The Glassboro Man Who Sailed the World With No Navigational Help

A new book chronicles Marvin Creamer's 29,400-nautical-mile adventure, which set off in Cape May 40 years ago.

Marvin Creamer
Marvin Creamer—a longtime professor of geography at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University—set sail for his round-the-globe trip in December 1982. Courtesy of the Creamer family/Rowan University

Marvin Creamer never took a sailing lesson or navigation course, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his dream of circumnavigating the globe—without navigational instruments. The longtime Glassboro resident and professor set off from Cape May with his crew in December of 1982.

Creamer’s 29,400-nautical-mile adventure, which ended with his return to Cape May in May 1984, is compellingly told in Sailing by Starlight: The Remarkable Voyage of Globe Star by Rod Scher (out now from Sheridan House).

“I really lucked out and had access to so much source material, including Creamer’s unpublished manuscript of the voyage, notes and journals,” says Scher, who lives in Oregon.

The trip’s goal was a simple one: “Creamer’s objective was to show how ancient people could have traveled using no instruments other than their brains and their five basic senses,” Scher writes.

A longtime professor of geography at Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, Creamer was 66 when he began his journey. The largely self-taught seaman, who had previously crossed the Atlantic nine times, encountered a fair share of skepticism.

“Doomsayers had a field day. They reckoned we would be lucky to survive for two days,” noted Creamer in his journal, explaining he used stars, ocean currents and his knowledge to guide him. The margin for error was razor thin. “One mistake and it’s a different book,” Scher says. 

Marvin Creamer and his crew on the "Globe Star"

Creamer and his crew on the Globe Star for their astonishing voyage. Courtesy of the Creamer family/Rowan University

Creamer’s journey on the 35-foot Globe Star encountered its share of challenges. He and his crew overcame near-hurricane-force winds, waves almost 40 feet high, frostbite, fire, broken bones, seasickness, multiple malfunctions of equipment and a near capsizing.

Through interviews with Creamer’s family and four crewmembers, Creamer emerges as an expert sailor who also had his shortcomings. 

“He was a bit of a martinet,” Scher says of Creamer, who couldn’t put his family ahead of his sailing. “A lot of times it was ‘my way or the highway.’” He could be hard to bear at home.”

But Creamer, who died at 104 in August 2020, wouldn’t be denied in his quest.

“Marv was one tough guy, mentally and physically,” Scher says, noting Creamer suffered a dislocated shoulder during the journey and had a crew member pop it back into place. “He had courage and resolve.”

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