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Archive for the ‘Half Moon’ Category

((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.

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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.

calendars

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.

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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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Call me Henry. Let’s look one year ahead and 400 back, traveling to mid-October 1608, and I’ve just returned from my second voyage, with Ming Cathay again eluding me.

The sea past Nova Zembla just closed with ice. With it, my prospects in the employ of the Muscovy Company also shut. But my dreams remain vivid and I

see my vessel entering a rich harbor.  I don’t care which vessel or which flag, but the vessel arrives.  I see it in my dreams, and no matter what the port

Cathay or not, it’s still worth getting there, and

its future is bright although in my dreams I see it only dimly for now.

But I also see future denizens of the port celebrate another, someone who never sailed in their boro.  No Hudson Day existed, and so this port that values trade and mariner values celebrates this other day, Columbus Day in the sixth boro, a holiday with a history that started here in 1792!

I protest!  The boro should have an annual Hudson Day or Half Moon week.  Here’s the Half Moon site.

In my next post, I will recap our tempestuous second voyage in summer 1608  and update you on my endeavors to find a new employer.

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