Marvin Creamer, a Mariner Who Sailed Like the Ancients, Dies at 104

Marvin Creamer, a Mariner Who Sailed Like the Ancients, Dies at 104

The same skills, he had believed since his youth, would let him do likewise.

“I had taken oceanography and every geography course in the book,” he said in a 2013 interview with Rowan. “I said to myself, ‘I think I’m the one to do this.’”

Nevertheless, when the 66-year-old Professor Creamer set sail from Cape May, N.J., in his cutter, the Globe Star, in late 1982, he was widely considered unhinged: No mariner in recorded history had traversed the globe without at least a compass, used by sailors since the 12th century if not before, or a sextant, introduced in the 18th.

His 513-day journey would entail nearly a year on the sea, plus time in ports for repairs and reprovisioning. It would take the Globe Star to Capetown, South Africa; Hobart and Sydney, Australia; Whangara, New Zealand; and the Falkland Islands off Argentina before its triumphant return to Cape May on May 17, 1984 — an event that Professor Creamer gleefully described as “one small step back for mankind.”

Along the way, he and his crew braved lashing storms and long, directionless days with no wind; found themselves trapped in shipping lanes amid thick fog and the terrifying horns of oncoming tankers; had whales bear down on them like freight trains; rounded the treacherous waters of Cape Horn entirely blind; were at one point pitched nearly upside-down and at another arrested.

“A jolly romp,” Professor Creamer called the whole thing.

He knew he might meet his death on the trip, but he was far more confident, he said, of his safe return. After all, he had been preparing for the voyage for years, making many Atlantic crossings, several without instruments, in the decades before.

He had been dreaming of the journey for far longer than that.

The third of four children of Sereno Todd Creamer and Grace (Parvin) Creamer, Marvin Charles Creamer was born on Jan. 24, 1916, on a farm near Vineland, N.J., about 50 miles south of Philadelphia. His father grew potatoes and peppers but had by the mid-1920s, with a downturn in the produce market, become a carpenter and machinist.

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