGHTENING THE THREADS: A MAINELY NEEDLEPOINT MYSTERY

 

About families, playwright Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) once wrote: “Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.” That description perfectly fits elderly Ted Lawrence’s family of greedy, ungrateful adult children and their snarky desire to accelerate Ted’s death.

“Tightening The Threads” is Edgecomb author Lea Wait’s third book in her “Mainely Needlepoint Mystery” series, featuring former private investigator Angie Curtis. Wait is a prolific writer of “cozy” mysteries and young-adult historical novels. She enjoys a solid reputation as a skilled mystery writer, with entertaining plots and convincing characters.

The coastal Maine town of Haven Harbor is stunned when famous and wealthy artist Ted Lawrence drops dead at his 75th birthday party. The son of an even more famous artist, Ted’s and his father’s art collections are worth millions, and his selfish, back-biting adult children want all of it.

Angie’s friend, Sarah, thinks she might be related to Ted, but the family rejects her after Ted’s surprise announcement of a change to his will and the fact that he is dying of cancer. But somebody can’t wait — Ted must die right now.

As a former private investigator, Angie (who still packs a concealed weapon) is asked to investigate, and what she discovers is a family torn by greed, jealousy, guilt and mistrust, and everybody has a powerful motive for murder. After a second murder, Angie and the police wonder if the killer (or killers) isn’t part of the family at all. There’s a ton of money at stake here, but maybe there’s another reason for the killings.

Two more secrets are revealed to Angie, and then a birdwatcher’s inadvertent seaside photograph provides the last conclusive clue.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.