Z is for Zuider Zee ….

Z is for Zuider Zee ….

As I sit down to write this and rifle through the research, it struck me. It’s been twenty-one years. Twenty. One. Years. For me, that’s beyond sobering. It means that there’s a better than even chance that people I worked with at The Rijksmuseum voor Scheepsarcheologie have passed on. It means that young, aspiring archaeologist Herre is approaching 50 (as I am). It makes me wonder about the National Geographic photographer…that couple from Texas A&M, and others who participated in the excavations of the koopvaardij schip (merchant ship) M11 or the punter in Workum where we drove the boer  (farmer) mad with impatience as we dug it out of his sloot (irrigation ditch). Bike rides to Kampen in Overijssel, the train to Stavoren. The wild van rides back and forth to Workum with a man named “Harm” at the wheel (don’t get me started on the jokes about “staying out of Harm’s way.”)… all the edges of what was once the Zuyderzee…

The Zuider Zee was, basically, that open part of the mitten that is The Netherlands. In the Roman times, it was a marshy area replete with peat bogs, but the 12th century, it was more of a series of lakes and channels. Industrious individuals, keen to capitalize on Baltic trade and woo the Hanseatic League, widened the inlet. A flood in 1282 broke through the works at Texel.  The worse flood of 1287, named St. Lucia’s Flood (December 14th), saw the seawalls fail completely, and between 50,000 and 80,000 people died. Even today, it remains the fifth largest flood in recorded history.  They rebuilt the seawalls and dikes, and tried everything to stabilize this sort-of-inland sea. But, the North Sea is a tempestuous thing, and storms to the north rocked the Zuider Zee, turning it into a “veritable cauldron” resulting in more ships being lost.

You have to remember, a good part of The Netherlands is below sea level. I always loved the joke (and I think it was Monty Python) that The Netherlands has the potential of becoming the largest country in the world because of their floor control and land reclamation programs.

The Zuider Zee is now only memory. In the last century, the earth and sea works became more formidable. The Nederlanders had had quite enough of THAT with all the flooding a death. The result of some of this was the reclamation of Flevoland (Flevopolder if memory serves—be kind, it’s been YEARS). That’s where Dronten is. In 1992, Dronten, Ketelhaven was nearly the end of the Earth, it seemed. That’s where the Rijksmuseum was. That’s where we started digging up that Merchantman (with Hanseatic trappings) in that farmer’s field. That’s where I learned to seriously dig Nederlands archaeology (partly because of the amount of koffie involved, but mostly because everyone was friendly and took it upon themselves not to speak English during breaks, and that just allowed the Americans in the group to attempt to get our brains around the language, and that was all sorts of awesome). I should mention that I didn’t actually learn to speak the language. I did learn the proper way to say alstublieft  (please) and dank u wel.  Strangely enough, I can still read bits of it, and understand bits when it’s spoken. You know, twenty-one years later. And it was from my Nederlandse vrienden that I picked this up (and the Texans never quite understood it).

It’s a mannerism. It’s a mannerism I particularly like. Several of of the boys in The Fishing Widow have it because, well, I have it. It’s always said with a smile, it’s not something to put anyone off, but if you’re unfamiliar with it, you might think that the person saying it to you is unsure, or wary, or thinks you’re just nuts (and that’s why it drove the Texans mad). Ja, wel  For the boys, it translates as, “Yeah, well..” For our purposes, it would go down like this:.

Texan (like he’s from Texas A&M or something): We think this is a discrete feature aft of the mast step.

Jaap (smiling and saying it slowly): Ja wel, it’s very good.

Because Jaap (or any of the others) would draw out that Ja wel, the Texans believed that the Nederlanders didn’t believe them. I mentioned to one of the Texans, that Ja wel actually translates into English as, “Yes, very good!” or something like that. Jaap was being enthusiastic, but the Texans couldn’t see it.

Twenty-one years on, I’ve found YouTube videos of Ketelhaven. The Museum is still there, there’s a large restaurant. I remember the circle, square, and triangle sculptures along the road. Batavia is in the water; when I was there, she was still under construction, and what a construction that was! I remember the bike rides from Dronten to Kampen on my days off’; catching the train to somewhere and wandering around just being. I’ll mention I did most of that traveling by myself. But, dredging all this up (no pun intended), it really does make me think. I need to go back and show this place to the kids (and the husband). And also let you know, if you’ve not been to the edge of the Zuider Zee … it’s a place to go before you can’t go anywhere anymore…


Poetry Form:  ZaniLa Rhyme

The ZaniLa Rhyme is an interesting, modern repeating form. This form was created by Laura Lamarca, and consists of at least 3, 4 line stanzas.

The rhyme scheme for each stanza is the same as Long Measure,

a. b. (c1. c2.) b.

Instead of being Iambic   Tetrameter it has a syllable count of

9. 7. (9.) 9.

Line 3 is a Repeating Line, which contains an internal rhyme and is repeated in each alternate stanza as in the first   stanza. Each even stanza line contains the same line but with the two parts of the internal rhyme swapped. There is no maximum poem length.

(from www.thepoetsgarret.com)

At the Edge of The Zuider Zee


A trowel in hand, I kneel in the dirt

Digging up bits of the past

The koffie is on, it won’t be long

This vessel will be free at long last.


Work at the edge of the Zuider Zee

Boats stop to give us a look

It won’t be long, the koffie is on

Excavation is better than books!


Centuries ago when hard ground was sea

Men and their ships plied the waves

The koffie is on, it won’t be long

They have found it! The newspaper raves


The photographer came with her gear

She set up at dawn’s first light

It won’t be long, the koffie is on

She shot us from morning until night!


Twenty-one years ago, how time flies

Photographs, memories, fade

The koffie is on, it won’t be long

‘Til to Flevoland my feet have strayed.




Y is for Yawl ….

Y is for Yawl….


noun \ˈyȯl\

Definition of YAWL

1 a ship’s small boat : jolly boat

2: a fore-and-aft rigged sailboat carrying a mainsail and one or more jibs with a mizzenmast far aft

Low German jolle

First Known Use: 1670

(I really should have gone with the Yeti Tim suggested)

Why? It will quickly become abundantly clear. For a Maritimer to pick a type of sail rig is a dangerous thing. I mean, oh, look! It’s a YAWL and I can make some cute joke about how it shouldn’t be confused with “y’all” and we’d have a laugh and I’d write a poem, but no. I wandered around Merrian-Webster (mistake), and then cracked open Chappelle (he’s a ship-rigging guy who wrote volumes about this subject), and then wondered about Ketches, because they’re close to Yawls, and then I thought, well, we call Ketchikan “Ketch” (sometimes we call it “Ketch-a-plane” since that’s usually why we go over there) and got to wondering if Ketchikan, being a fishing place, if that’s where the name came from. Nope. “Ketchikan” is actually from the Tlingit Kitschk-hin, meaning “Thundering Wings of an Eagle.” (The Encyclopedia Britannica) So, its history as a fishing town (at least since the Contact Period) has nothing to do with boats rigged especially for fishing and net handling (which is what a Ketch is by definition).

A yawl is a boat of a different sail rig. Maybe. You see, in the last century, Herreshoff (as in American yacht designer Francis Herreshoff) defined a yawl in the old Dutch sense—that of being a small boat that was propelled primarily by rowers, and if there ever was a mast stepped in it, it would have to have been out of the way of the rowers and would have provided only secondary propulsion. There’s also the placement of the mizzen. I mean, just look at the rigging configurations of the yawl vs. the ketch.

I mean, seriously, just look at that. It’s glaring the difference. Well, maybe not glaring unless you’re staring at it or writing about it, but sailors are like that. Albatross (our sailboat) is cutter rigged, but we run her like a sloop because we never have had the nerve to run two foresails (we’ll get the nerve at some point, but sure as heck not in Clarence Strait, and sure as heck not this year). Apologies to Jim or Frank or Don or Steve who may be reading this. Remember, you just convinced us to take a run at Dry Pass this summer (there’s A REASON IT’S CALLED DRY PASS, okay? Don’t push your luck with trying to get us to make more than 6 knots under sail, boys. Thanks.)

Where was I?

Oh, yes, yawl.  Famous ones include the Salcombe Yawl from Devon (in England). These are single-handed sailers. They’re clinker-built (as opposed to carvel built). Clinker means … well, here’s a picture of what clinker built looks like followed by a carvel-built hull.

They’re wooden boats, and I like that people (boat builders and people who mess about in boats) have decided that wooden is the way to go for a Salcombe Yawl. If you want to go with any newfangled fiberglass (or “glassfiber” across The Pond), that’s not a Salcombe Yawl, that’s called a Devon Yawl.

They’re fast boats, these yawls. In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of them were developed for ocean racing. I like that—wooden boats participating in ocean races. That doesn’t happen much anymore. Single-hulled vessels hardly participate in that kind of racing, either. That’s not to say the newer boats aren’t glorious, I mean, they’re absolutely stunning, and I would love to see one under sail. I’d love to see it from a distance….or from the deck of another boat nearby. While I always try to remember it’s called “heeling” and not “WE’RE GONNA FLIP OVER AND DIE!” sometimes, I’m still not successful.

We’re rounding the top of Prince of Wales Island in July of this year.

That yelp (or screaming) you’ll hear … wherever you are … is me forgetting that.

Poetry Form: Ya Du

S.E Asia (Burma)


As the Than Bauk is to the Haiku, then the Ya Du is to the Tanka and consists of four syllable lines and a fifth one that can comprise of 5, 7, 9,or 11 syllables. The staircase rule applies to the four lines, and the last syllable of the fourth and fifth line must rhyme, giving a pattern of:

O. O. O. a.
O. O. a. O
O. a. O. b
O. O. b. c.
O. O. O. O. O. O. O. O. c.

Unlike the Than Bauk, this must be a completed stanza, and no more than three stanzas are permitted.

(From: www.thepoetsgarret.com )


Love of the sea

Wind blows free and

In three sails fills

Wanton thrills soar

Until darkest clouds drive us inshore.


Single-hand reef

Not to grief brought

Haul sheets and call

Wildest squall wails

Adrenalin pumping we wrench in our sail.


Danger has passed

The sea, glassed, stills

The mast sways soft

Light breeze wafts ‘round

Our fears and our terror all lay drowned.


In case you’ve made it this far and are TRULY a sail-rigging geek, all I have to say is WELCOME FELLOW SAILOR, HOME FROM THE SEA! And, since you’ve endured, here are some pictures of sail rigs with their definitions (wrenched from Wiki-pedia and cross-checked in a number of sources to ensure accuracy)

Cutter: like a sloop with two or more headsails in the foretriangle. Better than a sloop for light winds, it is also easier to manage, due to the sail area being split up between smaller sails which require less force to trim as compared to the larger single jib of the sloop. The mast is located at about 50% of boat length. This is what our sailboat is supposed to look like fully-rigged. We run the Yankee, but not the Staysail. Give us time. We’ll get brave … or stupid … or brave…


Yawl: like a sloop or catboat with a mizzen mast located aft (closer to the stern of the vessel) of the rudder post. The mizzen is small, and is intended to help provide helm balance.


Ketch: like a yawl, but the mizzenmast is often much larger, and is located forward of the rudder post. The purpose of the mizzen sail in a ketch rig, unlike the yawl rig, is to provide drive to the hull. A ketch rig allows for shorter sails than a sloop with the same sail area, resulting in a lower center of sail and less overturning moment. The shorter masts therefore reduce the amount of ballast and stress on the rigging needed to keep the boat upright. Generally the rig is safer and less prone to broaching or capsize than a comparable sloop, and has more flexibility in sailplan when reducing sail under strong crosswind conditions—the mainsail can be brought down entirely (not requiring reefing) and the remaining rig will be both balanced on the helm and capable of driving the boat. The ketch is a classic small cargo boat.


X is for Xerxes ….

X is for Xerxes…

Xerxes I of Persia, also known as Xerxes the Great, lived from 519 to 465 BC, and ruled from 486 (ish) to 465 BC. I say “ish” to the dates, because there was the whole eldest-son-of-his-father-Darius-I-claiming-the-throne-after-Darius’s death thing. Yes, Xerxes was Darius’s son by Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great) AFTER Darius became king. Before Darius seized the throne, he had been married to a commoner and that eldest son, Artabazanes, was the result of that marriage. So, at 36 years old, Xerxes succeeded his father, and no one dared challenge him further.

Now, you’ve probably heard of Xerxes in popular culture. Freaky-dude in The 300? The one who was trying to take out Sparta? Who commanded The Immortals (who wouldn’t want to fight in a group called THAT)? That’s Hollywood’s idea of Xerxes. Here’s a pic. He’s almost an androgynous character in the movie. I’m not quite sure where that whole vibe came from….

The name actually means “ruling over heroes.” There is no doubt Persians were kick-butt when it came to decisive land battles *cough* Thermopylae *cough*. 10,000 elite Immortals (and, according to Herodotus one MILLION other combatants, although feeding an army that large makes later historians roll their eyes and discount Herodotus’ estimate, so let’s just put it down to A LOT of other combatants) invaded Greece. Spartans held them off for a bit, but were obliterated in the pass. Xerxes was not happy when Athenians fled before him (apparently, he had never heard the old Conan quote about “driving your enemies before you.” Either than or he was ticked he missed out on the “lamentation of the women”). When he found Athens deserted, he, in a fit of pique, ordered it razed. It was. The next day, he had a change of heart and ordered it rebuilt. It was. We think. Sorta. That it was razed and rebuilt. There’s a better than even chance that’s a bit of pan-Hellenic propaganda.

Xerxes ended up being assassinated by a commander of the royal bodyguard named Artabanus (not to be confused with Xerxes’ Uncle Artabanus because that’s a different Artabanus). Upon his death, there was a bit of fighting over the succession. Sex was involved. Women were involved. Harems were involved. Ah, politics. It never changes, right? The issue gets cloudy—yes, Artabanus assassinated Xerxes (one account says he had help from a eunuch named Aspamitres). Artabanus tried to frame Xerxes’ eldest son, Darius, and then convinced another of Xerxes’ sons (Artaxerxes) to kill Darius. Or, maybe Artabanus killed the son, Darius first and then Xerxes. And then, maybe, Artaxerxes got angry and murdered Artabanus. Bottom line, Artaxerxes ended up ruling, and that was only because a general (Megabyzus) switched sides in the dispute and supported him. Don’t worry. After Megabyzus was rewarded with the satrap of Syria, he revolted, too. Ah politics … It never changes, right?

Poetry Form: Rhopalic Verse

A very deceptive form that at first appears simple but in fact it requires a lot of hard work to accomplish a satisfactory piece. The rules are simple, with each line the first word is monosyllabic the second word has two syllables the third three syllables and so on.

(from www.thepoetsgarret.com )


War crafting curious alliances

And stranger bed-fellows.

One battle decisive

Won.  Weirder politics manipulate

Fate. Kingdoms satisfied, proliferate

Grow, endure, vacillate

Fall. Later

Dust remains, effigies devastated.

All recalled pageantry, ceremony

Now wilted, disappeared,