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Update from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum boatyard on the ROSIE PARKS

Skipjack under repair When I have been out to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum I have kept tabs on the restoration of the skipjack ROSIE PARKS. Longtime readers first saw pictures of her in tough shape in 2007 (see right).

By this time last year, there was much better news to report: ROSIE PARKS was well along in a proper restoration. The other day, happily, I found her where she belongs: in the water and looking sharp. Here’s to a great job by the Museum waterfront staff!

ROSIE PARKS afloat

Fascinating “This American Life” piece on the launch of underwater archeology

Our colleague Andrew Cohen popped in the other day asking if we heard a This American Life episode that re-aired recently about “shipwrecks or something.” We had not and he was good enough to send it. What we got was a fascinating fifteen or so minutes hearing about two men who basically created underwater archeology starting in the late 1960s. One took a chance dive on a wreck in Turkey and, 50 years later, they are still unraveling clues about what they came to discover was an important Byzantine ship. Along the way the rewrote our understanding of Byzantine shipbuilding and commerce. This story is definitely worth a listen.

A nice collection of traditonal boats from Vietnam

Chine bLog friend David Witzel was recently in Vietnam with his family and agreed to serve as a special corespondent for us, capturing pictures of traditional Vietnamese boats. Happily, he found some nice ones. We don’t have the backstory on them, but they are nice to study anyway.

Mekong River
River craft from along the Mekong, including a ferry and perhaps some liveaboards.

Vietnamese long boats on the Mekong

The ferry looks like she might be wooden Continue reading A nice collection of traditonal boats from Vietnam »

The story of the last Pacific-crossing balsa raft

We turned on NPR‘s Morning Edition this morning just in time to catch the tail end of a story referencing a balsa raft in Australia tied to a historic voyage.Mental note made to look up the piece made, we went on with the day. The story was “Australia Celebrates A World-Record Ocean Crossing.” It tells of a crew of men who successfully crossed the Pacific, from Ecuador to Australia, in balsa rafts in 1973. The voyage, though it shattered records, promptly become unknown. We had never heard of it and we read about such things. The locals in the small town in New South Wales, Australia where the rafts landed ultimately saved one of the three rafts (actually they rebuilt one from the remains of the final two) and made a museum around it, but it has not been promoted. Fascinating and worth a quick listen.

Unbelievably amazing traditional boat resource from Italy

Big hat-tip here to our friend Carl Cramer, publisher of Wooden Boat and author of its My Wooden Boat of the Week blog – his entry today, drawings of Indonesian outrigger canoes, was great in-and-of itself. Carl was, though, good enough to provide the source site, a resource from Italy which can be roughly (per Google) translated as “Pages dedicated to the Navy and Merchant Navy and seafaring ethnic and historical.” It isn’t clear to me who is behind this site, but – my word! – what a treasure the site owners have amassed!

The site groups sets of resources – I take it many are drawings, but I haven’t browsed very deeply – in sensible clusters that revolve around time period and location. We were drawn to the second section, “Etnografia: i natanti nel mondo,” which we can tell you, senza Google, is “Boats of the World.” We literally don’t know what to show you as a sample – there are so many cool boats to point out. There are drawing sets for every corner of the planet, as far as we can tell, and there are many per set. The set from Indochina Carl references has 299 – 299! – drawings, mostly from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Try these, for starters:

Indonesian outrigger canoe wiht Indonesian boat Sailing ship form Sumatra Vietnamese boat from Saigon

And that is just one region! There are 325 from Africa, including some amazing lateen craft from the northern and eastern sides of the continent:

Egyptian lateen craft Small Somali sailing vessel Sailing outrigger from Mozambique Long canoe of the Niger

I could go on, e.g., this set of 494 from mainland East Asia. Did we say this collection is mindblowing? ’cause it’s mindblowing. Check out the site and the full-sized images. It is fantastic.

Fun chance meeting with photographer Ellen Tynan

Last weekend we were out for a hikelet along the Potomac river and happened upon a woman enjoying the view of the marsh. We got talking and she mentioned, in particular, my Wooden Boat hat. She then revealed that she was a photographer who specialized in classic and traditional boats, and she noted she had been published in the magazine. Her name is Ellen Tynan and, on review, I am sure I have seen her work (also on Flickr).

She is hoping to publish a book in the not-too-distant future: “Boat Lines.” It will compile her photos of traditional boats from six regions of the world: Maori New Zealand, Ireland, Alaska and British Columbia, Peru, Indonesia, and Egypt. Good sampling, there, eh?

I’d suggest browsing through her work and getting a sneak peak at what might be in the book. A quick selection of works that jumped out at us, here at Chine bLog, includes (will open in new tabs/windows):

There are many more great ones. It would be well worth your time to browse them all on your own. Keep an eye out for this great sounding book.

An update on the restoration of the skipjack ROSIE PARKS

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has a great fleet and will be the better for adding the restored skipjack, ROSIE PARKS. I have blogged about her before and the museum does a nice job of tracking the update in its blog. I checked in on her while I was there. She’s coming along nicely.

Skipjack ROSIE PARKS

See the “before” pictures in this post from 2007.

Traditional boat restoration and maintainance at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum boatyard

While at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum it is, of course, imperative that I cruise around and check out the fleet of boats there. There is a good deal going on with the museum’s collection of historically important working boats, and I thought I’d share a bit of that (for a fuller picture, follow the museum’s Chesapeake Bay Boats blog).

ROSIE PARKS, before workMost significant is the restoration of the skipjack ROSIE PARKS. I had seen her a few years back, looking pretty hard up. What a difference a top-flight restoration effort makes. She museum’s shipwrights have salvaged about 25% of the original timber and a breathing substantial new life into this boat, and she looks great. She has new planking, with some obvious scarfs showing on the unfinished hull. Decking is starting to go in and many major timbers are in place. Amazing to see.

ROSIE PARKS restoration, from astern

ROSIE PARKS restoration, topsides

Spar at eight-sided stage I suspect this is one of ROSIE PARKS’ spars, in the making. Makes me feel bad about feeling sick of 16-siding AL DEMANY CHIMAN’s 3 spars.

Elsewhere, the bugeye EMMA LOCKWOOD was up on the ways and a cute sharpie was getting some upkeep.

Bugeye EMMA LOCKWOOD Sharpie

Final Tim Severin book reviews: “The Ulysses Voyage” and “The Spice Islands Voyage”

I wrote recently a couple of reviews of books by Tim Severin and promised a couple more. Well, behold.

As I noted in the prior post, Severin took a few months off after his exploration of the history behind the Jason and the Argonauts story and the returned to Turkey with the same galley he used to explore Homer’s “The Odyssey”. This is the story of “The Ulysses Voyage.” It seems scholars have been all over the Mediterranean map – literally – placing the scenes of Ulysses trip back from Troy, with a consensus, of sorts, involving Sicily for a great many episodes. Severin noted, though, that no one had ever taken a period craft and recreated the voyage, thus factoring-in realistic sailing / rowing speeds, navigation styles and abilities, weather patterns, etc. With a smaller crew than the Jason Voyage, and using mostly sail, he did this, ultimately placing the geography of “The Odyssey” much closer to its Greek home.

As is true of the Jason Voyage, this book is well worth reading. What it lacks in nautical adventure (there are, at best, minor scrapes here) it more than makes up for in discussion of how Bronze Age captains navigated, the complicated weather of the Aegean, and Greek coastal topography and features. In total, Severin presents an extremely tight argument, not only in favor of his new map but also against other versions, which include Sicily and other ports further afield. Severin shows it is not reasonable for a galley of that period, under command of a competent skipper, to have made it that far, nor do the features, seen from sea-level, fit the story nearly as well as do scenes from Greece. Really fascinating read.

Prahu kalulis ALFRED WALLACEAs far as I can tell, “The Spice Islands Voyage” is the last of Severin’s nautical adventures for me. As the name suggests, this voyage takes place in eastern Indonesia, tracing the path of Alfred Wallace, a naturalist who, at least, co-developed key concepts of evolution with Charles Darwin. While there are some interesting aspects of this book, mostly around hints that Darwin may have swiped theories from Wallace, it was, on the whole, a disappointment. The short story is that a great many places in the region that Wallace described had, by the time Severin and crew visited, suffered severe environmental degradation. While this story is important to tell, it is depressing as heck to read. Furthermore, Wallace’s story is not terribly interesting. He suffers from all kinds of maladies and was clearly brave, but malarial outbreaks do not make for racy adventure. Correspondingly, Severin’s voyage is not that compelling. There are again only minor scrapes and troubles. All told, it’s a little dry.

One interesting aspect that gets a little attention is the boat Severin and crew use. The boat, the ALFRED WALLACE, is a prahu kalulis, indigenous to the western part of the Indonesian archipelago. The boat is fairly shallow and beamy, looking not unlike a modern dingy-inspired racer. The rig, though, is made of a pair of square sails that have elements of a lug rig in them. Severin calls it a tilted rectangular, or layar tanja, rig. In fact, in tacking, the sails are brailed and the yards dipped around the mast. Severin indicated that the boat was fast and that the sails had a good deal of driving power, but that they are not easy to tack, especially in weather. Compounding this issue, there is not really a good way to reef the sails. Finally, the boat has no keel, so stability was also an issue. These craft were traditionally used for short transit in protected waters. They look beautiful, but they are not appropriate for being in a true sea. Severin and crew suffered only a couple near mishaps, and both seemed to be more a function of pushing the boat in not particularly outrageous weather.

Prahu kalulis ALFRED WALLACE

Aaaaannnnd while we’re at it, Tim Severin’s “The Jason Voyage”

I also read, in recent times, Tim Severin‘s “The Jason Voyage”, his attempt at following the mythical story of Jason and the Argonauts. He had a Bronze Age Aegean galley built using archeological evidence and historical texts. The ARGOThis was the real deal – it would have banks of rowers toiling away and the characteristic “ram” bow. He set off from Greece and headed for the Dardanelles, following the legend’s trail and, once again, finding evidence that the myth may have been based on reality. Among the most fascinating aspects of the voyage was that it debunked the longstanding reason for it being myth: a vessel of that era could not have transited to notorious currents of the Dardanelles and Bosporus. Severin, though, figured out how to use back-eddies and other local nuances of the waterway to successful complete the trip from the Aegean to the Black Sea. Once there, the voyage continued to current-day Georgia, wherein Severin and crew “seal the deal” by identifying the likely source for the golden fleece as well as numerous other facts that match the stories.

I was almost tempted to make this book second to The Brendan Voyage, if only because the myth-to-facts aspect of the book are so compelling. In the end, I gave The Sinbad Voyage the honor, but this is a close third. The year after he completed this voyage, Severin took the same boat on another voyage to trace Ulysses’s voyage in “The Odyssey”. That book is in the on-deck-circle on my bed-side table and I look forward to sharing a review with you all soon.