In Slocum’s Wake

Ocean Navigator contributor Nat Warren-White’s account of his circumnavigation aboard his Montevideo 43, Bahati, is elevated by association with Joshua Slocum’s historic work of adventure literature. Despite the huge differences, there is a comparison to be enjoyed between the two accounts and it is well worth the time to pull out Sailing Alone while reading In Slocum’s Wake.

A non-technical travelogue, In Slocum’s Wake has a mission: to persuade mere mortals to follow in Bahati’s wake, to imply how much easier it is to sail on a modern boat with a crew, to thank his 50-odd crewmembers, to thank his wife Betsy and son Josh, to credit those who advised him, to document the voyage and to demystify circumnavigating. 

Slocum’s account demonstrated his amazing skills and confidence and over the decades sailors have thrilled at reading every amazing page. Nat’s account is more introspective and demonstrates his character, humility, intelligence, generosity of spirit, while suggesting the idea that he did it and so can we. Few of us believe sailing alone Slocum-style is either sane or safe. But we get Nat’s idea that Bahati’s voyage is within reach – if we just have the guts, optimism, commitment and passion.

Nat’s dream, hatched in the 1960s, took until he was in his 60s to pull off. Nat’s wife supported the dream, but only after trying to talk him out of it. In the end Betsy supported both onshore and at sea.

It’s amusing to learn that possibly the worst part of the trip was the first couple of weeks in the North Atlantic trying to get from Norfolk to the Caribbean in November. The leg from Norfolk to Bermuda took 12 miserable days and Bermuda was not the destination. But Nat and Joshua are both optimists, probably a requirement for a circumnavigation.

From Nat: “In a world that focuses so much on the ‘bad guys,’ it’s helpful to be reminded that the vast majority of people living on Earth are compassionate, generous and well-meaning.”

Both Capt. Nat and Capt. Josh capture the wonder of the voyaging life both practical and spiritual with every page. Yet despite that joy and wonder, ocean sailing participation continues to decline. This is not due to the expense, since there are so many capable and durable voyaging sailboats available at low cost. Nat is one of a dying breed in that he was raised sailing and got a thorough education from his parents. And then he successfully trained his son Josh, who turned out to be a key to the success of the Bahati voyage. Nat raised Josh well and Josh paid it back in spades continuing a family tradition passed down to Nat from his father. Several generations were required. Call it privilege or luck but it is increasingly rare. It is fantastic to hear that Bahati is now back at sea with a young family and a voyage in the making. Ocean sailors can encourage the next generation by passing on copies of both of these books.

Alex Agnew is Executive Director of Sailing Ships Maine, a sail training non-profit which operates the schooner Harvey Gamage providing ocean sailing experiences for high school students. He is also Associate Publisher of this magazine.