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Last updateFri, 23 Mar 2018 12am







    Thursday, March 22, 2018-12:46:40P.M.






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BC’s Tales of the Pacific: Captain Slocum and the cursed goat

CAPTAIN Joshua Slocum sailed alone around the world and wrote a book about it.  In the hundred years since, many millions of readers have enjoyed his book about the experience.

It wasn’t just that he was the first person in history to accomplish the feat. He was also a superb writer who told the story so well, full of anecdotes and pithy observations, that the book is a great piece of literature even if it was fiction. Even now, members of the club of Slocum revel in sharing stories from his journey.

I have thought about a way to tell the story of the goat but I cannot tell it better than he. So what follows is Slocum’s own recounting of how a goat came aboard his boat and how it almost wrecked his voyage.

“Governor Sterndale had given me a bag of coffee in the husk, and Clark, in an evil moment, had put a goat on board, “to butt the sack and hustle the coffee beans out of the pods.” He urged that the animal, besides being useful, would be as companionable as a dog.

“I soon found that my sailing companion, this sort of dog with horns, had to be tied up entirely. The mistake I made was that I did not chain him to the mast instead of tying him with grass ropes less securely, and this I learned to my cost. Except for the first day, before the beast got his sea legs on, I had no peace of mind. After that, actuated by a spirit born, maybe, of his pasturage, this incarnation of evil threatened to devour everything from flying jib to stern davits.

“He was the worst pirate I met on the whole voyage. He began depredations by eating my chart of the West Indies, in the cabin one day while I was about my work forward, thinking that the critter was securely tied on deck by the pumps. Alas! There was not a rope in the sloop proof against that goat’s awful teeth!

“It was clear from the very first that I was having no luck with animals on board… Next the goat devoured my straw hat, and so when I arrived in port I had nothing to wear ashore on my head. This last unkind stroke decided his fate.

“On the 27th of April the Spray arrived at Ascension, which is garrisoned by a man-of-war crew and the boatswain of the island came on board. As he stepped out of his boat the mutinous goat climbed into it, and defied boatswain and crew. I hired them to land the wretch at once, which they were only too willing to do, and there he fell into the hands of a most excellent Scotchman, with the chances that he would never get away. I was destined to sail once more into the depths of solitude.”

In case this meager passage has whetted your appetite for more, I urge you to get hold of a copy of Capt. Joshua Slocum’s “Sailing Alone Around the World.” I devoured the entire book in three days. My family still wonders where I went that weekend.

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He travels the Pacific but currently resides on the mainland U.S.