Thursday, February 2, 2012

Alfred Johnson's Centennial

Atlantic Crossing

Sixty six days, three thousand miles,
Record breaking, Abercastle smiles,
Liverpool, trip complete,
The courage of Captain Johnson and Centennial’s feat.

Tony Davies

In the fishing port of Gloucester, Massachusetts a twenty nine year old schoonerman and halibut fisherman, Alfred Johnson, committed to a daredevil stunt in a fit of bravado, a crossing of the Atlantic from west to east in a twenty foot dory.

Johnson's voyage was the first recorded single-handed crossing of the Atlantic.

He began the crossing, June 15, 1876. Stopping briefly in Nova Scotia to make adjustments to his ballast, Centennial set sail into the open ocean around June 25.

Johnson maintained a log of approximately 70 miles (110 km) a day - respectable for a small boat in the open sea and survived a major gale which capsized his boat. An exhausted man, Alfred made landfall at Abercastle, Wales on Saturday, August 12. After a few days' rest, he completed the voyage, sailing into Liverpool on August 21, 1876, to an enthusiastic reception.

Johnson received some attention for his feat, and his boat was exhibited in Liverpool for several months. He was thereafter known as Alfred "Centennial" Johnson. When asked later in life why he'd done it, he said;

"I made that trip because I was a damned fool, just as they said I was."

The lines from John Gardner's interpretation of


Baydog said...

I feel that way when we make it back from Seaside on a Saturday afternoon after the thermals have set in.

doryman said...

What's worse than a fool?
A damned fool.

Baydog said...

Guilty I suppose.

doryman said...

Some of the most foolish things I have done make the best stories.
And so it is with this one.

Bursledon Blogger said...

The world needs more dammed fools

jp huza said...

Philip Bolger had a design called Centennial II in his book, Different Boats. It uses 11 sheets of plywood, and was inspired by Johnson's boat. He had some nice commentary about the feat, and the man himself, and of the wisdom of trying such a thing in the original boat, or of the more modern update.

Quoting Bolger, "...but it used to be a high compliment in Gloucester to say of a man, 'What he says drunk he'll make good sober'."

doryman said...

Ain't that the truth.......

I'd like to amend the comment from our esteemed friend from the UK. We need more honest damn fools, no more of the political type.

Michael said...

Gardner published her lines in "Wooden Boats to Build and Use", p 53. It's one of the nicest looking dories I know of. She has slightly rounded sides and is the precursor of the St. Pierre dory. A scale up to 20 feet bottom length makes a hull very similar to Culler's Cowhorn dory, another favorite to look at, perhaps to build some day.

Good Sailing