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. This 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.
I have had some time to sift through the back catalog here at Chine bLog headquarters and noted that I never covered a few key books I read in the last couple years. In particular, after knocking off Tim Severin‘s The China Voyage and then his The Brendan Voyage, I moved on to his some of his other like books. Severin’s trip in BRENDAN, the authentic 9th century curragh, got his wheels spinning, it seems, and he hit on another mythical journey to test: the adventures of Sinbad.
It was commonly accepted at the time (~1980), that these writings were pure myth. Severin arranged to build a replica 9th century dhow in Oman, scouring the Arabian Sea shores for period materials, especially the coconut husk fiber builders of the day used to lash the boat together. Yes, these were plank–on-frame boats that were fully lashed. He and a crew then sailed the boat from Oman to China, identifying sources for the supposedly mythical elements and, thereby, suggesting the Sinbad stories may have been based on an amalgamation of true events.
The first quarter or so of the book is all about the boat and its materials, and that alone makes it worth reading. The actual voyage is not as gripping as that of the BRENDAN, but it is still an engaging story. If you haven’t read any Severin, I’d start with The Brendan Voyage and then grab this one immediately afterwards. Here is a summary piece if you need more convincing.
Our posts on the yacht designs of Klaus Schmitt are always popular, so I have finally gotten off my transom and am posting some more. The style is pretty consistent, which I say in the sense that one would of a favorite restaurant.
First up, a lovely 32′ schooner. She has extremely pleasing lines, including a fairly exquisite cabin, if I may say so. The designer notes that, at 32′, she is “about as small as a gaff schooner can get.”
Schmitt’s favorite of the set is one he calls “Oyster Pirate.” He says “…another design from your neck of the woods. She is based on the description of a small skipjack used for dredging oysters in beds reserved for hand tonging. It was done illegally at night. She is only 34 feet, shalllow and fast. A great, big daysailer.” Yes, you’d be right at home on the Chesapeake in this one.
Klaus has a way with workboats. Here is a nice little tug that looks outfitted for a short cruise.
Finally, we have “Ruby’s Dream Boat.” I don’t know who Ruby is, but she must be a dreamboat because she gets an awfully nice dream boat.
Another lovely set. Enjoy!
It has been far too long (we do I always find myself starting this way? SIGH) since we here at Chine bLog highlighted the great posts others have offered the world regarding wooden / traditional boats. Yes, believe it or not, Chine bLog is NOT the only source. Really. It’s true. If you haven’t discovered it already, you should be sure to read the stuff below:
Bob Holtzman over at Indigenous Boats has been putting out a ton of great stuff of late, such that I can’t come close to mentioning it all. Some highlights I’d recommend:
Gavin at intheboatshed has kept his blog going strong. Check out: Continue reading ’round the blogs – great stuff from elsewhere in the traditional boat blogosphere »
Several months ago, we were honored, here at Chine bLog, to post two sets of designs by an amateur designer named Klaus Schmitt (post 1 and post 2). Recently we were excited-as-all-get-out to have a guy contact us looking for Klaus’s info. Yes, Chine bLog generated a well-deserved lead. It turns out we have been sitting on more great stuff from Klaus which he augmented in a replying email. His work was popular and exactly the kind of stuff we love (note that some are Fusion of Tradition-y), so shame on us for waiting do long to post this new installment. Enjoy!
We’ll start with a couple larger boats that I think are incredibly handsome interpretations of work boats. Klaus’s words introduce them.
… this is not a small boat… she is 45′… It was my own idea about the ultimate live-aboard. The hull is based on the Chesapeake Bay buy boats (although smaller) from your neck of the woods. An easy hull to drive with a thrifty diesel and a working boom to launch the dingy!
I love it. I’ve had a sometime fantasy about junking the house for a boat like this. While I like this one, I LOVE the next one: Continue reading After too long – more fantastic, classic boat designs from the collection of Klaus Schmitt »
We cross the Indian Ocean from the last post to the Maldives. By sister, Rebecca Shaw Kelly, was able to grab a couple nice pictures of local boats for me. Behold our “exclusive”, here at Chine bLog.
She got this one especially for me, diverting the dive boat accordingly. Awesome boat, awesome picture.
I just finished reading Sons of Sindbad by Alan Villiers. I guess Villiers is a noted mariner and author; I confess I hadn’t heard of him. He went to Aden in 1939, having shipped out on sailing ships for many years. He arranged to join a traditional boom (dhow) on its annual run from Arabia to Zanzibar. He wrote about his months with an all Arabian crew, including observations both on the boats and seafaring as well as the Arab culture. My review? It would have been the better for being about 1/3 shorter, overall. This aside, there were many interesting observations, and I learned a good bit about the traditional shipping of the Western Indian Ocean. The nuggets were embedded, however, within a fairly dry tale. Villiers ran into many discomforts, but there was little in the way of harrowing adventure to keep one engaged. In short, not bad, but not the first book I’d recommend.
Here’s a lovely example of what I call a Fusion of Tradition boat. The Langskip, custom built in Iceland by the Skipavik shipyard, is a modern interpretation of a Viking longship. She is 55′ LOA with 14′ beam, yet they will scale them up or down as desired. The profile is unmistakable, as is the rig, but the details are decidedly different than Leif Ericson would have had. Supposedly the boats are ruggedly built, yet draw about a meter, suggesting you can take one transoceanic for a gunkholing trip. The web site also suggests there will only be a limited number produced.
Anyone sailed one? Curious how that modern square rig works.
I have written about Tim Severin a few times, always with admiration and excitement. I had noticed one of his newer books, In Search of Moby Dick: The Quest for the White Whale, in the library and had passed on it, thinking it less interesting. I was wrong.
Severin aims to track down the inputs to Melville’s tale, deconstructing the author a bit (it turns out he ripped off a few folks) while showing the valid threads that went into the story. To do this he travels throughout the South Pacific to communities that still practice (or until recently practiced) traditional, sustainable whaling from small, traditional boats. Fascinating stuff.
One such community is on the Philippine island of Pamilacan. There, crews in ~30′ double outrigger canoes hunted first whales and then whale sharks and manta rays. The most astounding part is the how: a key crew member standing on an outrigger would leap upon the animal with a hook in hand and sink the hook directly while riding a mammoth creature. The hook man would then get back in the boat and the crew would take a “Nantucket sleigh ride” until the animal was too worn down to struggle. The then towed it home. Traditionally, this was done by paddle. The island is tiny, so this hunt was basically their sustenance. Not surprisingly, there are a host of beliefs that accompany this work and Severin details them nicely.
Another community is not far away on the Indonesian island of Lembata. Here the boats are not outriggers; they are more solid monohull canoes with square sails made of woven matting. The hunting also relies on leaping from the boat, this time with true harpoons. From what I can tell, the boats are built-up dugouts, with the extra planking lashed on. Severin notes that the canoes seem crude at first blush, but, in closer examination, they are quite well-built. The islanders believe that the whales will not come unless the canoes are correctly built. I love that.
Since the subject of whaling is on the table… The people of Pamilacan have been forced to give up their hunting, but they have embraced whale-watching instead, using similar boats. This is also true for communities in Tonga that Severin profiles. As far as I can tell, this is not the case for those from Lamalera. I believe that these communities represent sustainable hunting and should be allowed and even encouraged, assuming all traditions remain in place and the catch is not exported beyond traditional bounds. This is 180 degrees different from the factory whaling of the Japanese (science my hiney!). We can’t punish these traditional cultures for the mistakes of our industrial whaling past (and present).