Joshua Slocum (February 20, 1844 – on or shortly after November 14, 1909) was the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. He was a Nova Scotian-born, naturalised American seaman and adventurer, and a noted writer. In 1900 he wrote a book about his journey, Sailing Alone Around the World, which became an international best-seller. He disappeared in November 1909 while aboard his boat, the Spray.
When Joshua was eight years old, the Slocombe family moved from Mount Hanley to Brier Island in Digby County, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. Slocum's maternal grandfather was the keeper of the lighthouse at Southwest Point there. His father, a stern man and strict disciplinarian, took up making leather boots for the local fishermen, and Joshua helped in the shop. However, the boy found the scent of salt air much more alluring than the smell of shoe leather. He yearned for a life of adventure at sea, away from his demanding father and his increasingly chaotic life at home among so many brothers and sisters.
In Alaska, the Washington was wrecked when she dragged her anchor during a gale, ran ashore, and broke up. Slocum, however, at considerable risk to himself, managed to save his wife, the crew, and much of the cargo, bringing all back to port safely in the ship's open boats. The owners of the shipping company that had employed Slocum were so impressed by this feat of ingenuity and leadership, they gave him the command of the Constitution which he sailed to Hawaii and the west coast of Mexico.
Ownership of the Pato afforded Slocum the kind of freedom and autonomy he had never experienced before. Hiring a crew, he contracted to deliver a cargo to Vancouver in British Columbia. Thereafter, he used the Pato as a general freight carrier along the west coast of North America and in voyages back and forth between San Francisco and Hawaii. During this period, Slocum also fulfilled a long-held ambition to become a writer; he became a temporary correspondent for the San Francisco Bee.
Destroyer was a ship 130 feet in length, conceived by the Swedish-American inventor and mechanical engineer John Ericsson, and intended for the defence of harbours and coastal waters. Equipped in the early 1880s with sloping armour plate and a bow-mounted submarine gun it was an evolution of the Monitor warship type of the American Civil War. Destroyer was intended to fire an early form of torpedo at an opposing ship from a range of 300 feet, and was a "vessel of war partially armored to attack bows-on at short range".
With a storm continuing to blow on the 9th, the crew was able to lower the level of water in the hold and plug some of the holes and leaks. Bailing out water using a large improvised canvas bag continued from the 9th to the 13th and succeeded in maintaining the level of water in the hold below three feet. On the 13th they were again hit by a storm and cross seas and had to bail all night. On the 14th, heavy seas disabled the rudder. By the afternoon of 15 December, the Destroyer was to the southwest of Puerto Rico, heading for Martinique, and still weathering storms.
Slocum intended to sail eastward around the world, using the Suez Canal, but when he got near Gibraltar he realized that sailing through the southern Mediterranean would be too dangerous for a lone sailor because of the piracy that still went on there at that time. So he decided to sail westward, in the southern hemisphere. He headed to Brazil, and then the Straits of Magellan. At that point he was unable to start across the Pacific for forty days because of a storm. Eventually he made his way to Australia, sailed north along the east coast, crossed the Indian Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and then headed back to North America.