Sunday, December 30, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Mary Brewster

The boats from the different ships have all be off whaling. Two of the ships got one each. We man 4 boats which takes all on board save brother James who is both cooper and carpenter, the cook and Steward and cabin boy. Husband and self are quite alone and we enjoy it much and anticipate much pleasure whilst the fish are catching. The boats start before light so to be up there where the whales are early enough to get fast before they leave in the morning. They take their dinner with them and stop till towards night before they return. These whales frequent this bay once a year to calve.

~ from the diary of Mary Brewster, wife of the captain of the whaleship Tiger at Magdalena Bay, Baja California, December 31, 1846

Header: Daguerreotype of Mary Brewster via the Mystic Seaport Historical Society

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Ham

Ham is the standard protein at New Year's Day dinner around chez Pauline. So why not discuss the word - or in this case that part of so many words - at sea? No reason I can think of.

The first word with a nautical bent which probably comes to mind is hammock. This suspended bed that has cradled so many generations of sailors is now as familiar hanging over the backyard lawn as it once was foreign, at least to Europeans.

The word comes from the Carib native word for their own suspended beds. Made of cotton netting and known to them as hamacs, these very comfortable sleeping arrangements were first witnessed by Columbus. Given their ideal usefulness in keeping the sleeper cool in torrid climes, the invaders soon appropriated the design for not only land but also sea. A true "swinging sea-bed" is wonderfully described by Admiral Smyth in The Sailor's Word Book:

... the hammock consists of a piece of canvas, 6 feet long and 4 feet wide, gathered together at the two ends by means of clews, formed by a grommet and knittles, whence the head-clue and foot-clue: the hammock is hung horizontally under the deck, and forms a receptacle for the bed on which the seamen sleep. There are usually allowed from 14 to 20 inches between hammock and hammock on a ship of war. In preparing for action, the hammocks, together with their contents, are all firmly corded, taken upon deck, and fixed in various nettings, so as to form a barricade against musket-balls.

The hammock, the need to both hang and stow it in particular, gives rise to other utilitarian items. Hammacoe, hammock battens and hammock racks are all one and the same: cleats nailed to the sides of a ship's beams which are used to suspend the hammocks. Hammock gant-lines are those strung from the jib around the ship to support the drying of cleaned hammocks. Hammock nettings hold the hammocks in place when they are stowed on deck. These are then wrapped in hammock cloths to prevent the bedding from getting wet. Hammock berthing is the order and placement of hammocks according to rank aboard naval vessels.

Other words involving ham are less familiar, perhaps. Hambro lines are small lashings used around a ship. I think we all know about hammers, hammer-head sharks - "chiefly found on the coasts of Barbary" according to the Admiral - and the hammer-lock of a gun or pistol, so I won't trouble you explaining the obvious. Hammering, however, may refer to a heavy cannonade at close range.

Hamron is a very old word meaning the hold of a ship.

Hamper is anything in the way aboard ship, particularly during dirty weather or an engagement. A man is said to be hampered if he is anxious or confused. And at times, perhaps drunk.

And that is enough ham for one evening. Although all things being equal, a nice ham on the table is perhaps the most welcome thing of all.

Header: Supper at Home by Thomas Rowlandson via Wikimedia

Friday, December 28, 2012

Booty: And the Winner Is...

It's time at last to announce the winner of Triple P's very first giveaway! How exciting is that? A big thank you to all who participated via comments here and tweets on Twitter. Extra thanks to First Mate Timmy! for drawing the winner's name from the fishbowl.

The recipient of The Sea Rover's Practice by Benerson Little is:

Arthur Smith

Arthur's blog Calliope Street, is well worth a visit for anyone with an interest in the great city of New Orleans, past and present. Pop over and say hi if you have a moment.

Arthur: please email me at ladypfb at gmail dot com with an address to which I can send Mr. Little's wonderful book. I'm quite certain you'll enjoy it!

Happy Friday, Brethren. For those of you who are not Arthur, stay tuned. I had so much fun with this giveaway that I'm quite certain there will be many, many more.

Header: Photobooth picture of two U.S. sailors c 1945 via A Harlot's Progress - because I love y'all like Brethren

Thursday, December 27, 2012

History: The Sailors' Saint

When modern Americans hear the name St. Nicholas, they think of that right jolly ol' elf who brings presents to good girls and boys on Christmas Eve. But this very versatile saint has many other duties to attend to; some of which involve the safety of sailors.

St. Nicholas, who was born at Lycia some time in the fourth century CE, is better known as "of Myra" in honor of the city over which he presided as a Catholic bishop. The saint is sometimes also know by the moniker "of Bari" although why I cannot determine. He is the patron saint of a vast and seemingly disjointed array of items and people. According to Butler's Lives of Patron Saints, the Bishop is responsible for children of both sexes, brides, unmarried women, pawnbrokers, perfumers and perfumiers, travelers, pilgrims, safe journeys, sailors and maritime pilots. He is also the protector of Russia and the cities of Amsterdam, New York, Baranquilla, Bari, Myra and Liverpool. His feast day is December 6th, coincidentally the day after Krampus, the celebration of St. Nicholas' unsavory helper who goes by the same name.

The most famous story of the saint - and the one that awarded him the red and white suit of Santa Claus - has to do with Bishop Nicholas rescuing the three Christian daughters of a poor pagan who, unable to provide them with the dowries required for proper marriages, was going to sell them to a brothel owner. The future saint, hearing of the girls' distress, managed to raise three bags of gold, one for each girl's dowry. As he amassed these small fortunes, St. Nicholas threw the individual bags into the poor man's cottage under cover of darkness. Thus the bishop remained anonymous and, through this generosity, became not only a patron of children and brides, but an overarching giver of gifts, particularly at Christmas.

The connection of the saint to sailors is probably just as much legend. St. Nicholas was said to have made pilgrimages to the Holy Land and Egypt, both of which would have required travel via ship. The most compelling story of the saint and sailors, however, has the Bishop appearing to a vessel about to be beaten open on the rocks off Lycia. Through his intervention, the ship was brought safely into the port. A shrine was built to the saint there and, from that time forward, sailors stopped in to prayed to St. Nicholas for safe passage. Those who survived rough seas were also known to bring a piece of canvas from their rescued ship to the shrine as an offering of thanks.

Finally, if you're interested in the subject, you can find a lengthy and fascinating discussion of St. Nicholas and his importance to sailors over at the always informative gCaptain.

Be sure to stop by again tomorrow when the lucky winner of Triple P's very first giveaway will be announced. Until then, I hope the Holidays continue happy for all!

Header: Saint Nicholas and the Sailors from the Tres Riches Heures of the Duc of Berry via Wikipedia

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Literature: Don't Forget!

The drawing to win a copy of Benerson Little's excellent book The Sea Rover's Practice commences at 7:00 PM Alaska time. That's like seven and a half hours from now! Leave me a comment on this post or tweet about the giveaway mentioning @Paulineagain in your tweet and your name goes into the fishbowl. The lucky winning name, drawn by the First Mate, Timmy! will be announced in Friday's Booty post.

Start typing, Brethren!

Monday, December 24, 2012

History: "The day was Christmas..."

The day was Christmas, but it brought us no holiday. The only change was that we had a "plum duff" for dinner, and the crew quarreled with the steward because he did not give us our usual allowance of molasses to eat with it. He thought the plums would be a substitute for the molasses, but we were not to be cheated out of our rights in this way. Such are the trifles with produce quarrels on shipboard. In fact, we had been too long from port. We were getting tired of one another, and were in an irritable state, both forward and aft. Our fresh provisions were, of course, gone, and the captain had stopped our rice, so that we had nothing but salt beef and salt pork throughout the week, with the exception of a very small duff on Sunday...

~ Richard Henry Dana Jr. writing from the brig Pilgrim in the Pacific Ocean just north of the equator on December 25, 1834

Blessings, happiness and much more than salt pork and plum duff to all the Brethren this holiday season from the good ship Triple P to your vessel.

And don't forget to enter to win Benerson Little's fabulous book The Sea Rover's Practice here. You shouldn't miss out; the drawing happens on Wednesday!

Header: Adrift at Sea; picture via Mike Burlson's New Wars

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Time's Revenge

Time's revenges are beyond a man's foretelling. It may be that in some far distant day, when the grass is growing green on the slag-heaps of the north, and the last "gusher" has ceased its gushing forever, then, it may be, there will arise somewhere a new breed of seafarers, who shall re-learn, slowly, painfully, step by step, as did their forefathers, the ancient and honourable craft of mast and sail.

~ C. Fox Smith

Header: Lifeboat by Bo Bartlett via American Gallery

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Up

With the season upon us, and a New Year up for grabs, it seems there is no place to go but up. Or so we would like to think. Up is quite the popular word at sea, so let us take a look at it today.

"Up-and-down!" This is a call that would have been familiar on just about any ship of the Golden Age of Sail. They would all have some type of anchor or at least a kedge, after all. Up-and-down indicates the position of the cable when the ship, by the force of drawing in her anchor via a capstan or other like method, is situated directly over that anchor. This is the step before the anchor comes clean of the water and, once that is accomplished, the call of "Clean and dry for weighing!" might be heard.

Up and down can also refer to tackle. In this case it speaks to any combinations of same that will pull sails, anchors or payloads up or down.

Topgallant masts, topmasts and royal masts were sometimes referred to as upper masts. As Admiral Smyth notes, "any spars above these are termed poles." Upper works are the parts of a ship that stand above the water as she goes. The upper counter, or counter, lies between the transom and the railing, and the upper deck is, of course, the highest continuous deck on a ship.

The so called upper transit is spoken of in navigation. From The Sailor's Word Book:

The passage of a circumpolar star over the meridian above the pole...

Up is often part of an order, as one might reasonably imagine. Here is a by no means complete list of what you might hear in such regard aboard any ship from pirate schooner to 74 gun man-of-war:

Up anchor! To weigh the anchor; as Admiral Smyth notes, "every man to his station."

Up boats! Hoist the ship's boats to their davits, most probably in preparation for getting under weigh.

Up courses! Haul up the sails hanging on the lower yards: mainsail, foresail, mizzen et cetera.

Up her helm! Put the bow of the ship to windward. Also sometimes spoken as "Put her a-weather!" In such case it should be remembered that the rudder will need to answer to leeward to accomplish this maneuver.

I hope your mood is up, as is my tankard to honor all the Brethren. Huzzah!

Header: Two Ships at Anchor by Andries van Eertvelt via Under the Black Flag on Facebook

Friday, December 21, 2012

Booty: Get a Book

Today I'm wrapping up the Friday gift giving posts with the best recommendation I can make: get your loved one a book. From my favorites for adults, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series to my favorite for young and old alike, Robert Lewis Stevenson's Treasure Island, there is no end to books with a seafaring bent.

Looking for something a little more current, or perhaps with a supernatural touch? Try On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers. The book influenced the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but is tremendously more interesting and entertaining.

In the nonfiction category, try Jack Aubrey Commands by Brian Lavery, the book used as a reference by Peter Weir in the making of the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. Along those same lines, try the fascinating biography of one of O'Brian's inspirations, Thomas Cochrane, in Cochrane: The Real Master and Commander by David Cordingly. Poxed & Scurvied by Kevin Brown is a superior look at the history of nautical medicine and, piratically speaking, you can't miss with anything written by Benerson Little. (Speaking of whom, don't forget to enter to win his The Sea Rover's Practice by leaving a comment here; the drawing happens December 26th!)

Finally, you can never go wrong with Melville's classic Moby Dick. Click over to Primary Source Nexus to see a larger version of the above map. Entitled "The Voyage of the Pequod", it should inspire you to read the book again yourself. And why not; you're entitled to a little gift as well...

Header: The Voyage of the Pequod mad via Primary Source Nexus dot org

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Women at Sea: The Pretty Commander

Time is not on my side the rest of this week and so I'm bringing back one of my favorite posts from the Triple P archives today: the story of the intrepid Rose de Freycinet.

What we know of Rose Marie Pinon's early life is nominal. She was born into a bourgeois family at a time when being middle class in France was all the rage: 1794. Pretty and charming, she had a classical education as well. As the Revolution and the Consulate gave way to the Empire, Rose caught the eye of an aristocratic sea captain sixteen years her senior. She married Louis-Claude de Saulces de Freycinet in 1814.

When the Empire fell and things looked bleak for French honor, Louis was hand picked to lead a voyage of discovery. He would circumnavigate the globe on a three year cruise with the very best French navigators, naturalists and artists along. These men would document native cultures, local bays and ports and, with luck, Captain de Freycinet would claim some land for France. The ship chosen for the expedition was L'Uranie, a weatherly French-built corvette of twenty guns and 300 tons. There was nothing at all remarkable about the voyage. That is, until a conjugal ruse was revealed to officers and crew once the ship was well out to sea.

Madame de Freycinet had been smuggled aboard the ship by her husband. Dressed as a boy and under cover of darkness, she slipped into the great cabin posing as a servant. The de Freycinets were determined to be together so, despite Rose's natural reticence at the prospect of so long a time at sea on a ship full of men, their determination paid off. Thus began an adventure that Rose would document in a stream of letters to her mother and her best friend. These were eventually published in book form, and the same was translated in 1996 by Marc Serge Reiviere in A Woman of Courage.

When the ruse was discovered, the men of L'Uranie acted, not surprisingly, like Frenchmen. They were thrilled to have Madame aboard. Rose writes that the conversations at her husband's table were crisp, witty and completely without course or vulgar language. The crew tried to keep up with their officers, allowing Rose the lee side of the ship for her morning strolls on deck. But sailors will be sailors and eventually their cursing got the better of Rose. She gave up taking the air and contented herself in her husband's cabin with "... my guitar, my sewing and letters."

Though she had come aboard in men's clothes, and wore them for a while, Rose was never comfortable cross-dressing. She confided her relief in dawning her gowns again to her mother, saying that she was only "... glad of a man's cloak" when L'Uranie was threatened by a Barbary corsair:

The thought of a seraglio evoked such unpleasant images in my mind and I hoped to escape that fate by virtue of male disguise.

The pirate galley thought better of challenging a 20 gun ship, evidently, and eventually gave up the chase.

Back in Europe meanwhile, the French, who were in general morally opposed to women at sea as anything other than passengers and then only in groups, found Rose's adventures charming. The new Bourbon King mentioned the situation was amusing and the country could not but agree. Paris papers congratulated Captain and Madame on "... this example of conjugal devotion."  Interestingly, it was the British who clucked their tongues at the situation. The Lieutenant Governor of Gibraltar was down right rude to Rose when L'Uranie put in to his port. The Royal Navy, with it's long history of women at sea as both companions and sailors, showed an unfortunately unpleasant and ingenuous side of itself to Madame de Freycinet.

L'Uranie continued into the South Pacific and made several stops in Australia. The watercolor above, by J. Alphonse Pellion, shows the ship's company at Shark Bay. Rose can be glimpsed to the far left, away from her stately white tent and apparently sitting with her arm around another woman or a child. The painters aboard ship, Pellion and Arago, made two sets of each of their works. One was for the captain's official report and did not include his wife. The second sets were true-to-life works that included Rose. Thankfully, both examples of many of these paintings have survived.

Putting in at Mauritius and Reunion, Rose met with welcome and potential disaster. The island of Mauritius was then held by the British and Rose was there introduced to Captain and Mrs. Purvis. Both were delighted by the Frenchwoman and encouraged her to spend time with them while her husband was out surveying. This invitation was particularly welcomed by Rose as Mrs. Purvis had a new baby. Rose, who may very well have nailed her courage to the sticking place to join her husband at sea in the hope of conceiving a child, documents her adoration for children time and again.

At Reunion, Rose tried to avoid the French governor, whose name was Lafitte, as she feared that he had orders to remove her from her husband's ship. To her relief, Governor Lafitte had no such intentions. Instead, her fears were replaced concern. She writes to her friend that she had constantly "... to ward off the compliments of someone who was full of admiration for my courage." Rose, it is no surprise, managed to keep Lafitte at arm's length with aplomb and gentility.

Rose's letters give us a sly and very French perspective on the many places, cultures and people that she encountered. She notes in an almost blithe aside that a young woman in Australia was very pretty with a "ravishing ankle, or so Louis noticed." She mentions women on Mariana who, when surprised while bathing by her husband's men, covered not their fronts but their backs. "The gentlemen were not tempted to take issue with them on this matter," Rose reports.

On February 14, 1820, L'Uranie struck an enormous rock off the Falkland Islands. It took some time for realization to set in as the ship continued on under sail with her hull ripped open and water pouring in below decks. The crew manned the pumps and tried to salvage what they could from the hold. The ordeal was horrifying for Rose who spent her time exhorting the laboring crew to "trust in the Holy Virgin." Probably fed up with the woman's yammering, Arago snapped at her: "We put our trust in the holy pump, Madame!" It is to Rose's credit that she included even this in her letters.

L'Uranie made it to shore but the sandy beach was deserted and Rose and the sailors were stranded for weeks in deplorable conditions. There was ice on the ground each morning and no blankets or coats had been salvaged. Rose slept wrapped in a Hawai'ian sarong and her slippers could not keep her feet warm.

The crew was finally picked up by a merchant ship whose captain, Galvin, virtually blackmailed de Freycinet for passage to Rio de Janeiro. Rose and her captain were stuffed into a dark, cramped cabin, but rescue came in short order. The Scottish brig Jane came into company with Galvin's ship near Montevideo. Jane's captain, James Weddell - the future Antarctic explorer - managed to convince Galvin to sell his ship to de Freycinet for moneys already promised.

Galvin and his crew were put in at Mondevideo. His ship was spruced up by de Freycinet's and Weddell's shipwrights and christened La Physicienne - the Lady Doctor - probably in honor of Rose. La Physicienne took de Freycinet and his crew to Rio and then back to France. She made the port of Le Havre on November 13, 1820. Rose was welcomed home and became a sought after guest in French high society.

Unfortunately, this was about as good as it got for Rose and Louis de Freycinet. They were never blessed with the children that Rose so desired. Louis published his manuscript on the voyage to some acclaim and the couple retired to a quiet existence. In 1832, Louis contracted cholera. Rose nursed him tirelessly and he recovered only to see his wife fall ill with the same disease. Rose Pinon de Feycinet, the intrepid woman that Governor Lafitte had named Madame la Jolie Commendante - the Pretty Commander - died at the age of 38.

Header: Watercolor by J. Alphonse Pellion of L'Uranie's crew at Shark Bay, Australia from the Google book version of A Woman of Courage

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

History: Raising the Flag in New Orleans

On a cloudy, cool Tuesday, December 20, 1803, the United States flag was raised in the Place d'Armes (now Jackson Square) in the city of New Orleans. This final stop on any cruise down the Mississippi River was a critical port that the U.S. needed to ensure her ability to move goods from her heartland to ports on the Eastern seaboard and foreign ports as well. The city was also a hub for pirates and smugglers. The loosely knit band known as the Baratarians, led by Jean and Pierre Laffite was just beginning to gel as Spanish rule ended and les Americaines took over.

The flag raising was a bit of a non-event for locals used to exchanges in political and military powers. People turned out to watch, then shrugged and went on about their business. This may have been somewhat of a shock to the Americans judging from the article written by John F. H. Claiborne for an 1843 issue of the Concordia, Louisiana Intelligencer. Claiborne, the brother of Louisiana Territory and first State Governor William C.C. Claiborne, was a prolific writer (find his papers online here) whose description of the issues at hand on 12/20/1803 brings the hopes and anxieties of Americans to sparkling life.

On the 17th of September, 1803, Mr. Jefferson communicated [the Louisiana Purchase] treaty to the Senate. It was speedily ratified, and Wm. C.C. Claiborne, the Governor of the Mississippi Territory and General James Wilkinson were appointed to receive the provinces, which were still in the hands of Spain, owing to the non-compliance of France with certain stipulations of the treaty of St. Ildefonso. The government of Madrid threw every obstacle in the way of the American diplomatists, and its Minister at Washington, the Marquis de Caso Yrujo, remonstrated earnestly against the transfer, in the name of his King, as being in direct contravention of the treaty of St. Ildefonso, and upon the ground that the title of Louisiania was still in the Crown of Spain. Mr. Madison [James Madison, then Secretary of State]communicated these remonstrances to M. Pichon, ambassador from the French republic, and received from him every assurance that his government guaranteed the treaty, and would allow no obstacle to its execution. The impression generally prevailed that the Spanish authorities would resist the delivery of the province, and, on the 24th October, 1803, Mr. Madison thus wrote to Mr. Monroe, "It remains to be seen how far Spain will persist in her remonstrances, and how far she will add to them resistance by force. Should the latter course be taken, it can lead to nothing but a forcible for a peaceable possession. Having now a clear and honest title, acquired in a mode pointed out by Spain herself, it will, without doubt, be maintained with a decision becoming our national character, and required by the importance of the object."

In pursuance of the resolution so calmly, yet firmly expressed in this dispatch, the American Commissioners were instructed to get possession at all hazards; to seize New Orleans by a coup de main, if necessary, and for this purpose the regular troops at Fort Adams were placed at their disposal, and the militia of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Mississippi Territory ordered to be in readiness. A detachment of troops from the Mississippi Territory descended to Natchez, eager for the contest, for the whole west was embittered against the Spaniards, owing to the exactions levied on its commerce. No occasion, however, arose for its services. Before the Commissioners reached New Orleans, the Spanish authorities had surrendered the province to M. Laussat, colonial prefect and commissary of the French Republic. On the 20th December, 1803, he formally transferred it to the American Commissioners, and the flag of the Union was, for the first time, unfurled in the city of New Orleans.

Unfortunately, Spain - and her sometimes ally, England - would continue to argue that France's sale of the Louisiana Territory to the U.S. was illegal according to international law. Both powers would back up their argument with a hard fight. Spain through intelligencing and subterfuge - including employing Aaron Burr and both Laffite brothers to such ends - and England through force of arms at the Battle of New Orleans.

Despite all that and more, the flag of the Union continued to sail over the city of New Orleans. And long may she wave.

Header: Raising of the United States Flag in New Orleans, 1803, by Thor de Thulstrup via Britannica online

Monday, December 17, 2012

People: The Tale of William Lewis

The greatest triumph and most important exploit of this pirate was the attacking, and eventually taking, of a powerful French ship of twenty-four guns.

Lewis enjoyed a longer career than most of the brethren, and by 1717 he was already one of the leading piratical lights of Nassau, and his end did not come till ten years later. In 1726, he spent several months on the coast of South Carolina and Virginia, trading with the inhabitants the spoils he had taken from vessels in the Atlantic. He learnt his trade under the daring pirate Bannister, who was brought into Port Royal, hanging dead from his own yard-arm. On this occasion, Lewis and another boy were triced up to the corvette's mizzen-peak like "two living flags."

Lewis, among other accomplishments, was a born linguist, and could speak with fluency in several languages, even the dialect of the Mosquito Indians. He was once captured by the Spaniards, and taken to Havana, but escaped with a few other prisoners in a canoe, seized a piragua, and with this captured a sloop employed in the turtle trade, and by gradually taking larger and larger prizes, Lewis soon found himself master of a fine ship and a crew of more than fifty men. He renamed her the Morning Star, and made her his flagship.

On one occasion when chasing a vessel off the Carolina coast, his fore and main topmasts were carried away. Lewis, in a frenzy of excitement, clambered up the main top, tore out a handful of his hair, which he tossed into the wind, crying: "Good devil, take this till I come." The ship, in spite of her damaged rigging, gained on the other ship, which they took. Lewis's sailors, superstitious at the best of times, considered the intimacy of their captain with Satan a little too much, and soon afterwards one of the Frenchmen aboard murdered Lewis in his sleep.

~ from The Pirate's Who's Who by Philip Gosse


Header: Captain Lewis from The Pirate's Own Book by Charles Ellms via Project Gutenberg

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: A Little Romance

December 16, 1853: Extreme clipper ship Romance of the Seas, launched in November, departed Boston headed for San Francisco on her maiden voyage. The following October her sister ship Sovereign of the Seas would achieve the highest recorded speed for a clipper ship of the era: 22 knots.

Header: Clipper ship Glory of the Seas, painting by Henry Scott via Navart

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Corsair

We have made it to the middle of December, Brethren, and that means that for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere our time in darkness is soon to be redeemed by light. The Solstice is only six days away. It also means that chez Pauline is celebrating the 232nd birthday of my favorite uncle: Renato Beluche, corsair-extraordinaire. So, as a bit of a birthday present, I'm changing things up for this SMS and offering the definitions and etymologies of the key words used to mean a raider on the high seas. Not all mean "pirate" and some distinctions are subtle. Points we can be a little prickly about in my family.

Buccaneer: The general understanding is that the word is an anglicized version of the French boucanier, one who cooks things on the type of barbeque known in old San Domingue as a boucan. Admiral Smyth, in The Sailor's Word Book has this to say under his buccaneer entry:

A name given to certain piratical rovers, of various European nations, who formerly infested the coasts of Spanish America. They were originally inoffensive settlers in Hispaniola, but were inhumanly driven from their habitations by the jealous policy of the Spaniards; whence originated their implacable hatred to that nation.

Corsair: Also of French origin; corsaire means privateer in French. We know from their letters that many of the Laffite brothers' men referred to themselves as "corsairs." Renato Beluche certainly did. In a letter to a Venezuelan newspaper in 1822 he wrote: "General Padilla remembers that I was a corsair. And what is the matter with that?" Where the General had implied piracy on Beluche's part, the accused took onus and reminded the readers that he sailed under Bolivar's flag as a privateer. The term was also applied to pirates from Barbary shores.

Filibuster: This too began as a French word: filibustier meaning freebooter. In this sense, which originally meant a soldier of fortune, it was applied by the Spanish to the original buccaneers. By the early 19th century it had taken on a new meaning in North and South America. Filibusters were the secret groups of speculators formed, particularly along the Gulf Coast and most notably in New Orleans, to supply arms to South American rebellions for cash. Again the Laffites, Dominique Youx and Beluche were involved in a post-War of 1812 group of filibusters supplying small arms and cannon to Mexico.

Pirate: The Latin word pirata may have meant sea captain but the English word pirate is essentially the seagoing version of the land-based word highwayman. A pirate is a sea robber with no connection to cause or country - other than themselves and their ships.

Privateer: Admiral Smyth says it best:

Men-of-war equipped by individuals for cruising against the enemy; their commission is given by the admiralty, and revocable by the same authority. They have no property in any prize until it is legally condemned by a competent court.

The issue of proper libel by a court is the real sticking point in the difference between pirate and privateer. Letters of marque, like any other document, can be easily forged. But courts for condemning legal prizes are not so easily come by.

Sea-dog/Sea-wolf: These terms sprang up in England during the reign of Elizabeth I who used them to describe her sea captains - her favorite being Sir Francis Drake - who raided the Spanish Main. In that sense, another euphemism for privateer.

I believe that list covers the highlights fairly well. Happy Saturday, Brethren; may your commission stay valid, and the courts of libel smile upon every prize you bring in.

And Happy Birthday, Uncle Renato, you old corsaire you.

Header: Engraving from a painting of Renato Beluche by Francisco Capuleta now in the Museo Naval de Venezuela

Friday, December 14, 2012

Booty: Lovely Blog and Giveaway

Holy heck! Look at that up there. "One Lovely Blog." That's staggering, actually. But not surprising in its origin. My dear, dear friend Undine, whose World of Poe blog is one of my favorite corners of the web, has bestowed this award not only on Triple P but also on that little place I go to muck about with my other interests: HoodooQ. And that's one of the nicest recognitions I could ever get. Everyone likes to be told they're doing a good job, but it really means a lot more when it comes from someone you deeply admire. Thank you, Undine.

As always, there are requirements that must be met. Fair enough. I shall:

First: Include the Lovely Blog Award label in this post (done)
Second: Regale your followers with seven facts about yourself.
Third: Gift seven blogs you enjoy with the Lovely Blog Award, link to them and leave a comment so that they know about their award.
Fourth: Include these requirements (done)

Here are some things about me.

1) I'm allergic to cats. This means that cats LOVE me and will do anything in their power to get as close to me as possible. Bless them.

2) As of this writing, I have personally rescued five dogs from abusive situations. If you have the ability, I strongly urge you to donate to a local (not nationwide - they use your money to fund their administrative machine, not save animals) rescue organization or no-kill shelter. They do wonderful things for creatures that we tamed and now cannot help themselves.

3) I volunteer in my community. A lot. You should too.

4) December 26, 2012 will mark my 25th wedding anniversary. Fortunately, I'm married to the most perfect person for me. In case you're wondering, I chose the day after Christmas because French Revolutionary hero Camille Desmoulins married his true love, Lucile Duplessis, on the same day at Sacre Ceour in Paris. We've been a bit more fortunate than that tragic pair; both were guillotined during the Reign of Terror.

5) I am lucky in love and friendship.

6) My favorite holiday is Hallowe'en (sorry, Christmas).

7) Cancer can kiss my ass - 'nuff said.

Now to the good part. Here are the lovely blogs that I hope you will click over to and experience for yourself:

Aubrey/Maturin on Tumblr: This one has not been updated for a while, sad to say, but the archives are a delight for fans of Patrick O'Brian's masterpiece.

Calliope Street: Arthur's heart-felt love letter to the city of New Orleans will make you wish you were there.

History Myths Debunked: I learn something new from this wonderful site every time Mary posts. A great boon to writers of historical fact and fiction.

The Historic Seaport Blog: the site of tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. The fan photos alone will keep you coming back for more. You can also buy tickets for their regular and pirate cruises through the blog.

Homo Gastronomicus: a site I referenced in Tuesday's post. India's careful research brings 18th century cooking and eating to life miraculously.

Isis' Wardrobe: Isis is an incredibly talented artist with the needle. Her recreations of 17th and 18th century clothing are nothing short of breathtaking. Another wonderful reference for writers and artists.

Log Lines: the newly created blog of the USS Constitution Museum. Wonderful information about life aboard ship and ashore for sailors in the early U.S. Navy.

Once again, my thanks to Undine for her kindness and generosity. There's nothing new there, of course, but it is rash and ill-mannered to miss a chance to say thank you.

Finally, I've something especially for the Brethren at this Holiday Season: a give-away!

The booty up for grabs is a new, paperback copy of Benerson Little's The Sea Rover's Practice. This is an absolute must for anyone researching buccaneers/pirates and covers the century from 1630 to 1730 when West Indies piracy was in its heyday. I refer to the book constantly but was given this copy as a gift, making it a duplicate. So, just as the gift of the Lovely Blog Award was passed on to me, I want to pass this incredible book on to you. Here are the simple rules:

1) leave a comment on this post and/or tweet about the giveaway referring back to @Paulineagain so I know.

That's it - seriously. Your name will be put in a fishbowl and First Mate Timmy! will draw a winner at random on our 25th anniversary. We'll then bundle your prize off to you - perhaps with an extra treat just for the New Year - for you to enjoy all through 2013 and beyond. I'm not picky about International shipping so all are welcome.

Happy Friday ~ and bonne chance mes amis! And a Happy Birthday to that hero of the Royal Navy and the Chilean revolution: Admiral Thomas Lord Cochrane ~ Huzzah!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

History: The Battle of Lake Borgne

I've written about the Battle of Lake Borgne here before. Fought entirely on water and, for the most part on December 14, 1814, the events leading up to the battle are just as interesting as those that followed. The entire dance began on December 8th, and no one - to my mind - has written about this brief but critical conflict with more enthusiasm than Dr. Jane Lucas deGrummond in her 1961 publication The Baratarians and the Battle of New Orleans. Her zest for the subject is clear in not only her descriptions but the way she addresses some of the characters as if they were not historical figures but old friends. She never calls Lieutenant Thomas ap Catesby Jones by his full name, for instance, but refers to him throughout by his familiar naval nickname: Tac Jones.

I could paraphrase until I was blue in the face but why bother? Here, for your enjoyment, is Dr. deGrummond's recitation of the Battle of Lake Borgne:

While Jackson thought all his orders were being executed, Admiral Cochrane's invasion fleet approached Chandeleur Island. On December 8, his 74's anchored off that island while the rest of the fleet took a position between Ship and Cat Islands. Only the lighter vessels could navigate from this point which was the entrance to Mississippi Sound - the shoal coastal waters between Mobile and Lake Borgne.

Cochrane had a good understanding of the area, not only from maps and books published a few years earlier by English observers in America but also from information which certain Spaniards, formerly residents of New Orleans, gave him. This was confirmed by Spanish fishermen who had a village of 20 or 30 huts about one mile from the mouth of Bayou Bienvenu which emptied into Lake Borgne.

The British could not attack New Orleans from the mouth of the Mississippi. Vessels dependent upon sails could not hope to pass Fort St. Philip and English Turn against the strong current of the river. Neither could they enter Lake Pontchartrain and attack New Orleans from the rear because Cochrane thought Fort Petites Coquilles defending the entrance to Lake Pontchartrain had 40 pieces of artillery mounted and 500 troops. These would be sufficient to annihilate any force that tried to enter the lake through Rigolets.

Cochrane decided to bypass the Rigolets and attack New Orleans from a point which he could reach by crossing Lake Borgne and ascending Bayou Bienvenu. The mouth of this bayou was 60 miles from where his ships were anchored. His plan was to land all the troops on Isle-aux-Pois which was midway between the ships and the mouth of the bayou. He had only enough small vessels to transport one-third of his troops at a time. From Isle-aux-Pois the landing craft, guided by Spanish fishermen, could transport troops in relays the 30 remaining miles to Bayou Bienvenu.

Meanwhile, Tac Jones and his five gunboats had been studying the concentration of British ships between Ship and Cat Island. The British sighted the gunboats on December 12. They would have to be captured because Cochrane's troops had to be ferried 60 miles in open boats. Jones saw that the British had discovered him and scurried before the wind, hoping to make the 50 miles to Fort Petites Coquilles on the Rigolets.

In hot pursuit was Captain Lockyer (the same Captain Lockyer who had been sent to Jean Laffite) with 45 barges, 43 cannon and 1,200 sailors and marines. The flotilla pursued the gunboats two days.

On the morning of December 14, Jones and the gunboats had bad luck. The wind died away completely at 1 A.M. The gunboats were between Malheureux Island and Point Claire on the mainland. Jones stationed the gunboats in line across the channel and waited.

About 9:30 Captain Lockyer saw Commodore Porter's old gig, the Alligator, trying to join the five gunboats. He detached four boats with nearly 200 men to capture this cockle-shell. In his report he described his splendid prize as "an armed sloop."

One hour later the enemy came within range and the gunboats deliberately opened fire. The battle lasted three hours. Ten Americans were killed and 35 wounded. All the gunboat captains except one were wounded. The British captured the gunboats at a cost of 17 men killed and 77 wounded. They returned to Cat Island with their prisoners and captured gunboats.

Jones and the other wounded were put on the Gorgon, a large storeship. There a tall and gentlemanly individual conversed freely with them "respecting his future arrangements for the discharge of his duty." He was to be the future "collector of the revenue of his Britannic Majesty in the Port of New Orleans."

Dr. deGrummond's noticeable eagerness to describe each place by name is typical of southeastern Louisianan and indeed Gulf Coast storytelling. The names fascinate us just as much as the story does. What a marvelous job of including detail the Doctor has done here. I could read it over and over and, in the end, feel sorry only for the unfortunate dead and wounded. Oh, and that poor, unnamed guy who anticipated growing very wealthy off the "revenue of his Britannic Majesty in the Port of New Orleans."

Don't count your eggs before they're in the pudding, dear sir.

Header: The Battle of Lake Borgne by Thomas L. Hornbook via Wikimedia 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

History: The Turtle in Question

Over at Homo Gastronomicus the knowledgeable India took on the subject of how turtle, and sea turtle in particular, went from the food of scurvy dogs to a delicacy in 18th century Great Britain. The piece is profoundly interesting, even if it does only skirt the issue of boucanier barbeques. I won't paraphrase the post as you really should read it yourself, but here are a few points I'd like to bring up.

The hero of the day as far as introducing sea turtle to the glitterati of England was George Anson, 1st Baron Anson. Pictured above, the Royal Navy man became famous and wealthy after raiding Spanish territories and ships in South and Central America. These endeavors were followed by a circumnavigation of the globe that earned Anson a comparison to Francis Drake.

Anson, who wrote a best seller about his adventures entitled A Voyage Round the World, hit some questionable bumps in the road on his much acclaimed journey. He wrecked ships; the loss of HMS Wager and subsequent stranding of several of his men created much speculation. More importantly, he lost men. His squadron of six men-of-war left Portsmouth with a complement of over 1,000 sailors in 1740; only 188 men returned to Spithead in 1744.

Despite these unfortunate circumstances, Anson managed to return to England a wealthy man after capturing a number of Spanish ships in the West Indies and negotiating lucrative trade deals in China. He seems to have talked a good game, too. Rather than reprimand or courts martial for his losses, Anson was made 1st Baron Anson in 1747 and elevated to the station of First Lord of the Admiralty.

He also brought back tales of the excellent taste and restorative effects of the meat and fat of sea turtles. Having experienced these things first hand, and then written about them in his book, he became more than just a gastronome suggesting a new delicacy. Anson, to one degree or another, became the "turtle king". He gifted huge turtles imported at his own expense to such high society organizations as White's Chocolate House and the Thursday's Club. Soon enough, sea turtle became all the rage and Anson was given credit for introducing Brits to a taste sensation that was once thought to be only fit for common seamen and down right pirates.

As an aside, or perhaps an addendum, you can find an excellent discussion of buccaneers and sea turtles here. Scroll down to the comments and find Benerson Little's thoughts on the points made. If anyone knows whereof they speak on the subject, it is certainly he.

Header: George Anson, 1st Baron Anson, contemporary portrait by an unknown artist via Wikipedia

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Making Sails

The sailmaker's art has always been just that: an art. Passengers aboard ships in the Great Age of Sail commented again and again on the precision of sailors making sails. This all important craft required an equally precise set of tools. Generally speaking, these were:

The sailmaker's bench
A bench hook to hold the sailcloth taut while sewing seams
Needles of different sizes, and a small case - usually of leather or cloth - to hold them
Stabbers and spikes used to make holes in the canvas for fitting eyelets, cringles and so on
Knives, scissors and sharpening stones for both
A seam rubber for smoothing seams, working the rope into the surface of the sail to reduce chafing when the sail was being hoisted up or taken in
Seam gauges and a tape measure
At least two sailmaker's palms; one for seaming and the other for roping. The former being more delicate and the latter having at least two layers of leather at the thumb to guard against the sailmaker being cut by the heavy rope or twine.
Wax for lubricating the ropes. This had the added benefit of waterproofing the rope or twine as well.

Here is an early 19th century recipe for sailmaker's wax from Peter H. Spectre's A Mariner's Miscellany:

4 pounds of beeswax
5 pounds "slush" or tallow from the galley
1 pound turpentine

All these ingredients should be melted together in a double boiler, and then turned out after the congealed for use in the form of small cubes or chunks.

As Robert Whyte wrote after his experiences at sea in the mid-19th century:

I was surprised at the expedition and neatness with which [the sailors] sewed with their coarse needles and long thread.

The art is still alive and well today and will hopefully be passed on to the next generation, and the next, and the next.

Header: Toy Ships by John Thomas Peele via American Gallery

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: The Man's Opinion

Men who cannot enter into the mind of the sea, cannot for the same reason enter into the mind of ships ~ John Ruskin

Mister Ruskin, who traveled extensively in his youth, knew whereof he spoke.

Header: John Ruskin from Project Gutenburg via Wikipedia

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Make

According to Admiral Smyth in The Sailor's Word Book, you can't get much more seaworthy in the word department than make. The simple definition of "to make", as given by the Admiral, says it all:

Is variously applied in sea-language.

And even that is an understatement. Ships, for instance, can make headway - advance through the water - make lee-way - drift to leeward according to their course - make stern way - retreat - make sail - increase the number of sails for increased speed - and so on.

A ship in dirty weather, as she rocks and pitches and particularly if she leaks, is said to be making bad weather (as if she were responsible for what she faces). A leaky ship is also said to make water, as apposed to take on water which is done when replenishing casks of the fresh variety. A slender thread separates the two terms, but an author using one for the other can be the death knell of otherwise impressive nautical fiction.

Make comes in the form of orders. Make ready! Prepare for what is about to occur. Make a lane, there! A bosun's order indicating that, as the Admiral defines it:

... [the crew at muster] should separate, to facilitate the approach of any one whose name is called.

And the now familiar "Make it so" of "Star Trek" fame which, unfortunately, was too often used incorrectly by Captain Picard. The order was given specifically to confirm the time given to a commanding officer by the officer of the watch, be it sunset, sunrise or the all important noon when the ship's day officially began.

Make fast meant to fasten something and was generally used for securing rope or cable.

Makes was used when referring to something coming in: the tide makes, the ship makes, the officer makes, etc.

A making iron is a caulking tool for finishing a seam of caulk. Making off was a whaling term for cutting up the blubber of the animal so that it would fit down into the ship's hold.

To make the land is to finally catch sight of it; that "Land, ho!" moment so popular in movies. A ship can make free with the land as well, which indicates coming very close to the shore - at times a little too close. Needless to say, this terminology carried over to activities in port, where a sailor - like the men-of-war's men in the above illustration - could make free with the ladies.

Happy Saturday, Brethren; may Saint Olga, in her goodness, intercede for you when your ship makes weather.

Header: "Men of War bound for the Port of Pleasure" late 18th century illustration via Wikimedia

Friday, December 7, 2012

Booty: Get Kraken!

With these Holiday gift posts, I generally try to keep my recommendations to vendors and items that I am familiar with and/or have had contact with myself. I have not, however, recommended gifts handmade by a family member. There's a first time for everything.

Today's unusual and delightful trove of goodies comes from Brigit's Knits. This Etsy showcase is owned and operated by 15 year old entrepreneur Brigit, who also happens to be my daughter. Brigit offers a wide variety of sea creatures from the gorgeous (and completely safe to cuddle) jellyfish shown above to hermit crabs (no terrarium or feeding required) starfish and sea stars and, of course, the now infamous Kraken shown at the sidebar along with a host of others.

All of Brigit's creations are hand knit by her. They are all free of small attachments (buttons, pins, etc.) so they are perfect for very small people. Brigit has other outlets, local consignments - she is featured at Sweet Adeline's here in Anchorage - and bazaars so her creatures are circulating far and wide. Just ask Captain Swallow and the lovely QM Seika - they took their Kraken and octopus on a whirlwind tour of the Big Easy last spring. Good times.

Please pop over and browse Brigit's offerings. Shipping is free in the U.S. but she also offers international shipping at a charge. Every dime earned goes into her college fund, and that warms a pirate mother's heart as you can well imagine.

Also, feel free to pop over and "like" Brigit's Knits on Facebook.

Happy Friday, Brethren! I hope it's warm and sunny where you are and if not, well, there's always grog.

Header: A jellyfish handmade by Brigit of Brigit's Knits

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ships: Historical Turning Point?

Or simply fair practice? These are the questions those of us with an interest in marine history have to ask ourselves - and will no doubt speculate upon for years to come - as the case of the Spanish treasure ship Nuestra Senora de las Mercedes now comes to its inevitable conclusion.

La Nuestra, whose name means "Our Lady of the Mercies" in English, was sunk by the British off the coast of Portugal in the Battle of Cape Santa Maria on October 5, 1804. She lay below wave, without any serious attempts by the Spanish government to locate her, until 2007. In that year she was discovered, claimed and excavated by the marine recovery company Odyssey Marine Exploration.

Odyssey, who has worked with various governments in the past including the U.S. and Britain, has also been vilified by others. One Odyssey team was famously - and publicly - fired upon by the French navy. The entire event was captured on film for a piece on The Discovery Channel. Odyssey's most pivotal stand off with any government came when Spain claimed the excavation of La Nuestra to be an "expoliation" or illegal grab of the country's "historical artifacts." Spain filed a suit in U.S. court and a judge in Florida's Federal Court of Appeals ruled that all artifacts attached to La Nuestra officially belonged to Spain.

The enormous trove, which included gold and silver coins in the hundereds of thousands as well as jewelry, religious statuary and furnishings, was officially handed over to Spain by Odyssey in February of this year.

While, on the face of it, this seems only fair, the ruling of the Florida judge could effectively sound the death knell for exploration of the kind Odyssey is so very expert at. Why should Odyssey or any other company spend their own money amounting to millions of dollars to locate, identify, excavate, clean et cetera any ship and its cargo when the ultimate outcome will yeild them zero in the way of profit? We are none of us prepared to work that hard for "free." Risking life and limb to bring forth the world's maritime history should have some pay off, shouldn't it?

Meanwhile, imagining that government's like Spain's would be willing to partner with companies like Odyssey is most probably a pipe dream. Where, just exactly, would the money come from? There's a reason why Odyssey is out finding shipwrecks and the many governments who can claim them as artifacts are not.

It is far easier to pounce in a court filing after all the hard work is done. A judge in Florida has made it possible for any other country to do the same thing. Precedent, legally speaking, is precedent.

On a final note, this very brief article from ABC News makes it quite clear, without coming out and saying so, that Spanish authorities basically have no idea what they will do with their haul. At this point, some of the artifacts will be put on display. From there, it appears to be anyone's guess.

Header: Four Frigates Capturing Spanish Treasure Ships October 5, 1804 by Francis Sartorius c 1807 via Wikipedia

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Women at Sea: Ferocious Saint

The life story of Olga of Kiev, who is now a Saint and "equal-to-the-apostles" in the Orthodox Church is about as far from what we imagine as "saintly" as one can get. Her ferocious treatment of the people who murdered her husband and her repeated grabs for land, wealth and slaves are at best unapettizing to the modern sensibility. But she was, beyond all that, a shrewd businesswoman, a capable leader and a woman - very much to her credit - who would protect her child and his entitlements at all costs.

Olga, or Helga in her people's native Norse, was born in the late 9th century to a tribe known as the Varyag. This was the early Russian word for Vikings and little Helga showed the heart of a Norsewoman from the very beginning. Married to Prince Igor of Kievan Rus at a young age, the alliance was intended to benefit both Helga's Viking father whose holdings appear to have been in modern-day Ukraine and the Kievan empire. Prince Igor's father, Prince Rurik, was just as much a warrior as Helga's Viking kinsmen; expanding his territory seems to have been his one occupation.

The absence of Prince Rurik left Igor and Helga, now Olga, in charge of the Kievan kingdom and they seem to have been well suited to the organization of a pivotal capital. In particular, both of the young monarchs were favored by the Kievan army making them virtually invulnerable to the oddly prevalent palace coupes of the day. It was a delightful 30 years of marriage and rule that produced a number of children. The name of only one has come down to us in the Primary Chronicle (which you can find, at least in part, online at the University of Washington website). This was Igor and Olga's son and heir, Svyatoslav.

Tragedy struck in 945 when Igor, now sole Prince of Kievan Rus, was out collecting tributes (essentially taxes in the form of coins, foodstuffs, textiles and slaves) among the Drevlyans. When he informed this conquered tribe that their taxes had gone up, the leaders of the group summarily executed their Prince.

Olga, now a middle-aged matron with a good bit of leadership experience and a large army behind her, hardly flinched when the rather forward Drevlyans showed up asking for her hand in marriage. The ambassadors sent to Kiev by the tribe wanted Olga to marry their Prince, Mal, and thereby take over the profitable Kievan holdings. A nod from Olga brought her elite guard down on the presumptuous Drevlyans who were corralled and buried alive in the Princess' back yard.

Thinking fast, Olga sent off a message to Prince Mal. She informed him that his ambassadors had insulted her. Not necessarily dismissing the marriage proposal out of hand, she asked that the Prince simply send his "best men" to discuss terms. Mal, clearly not one to understand tactics and/or blinded by greed, did as Princess Olga asked. When the Drevlyans arrived in Kiev, Olga graciously suggested that they cleanse themselves in her own personal bathhouse. This next wave of ambassadors accepted and, no doubt to their horror, were locked in tight. The bathhouse was then set on fire, immolating Prince Mal's "best men."

At this point the Princess, whose capacity for revenge and iron-willed intention to protect her son's birthright seem to have had no check, packed up a longboat and sailed off to the capital city of Drevlya. There she was welcomed by Prince Mal and she pretended that all had been arranged as far as their marriage. She also acted shocked that the Prince's ambassadors had not yet returned. Be that as it may, Olga insisted on hosting a feast for Mal and all his nobles. She had brought a Kievan wine in great vats that they simply must try. Try they did, to a point of falling-down drunkenness. And then Olga's faithful army descended on Mal and his Drevlyan nobles, killing some 1,000 of them.

Olga had something of Vlad the Impaler in her - or perhaps he had her in him; some historians say they were related by blood. She went out to the inhabitants of the largest Drevlyan city and told them that she did not fault them for the crime committed against her family. In fact, she would lower their tribute to the entire sum of one pigeon and one sparrow per family. Overjoyed, the Drevlyans happily complied, pulling sparrows and doves from the eaves of their wooden homes and the perches in their wooden pigeoners. When all the birds had been collected, Olga waited patiently until nightfall. Then she ordered her army to strap flaming tinder to each bird's feet and release them. As the birds returned to their nests, the city exploded in flames hotter than the sun. Olga took those who escaped the conflagration back to Kiev as slaves.

Continuing to rule Kievan Rus until the majority of her son, Olga seems to have kept her hand in politics even after Svyatoslav came to power some time in the 950s. Thereafter she travelled widely and, at some point, converted to Christianity. She traveled to Constantinople in 957 to be baptised and went on to Rome to request bishops be sent to Kiev to convert her people. Adalbert of Magdeburg responded to this call but left Kievan Rus disappointed, saying that trying to convert the Kievans was like trying to "teach a fox to read." His party was overtaken on his way back to Rome and all but three, including Bishop Adalbert who barely survived, were killed.

Nonetheless Olga continued her efforts to Christianize her people until her death around 970. Svyatoslav had been away conquering new lands when his beloved mother died and, despite his lack of adherence to Catholicism, he had Olga buried with a mass said by a second, apparently less taciturn, Roman bishop.

Saint Olga of Kiev, equal-to-the-apostles, was canonized in the Orthodox Church in 1547. It is no doubt due to her efforts to convert the people of her vast empire that she has been given so high an honor. Her actual deeds outside of the Church, however, speak of a ruthless but determined woman whose love for child and country could encourage epic ferocity. And to some degree, you have to admire that. Unless, of course, you're a Drevlyan...

Update: the outpouring of love for St. Olga has caused a few of us to form the Sisterhood of St. Olga Society. Please feel free to join us. Because it never hurts to have the ear of a Viking Princess.

Header: Saint Olga of Kiev icon via Pravoslavie dot ru

Monday, December 3, 2012

History: The Great Storm

No pen could describe it, nor tongue express it, nor thought conceive it unless by one in the extremity of it.

Thus wrote Daniel Defoe, who so brilliantly fictionalized the sufferings of castaway Alexander Selkirk, in his 1704 publication The Storm. In this book he was not so much fictionalizing as summarizing the havoc that occurred in the south of England when a week-long hurricane descended on the country November 24, 1703. The horrors of the storm were settled upon as God's wrath against England and, though largely forgotten today, the Great Storm was a seminal event for those who lived through it.

Trees, particularly the covetted oaks of the New Forest - which were used to a large degree in shipbuilding - were one of the many casualties of the relentless weather. It is estimated that well over 15,000 trees were literally uprooted by the storm. 4,000 were destroyed in the New Forest alone and writer John Evelyn claimed to have lost 2,000 on his holdings in Surrey.

The Eddystone Lighthouse, pictured above, was completely swept away. Six human lives were lost with it. Inland, more than 10,000 people and countless head of cattle and sheep drown or were killed by collapsing buildings.

Ships themselves were high on the list of things battered and lost as well. Returning to Plymouth and London from action in the War of the Spanish Succession, many Royal Navy ships were sunk including men-of-war such as HMS Northumberland. The loss of men was incredible; it is estimated that close to 9,000 sailors perished in the storm.

Merchant ships fared no better. As this post over at History Today points out, some managed to survive but through no fault of their fellow man. Apparently one ship that wrecked off the Goodwin Sands in Kent saw 200 of its men clinging to life on a nearby cliff. One Thomas Powell of Deal tried to organize a party of locals to rescue them, but most people were too interested in looting what remained of the ship than in saving the unfortunate seamen. Somehow, Powell managed to recruit enough manpower to get the sailors to safety.

London was hit particularly hard on Friday the 26th. The roof of Westminster Abbey, made of lead, was torn clean away. Queen Anne was forced to take shelter in the basement of St. James Palace while the Bishop of Wells and his wife were killed in their bed when their chimney collapse literally on them.

Defoe's family huddled together in the dark of midnight, listening to roofs and chimneys topple all around them. At one point, they thought to take refuge in their garden but were confronted by a hale of roofing tiles. They retreated back into their brick home, deciding to "trust in God's providence."

The storm at last calmed on December 2nd and Defoe picked his way through the streets of London. He would later write of seeing 700 ships piled up like cord wood at the Pool. What he saw so effected him that he put pen to paper and wrote The Storm, which was published the following July.

The Great Storm was the subject of much speculation for years to come. Why it had happened, and why it had been so terrible, was put down uniformly to the displeasure of God. Even the government agreed. To recognize the "crying sins" of the nation, Parliament declared January 19, 1704 a national day of fasting saying that the storm "loudly calls for the deepest and most solemn humiliation of our people."

Defoe had his own idea, though. The gale, which had of course originated at sea, was no doubt God's vengeance for the Royal Navy's poor showing against the Catholics of Spain and France. Rather a harsh indictment, one has to say.

Header: Eddystone Lighthouse as it appeared in 1703 from an engraving by Henry Roberts c 1761 via Wikipedia

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Another Flag

December 2, 1775: The Continental Congress approved the design of a new flag to be used primarily by the navy. As illustrated above, it bore thirteen red and white stripes with a cross of St. George and a cross of St. Andrew in the canton. Though officially sanctioned by the new government, Continental Navy ships - following the lead of John Paul Jones - tended to prefer the first navy jack with its snake and "don't tread on me" logo to this "Grand Union" flag.

Header: The Grand Union flag of 1775 via Historical Flags of the United States

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Arch

I apologize for the late hour, Brethren; all manner of things urgently require my attention. From a new dog (Moose, the 200 lb. Saint Bernard) to the house to Holidays to an active job search (time for Pauline to once again get a "real" job) I don't know where the time goes. But let me not dwell on my hectic schedule when there are words - glorious words! - to explore.

The word arch actually applies to the sea on several levels. It is certainly a part of one of the most awe inspiring words relating to the ocean: archipelago. But more on that later. First...

Arch is generally thought to refer to a curve, particularly in architecture. A ship has architecture and so arches. The gently curving part of a ship's stern that sits over her so called counter is known as an arch-board. Similarly, the arch of the cove appears as the lower part of her taffrail at her very stern.

Arching is synonymous with hogging and is the indication of an ill-constructed ship. In this distressing case, the fore and aft ends droop while the waist rises up giving the ship an arched appearance and making her effectively useless.

A pump known as Archimedes' screw was employed to drain docks of water as it rose during storms or tides to any designated height. The pump was a type of spiral auger, similar to those used in granaries, and was the model to the modern screw propeller.

The term arch squall speaks to a particular type of heavy wind portended by arched clouds on the horizon. These clouds, as Admiral Smyth notes in The Sailor's Word Book, "rise rapidly toward the zenith, leaving the sky visible through" them.

Archel, or sometime archil, is a form of lichen found in the Canary islands. Originally used for a dark purple dye, it also yields the familiar chemical known as litmus of "litmus test" fame.

And then there is the archipelago. Originally spelled Aegeopelagus in Greek, the word referred to the Aegean Sea where a great group of variously sized islands were scattered about. An archipelago, or an "arches" as seafaring men of the 18th century would refer to them, is any group of like islands. The Caribbean islands, for instance, or Polynesia. I recently saw a comment from a New York writer, discussing the after effects of hurricane Sandy, which posited that New Yorkers would have to accustom themselves to "living in an archipelago." The writer was clearly confused as to the meaning of the word. And, if I may, the every-20-year or so "super storm" does not make your area either a series of  islands or a hurricane alley.

One last interesting tidbit on the word arch: the Arch-Gubernus in Roman times was the commander of any imperial ship. And that is a title I plan to use for my boss. When I get a job that is.

Happy Saturday, Brethren! I'm off to the next thing. But I'll raise a tankard to you all, when I get a chance that is...

Header: Le Point de la Heve by Claude Monet via Old Paint

Friday, November 30, 2012

Booty: Documents Fit for a Pirate

So you've a pirate or privateer in the family (lucky you) and you're looking for just the right gift to put a smile on their face this holiday season. Clearly you enjoy seeing that golden tooth of theirs gleam. Well look no further, mates because Pirate Documents has absolutely everything you could want - and more.

Need an authentic letter of marque? They've got that. From the very early days of anti-piracy legislation in the 15th century to the Civil War, PD covers it all. An example of the handsome document purchased for me by the First Mate is featured above; it's probably very similar to the one acquired by my dear Uncle Renato for his schooner Spy.

Looking for ship's articles from the Golden Age of Piracy? You'll find that, too. Or how about maritime quotes? What says serious seafaring quite like having a quote from William Bligh hanging in your cabin?

But don't stop there. For the more quirky folks on your gift giving list you might consider a marriage license circa 1800, a vampire hunting commission, a pact with the devil from 1633 or - my new personal favorite, the Code Duello of 1777 which was generally recognized in Britain and the U.S. That's good stuff.

Click over and roam around Pirate Documents' wonderful site. I can personally vouchsafe the quality of the items they offer. Enjoy, and happy Friday!

Header: United States Letter of Marque c 1812 via Pirate Documents

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ships: Seaworthy vs. Seakindly

Seaworthiness is basically the ability of a boat to live in heavy weather without swamping, capsizing, breaking up or being heavily damaged while underway.

Seakindliness is the ability of a boat to meet heavy weather and remain reasonably dry, shipping no solid water and relatively little spray. It is also that quality of a boat or ship that permits comfort to the occupants in heavy weather.

This is according to Howard Chapelle, curator of maritime history at the Smithsonian Institute. And I'll admit that's news to me. So what is it, Brethren; is your ship seaworthy, seakindly or perhaps a bit of both?

Header: A Ship and Dolphins via TMQ at ESPN Page 2

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Tips from the Galley

While a ship's galley in this day and age will have all the modern conveniences, even if they are a bit smaller than the average person is used to, challenges still arise for the cook at sea. Imagine, then, just how taxing trying to wrangle up large meals for hundreds of men in sailing ships must have been at one time. Staying organized and keeping clean were absolute priorities for Slushy in the Great Age of Sail. Knowing a few tricks of the trade couldn't hurt at all. Here are just a few of those little tricks, none of which have lost their effectiveness with time.

When boiling water, always cover the pot to avoid spillage. Ideally, a large tea kettle was used.

Keeping foods like yeast and salt dry was always a challenge in the damp of a wooden ship. Many cooks doubled up glass jars to accomplish this. The food stuff was placed in a smallish jar with a locking lid which was then placed in a larger jar or crock with a secure lid. The creep of moisture was still inevitable, but not quite as immediate.

Vermin were a constant issue aboard ship. Even the most spick and span vessel would have a certain level of infestation. Most bulk items like rice, flour and sugar were stored in barrels but old Slushy had a time tested method for keeping them relatively weevil and cockroach free: add bay leaves. The bugs don't like the odor, evidently, and the leaves won't harm the edibility of the foods even if they do make them taste slightly like pasta sauce.

Speaking of spick and span, more than one navy commander has been known to judge the orderliness of his ship's galley by the shine of her copper pots and pans. These were polished to a blinding sheen with either lemon juice or, more often on long voyages, vinegar. Those shiny pans were degreased with the help of another common item: coffee grounds.

Slushy made sure to tar or otherwise waterproof his apron to avoid being burned by sloshes and spills. Burns were unavoidable in the galley, however, and more than one sailor in the 18th and 19th centuries noted their scars as the sign of a good cook.

With space at a premium, storing large items could be tricky. Some were gotten out of the way by wrapping them in old cloth and suspending them from the bulkheads. This was particularly handy with large cuts of cured meat such as ham or bacon.

To keep pots and pans from slipping about on whatever surface might suffice as a counter, wet cloths were set down first. Most modern galleys are equipped with non-skid mats for this purpose.

And what about any glass jars and crockery that had to be packed cheek-by-jowl in available cupboard space? Wasn't breakage a constant concern? Not for the clever cook. Simply wrapping the jars in paper or, even more efficiently, slipping them into old socks or mittens before storing them actually did the trick pretty well. One has to imagine the ship's cook as a great collector of cast-off stockings - or a pilferer of those not quite ready to be given up. What a remarkable, and amusing, sub-plot that would make in a story of nautical bent...

Header: Saturday Night at Sea by George Cruikshank c 1840 via Wikimedia

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Aboard the Alerte

There was a high wind from the north-west and a great swell. We were now on a lee shore, and a very dangerous one too; so all was got ready for slipping the anchor and running to the open sea in a moment, should it be necessary to do so. We gave the yacht all her starboard chain - sixty fathoms. We got up the end of the chain, and made it fast to the mainmast in such a way that we could let it go at once. One end of a stout thirty-fathom hawser was attached to the chain, just below the hawse-pipe, and to the other end of a breaker and a small bamboo raft. In order to get under way we should now merely have to throw the buoy overboard and cast off the end of the chain from the mast. We could then sail away and leave our moorings behind us.

~ E.F. Knight aboard the cutter Alerte off the Island of Trinidad, November 24, 1889 from The Cruise of the Alerte at Project Gutenberg

Header: Cutter Alerte from the Project Gutenberg frontispiece

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Key

Keys have been and still are everywhere aboard ship. Keys to the larder and the spirit room, the weapons chest and the powder box; the list goes on. But there are other types of keys at sea besides those that turn the occasional lock. Let's have a look at some of them, shall we?

Ship building uses the term to mean a dry piece of elm or oak which is used to wedge things, such as deck planking, much as one might use a shim for setting doors or windows by land. In the same art, a key model is an elevation of a ship created with precisely cut boards to form the outlines seen on paper.

Key can be used as a replacement pronunciation for either cay or quay. The former deriving from the old Spanish word cayos, meaning rocks. According to Admiral Smyth:

The term was introduced to [English] by the buccaneers as small insular spots with a scant vegetation; without the latter they are merely termed sandbanks. Key is especially used in the West Indies...

As in, for instance, the Florida Keys.

In the case of quay, the meaning is a long wharf or levee, often running the length of a city or settlement and built of stone. The quay will have rings, cranes, warehouses and all other amenities necessary for the merchant and, incidentally or not, pirate and smuggling trade. For instance, there was once a Rue de Quay in New Orleans which ran along the main levee facing the Mississippi where all water traffic ran. It does not take much imagination to see the famous pirates, smugglers and privateers about their work up and down that stretch. Ah, family time... Quay, as it happens, comes from the French word quai: wharf.

It follows then that keyage - or quayage - was money paid for the landing of goods upon a city's wharf. In Britain, the term was wharfage.

The key of a rudder is the same as a wood-lock. These are pieces of wood put into a ship's sternpost to prevent the rudder from rising up and unshipping. In copper bottomed ships, the keys were usually coppered as well.

Finally, a keyle is a boat also referred to as a keel. These were the flat barges used specifically for carrying coal out of the Newcastle mines. The word comes from the Anglo-Saxon word ceol, a small bark, and has been used in the past to indicate a futile or unnecessary effort: a keel of coals to Newcastle is the nautical version of carrying coals to Newcastle. Why bother? That's where the coal comes from after all.

Happy Saturday, Brethren. And, since the season is upon us, Happy Holidays as well!

Header: Coming Up to the Marker by Franklin D. Briscoe via American Gallery

Friday, November 23, 2012

Booty: Being Dr. Maturin

It's that time again; the time when Triple P offers some ideas for Holiday gifts of the seafaring kind. Friday Booty, for the next couple of weeks, will be devoted to online items that you can obtain for loved ones who can't live a day without thinking of the sea. And, of course, booty...

Today's offering is all about my second favorite character from Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series: Dr. Stephen Maturin. While Jack Aubrey is my hands down favorite, the good doctor and I actually have a lot in common. We're both Irish and Latinate - his family is from the Catalan region of Spain, while mine resided just over the Pyrenees in Bordeaux. We were both raised Catholic and we both haven't a drop of English blood - or a peerage - to speak of. And, for good or ill, we both can chase a demon with the best of them.

But Maturin's somber self-indulgence doesn't suit my personality. I'll confess to believing to living in the best of all possible worlds even when things seem to have gone as far wrong as they reasonably can. Old Stephen would call me a fool, but I wouldn't take it much to heart.

Here, then, is the delightful post over at Polyvore.com concerning the good doctor. While the post is older, making some of the items no longer available, much of what you see in that appealing collage can be purchased as we speak. Note, too, that Polyvore offers not only Jack Aubrey but other literature-related collages; for instance, there is much related to Tolkein's Ring cycle. This post in particular is for those who adore Stephen. For them, any of these little necessities would be a wonderful offering for whatever winter holiday you celebrate.

For those who are as yet ignorant of the O'Brian series, you could do them the favor of that as well.

Header: Olive wood rosary beads from The Three Arches Co. via Polyvore