Captain Marvin Creamer's Circumnavigation Without Instruments

A History Lesson

Speech given by the webmaster at the 25-Year Celebration, May 17, 2009 (The 4th paragraph was added later).

Egyptians had sailing ships as early as 3500 BC. Vikings sailed wide expanses of the North Atlantic and Polynesians sailed the Pacific using only the elements of nature to guide them. But Captain Marvin Creamer is the only person known to have circumnavigated the globe without the use of navigational instruments.

Only a hand-blown hourglass was permitted to measure watches aboard the 36-foot Globe Star. The retired Geography Professor relied solely on his knowledge of our solar system, ocean currents, winds and forms of life. His expertise and experiences on three Atlantic crossings without instruments also proved helpful in preparing for this feat.

Shortly before Christmas, 1982, a few, mostly pessimistic reporters covered Creamer's departure, but on May 20, 1984, a huge crowd of enthusiastic fans, prominent politicians, camera teams from TV stations and reporters converged on the banks of the Delaware River opposite Philadelphia Airport, to give Creamer a rousing hero's welcome.

Creamer's rise to fame in 18 short months is understandable, but it is difficult to understand how such a singular historical event could so soon be forgotten! Creamer wrote a book, The Globe Star Voyage, soon after his return, providing invaluable resources that every serious navigator should read. A number of publishers were approached, but all felt that there were not enough potential buyers to warrant publication. Creamer's historical feat gradually faded into oblivion, so much so that ten years later, in 1992, a German sailor wrote a book, Transatlantik in die Sonne, in which he claimed to be the first person in the history of navigation to "purposely attempt an ocean crossing without any navigational instruments." (translated from the author's personal website,

Thanks to modern technology, Marvin Creamer's book is finally available on a DVD in Microsoft Word, PDF and text formats. Also included on the DVD are two hour-long podcast interviews with Creamer made by hundreds of photographic images of newspaper and magazine articles, photos of the voyage itself and two Power Point presentations that were shown in Red Bank Battlefield Park, NJ during the 25-Year Celebration.

We take electricity so much for granted that, during power outages, we continue to flip light switches in our search for a candle or flashlight. With no power, food stores close and cars can't get fuel, yet few people are prepared for a natural catastrophe.

Sailors realize that weather forecasts and technical devices are not always reliable, yet they depend heavily on modern technology and have no back-up plan, should it fail them.

Marvin Creamer knew that nature can be extremely violent and dangerous, but he was also convinced that man is capable of harnessing nature's forces for positive ends. Creamer believed that nature with all of its quirks is more consistent and reliable than man-made mechanisms.

The Globe Star ran into 90 mph winds, 40-ft. seas and experienced several knockdowns. Marvin dislocated his shoulder while attempting to take down the storm jib, and two hours later, Globe Star's mast was 45 degrees under water!

Technical and material failures, however, proved as bothersome as storms. One of the first blows to the Globe Star, was a dangerous fire in the galley due to faulty oven construction. Half way between Whangaroa and the Falklands, the "indestructible" stainless steel tiller broke off.

During the first leg of his circumnavigation, the transponder, which sent positioning signals to the Coast Guard, quit functioning. Doomsday reporters had a field day speculating on what likely happened. When Creamer arrived in Cape Town, he called his wife, Blanche. She said, "I was expecting your call today." She had more confidence in the navigational skills of her husband than in an electronic gadget!

Creamer expected storms and was prepared for them. He also expected material fatigue and equipment failures. For decades prior to the Globe Star voyage, problem-solving had been a near obsession with Creamer and this served him well.

When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, he made that now famous statement, "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Most people assume that there is little left to discover, but Marvin Creamer showed the world a serious deficit. After successfully completing his circumnavigation of the globe without instruments, Creamer told reporters that he had just taken "one small step backwards."

In our insatiable appetite for knowledge, we have become ignorant in many respects. Students who send hundreds of text messages daily can not spell. Knowledge is committed to memory, but that memory is on a hard drive or server out in cyber-space. In man's quest for something new, he tends to forget the past. Few care to learn how grandmother canned fruit and vegetables or how grandpa worked a team of horses and repaired shoes. In our technological arrogance, we are no longer concerned about history and the past. This is a disturbing trend that could lead to disaster.

"Acts of God" have always posed a danger to mankind, but acts of evil men are just as much of a threat. Terrorism is an immanent danger. The explosion of an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) bomb could destroy all computer chips in a sizable region of our nation, rendering us helpless and vulnerable to enemy attack. Computers, telephones, wrist watches, cars, refrigerators, furnaces, air conditioners and global positioning systems cease to function if chips are damaged or destroyed.

In past centuries, explorers captained fragile wooden sailing vessels across the mighty oceans, discovering new territories and continents. Once man had traveled from Pole to Pole, a new breed of explorers set their sights on the moon and planets, ushering in the space age. More recent exploration has produced the age of technology, also called "The Information Age."

A number of years ago, a group was attempting to row its small craft from California to Hawaii when their sextant fell into the sea. Fortunately, they had a radio and could call for help. They were connected to Marvin Creamer, who showed them the basics of natural navigation. With his guidance, they made it to Hawaii.

There is much to rediscover!

Success and failure are like Siamese twins, difficult to separate. Sometimes our failures become successes, and then there are situations in which success leads to failure.

Most great men and women were at first failures. Christopher Columbus sought a western route to India and even after his fourth voyage, he thought he had found Japan and China. Today we celebrate his failures.

It is not the success of Creamer's circumnavigation that makes him worth emulating. It is his determination to do his best that earns our admiration. If he had failed, we would not be celebrating his achievement, but someone else would have learned from his failures and been inspired to give it a try.

Today, we laud Creamer for his determination and celebrate his success.

Ralph V. Harvey


Boxes of awards and commendations

About Marvin Creamer
The "Globe Star"
The Voyage
A History Lesson