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 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

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Literature: Over the Sea to Skye

Thanksgiving is fast approaching chez Pauline, as it is all over the U.S. I haven't the time for a proper post but, in rethinking that, what could be more wonderful than poetry by the author of Treasure Island himself, Robert Louis Stevenson. Enjoy one of his best today, "Over the Sea to Skye." Though it carries a melancholy air, I think - for me at least - it speaks to the need to move forward. We are not who we were a year ago, nor who we will be a year from now. And yet, we are always we... See this as my way to say thank you to each and every one of the Brethren ~

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Mull was astern, Rum on the port,
Eiggon the starboard bow;
Glory of youth glowed in his soul;
Where is that glory now?

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Give me again all that was there,
Give me the sun that shone!
Give me the eyes, give me the soul,
Give me the lad that's gone!

Sing me a song of a lad that is gone,
Say, could that lad be I?
Merry of soul he sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,
Mountains of rain and sun,
All that was good, all that was fair,
All that was me is gone.

Header: The Sea at Sunderland by Laurence S. Lowry c 1965 via Old Paint

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

People: The Fighting Admiral

Over at the ever popular History Crushes Tumblr site - if you're not following them, you really should - the above portrait of Admiral Sir John Harman popped up. The person who submitted him as their history crush indicated that they had Googled "British Admirals" in images and - without knowing anything about him - had promptly fallen in love with Sir John.

The serendipity here is amusing; at least to me. Back in college (when dinosaurs roamed the world) I did a paper analyzing Harman's contribution to the Four Days' Battle of June 1 through 4, 1666. Where that paper got off to I cannot say, but I have some vague memories of the Admiral and thought him a fitting, and swashbuckling, addition to Triple P's roll of famous fighting seamen.

Sir John Harman first shows up in written history in relation to the Battle of Portland fought at sea in February of 1652. At the time he was in command of HMS Welcome, a man-of-war of 40 guns and about 200 crewmen. This would indicate that Harman had been at sea for some time prior, placing his date of birth no later than the early 1630s. It is most probable that he was born earlier than that.

Some historians connect Harman's family with the Harmans of Suffolk, some of whose members commanded ships for Cromwell during the Commonwealth. If this is the case, Sir John may have come up the ranks in the Restoration navy rather than starting his career as an officer. Another hint in this direction is that his family may have built and owned ships used by Charles II's navy.

Whatever the case, Harman was an able naval thinker who did not shy away from a fight. Most of his life at sea was spent battling Holland in the First and Second Anglo-Dutch Wars. As frequently happened with capable commanders, Harman rose quickly in rank during war time. By1665 he was in command of Royal Charles, which flew the white flag of the Duke of York who was Admiral of the White at the time. It was in Royal Charles that Harman saw his first victory over the Dutch.

When the battle was winding down, the Dutch fleet began to flee and Harman gave chase with other Royal Navy ships following his lead. Admiral Sir William Penn, who was aboard Royal Charles and therefor technically outranking Captain Harman, had taken ill and retired to his cabin. He and the Duke of York, who was also aboard, ordered the chase called off. One of the Duke's gentlemen, a man named Henry Brouncker, was sent on deck to relay the order to Harman.

The Captain would not take orders from a man he would later refer to, in the ensuing enquiry, as a "genlteman-in-waiting" and continued the chase. Exasperated, no doubt, by the continuous harping of Penn and the Duke, Brouncker - on his third trip up to the quarterdeck - lied to Harman saying the Penn was gravely ill and in danger of death and that the Duke had strictly forbidden the chase. Harman, with much grumbling, shortened sail and allowed the Dutch to escape.

The later enquiry put all fault for the "shyness of the fleet" on Brouncker. Harman, on the other hand, was awarded a knighthood and made Rear Admiral of the White. His flag was hoisted aboard HMS Resolution and he promptly set out to escort merchant convoys from the far east. In early 1666, Harman and his flag were shifted to HMS Henry (or Henery according to Pepys diary). It was aboard this ship that his greatest adventure would occur.

During the Four Days' Battle, Henry was a particular target of the Dutch, doubtless owing to the accuracy of her guns and the fighting spirit of her crew. Fireships were sent against her, causing fire aboard her so severe that some 50 members of her crew jumped overboard. Most lost their lives to drowning, preferring that to burning alive.

They should have hesitated to end their lives, however. Harman roused his remaining crew and fought off and sunk the fireships while simultaneously putting out the fires aboard Henry. According to Pepys, Harman's leg was broken when a mast of one of the fireships fell across Henry's deck. Though Henry was obliged to limp home for a refit, the victory that claimed so many English lives - including Harman's superior Vice-Admiral Sir William Berkeley - was accredited in no small part to Harman.

Sir John's broken leg became troublesome, possibly festering as it healed, and he retired from service for six months. By March of 1667 he was back in action again. He took command of England's West Indies station. He spent time at Barbados and engaged the French on more than one occasion after their capture of Martinique. Through his efforts, England acquired the holdings of Cayenne and Surinam as well.

In 1673 he was back in English waters and promoted to Vice-Admiral of the Red. He again saw action against the Dutch, but his health was failing. One legendary story tells of Harman engaging the famous Dutch Admiral De Ruyter. Too ill to stand, Harman had an armchair nailed to the quarterdeck and there he sat throughout the battle, seemingly impervious to the shot the whizzed past him from every angle.

This was his last hurrah, however. After being appointed Admiral of the Blue that same year, he retired to his home where he died in October of 1673. He was survived by his wife, the heiress Katherine Harinan Harman, a son James who would die a captain battling Barbary corsairs, and a daughter. This daughter, curiously enough, married Dauntesey Brouncker, Earl of Stoke, a relative of her father's near nemesis, Henry Brouncker.

Regardless of setbacks and long years away from home, one would be hardpressed to find a more capable fighting captain than Admiral Sir John Harman. And yeah; he was dashingly handsome, too.

Header: Admiral Sir John Harman by Sir Peter Lely via FYHC on Tumblr

Monday, November 19, 2012

History: The Naval Uniform

It may seem curious to some but it appears that the U.S. Navy, not her titanic mother the Royal Navy, was the first to standardize the dress of its able seamen. As early as the War of 1812, which occurred only a scant 36 years after independence was declared, U.S. Navy purchasing agents were ordering "cotton frocks" in standard blue and white nankeen, a type of cotton and wool blend. This at a times when the average sailor in European navies wore the clothes he climbed aboard ship wearing.

Over at the USSCM blog, Jack Tar offers an excellent example of the kind of naval uniform that became common after the Civil War. The little suit, which made it through a boiler explosion - as did young John T. Jefferson who was wearing it at the time - is curious not only for its survival but for its details. Sailors, who have always been handy with needle and thread, often embroidered their uniforms. Popular designs included natural items such as flower and vines (as on the front flap of Jefferson's trousers) as well as the almost obligatory stars. These were often placed on the shirt flap, which evolved into the familiar collar we know today.

Jack quotes Samuel Leech as an example. Leech was one of those much spoken of British deserters who served aboard USS Siren during the War of 1812:

I... adopted that peculiarity of dress practiced by American men-of-war's men, which consisted in wearing my shirt open at the neck, with the corners thrown back. On these corners a device was wrought, consisting of the stars of the American flag...

It is interesting to note that Leech considered this uniformity of gear a "peculiarity."

Out of these fledgling uniforms, certain myths have continued right down to our own time. The flap-front pant, which even the World War I recruit pictured above would have worn, had a different number of buttons depending on the era. Yet, a curious belief stems from the thirteen button pant. Per Peter H. Spectre:

According to the U.S. Navy, there is nothing to the rumor that the number of buttons (13) on enlisted men's flap-front trousers is in honor of the original 13 colonies. Rather, in the early 19th century there were 15 buttons, and 7 in the late 19th century; only when the flap front was enlarged - why? nobody seems to know - did the number of buttons become 13.

Another patently ludicrous myth is noted by Jack. People - and unfortunately some writers of both nautical fact and fiction - persist in the notion that the three rows of white piping on the modern navy dress is to memorialize the "three great victories" of Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. The same people will tell you that the black neckerchief is also a remembrance of his death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Why anyone would imagine that remembering Nelson - a man who would have happily battled America on wave had he survived to do so - would be such a priority for the U.S. Navy is beyond reasonable thought. The piping is simply an extension of that itch to decorate that sailors seem to come by naturally. And what is less likely to show dirt than a black neckerchief?

Header: World War I U.S. Navy recruiting poster by Josef Pierre Nuyttens via Wikimedia

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Finding Antarctica

November 18, 1820: American mariner and shipwright Nathaniel Brown Palmer, while captaining the sloop Hero, becomes the first post-modern man to touch at the continent of Antarctica.

Header: Nathaniel Brown Palmer in the 1870s via Wikipedia

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Stay

Last Wednesday we talked about staysails and how they began to appear on European ships in the 17th century. It probably goes without saying that researching that post led me to the myriad uses of the word stay at sea. And here is what I found, for the most part courtesy of our old friend Admiral Smyth and The Sailor's Word Book. Rather than paraphrase the master, here is the initial entry under stay:

A large strong rope extending from the upper end of each mast towards the stem of the ship, as the shrouds are extended on each side. The object of both is to prevent the masts from springing, when the ship is pitching deep. Thus stays are fore and aft; those which are led down to the vessel's side are backstays.

This is a point unfortunately missed in less well researched nautical fiction. In such cases, the afterstays are referred to as backstays. That's a mistake that will usually find me setting that book aside no matter how intriguing the story may be.

Stays, like sails, are named according to their position on the ship. The forestay is attached from the foremasthead down to the bowsprit's end. The mainstay goes forward to the end of the stem, upon which the bowsprit rests. The mizzenstay is attached to the mainmast and so on. A staysail may be attached to any of these stays, depending on situation and need, but the most familiar staysails are the jib and flying jib attached to the forestays.

Stay can also mean to tack. Thus one hears of a ship "missing stays" when she fails to catch the wind appropriately to perform the tack. She is said to be in stays when she is actually in the process of successfully going around. As the Admiral points out:

A vessel in bad trim, or lubberly handled, is sure to be slack in stays, and refuses stays, when she has to wear.

And that will never do.

Stay apeek is a term which notes that a ship's cable and forestay are in line (the cable being attached to an anchor). This can be either good or dire, depending on the tide and weather conditions.

Masts that incline toward a ship's bow are said to be stay-forward. This is the opposite of rake, when the masts are inclined aft.

Stay-tackles are the rigging, which is usually able to be moved, which allows for hoisting boats and other items. These are generally, but not always, designated as fore and main to coincide with the fore and main yards.

And, of course, a staysail is a triangular sail attached to a stay. But I didn't really need to tell the Brethren that, did I?

Header: Old Timer in Rough Seas by Montague Dawson via Under the Black Flag on Facebook; the old timer's stays are clearly visible thanks to the incomparable artistry of Mr. Dawson

Friday, November 16, 2012

Booty: The Great Pirate Ships

For me, The History Channel has lost its appeal. For instance right now, as I type, they are showing "Pawn Stars." Really? That's just not history no matter how you slice it. But once upon a time THC actually did offer shows about, well, history. And today's offering is one of the best.

Please enjoy this fairly accurate and definately well done documentary entitled "The Great Pirate Ships." It's the perfect offering for a Friday. My thanks to my mates over at the Under the Black Flag team who posted both this video and the beautiful picture at the header on their Facebook page. Pop over and like them after you are done with the doc.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tools of the Trade: Staysails

While reading A Short History of the Sailing Ship by Romola and R.C. Anderson last night, I came across a curious few paragraphs that brought into focus something I had never thought much about before. From the book:

... we begin to find 'staysails,' which were triangular sails of much the same shape as the lateen mizzen, set on the stays of the masts and topmasts. These begin to appear in pictures after 1658, though they can be found in lists of stores a few years sooner.

Stays, of course, are the large ropes that are attached high on masts and run down to the deck. These ropes keep apposing tension on the masts so that the don't simply crack and fall over under the strain of the sails. On large ships, stays may be attached at various points and even to other masts creating the web of rigging familiar to anyone with an eye for tall ships. The engraving above, of the Sovereign of the Seas commissioned in England in 1637, shows the intricate network of stays - both fore and back - that would be common in any large ship. Note, however, that despite her near full sail posture, there is not a staysail to be seen.

The Andersons go on to speculate that the use of the staysail aboard European vessels came not only from observation of lateen sailing ships in the Mediterranean, but also from the need to place a sail where ever one could when a ship was in distress:

Probably [the practice of setting staysails] began as a 'jury rig' - that is to say, an emergency rig after damage by weather or battle. A letter of 1639 speaks of setting a mizzen on the mainstay for this purpose...

Just as any port in a storm, so any sail in a pinch. We must assume, therefor, that once sailors saw the advantage of staysails not only in speed but in maneuvering, the thing stuck. A quick perusal of these paintings by master marine artist Geoff Hunt will show that the use of staysails - particularly on jib and bowsprit - became old hat by the 18th century.

Another simple but fascinating piece of the evolution of the sailing ship.

Header: Sovereign of the Seas engraving c 1637 via Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

History: Rough Medicine

The day is spent, the night draws on. Chiurgion, look to the wounded, and wind up the slain, with each a weight or bullet at their heads and feet to make them sink. ~ Captain John Smith, Governor of Virginia

In the 17th century, medicine at sea was just getting its start. Surgeons sailed with many a vessel, both in navies and the merchant service. Perhaps surprisingly, even fishing fleets like those off the coast of Newfoundland had surgeons who were paid, at least in part, in dried fish. But as Kevin Brown points up in his meticulously researched book Poxed & Survied, "...the position of surgeon onboard ship was ill-defined and depended very much on the support and informed interest in hygiene of such captains as Francis Drake and Richard Hawkins."

This was true well into the 19th century. Patrick O'Brian, a master not only of storytelling but of accurate historical detail, knew this very well. His Stephen Maturin, a full-fledged physician who took a post with the Royal Navy only because of desperate poverty, would not have been able to accomplish half of what he did - as not only doctor but as naturalist and intelligencer - had it not been for the strong support of Captain Jack Aubrey. In "real life", captains like Nelson cared about all aspects of their crew's lives. Less capable commanders like Hugh Pigot or William Bligh were also less likely to support their surgeon.

Such circumstance would have been troubling for men with a sincere dedication to their vocation. And the problems were only multiplied by controls - or monopolies - imposed not only by the Admiralty but also by Parliament and even the King himself. At least in England.

As Brown points out, in July of 1626 the Privy Council started paying the Barber-Surgeons Company a yearly sum to allow them to provide medicine chests to both the navy and the army. This was followed up in 1629 by a mandatory examination for sea surgeons put in place by Charles I who chose John Woodall, first surgeon to the East India Company, to oversee both processes.

Woodall published The Surgions Mate in 1617 and the book became a must-have among sea going medical men. So much so in fact that Brown notes the book was widely distributed but few copies have survived to the present day. He tells us that this "... suggests that they were much used at sea" and that the book was a "... model for future manuals for the ship's doctor."

Given Woodall's expertise, it is not surprising that the king dumped so much in the doctor's lap. He was given "the whole ordering, making and appointing of His Highness' military provisions for surgery both for his land and sea service," according to the journals of Captain James Cook. As Brown rather snidely remarks: "Thus began a lucrative venture for Woodall, but also the long monopoly enjoyed by the Barber-Surgeons over the supply and inspection of ship's surgeons' chests."

Though the Barber-Surgeons grip on supplying ship's doctors could do more harm than good, there was a silver lining to the order. This process of inspection developed a certain uniformity of instruments and medicines available on both Royal Navy and merchant vessels. The upshot was a uniformity of treatment - at least on ships where caring for the crew in illness and injury was made a priority.

All the same, again as pointed up by Brown, the ship's surgeon was by and large a product of an apprentice rather than an educational system. True physicians - "lordly" to use Brown's term - had little interest in serving either navy or army until well into the 19th century. And only after the pay rates were adjusted to recognize their lordliness.

Meanwhile the ship's surgeon toiled on. He treated everything from bug bites to shattered limbs and for the most part dealt with day-to-day illness from STDs to the common cold. It was no glamor job, certainly. But at least some of the men who did it must have been as cherished by their captains and mates as Dr. Maturin himself.

Header: Paul Bettany as Stephen Maturin and Russell Crowe as Jack Aubrey; a still from the movie Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Monday, November 12, 2012

Women at Sea: "Fantastic Story..."

Fantastic Story! Girl Pressed into Navy: A young woman, daughter to a respectable brewer in the town of wells, quitted her father's house about nine years ago in consequence of a disagreement with her step-mother and had not been heard of until a few days since, when she was discovered on Board the ship Mercury of Hull dressed in jacket and trowsers. On leaving home, she dressed in boy's clothes and bound herself apprentice to a sailor. At the expiration of her time she was pressed on board the St. George of 98 guns and served on board several other ships of war; but preferring the merchant service, escaped from the navy; and since sailed in traders belonging to Yarmouth, Lynn Sunderland, Shields and other ports, without her sex being discovered.

~ from the London Times circa 1796 via Rose White

I am indebted to Isabel and Loretta at Two Nerdy History Girls for the link.

Header: Sailor by Thomas Rowlandson via Memory Prints

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Remembering Those Who Serve

Triple P wishes to thank all American service men and women who serve and have served their country throughout her history on the Veterans Day. You are our country's true heroes.

And a belated Happy Birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps born November 10, 1775.

Header: Continental Navy Uniforms of the Revolutionary War via SrCalifornia

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sailor Mouth Saturday: Pay

The word pay, in the sense of remuneration for work accomplished or yet to come, is dear to every sailor's heart. Dearer still is pay for a prize - the only kind of pay known to pirates. But there are other uses for the word pay at sea, and some have nothing to do with coin in hand.

Pay can also mean the act of caulking a seam on deck. In particular it refers to the pouring of pitch into the seam after the caulking is done. The pitch makes the oakum that seals the seam waterproof. The word pay in this sense derives, according to Admiral Smyth in The Sailor's Word Book from the French word for pitch: poix.

A slight variation on this comes with references to paying a mast or yard or paying a ship's bottom.

In the case of the mast or yard, the wood is anointed with tar or the tallow left over from cooking often referred to as "slush" (thus the nickname for the cook: Slushy). This allows for ease in hoisting and lowering sails and yards, cutting down on the friction and thus wear-and-tear on the rigging. This is a dangerous job, however, as the sailor is dealing with slippery substances while suspended on a bosun's chair. The point was well illustrated in the "Tar Rigger" episode of Dirty Jobs where Mike Rowe was obliged to pay a mast aboard the Star of India.

To pay a vessel's bottom (also known as breaming) involves cleaning the entire hull, not by scraping as in careening but by fire. The hull is thus covered with tallow, sulphur or rosin to discourage the fire from actually burning the ship's bottom.

To pay round is to turn the ship's head in another direction. Paying off is "the movement by which the ship's head falls off from the wind, and drops to leeward" to quote the good Admiral. Pay away and paying out mean the same thing: this is the slackening of rope which allows it to run without hindrance. Paying down is the act of lowing heavy articles down into the hold or to a lower deck.

A paymaster is a 19th century naval invention. This individual did the job formerly taken by a ship's purser as part of his duties. It was up to this person to both provision and pay the crew. Paying off may also mean the final payment to officers and crew when a ship is lost or taken out of commission.

A man who speaks "gandiloquently", according to Admiral Smyth, is said to be "paying it out" among his mates; derogatorily, of course. And as all the Brethren know, the Admiral reminds that:

Pay [is] a buccaneering principle of hire, under the notion of plunder and sharing in prizes, was, no purchase no pay.

You can read the lyrics to, and hear the wonderful Corsairs sing, the shanty of the same name here.

Happy Saturday, Brethren! Fair winds, following seas and full mugs to you all.

Header: Make Sail! Photograph via the Under the Black Flag Team on Facebook

Friday, November 9, 2012

Booty: Laffite as Sex God

My dear friend, the brilliant historian Pam Keyes, is just as smitten with the Laffite brothers, their lives, friends and times as I am. She's also a great fan of Yul Brynner and Anthony Quinn's wonderful remake of Cecil B. DeMille's The Buccaneer that starred the very same. Her collection of items from the movie should be the envy of any Hollywood collector.

What a treat it was for me to receive an email from Pam recently with the above photo attached. This rather racy theater card would have been sent to movie houses for display before and during the run of the feature. This type of advertising is a dead art, unfortunately, so something like this is valuable on many levels. Click to enlarge and note not only the details of the photo but also the beautiful preservation of the item itself.

The thing that struck both Pam and me is the overt sexuality of the picture. The Buccaneer was released in 1958, a time when we generally imagine morality as just this side of Victorian. But here, in one picture, is the classic visual of Laffite the sex god. The lady in question is not only kneeling before him but her hands rest on his knees. Her blouse is just about to treat us to a wardrobe malfunction, and she has eyes for only him. Meanwhile, he lounges in a completely relaxed if bored attitude. Legs apart, he gazes into the middle distance and one wonders whether or not a cigar is only a cigar. Regardless of what happens next, we can rest assured the Monsieur Laffite has been there and done that.

Laffite the lady killer is summed up in one picture: power, charisma, sexual tension at its highest height. Many a bodice-ripper has been - and continues to be - based on this image of Laffite the pirate.

You can watch this scene from the movie on YouTube if you've a curiosity about what put this lady with the heaving bosom in thrall to Jean Laffite. It's certainly a worthwhile Friday pastime... Tell your boss Pauline made you do it.

Header: Theater card from the 1958 version of The Buccaneer via Pam Keyes to whom I am once again very much indebted ~ thank you Pam!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Ships: Queen Anne's Cannon

The painstaking work of raising the ship off Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina that is believed to be Blackbeard's flagship continues at a pace. Thanks to private donations, a large chunk of which come from pirate expert Pat Croce, East Carolina University has been able to raise some of the ship's cannon and many other artifacts from the sediment-clouded waters.

As this article from Hampton Roads notes, some of the more interesting guns were found to be loaded when hoisted up. This goes against naval philosophy of the time - the Royal Navy rarely if ever pre-loaded guns - and may point to a common practice among pirates of the Golden Age. Or perhaps this was simply a common practice of Blackbeard's.

Queen Anne's Revenge was sunk, not in battle, but after hitting a sandbar near the inlet where it now lies. This occurred in July or August of 1718 and Blackbeard met his end at the hands of Royal Navy pirate hunters the following November. There is no record that the QAR sank during a battle or chase, so we must imagine that the guns were loaded simply in preparation.

The cannon are now being kept in a warehouse at the ECU campus where they are taking a long bath in a sodium-carbonate solution to remove close to 300 years of seaworthy crust. Other items, including more guns, have been left in situ where they too are being cleaned by carefully place anodes which draw away the accumulated corrosion. As archaeologist David Moore puts it in the article: "We're using the bottom of the ocean as a conservation space."

A former French slaver, Blackbeard's Queen Anne's Revenge was one of the larger and more elegant pirate ships of any era. She carried over 20 guns, had four decks, three masts and a spacious great cabin complete with gilt fixtures. Her loss must have been a sore trial for the man whose real name was Edward Teach.

On a final curious note, the article mentions that Edward's name may have been Thatch rather than Teach. That's one I have not heard before.

Header: Ocracoke Inlet Map by Henry Mouson c 1775 via Wikipedia

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

History: John Adams and the U.S. Navy

We will make peace with all our might and we will build up the military ~ President John Adams

In the popular mind, the memory of John Adams has been poisoned to a large degree by false remembrance. His support of - and even insistence on - the passing of the Alien and Sedition Acts has made him persona non grata among those who would embrace all comers as part of the U.S. melting pot. It's a slippery slope to trust that everyone - absolutely everyone - that comes to your country comes with a bag full of hope and good intentions. Adams knew that very well. Having traveled more than any of the other founding fathers by the time he was elected to the highest office, he knew how much other countries coveted all that America had.

Adams, however, was a visionary who understood long before Teddy Roosevelt that to "walk softly and carry a big stick" was the best strategy in the treacherous world of international politics. He knew England, France and Spain - all superpowers whose grip on the New World was slipping - wanted America back. He knew that the only way they could achieve that was to send men and arms here by ship. He knew that a strong, capably manned and well equipped Navy was the one sure way to stop that from happening.

I had planned to discuss John Adams' pioneering advocacy for the U.S. Navy and for privateering as well but there is no reason for me to reinvent the wheel. Click over to Naval History Blog to read historian David McCullough's brilliant lecture on just that subject. His focus on the importance of "the war that never was" - America's entirely nautical Quasi-War with France - is a fascinating evaluation of a time that Americans have largely chosen to forget but that was so very important to the shaping of the country and indeed the world that we know today.

The French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, once said of John Adams that his "pedantry, stubbornness, and self-importance will give rise to a thousand vexations."

Adams, in reply, said simply: "Thanks to God that he gave me stubbornness when I know I am right." Spoken like a true Yankee.

Header: America by David Armstrong via American Gallery ~ U.S. citizens, get out and vote today; it matters!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Lady Pirates: The Viking Grande Dame

Aud the Deep-Minded, whose name is spelled Unn by some chroniclers, is a curious case. While her life and times are pretty well known, particularly in Iceland where she is considered a founding mother, she has become a bit of a political football among modern historians. Finding pagan heroines is a particular delight among late 20th century feminist scholars, and Aud is the darling of many. The fact that her mother, Yngvid or Ingvid Ketilsdotter was of Celtic descent and a Christian is basically overlooked by those who put forward the pagan Aud. It seems that many of these historians are trying to explain Aud's "freedom" as a Viking leader by making her pagan. This is a large leap that overlooks quite a few things about the early Church and, in particular, Celtic Christianity. To my mind the issue is neither here nor there. Aud was clearly a strong-minded, resiliant woman who lived through treachery and tragedy and came out on top.

Born in Scotland's Outer Hebrides in 855, Aud was the daughter of a powerful Viking chief who spent his life annexing parts of mainland Scotland to his kingdom. At a young age, Aud was married to another Viking chief in what might have been her mother's native country, Ireland. Olaf the White was ruler of Dublin when he and Aud celebrated their nuptials. They had a son, Thorstein the Red, and Olaf, much like Aud's own father, spent his days conquering native tribes. According to Vicki Leon in Uppity Women of Medieval Times, Olaf and Aud nulified their marriage by mutual agreement. Other historians claim Olaf met his end in battle. Either way, Aud returned to her parent's home bringing young Thorstein with her.

The middle portion of Aud's life was quiet and seemingly blissful. She raised Thorstein who eventually took over his grandfather's holdings. She settled into the role of wise woman, mother-in-law and eventually grandmother to Thorstein's brood of eight or so children. But tragedy struck when Thorstein's subordinates fomented a rebellion. The Red Chief was assassinated and Aud took her daughter-in-law, grandchildren and a small band of loyal vassals to a secluded long house by the North Sea. Here, while continuing to pay tribute to her son's murderers, Aud quietly built a small fleet of viking ships in secret.

Only one ship was completed before the threat from the new chiefs of the area became overwhelming. Aud packed up her family and considerable wealth and set out for the Orkneys.

It seems that Aud's family was well connected and most probably distantly related to many of the Viking chiefs in the area. At her first stop, Aud negotiated a marriage for one of her granddaughters, Groa or Grainne, to the son of a chieftain. Not satisfied with the area as a potential settlement, Aud - who was unquestionably in command of not only her ship but the entire expedition - moved on to the Faroe Islands. Here, another granddaughter's marriage was arranged to another chieftain's son. All the same, Aud was not ready to settle in. She set her sights on a place where her growing band could spread out: Iceland.

The group was growing, curiously enough, because along the way Aud's ship was making raids on coastal towns. Taking much needed provisions was a priority but Aud's men captured locals as well and particularly young men who could do heavy labor such as rowing aboard ship. These slaves, often called "bondsmen" in the Icelandic chronicles, would later found some of the great families of Iceland.

It appears that at least two of Aud's brothers had gone to Iceland either before or after the death of her father. Why one of them did not take over as chief but Aud's son did remains a question and may have something to do with a family dynamic that included a chief wife (Aud's mother?) and one or more concubines or "bondswomen". At any rate, Aud again seems to have headed toward a place where she had connections.

The cruise could not have been pleasant as the ship was packed with people, provisions and probably livestock as well. But it was by now a familiar trip for Vikings of both sexes, and Aud seems to have had no trouble getting her polyglot band to the land of ice. Aud's navigation skills were not up to the jagged coast; her ship ran aground on a reef not far from her brother's land and slowly sank into the frigid water.

Most of Aud's people and all of her grandchildren managed to get safely to shore - with or without the help of her brother Helgi, who was in no way thrilled to see his now elderly sister. Aud packed up her people and moved them to her other brother's domain where she announced that she would need a boat in order to claim her own lands. Icelandic tradition says that she did just that, spending weeks sailing around the coast and lighting huge bonfires on patches of land that she claimed as her own. When she was done she freed her "bondsmen" and parceled out the lands she claimed to each member of her expedition. Where her bonfires had once burned, Aud had stone crosses erected, some of which stand to this day.

While a flury of building and livestock raising ensued around her, Aud went back to being a wise woman and grandmother. She could not, it seems, give up matchmaking, however. Aud personally saw to the marriages of all her remaining grandchildren. She died, in fact, at the wedding of her youngest grandson. Well into her sixties when she passed, most say quietly in her sleep after drinking a good bit of ale, Aud left instructions that she be buried below the high tide line on the coast of Iceland. She was clearly a woman who loved the sea enough to want to be near it for eternity.

Header: A Viking woman's dress via Fossil Science; photograph by Annika Larsson

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: Seneca Chief

November 4, 1825: The first vessel to traverse the new Erie Canal from Buffalo to the Hudson River, a small barge named the Seneca Chief, arrives in New York City.

Header: Watercolor painting depicting the opening of the Erie Canal c 1825 via Library of Congress

Friday, November 2, 2012

Booty: A Pirate Hideaway, Mid-Century Style

While I'm no fan of "Mad Men" (sorry AMC; the only show you produce that I can't miss is "The Walking Dead"), and those Jacqueline Kennedy fashions do nothing for my broad-shouldered, 5'10" frame, I love, love, love mid-20th century architecture and decorating. That's why I am an enormous fan of Mid-Century Modern Freak on Tumblr. So when I saw this house-on-the-water over there, I felt compelled to share it with the Brethren.

The living space is pure mid-century: clean lines, open design and floor-to-ceiling windows that must make washing those drapes an unimaginable chore. But what this design by Charles Schriedde adds is an attractive nautical theme. Note the central pylon with its steps that literally take you to your own private dock where your James Bond-esque speed boat awaits. The bedroom is a main top complete with rigging, canopy and a hanging ship's lantern to set the mood. And then there's the view. I'm fairly certain this Fiddler's Green is parked squarely in the Pacific Northwest; perhaps the San Juan Islands. Click the picture to enhance all the stunning detail that was created, believe it or not, as an ad for a television.

Unfortunately, this place is pure fantasy. But a sailor can always dream.

Happy Friday, Brethren!

Header: Motorola ad from 1962 via Mid-Century Modern Freak on Tumblr