This Man Sailed the Atlantic in a 30-Foot Boat – Alone and Fingerless

Cut off from the larger fishing boat

Strength and zeal
There are special human stories in which people’s will for living, courage, strength and zeal are so surprising and astounding, that a mere quiet life seems almost shameful when compared to them. Such is the life story of Howard Blackman, the fingerless passionate sailor, whose love of the sea cost him his fingers.

Howard lived in Nova Scotia at the end of the 19th century, and was a seaman from childhood. The accident happened in 1883, when, one night, he and his fisherman friend Tom Welch were cut off from the larger fishing boat during a stormy night and sailed away to the open sea. Trying to create an anchor to manage the unstable small boat with his gloves, Howard took them off and they fell into the sea. The terrible situation did not dishearten him. He curled up his hands around the oars and continued rowing until the morning when he reached land.

With flesh falling off his iced fingers, Howard kept himself awake for another night until he found people to help him. The look of Howard’s frozen hands was too much for his friend Tom who, although with both hands and gloves, died that night, hopeless.

The accident did not dispirit him. Howard quickly returned to the sea, crossing the Atlantic Ocean from Gloucester Massachusetts to Gloucester England – twice. The second time, he kept a 39- days world record for decades.


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