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Since leaving our beach promenade in the Faeroes, we’re had alternating fair weather and fog, along with gales and more gales mostly from easterlies.  Fog and gales . . . or as the Dutch crewmen say, mist en sterk wind.

It’s a secret confided only to my personal diary that our heading west southwest is my choice, my defiance of orders from the VOC to attempt only the Northeast Passage over Nova Zembla to Cathay, but this adverse weather plays in my favor.

westerlies
Some day after we arrive at and register the VOC letters with Cathay, we shall return to Amsterdam and besides the Directors van Os and Poppe, I will face my friends Yope—Jodocus Hondius—and Emanuel van Meteren, and they may demand explanation for my traveling to the west rather than the north and east.  But here I have my excuses:  we made for the Northeast Passage, we tried, we struggled, but the weather overwhelmed us.  To save VOC property . . .  this vessel Half Moon, we had no option to heave-to,  lie-a-trie, or even lie-a-hull and allow the easterlies to have their way with us, almost, nearly throwing us onto numerous icebergs and the shoals of many fata morgans.  .

Driven by the gales to Cathay . . .  auspicates well.

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The “keeper of the north” has rebuffed but forgiven me once again:  icy billows washing over our ship, gusts, snow, hail.  Adding to this, this arctic demon seems again to have possessed my crew, stealing their souls perhaps but more threatening is this demon leads them to mutiny.  Blackened right eye and bulging left one have convinced me: we got as far as latitude 71 N, but to save our ship and this mission to Cathay—after all, not to the borealis—I order the helm made for the southwest, VOC and their contract notwithstanding.

at stern

Here’s my plan:  after stopping here in the Faeroes to replenish our fresh water, we make for the southwest and to Jamestown so that from thence . . . we cross the isthmus and make for Cathay.

Thanks to Towmasters, for the background photo.

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As the vernal equinox approaches, so grows my awareness that by this month’s end I hope to be at sea.  At sea and Cathay-bound!    My new crew seems more excited about this departure than my two previous commands.  Maybe it’s their chemistry, as we have some English, some Hollanders, even some Frisians, and possibly the Javanese Pernomo—who quickly became adept at skating—although by now the canals are free of their ice.  He’s eager to get past NordKap so he might there skate again.

Labors ongoing on the wharf have increased in frenzy, as there is much much to getting Half Moon shipshape.  Riggers reinforce the lines and stays.  Gunsmiths work out the most favorable array of cannon and other arms.  Carpenters attend to dozens of repairs and  modifications for the cold voyage.  And VOC wharfmen provision the ship with casks of flour, cheese, salted meats, and of course grog.  The crew with families spend as much time as possible with their loved ones while the crew with no families seek Amsterdammer fellowship in the drinkhouses.   My son John will again sail with me, and he has spent much time with his mother Katherine and siblings.

jenever2

It will thrill my soul to have him beside me as we sail into Cathay, for I know on this voyage we shall.  I’ve told him that as ship’s boy, he will do the honors of drawing the spirits from the juniper grog cask as we enter the port of Cathay.  He will offer drinks to the wealthy Cathaynese merchants there.

*Art modified above was by Jan Karel Donatus Van Beecq (1638-1722).

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Yope took me to the docks on the Amstel, where wharf cats feasted on rats and herring.  Of course, none of these cats seemed so intelligent as my Cathay.  He had something to show me, he said.

A large ship called Batavia had just arrived from Java (“YA vah” as Yope pronounces it).  The crewmen tanned from the tropical sun, their hair bleached.  And Batavia , a heavy laden treasure vessel, its cargo a heady perfume of  cloves, nutmeg, and pepper.  And doing some of the work on deck were Javanese, small but powerful dark-skinned men shouting at each other in some musical language.  Some crew still on duty aboard ship  called out to friends on the dock, and in my best (cough!) Dutch writing, let me transcribe what I heard.

“Yope, hoe gat het?”  I guess that means “how are you?”

amsteldockAnd so a dialogue went on awhile, with Yope seeming as excited as the mariners, “Yope, wij zijn blij terug de komen.”
Then another sailor might see him, and being here now almost two months, I could recognize a repetition.  “Yope jongen, hoe is het?”

Yope had something to show me.  Beyond the great Batavia was a smaller ship, the Halve Maen, my ship he said.  Frankly, seeing its size, so dwarfed by Batavia disappointed me.  Rather than Half “Moon, I thought it should be called “last quarter,” as that would describe.  Still, a ship means that soon I might sail again, sail into Cathay.

*Art modified above was by Ludolf Backhuysen (1630-1708).

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“The directors shall equip . . . a small vessel . . . well provided with men, provisions, and other necessaries. Hudson shall sail . . . search for a passage by the north . . . north of Nova Zemla—-hmm, thinks I, I’m not going to die there “king of the ice” like Barents—-obtain knowledge . . . without any considerable loss of time . . . return immediately . . . make a faithful report . . . deliver over journals, log-books, and charts . . . without keeping anything back . . .”

intrigue5

I wonder how much VOC directors van Os and Poppe do me trust. Truth be told, intrigue is the norm here. Yope introduced me to Petrus Plancius . . . er “flatfoot” Yope calls him. Petrus says not to talk to LeMaire, the Dutch “Frenchman,” who was telling about Champlain’s explorations up the big river. Petrus also says my friend John Smith knows not what he suggests, that he has fantasies on the brain like his rescue from princesses like Tragabigzanda and Pocahontas. Smith, on the other hand, assures me in private letters, of credible stories he’s heard tell of large seas maybe leading to Cathay lying northwest of his Virginia colony.

Intrigue!! Social networking in 1609 Amsterdam. Dam! Yope just laughs and refills my glass with beer.

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Greetings from Holland, where I’ve been for almost a month already, thanks to Mr van Meteren.  He’s introduced me to Josse de Hondt, or Jodocus Hondius.  Van Meteren writes history and makes it happen;  Jodocus makes maps and translates for me, except when we speak Latin.  After copious sips of Dutch beer, I’ve even started slipping from Latin into Dutch.  When no VOC officers linger,  he asks I call him Yope, and he addresses me as Henk.

aaaaahhjo

The most useful Dutch word I’ve learned so far is goeie dag, which means hello and good-bye and in the pronouncing sounds like a rude throating-clearing. Actually, it’s pronounced like goo ya DOG, but with both g‘s scraped.

Otherwise, I truly love Amsterdam, where people from beyond the seven seas walk the docks and sit down together to break bread and spill beer.

I’ve stayed in Yope’s house in Den Hague in between trips to Amsterdam to meet with officers of the VOC.  He entertains a wide range of people, many of whom are exiled from Antwerp, a less tolerant place;  I’ve met some French, including Isaac le Maire, which seemed to trouble my hosts as soon as Monsieur leMaire suggested I sail for le bon roi Henri.

Today they offered me a contract.  Yope is translating the terms as I write this note.  Good money for me, but it seems they want to keep my wife and children in Amsterdam as guarantee that I return here.

More later when Yope finishes his translations.

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