Sensational skipperMarch 11, 2013
Emeritus Geography Professor Marvin Creamer, 97, shared the story of his epic voyage with students last fall.
Marvin Creamer feels like he’s come full circle.
That’s really saying something.
Thirty years ago, Creamer, an emeritus geography professor, used only the stars, water currents and his vast knowledge of geography to sail around the world on a 510-day, 30,000-mile voyage. To this day, he remains the only human to circumnavigate the globe on a sailboat without the use of artificial navigational tools. He didn’t use a compass, sextant or even a watch.
This academic year, Rowan’s College of Humanities & Social Sciences (CHSS) is celebrating Creamer’s record-setting voyage aboard his boat, the Globe Star. In the fall, Creamer, 97, who can rattle off dates and details of his voyage with ease, was on campus to meet with students and to donate the navigational logs of his trip to the Frank H. Stewart Room at the Campbell Library.
On Saturday, March 23, CHSS will host “A Voyage With Marvin Creamer,” a luncheon that will celebrate the 30th anniversary of his voyage—and raise funds for the Marvin Creamer Scholarship.
For information on the luncheon and to order tickets, visit www.rowan.edu/alumni.
The scholarship will be given to a geography student who “exemplifies intellectual curiosity and a spirit of adventure”—the same qualities that fueled Creamer’s voyage, according to CHSS Dean Cindy Vitto.
Fulfilling a dream
Rowan’s celebrations of the 30th anniversary of his voyage have given Creamer, who still sails, the chance to reflect on his record-setting achievement. Himself a 1943 graduate of Glassboro State College, Creamer was founder of the University’s geography department and taught for almost three decades until his retirement in 1977. On Dec. 21, 1982, he set sail from Cape May to fulfill a dream he first had at age 17. He was 67.
“In the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to look at the voyage from a different perspective,” Creamer says. “I’ve been able to review what I’ve done.
“Not to sound egotistical, but it doesn’t seem like it’s possible that it actually happened. I had to fly in the face of all of the criticism from people who told me that I was doing the impossible.”
He also had to battle some nasty seas and more than a few equipment breakdowns. Throughout the voyage, Creamer’s scholarly knowledge of geography was complemented by his experience as a sailor. Throw in his hands-on knowledge of machinery—honed during his growing-up years working on metals and on internal combustion engines at the height of the Depression—and Creamer had all the skills necessary to attempt the voyage. His adventurer’s spirit, his thirst to accomplish something previously undone, helped, too, he says.
“I had taken oceanography and every geography course in the book,” Creamer says. “I said to myself, ‘I think I’m the one to do this.’
“I told people accomplishing the voyage was 95 percent possible. There were times I had to be extra careful not to be that 5 percent.”
Creamer's voyage on the Globe Star took 510 days.
Creamer realized on a voyage home from the Azores in 1974 that sailing without instruments not only was possible—but also fun. His boat was hit by a hurricane that knocked out the boat’s self steering. He and his partner took turns completing 12-hour shifts steering the boat. The compass light kept failing and, one night, Creamer was too tired to fix it. So they navigated by the stars.
“Then the Eureka moment came,” he says. “I discovered our own accuracy steering by the stars was as accurate as the compass.
“On night watch, about a week outside of Horta, I began using the waves as a guide. I thought, ‘This will work out fine.’”
He sailed back from southwest Ireland without instruments in 1978, setting the stage for his around-the-world journey.
“A rich, active life”
Students and faculty in CHSS—and across the University—clearly are in awe of Creamer, who drew a standing-room-only crowd during his visit to Rowan in September. “A Voyage With Marvin Creamer” is the University’s way of paying tribute to Creamer’s amazing feat—and to inspire current students to challenge themselves intellectually, psychologically and physically, according to Vitto.
“We’re gathering to celebrate Marv’s incredible journey—both as captain of the Globe Star and as a 97-year-old who continues to lead a rich, active life,” Vitto says. “He will talk about his journey and treat us to an accompanying photo presentation so that we can vicariously enjoy the thrill of his adventure.”
Creamer is thrilled to have a scholarship in his name that will be given to a student with an adventurer’s spirit.
“That’s just great,” he says with a chuckle. “It would be nice to meet a fellow nut.”
The spirited nonagenarian has urged students to pursue their interests with passion—and pluck.
“Pursue your interests and don’t be afraid to dig deeply,” he told students last semester, “because the pursuit of your own interests will always educate you and lead to your own success.”
Additional information about “A Voyage With Marvin Creamer” is available at http://www.rowan.edu/colleges/chss/departments/geography/creamer/.