Adventurous Use of the Sea: The Cruising Club of America

Going to Sea for Fun

After the Civil War, sailors went much greater distances to achieve ocean crossing adventures

For 3,000 years the sea was a place of commerce and conflict, a place where adventure was incidental to making a living or serving a nation. For less than 300 years, the sea has also been a place of recreation, a place where individuals can either relax or test their skills and seek adventure.

In America, interest in sailing flourished after the Civil War. While most yachting was near-shore racing and cruising, a few offshore events—from the 1866 transatlantic Great Ocean Race to Captain Joshua Slocum’s solo circumnavigation in the 1890s—encouraged the first generation of amateur ocean sailors. By the early 1900s, with magazines like The Rudder and Yachting to popularize boating and with the establishment of the Bermuda and Transpacific yacht races, the stage was set for something more.

James E. Buttersworth: Henrietta
In 1866, three New York Yacht Club members each bet $30,000 that his schooner could win a race from New York to England.
James E. Buttersworth: HenriettaView full-size image

The First Ocean Yacht Race

In 1866, three New York Yacht Club members each bet $30,000 that his schooner could win a race from New York to England. This first-ever transatlantic yacht race took place in December 1866 in high winds and heavy seas; one schooner lost six of her professional sailors washed overboard. Artist James E. Buttersworth depicted the eventual winner, James Gordon Bennett’s Henrietta, with shortened sail passing a merchant ship in mid-Atlantic.

Thomas Fleming Day
Thomas Fleming Day founded The Rudder magazine in 1890. To promote offshore sailing, he established the Bermuda Race in 1906; sailed Seabird across the Atlantic in 1911; and took the 35-foot powerboat Detroit from New York to Russia in 1912. Day’s spirit of skilled amateur seafaring was carried on by the founders of the Cruising Club of America.
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Thomas Fleming Day (1861-1927)

Promoting Offshore Sailing. Thomas Fleming Day (1861-1927) came to the U.S. as a boy and became an avid boatsman. He established The Rudder as the first boating magazine in the U.S. in 1890, serving as editor until 1916.

Day believed in and lived by the values of self-reliance and competence learned by sailing away from the land. To promote offshore sailing, he established the Bermuda Race in 1906; designed and built the 25-foot Seabird and sailed her across the Atlantic in 1911; and took the 35-foot powerboat Detroit from New York to Russia in 1912. Day’s spirit of skilled amateur seafaring was carried on by the founders of the Cruising Club of America.

Joshua Slocum
Captain Joshua Slocum had several long-distance boat passages behind him when he decided to sail around the world alone. He rebuilt the 36-foot oyster boat Spray and departed from Boston in 1895.
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Joshua Slocum (1844-1909)

First Round-the-World Cruiser. Canadian-born Captain Joshua Slocum (1844-1909) had several long-distance boat passages behind him when he decided to sail around the world alone. He rebuilt the 36-foot oyster boat Spray and departed from Boston in 1895. His 46,000-mile circumnavigation took three years and was filled with adventures, as he described in his 1899 account, Sailing Alone Around the World. Slocum’s pioneering voyage, and his engaging book, have inspired generations of long-distance sailors. Joshua Slocum and his Spray were lost at sea in 1909.

Captain Slocum was photographed aboard Spray with some young visitors at Washington, DC, in 1907.

Mystic Seaport, #1974.1029.3
Charles Raleigh: The Crapos hove to
Captain Thomas Crapo planned a transatlantic crossing in the 19-foot whaleboat New Bedford in 1877. His wife Joanna insisted on going, too.
Charles Raleigh: The Crapos hove toView full-size image

Thomas and Joanna Crapo’s Atlantic Crossing

“A Desire to Beat What Has Been Done Before.” That urge, plus the possibility of profiting off the story of his adventure, led Captain Thomas Crapo (1843-1899) to plan a transatlantic crossing in the 19-foot whaleboat New Bedford in 1877. His wife Joanna (1854-1915) insisted on going too and became the first woman to cross in a boat. Their 49-day passage is considered the fourth small-boat crossing of the Atlantic (and their boat was the smallest to that time). Captain Crapo drowned in 1899 while sailing to Cuba in another small boat. Charles Raleigh painted this view of the Crapos hove to in heavy seas.

Mark Roye and his boat Tamara
CCA member Mark Roye and his boat Tamara, just south of the Lemaire Channel, Antarctica, 2008.
Mark Roye and his boat TamaraView full-size image

Tamara in Antarctica

CCA member Mark Roye and his boat Tamara, just south of the Lemaire Channel, Antarctica, 2008.

Courtesy Nancy Roye