Travel & Outdoors | 13 October 2015Sailing from Gibraltar Share article facebook twitter google pinterest Plenty of modern-day adventurers, sailors, and tourists make plans of sailing from Gibraltar. This United Kingdom territory is perfectly positioned to be the launching point for your next nautical adventure. Joshua Slocum, the first man to circumnavigate the world alone, would agree. In his travel journal, Slocum shares sailing from Gibraltar on his boat, The Spray—and he even encounters a pirate on the high seas! Get your fix of seafaring adventure in this excerpt from Slocum’s memoir, Sailing Alone Around the World, published by Zenith Press. The entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar as seen from Punta del Carnero, Spain.Photo credit: Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (Zenith Press) Sailing from Gibraltar with the assistance of her Majesty’s tug Monday, August 25, the Spray sailed from Gibraltar, well repaid for whatever deviation she had made from a direct course to reach the place. A tug belonging to her Majesty towed the sloop into the steady breeze clear of the mount, where her sails caught a volant wind, which carried her once more to the Atlantic, where it rose rapidly to a furious gale. My plan was, in going down this coast, to haul offshore, well clear of the land, which hereabouts is the home of pirates; but I had hardly accomplished this when I perceived a felucca making out of the nearest port, and finally following in the wake of the Spray. Now, my course to Gibraltar had been taken with a view to proceed up the Mediterranean Sea, through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, and east about, instead of a western route, which I finally adopted. By officers of vast experience in navigating these seas, I was influenced to make the change. Longshore pirates on both coasts being numerous, I could not afford to make light of the advice. But here I was, after all, evidently in the midst of pirates and thieves! I changed my course; the felucca did the same, both vessels sailing very fast, but the distance growing less and less between us. The Spray was doing nobly; she was even more than at her best; but, in spite of all I could do, she would broach now and then. She was carrying too much sail for safety. I must reef or be dismasted and lose all, pirate or no pirate. I must reef, even if I had to grapple with him for my life. I was not long in reefing the mainsail and sweating it up—probably not more than fifteen minutes; but the felucca had in the meantime so shortened the distance between us that I now saw the tuft of hair on the heads of the crew—by which, it is said, Mohammed will pull the villains up into heaven—and they were coming on like the wind. From what I could clearly make out now, I felt them to be the sons of generations of pirates, and I saw by their movements that they were now preparing to strike a blow. The exultation on their faces, however, was changed in an instant to a look of fear and rage. Their craft, with too much sail on, broached to on the crest of a great wave. This one great sea changed the aspect of affairs suddenly as the flash of a gun. Three minutes later the same wave overtook the Spray and shook her in every timber. At the same moment the sheet-strop parted, and away went the main-boom, broken short at the rigging. Impulsively I sprang to the jib-halyards and downhaul, and instantly downed the jib. The head-sail being off, and the helm put hard down, the sloop came in the wind with a bound. While shivering there, but a moment though it was, I got the mainsail down and secured inboard, broken boom and all. How I got the boom in before the sail was torn I hardly know; but not a stitch of it was broken. The mainsail being secured, I hoisted away the jib, and, without looking round, stepped quickly to the cabin and snatched down my loaded rifle and cartridges at hand; for I made mental calculations that the pirate would by this time have recovered his course and be close aboard, and that when I saw him it would be better for me to be looking at him along the barrel of a gun. The piece was at my shoulder when I peered into the mist, but there was no pirate within a mile. The wave and squall that carried away my boom dismasted the felucca outright. I perceived his thieving crew, some dozen or more of them, struggling to recover their rigging from the sea. Allah blacken their faces! Slocum being chased by pirates.Photo Credit: Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (Zenith Press) I sailed comfortably on under the jib and forestaysail, which I now set. I fished the boom and furled the sail snug for the night; then hauled the sloop’s head two points offshore to allow for the set of current and heavy rollers toward the land. This gave me the wind three points on the starboard quarter and a steady pull in the headsails. By the time I had things in this order it was dark, and a flying-fish had already fallen on deck. I took him below for my supper, but found myself too tired to cook, or even to eat a thing already prepared. I do not remember to have been more tired before or since in all my life than I was at the finish of that day. Too fatigued to sleep, I rolled about with the motion of the vessel till near midnight, when I made shift to dress my fish and prepare a dish of tea. I fully realized now, if I had not before, that the voyage ahead would call for exertions ardent and lasting. On August 27 nothing could be seen of the Moor, or his country either, except two peaks, away in the east through the clear atmosphere of morning. Soon after the sun rose even these were obscured by haze, much to my satisfaction. The wind, for a few days following my escape from the pirates, blew a steady but moderate gale, and the sea, though agitated into long rollers, was not uncomfortably rough or dangerous, and while sitting in my cabin I could hardly realize that any sea was running at all, so easy was the long, swinging motion of the sloop over the waves. All distracting uneasiness and excitement being now over, I was once more alone with myself in the realization that I was on the mighty sea and in the hands of the elements. But I was happy, and was becoming more and more interested in the voyage. Ships much larger than the Spray, such as galleons often used from the sixteenth to eighteenth century, can be keeled by large waves at sea. Photo Credit: Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (Zenith Press) Columbus, in the Santa Maria, sailing these seas more than four hundred years before, was not so happy as I, nor so sure of success in what he had undertaken. His first troubles at sea had already begun. His crew had managed, by foul play or otherwise, to break the ship’s rudder while running before probably just such a gale as the Spray had passed through; and there was dissension on the Santa Maria, something that was unknown on the Spray. After three days of squalls and shifting winds I threw myself down to rest and sleep, while, with helm lashed, the sloop sailed steadily on her course. To hear more about Slocum’s solo journey around the world, check out his travel memoir Sailing Alone Around the World, published by Zenith Press. Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum (Zenith Press) Sailing Alone Around the World is Joshua Slocum’s memoir about sailing alone around the world aboard his sloop, Spray. The book was an immediate success when it was first published in 1900 and was highly influential in inspiring later travelers to do the same. Buy from an online retailer In North America: In the UK: Share article facebook twitter google pinterest If you have any comments on this article please contact us or get in touch via social media.