eNotated Edition of Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World – A Review

I was recently sent  The eNotated Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum. Enotation is electronic annotation, where instead of footnotes or endnotes, there are embedded links in the text of an e-book. A book like Slocum’s which contains a fair amount of sailing jargon and many geographical references is a perfect candidate for eNotation.

Before discussing this edition, however, a few words on Sailing Alone Around the World are in order. In 1895,  Joshua Slocum was as ship’s captain at loose ends in the last days of sail. He rebuilt a 37′ gaff rigged oyster sloop named Spray, and proceeded to sail it around the world alone, the first person ever to do so. His book about the voyage, Sailing Alone Around the World, is a nautical classic. I would argue that it is a literary classic, period.   Slocum’s direct, deceptively simple yet vivid language reminds me of Mark Twain. If you haven’t read Slocum, you should. Soon. This edition might not be bad place to start.

The eNotation was done by Chris Thomerson, who grew up sailing the North Sea. The challenge for an annotater, or in this case an eNotator, is selecting the right words and phrases to annotate. Beyond that, it is important to keep the annotations as concise possible so as not to distract too much from book itself. Overall, Thomerson does a very good job.

The eNotatations range from short definitions to slightly longer summaries. For example – in chapter 3, after eight days at sea Slocum sights a sail. “The sail was a barkantine, three points on the weather bow, hull down.” By clicking on the underlined phrase “ three points on the weather bow” the enotation opens as floows: “32 points for one full turn or 360 degrees. One point is 11.25 degrees, three points is 34.5 degrees back from the bow on the side the wind is coming from.” By clicking again, you are returned to where you were in the text, to continue reading.

If you are familiar with the nautical jargon, you can just keep reading. If you are less so, reading the enotation is quick and easy and doesn’t distract from the reading itself.  There are also numerous notations tied to geography, idiomatic phrases and bits of history. Often the enotations are just fun in their own right. When Slocum writes: For sufficient reasons, I left that timepiece at home, where the Dutchman left his anchor.” The notation explains the legend of the Flying Dutchman, cursed to sail forever. Sailing without stop forever doesn’t require an anchor, which the Dutchman, therefore, left at home.

The annotations can also add context.  Slocum spent $553.62 on the Spray.  The annotation estimates the current cost of $30,000 to $50,000, still a relative bargain, but not the trifling sum that it might first appear.

Two other features are included in this edition. The original illustrations are included, which can be blown up to full screen size with a click, a feature not usually available on a Kindle book.  Also each paragraph is numbered making it easier to keep track of if reading as part of a book club or study group.

Overall the eNotated edition of Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World is just fun to read.  The original book is great reading and the eNotations add to the experience, while not getting in the way. This edition is priced reasonably at $4.99.

Price is an interesting issue. The book is in the public domain and you can download a Kindle version of Sailing Alone Around the World for free, without annotations, of course. The quality of the free versions can vary widely, and while the price is right, the reading may be tough.

There is an annotated paperback version available for $13.97, so the eNotated version is a bargain by comparison.

Looking at the range of prices of the various versions of Sailing Alone Around the World provides a glimpse into the chaotic world of print and e-book pricing. T he cost of a copy of Sailing Alone Around the World on Amazon ranges from free to almost $32 in hardcover.   The oddest pricing is from Penguin Classics which offers Sailing Alone Around the World with an introduction by Thomas Philbrick. The paperback is available on Amazon for $11.20. The hardcover sells for a penny more, at $11.21.  The Kindle book, at a price set by Penguin and not Amazon, is for sale for $11.99.  The marketing wizards at Penguin clearly are completely clueless about the pricing of e-books.   It is probably safe to say that Slocum e-books are not big sellers for Penguin.

But I digress.

Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World by eNotated by Chris Thomerson, is a new and engaging version of a timeless classic. Highly recommended.


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2 Responses to eNotated Edition of Joshua Slocum’s Sailing Alone Around the World – A Review

  1. Steven Toby says:

    I couldn’t agree more about the literary merit of Capt. Slocum’s book. I would add to Rick’s comments that the book shows a wry sense of humor that is rarely to be seen today. I have made the episode of the carpet tacks (those who have read the book will know exactly what I mean) into a bedtime story that my 7 year old just laps up.

    Slocum signalled USS Oregon, when she passed him on her way to the Spanish-American War in Cuba, suggesting they stick together for mutual protection. What a character!

  2. Rick says:

    Thank you for mentioning Slocum’s humor. It is wonderfully dry, if often sharp. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 3 I particularly like that captures a bit of his good natured wit:

    On July 16 the wind was northwest and clear, the sea smooth, and a large bark, hull down, came in sight on the lee bow, and at 2:30 P.M. I spoke the stranger. She was the bark Java of Glasgow, from Peru for Queenstown for orders. Her old captain was bearish, but I met a bear once in Alaska that looked pleasanter. At least, the bear seemed pleased to meet me, but this grizzly old man! Well, I suppose my hail disturbed his siesta, and my little sloop passing his great ship had somewhat the effect on him that a red rag has upon a bull. I had the advantage over heavy ships, by long odds, in the light winds of this and the two previous days. The wind was light; his ship was heavy and foul making poor headway, while the Spray, with a great mainsail bellying even to light winds, was just skipping along as nimbly as one could wish. “How long has it been calm about here?” roared the captain of the Java, as I came within hail of him. “Dunno, cap’n,” I shouted back as loud as I could bawl. “I haven’t been here long.” At this the mate on the forecastle wore a broad grin. “I left Cape Sable fourteen days ago,” I added. (I was now well across toward the Azores.) “Mate,” he roared to his chief officer—”mate, come here and listen to the Yankee’s yarn. Haul down the flag, mate, haul down the flag!” In the best of humor, after all, the Java surrendered to the Spray.