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Sailing by Starlight: Book about the world's first instrument-free circumnavigation

by Rod Scher 18 Dec 2022 07:17 UTC

A new sailing book about an unlikely hero -- New Jersey geography professor Marvin Creamer -- has just been released by Sheridan House/Rowman & Littlefield. Rod Scher's Sailing by Starlight, is the true story of Creamer's incredible mid-80s circumnavigation aboard the 35' Globe Star, a voyage he completed without the aid of any navigational aids.

"Creamer was determined to prove that ancient people could have sailed across oceans -- or even around the world -- using only their senses and their seagoing experience," says Scher.

"He wanted to show that, even though it may not have been done for 1000 years, in fact, even though it may never have been done, it was possible to sail completely around the world using no modern instruments at all."

To prove his point, Creamer set sail from his home port in New Jersey in the winter of 1982, entering the stormy Atlantic Ocean without a sextant, a compass, or even a wristwatch to guide him and his crew. Many, including members of his own family, gave him only a 50% chance of making it back alive.

He proved the doubters wrong, returning in 1984 after sailing almost 30,000 nautical miles, and having stopped in South Africa, New Zealand, and The Falklands along the way. He battled bureaucracy, huge waves, killer storms, infuriatingly defective equipment, and occasionally obstreperous crew members, all to prove a point. Having done so, he was awarded sailing's coveted Blue Water Medal and inducted into The Explorer's Club. And yet, his is a story not well-known outside of sailing circles; the book, says the author, is an attempt to ensure that Creamer's story is better known and his feat more widely appreciated.

Scher notes that he could not have written the book and followed Creamer's journey so faithfully without the help of the Creamer family and Globe Star's former crew members.

"It's difficult to imagine writing this book without the help of Creamer's family," he says.

"They sent me a literal laundry basket full of notes, receipts, photos, journals, manuscripts, and other source material related to Creamer, his upbringing, his teaching career, and his voyage around the world. They participated in multiple interviews, and passed along contact info for Creamer's crewmembers, friends, and other family. Only rarely does a writer have access to that much primary source material -- and to so many of the people who figured into it. It was a bonanza of information about the trip and about the man himself."

Speaking of whom, Scher notes that he's not at all sure that he would have liked Creamer, although he wishes he'd gotten to meet him. Creamer, who died in 2020 at 104 years of age, was -- says Scher -- sometimes a bit of a martinet. "It was his way or the highway -- well, sea-way, I guess," says Scher. "Then again," he says, "you kind of have to be driven, perhaps obsessed, someone who would brook no nonsense, in order to accomplish what he did. And really, the deck of a small boat in the middle of a storm is no place for a democracy anyway; someone has to call the shots and do it quickly, and that person was definitely Creamer."

The book is available at,, and at select independent booksellers. More info about both Creamer and Scher is available at

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