Nothing is quite as liberating as getting away from the vile, foul-smelling louts that live on land, and escaping to the open sea, where the air is fresh and new lands await. More often than not these new lands are full of people who are just as vile, foul smelling, and loutish, but in a way you have yet to see or grow exasperated with. To top it off, the sea is riddled with dangers such as pirates, seaquakes, torrents, ice floes, geysers, and sea monsters. Still, with a decent understanding of where to go, you can better appreciate your time on land and know which welcoming shores to disembark to when things get loutish.
West Coast of Ireland
The west coast of Ireland is a remote, green, grand locality and the fishing along the coast is tremendous. What a shame that the barbarous Normans overran the place and had to stink everything up. Make sure to bring your own boat, as the locals seem to enjoy floating around in leather sacks called “currachs,” which in their Celtic terminology means frail boat. I once rode in one of the crafts with several locals from Sligo to Strandhill and it inexplicably sunk. As we swam three miles back to shore, a boatful of leering Normans taunted and hurled excrement at us − God’s blood and wounds upon them!
For all of the treasure that the Vikings stole from all over the map it’s surprising how little they invested into beautifying their cities, civilizing their wretched peoples, or developing any notable cuisine or mead. Nevertheless, the terrain and fjords of these lands could not be more beautiful, and the reindeer hunting cannot be beat. Stay away from the northwest coast, though, for there exists a terrible maelstrom that will devour any ship that passes. At the bottom of the whirlpool there is said to sit a dragon that enjoys the taste of wooden planks, canvas, and presumably tar.
Aegean Island Hopping’
Once while cruising around on a rented skiff in the Aegean Islands (which are a delight), we were blown off course by a cloudburst and paid a visit to the Seljuk Sultanate of Rûm stopping in at Alanya. Here we saw a polyglot group of recently captured Christians about to be sold into slavery. I was in a buoyant mood having just won a small bag of Abbasid silver in an all-night game of dice with some Arab merchants. I liberated twenty captives and took them back with me to Naxos on my skiff. There, I always enjoy the finest meals from one of the captives I saved − a Greek named Adelphos. He was a true friend. Once, unbidden, he poisoned the child of a man that had stolen a horse that belonged to me.
The Rhine Shines
When I set sail on a caravel down the Rhine into the Holy Roman Empire, I dreaded that I might encounter entanglements as I passed through the sclerotic hodgepodge of stagnant principalities and duchies vying for influence and advantage in their endless conflicts. As I floated into the Empire I was dazzled by the array of sights, the fine wines, the local crafts of carved woods, their affinity for bawdy rhymes and chants. It wasn’t until I neared Koblenz and was induced to pay a series of ridiculous tolls that I grew irritated with their backwards ways. When asked to pay a toll for the seventh time I refused and ordered my crew to proceed. The sons of whores raised a chain across the river and dashed the hull of our craft to bits. Two men, a cask of ale, and a few cabbages went overboard and then we nearly sank! I spent two weeks there as drastic repairs were required. I’d pray for Koblenz to be ravaged by Tartars for the offense if they didn’t roll out such fine ale, textiles, and house the most skilled prostitutes on the Rhine.