Spray (sailing vessel)

The S.V. Spray was a 36 in 9 in (11.2 m) oyster sloop
A sloop is a sail boat with a fore-and-aft rig and a single mast farther forward than the mast of a cutter....

 rebuilt by Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum was the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. He was a Canadian born, naturalised American seaman and adventurer, and a noted writer. In 1900 he told the story of this in Sailing Alone Around the World...

 and used by him to sail single-handed
Single-handed sailing
The sport of single-handed sailing or solo sailing is sailing with only one crewmember . The term is usually used with reference to ocean and long-distance sailing, and particularly competitive sailing....

 around the world, the first voyage of its kind. The Spray was lost with Captain Slocum aboard in 1909, while sailing from Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Vineyard Haven is a community within the town of Tisbury on Martha's Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. It is listed as a census-designated place by the U.S...

, on the island of Martha's Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard
Martha's Vineyard is an island located south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, known for being an affluent summer colony....

, to South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...



In 1892, a friend, Captain Eben Pierce, offered Slocum a ship that "wants some repairs". Slocum went to Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Fairhaven is a town in Bristol County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is located on the south coast of Massachusetts where the Acushnet River flows into Buzzards Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean...

 to find that the "ship" was a rotting old oyster sloop named Spray, propped-up in a field. Despite the major overhaul of the ship, Slocum kept her name "Spray", noting, "Now, it is a law in Lloyd's
Lloyd's Register
The Lloyd's Register Group is a maritime classification society and independent risk management organisation providing risk assessment and mitigation services and management systems certification. Historically, as Lloyd's Register of Shipping, it was a specifically maritime organisation...

 that the Jane repaired all out of the old until she is entirely new is still the Jane
Ship of Theseus
The Ship of Theseus, also known as Theseus' paradox, or various variants, notably grandfather's axe and Trigger's Broom is a paradox that raises the question of whether an object which has had all its component parts replaced remains fundamentally the same object.The paradox is most notably...


Its days as a fishing boat, probably as a Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

 oysterman, had come to an end by 1885, and it was a derelict, a slowly-deteriorating hulk sitting in a makeshift ship's-cradle in a seaside meadow on Poverty Point in Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Fairhaven, Massachusetts
Fairhaven is a town in Bristol County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is located on the south coast of Massachusetts where the Acushnet River flows into Buzzards Bay, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean...

, when Captain Eben Pierce of that town offered it to Joshua Slocum as a gift. Slocum came to Fairhaven to look at the Spray (sorry sight that it was), and he undertook to repair and refit it over the next thirteen months.

In Port Angosto, Strait of Magellan
Strait of Magellan
The Strait of Magellan comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland South America and north of Tierra del Fuego...

, the Spray was re-rigged as a yawl
A yawl is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an additional mast located well aft of the main mast, often right on the transom, specifically aft of the rudder post. A yawl (from Dutch Jol) is a two-masted sailing craft similar to a sloop or cutter but with an...

 by adding a jigger.


"Yachtsmen pleasuring in the 'lilies of the sea' will not think favourably of my craft," warned Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum was the first man to sail single-handedly around the world. He was a Canadian born, naturalised American seaman and adventurer, and a noted writer. In 1900 he told the story of this in Sailing Alone Around the World...

, anticipating the criticism of those who juggle with coefficients. "They have a right to their opinion, while I stick to mine." It is worth reading the Appendix of Sailing Alone Around the World
Sailing Alone Around the World
Sailing Alone Around the World is a sailing memoir by Joshua Slocum about his single-handed global circumnavigation aboard the sloop Spray. Slocum was the first person to sail around the world alone...

 for Slocum's candid explanation of the Spray design and its seaworthiness.

An analysis by Howard I. Chapelle
Howard I. Chapelle
Howard Irving Chapelle was an American naval architect, and curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.. In addition, he authored many books and articles books on maritime history and marine architecture.-Biography:...

, curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian Institution and a noted expert on small sailing craft, demonstrated that the Spray was stable under most circumstances but could easily capsize if heeled beyond a relatively shallow angle. He felt that Slocum was merely lucky that his unstable vessel had not killed him earlier.

Despite this, and other criticisms of the Spray design, many hundreds of Spray copies and several Spray replicas, are presently sailing on all oceans of the world. Indeed, there has been no recorded incident of a Spray design having been lost at sea with all hands since Joshua Slocum and Spray disappeared in 1909, and the general opinion of that is that basic seaworthiness was not an issue in the vessel's fate. However, one of the many theories for the boat's disappearance suggested that her internal ballast may have shifted in a severe knock-down and thus unbalanced her. Only exact replica Sprays today would retain internal ballast. Frenchman Guy Bernardin is attempting a circumnavigation in a Spray replica Spray of Briac. With no weighted keel, the boat carries 1.4 tonnes of iron ingots as ballast – jig-sawed into position in the bilge, just like Slocum’s Spray. Would they fall out if he rolled? "They might..."

In his book "Captain Joshua Slocum", Joshua's son Victor Slocum stated that "the ballast was concrete cement, stanchioned down securely to ensure it against shifting should the vessel be hove on her beam-ends. There was no outside ballast whatever. The Spray could have been self-righting if hove on her beam-ends, a fact that was proven, since, by an experiment on an exact duplicate of the original boat and ballasted just like her. The test boat was hove down with mast flat to the water and when released righted herself."

When commodore John Pflieger pointed out in Spray, the journal of The Slocum Society, that a long keel is harder to tack or go about in and that a boat similar to Spray foundered on a lee shore on this account, Peter Tangvald, competent ocean sailor who circumnavigated in his 32-foot cutter Dorothea I, promptly replied, "How much more should Slocum have done to demonstrate that the boat was seaworthy? I would not hesitate to claim that if one Spray was wrecked on a lee shore it was because her crew needed a few more hours of sailing lessons."

Bound from Samoa to Australia, Slocum encountered gales and heavy seas that foundered the American clipper ship Patrician running a course south of Spray. A French mail steamer blown off course reported seeing Spray at the height of the storm and wondered what sad fate had befallen the little ship. Slocum's log records that, at the time that passengers of the steamer were up to their knees in water in the big ship's saloon, Spray was laying snug under a goose-winged mainsail.

Joshua Slocum, a classic sailor and a forthright, honest man, not being concerned by the controversy over the seaworthiness capabilities, said simply, "I have given in the plans of the Spray the dimensions of such a ship as I should call seaworthy in all conditions of weather and on all seas." He also stated: "I may some day see reason to modify the model of the dear old Spray, but out of my limited experience I strongly recommend her wholesome lines over those of pleasure-fliers for safety."

Self-steering ability

One of the most remarkable things about Spray was her ability to run before the wind under her regular fore-and-aft rig with the helm lashed, and hold her course for hours or days on end. If Spray had not had this ability, Slocum's performance would have been a physical impossibility.

On nearing the Cocos (Keeling) Islands
Cocos (Keeling) Islands
The Territory of the Cocos Islands, also called Cocos Islands and Keeling Islands, is a territory of Australia, located in the Indian Ocean, southwest of Christmas Island and approximately midway between Australia and Sri Lanka....

, Slocum noted "I didn't touch the helm, for with the current and heave of the sea the sloop found herself at the end of the run absolutely in the fairway of the channel. ... Then I trimmed her sails by the wind, took the helm, and flogged her up the couple of miles or so abreast the harbour landing, where I cast anchor at 3.30 pm, July 17, 1897, twenty-three days from Thursday Island. The distance run was twenty-seven hundred miles as the crow flies. ... During those twenty-three days I had not spent altogether more than three hours at the helm, including the time occupied in beating into Keeling harbour. I just lashed the helm and let her go; whether the wind was abeam or dead aft, it was all the same: she always stayed on her course."

Iconoclast designer John G. Hanna
John G. Hanna
John Griffin Hanna was a sailboat designer, famous for designing the Tahiti ketch. Hanna was born in Galveston, Texas, on October 12, 1889. Around 1917, he settled in Dunedin, Florida, and was greatly influenced by the Greek double-ended sponge boats found in nearby Tarpon Springs, Florida...

, known as the sage of Dunedin but perhaps better known as the designer of the Tahiti ketch, said of Spray, "I hold that her peculiar merit as a single-hander was in her remarkable balance of all effective centres of effort and resistance on her midship section line." Hanna nevertheless felt it necessary to warn prospective circumnavigators looking for a suitable vessel that "Spray is the worst possible boat for anyone lacking the experience and resourcefulness of Slocum to take offshore."

Cipriano Andrade, Jr., engineer and yacht designer, said of Spray: “After a thorough analysis of Spray's lines, I found her to have a theoretically perfect balance. Her balance is marvelous — almost uncanny. Try as I would — one element after another — they all swung into the same identical line. I attacked her with proportional dividers, planimeter
A planimeter is a measuring instrument used to determine the area of an arbitrary two-dimensional shape.-Construction:There are several kinds of planimeters, but all operate in a similar way. The precise way in which they are constructed varies, with the main types of mechanical planimeter being...

, rotameter
A rotameter is a device that measures the flow rate of liquid or gas in a closed tube.It belongs to a class of meters called variable area meters, which measure flow rate by allowing the cross-sectional area the fluid travels through to vary, causing some measurable effect.-History:The first...

, Simpson's rule
Simpson's rule
In numerical analysis, Simpson's rule is a method for numerical integration, the numerical approximation of definite integrals. Specifically, it is the following approximation:...

, Froude's coefficients, Dixon Kemp
Dixon Kemp
Dixon Kemp , a British naval architect, was a founder of the Yacht Racing Association and at one time its secretary. He was a founder of Lloyd's Register of Yachts....

's formulae, series, curves, differentials, and all the appliances of modern yacht designing, and she emerged from the ordeal a theoretically perfect boat. For when she is underway every element of resistance, stability, weight, heeling effort, and propulsive force is in one transverse plane, and that plane is the boat's midship section. I know of no similar case in the whole field of naval architecture, ancient or modern.”

Slocum himself said "I did not know the center of effort in her sails, except as it hit me in practice at sea, nor did I care a rope yarn about it. Mathematical calculations, however, are all right in a good boat, and Spray could have stood them. She was easily balanced and easily kept in trim."
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