A "" Factsheet
The History of Yachting Among The Ancients
The yacht Argo, in which Jason sailed in search of the Golden Fleece, had no artistic decorations below, but her hull, from all accounts, was a "dandy." Built of lofty pines which flourished on Mount Pelion, she was a racing yacht pierced for fifty oars. She was daubed with coal-black pitch, and her bows were painted with vermilion.
Despite the efforts of her mighty crew, I don't believe she ever made more than four knots an hour, even with fifty heroes pulling their hardest at the oars, all keeping time to the music of the harp of Orpheus, who had too much low cunning to do any work himself.
The Argo was a yacht manned by Corinthians and the first one that ever sailed on the Euxine, vulgarly known as the Black Sea. So far as I know, there are no photographs extant of her interior, but judging from the log of her voyage she had a fine galley on deck, in which her crew of heroes used to cook the choice parts of swine and deer for their own use, offering up the offal as a sacrifice to the immortal gods a circumstance showing that the ancient mariners were just as level-headed as the gone down-to-sea true seamen of today.
The handsome barges which belonged to the high civilization of ancient Egypt used to ply on the muddy waters of the Nile, and highly ornate vessels they were, manned by fifty rowers. They had sails of crimson silk, richly embroidered. Their cabins, were sumptu- ous, spacious and luxurious, gold, silver and precious stones being used lavishly in their decoration. In such a stately craft Cleopatra and Mark Antony passed many halcyon hours of splendid ease and amorous dalliance. The Romans and Carthaginians had their pleasure craft, and so had the Greeks and Venetians.
It was the custom of the Romans to hold regattas of biremes and triremes, and according to the chronicles a good deal of money changed hands over the results. Every schoolboy remembers the exciting boat race between those gallant Trojan captains, Cloanthus and Sergestus, so ably reported by one Vergil. I know that I can never forget it.
That regatta cost me many a cruel birching. In these competitions oars only were used. I fancy that sails were not set in those days except when the wind blew abaft the beam, the ancients not being well versed in the art of beating to windward. The swift ships in which Father ^Eneas, his faithful Achates and his devoted followers, fled from Troy, had, I supppse, but scanty cabin accommodations ; and when bold Pilot Palinurus glanced at the compass to see if the helmsman was steering a correct course, no highly polished brass binnacle reflected that skillful old navigator's bronzed and bearded face.
Teresa Thomas Bohannon
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