Archive for April, 2009
((Editor’s Note: Although Henry channeled this logbook installment some days back, we’ve lost the artwork–water color–several times, owing to the splash of the North Sea washing the tint off the medium. Be assured that Bowsprite and I are consulting the best 17th-century telecom specialists still around to assist with technical onshore aquarelle dehydration aka TOAD.))
Half Moon, my equus maritimus, has been riding the North Sea well, galloping happily away from the wharf in Amsterdam. Our course has taken us close enough for brief landfalls at Peterhead in Scotland and Lerwick in the Shetlands. From there we make for the Lofotens, which the high mountains will reveal some distance out at sea. We follow that over the top of Nordkap and east to Cathay. Except for Cathay, these landfalls are nothing new; we were here only 12 moonths ago.
Spirits are high on board; the crew seem as elated as I am to leave our beloveds and our places to seek out and discover. Each landfall conjures up ideas of adventures deferred. How might Peterhead girls sing? What grog can be bought in the Shetlands? What savory fish permeates Lofoten kitchens? I’d love to know, but not now. Nordkap beckons and Cathay awaits with its own girls, grog, and grub. Spirit us there, equus maritimus aka half moon, a name I despise as it associates closely with halfs like half-hearted, half-baked, and a farmer’s term I recently learned from the bawdy Dutch … half-assed.
And if the privacy of the journal allows–I pray you speak to on one of this–a word about contingencies: a map came into my possession one moonless night on the Amsterdam wharfs, a map copied from John Smith. Virginia, he suggests, is but a thin isthmus beyond which lies the great Ocean that laps on the shores of Cathay. If no Northeast Passage opens, then Smith’s map will present an alternative.
I love the warm breezes on my cheek telling me it’s spring. Soon, soon we will be under way and cold winds will plow us through white-capped seas and ice mountains all the way to Cathay. Let Smith stay in his Virginia and Champlain in his wide dead-end river . . . Half Moon will light the way to the East.
Soon, but an old dispute has broken out about which calendar to use . . . our English calendar seems unacceptable to some of the Dutch. The Roman Pope Gregory 13 decided some years back to revise time-keeping itself! As for me, I’m an explorer whose destiny draws me to Cathay, not a man of religion. Let’s just sail . . . on Gregory’s calendar or ours—they call it Julian’s—be gone with stilo novo or stilo Julio.
Soon we cast off. Watching Half Moon rock and strain in these breezes, I imagine the vessel eager like me, impatient to run her beak deep into blue water and then raise it upwards, washing its decks to the scupper holes with white foamy salt water, frothy as Dutch beer, as we speed our way to Cathay. I’ve dreamt of arriving in Cathay, with its palm trees, silks, spice, and gold. Soon I, like my ship, will be released. With the awesome power of the wind, Half Moon will race seaward with a spirited stallion. That lion on the bow . . . when we arrive in the East I’ll barter that feline for a horse’s head, equus maritimus.