How to Harness the Wind (Crossing the Pond I)

Sailing is a prime form of technological magic that we take for granted. You stick a boat in the water with a standing sheet of cloth or plastic and expect it to start zooming wherever you like. Pretty miraculous, though. Like flying, it’s not just going fast and having wings, but how the wings are shaped. In the same way, sailboats move because of how the sails are shaped, and how they’re allowed to move.

Phoenician ship
Phoenician ships ruled the Mediterranean 3000 years ago, photo by Jennie Hill

Human cultures have a lot of coastlines, so for eight millennia, those cultures learned how to navigate long distances–without computers, electricity, steam power, sextants, or even nails. The Portugese, Phoenicians, Vikings, and the Chinese all created distinct seafaring dynasties, each in their own turn. As I’m about to start a journey across the Atlantic on a boat, I decided to try to understand exactly how they did it.

If Square, Add Oars

The oldest known ship, the Pessoe canoe in the Netherlands, dates back to 8000 BC. From Easter Island to the fertile crescent to the Inuit, people have been hollowing out a tree or lashing logs together, raft-like, in order to move across the water. Many added a bit of cloth mounted on a stick to move away from the wind, plus some oar power to keep going when the wind was in the wrong direction or nonexistent.

Continue reading “How to Harness the Wind (Crossing the Pond I)”

Reblog — Food & Ireland — a beautiful combination

I received a near-record number of views for my “Avocado Toast” commentary last week; thanks for viewing! I am hard pressed to think of something so extraordinary but will have something by Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in a combination of posts about food and about Ireland, my most recent topics, my spouse has written a most excellent entry herself. If you hadn’t seen it yet, you will likely enjoy it:

Tatyo Cheese and Onion Crisps

Click here and start fantasizing about cheese and onion potato chips…

via A Yank’s Opinion of Ireland’s Crisps |