Recommending Slocum's Sailing Alone Around the World in a list of books for children who had enjoyed the Swallows and Amazons series, Arthur Ransome suggested that "Boys who do not like this book ought to be drowned at once," while in his introduction to the Hart-Davis reprint of 1947 he described it, quite simply, as "one of the immortal books".
Sailing Alone Around the World was Slocum's third book, the first being The Voyage of the Destroyer about the delivery of a warship to the Latin American country that had bought it, and the second The Voyage of the Liberdade which tells the story of how, with his wife and family, he was shipwrecked on the coast of Brazil, and then set about building a boat that carried them back to the U.S.A. Although he apologised for his "hand, alas, that has grasped the sextant more often than the plane or pen," he was clearly as gifted a writer as he was a shipwright and navigator, being able, in direct and vigorous prose, to convey a vivid and poetic picture of the voyage with its many dangers and delights, and also of himself, with his modesty, his enormous capacity for enjoyment, and his sense of humour (there is something particularly attractive, not to say Goonlike, about a Great Navigator who on discovering and naming an island, leaves on it the notice 'Please Keep Off the Grass'!).
Captain Slocum continued to sail the Spray after the completion of the journey described in this book, and in 1909 at the age of 65 set out once again on a long single-handed voyage, making for the Orinoco River and the headwaters of the Amazon. He never arrived, his family supposing that he must have been run down by a large steamer during the night. His epitaph may be left to Arthur Ransome:
Sailing on, Joshua Slocum maintains a lively presence on the Web. The Joshua Slocum Society International is a useful starting-point for various sites which celebrate the Spray and her captain.
With thanks to Col. Donn Slocum of the Joshua Slocum Sociey for his assistance and encouragement.