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Sep 2009
Sector N after curfew
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cabotage noun \ ˈka-bə-ˌtäzh \ (French, from caboter to sail along the coast)

1 : trade or transport in coastal waters or airspace or between two points within a country

2 : the right to engage in cabotage

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The Hanseatic League is an interesting example of cooperation and organization independent of nation-states which existed in the Medieval era. One of its main physical components was the cog, a sturdy sea-going ship of small to medium size that was so closely associated with the league that it served as an emblem.

The commercial dominance and widespread influence of the Hanseatic League was to do more than elevate the simple cog to the status of primary carrier; it was to encourage the supporting 'science' of navigation. Much of the navigational skill of the master of a cog was cabotage, requiring a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of conspicuous features, leads and transits, anchorages, shoals and deeps which lay along the proposed route. Such knowledge was often hard-won and jealously guarded. The swashways and gats, narrow 'gates' or 'gaps' through often long sandbanks, could shorten a passage, or allow a master to slip to leeward of a bank and shelter from a heavy sea. Indeed the term 'to conn' a ship, meaning to give the helm orders and to watch and monitor her progress, also forms the root of the word 'cunning', originally meaning to possess a special knowledge.

Moreover, once a cog had ventured out of the almost tideless Baltic, the tidal rivers and turbulent, tide-riven North Sea offered an altogether different kind of challenge: cabotage had of necessity to transform itself into something more nearly approaching modern navigation.

The magnetic compass appeared as a navigational instrument about 1400, and was indispensable when making passage offshore. Courses were recorded on maps or 'cartes' and written sailing directions began to appear in which pilotage directions and compass courses were recorded for future use, one of the earliest of these being the Niederdeutsche Seebuch produced for the Hanseatic ships and containing directions for voyaging between Cadiz and Reval. These books, called 'rutters' or 'ruttiers' in English, became common outside the League after about 1500. An English version, The Book of the Sea Carte, gave directions for the 'whole Ile of Brytanye' and contained 'ye tydes, courses, [and] kennynges,' the old form of 'cunning' or knowledge, referred to earlier.

— Richard Woodman The History of the Ship (1997)
Bonus words:

cog noun \ ˈkäg \ (Middle English: related to Middle Dutch kogge, Old French cogue)

A broadly built medieval ship with a rounded prow and stern

gat noun \ ˈgat \ (probably from Dutch, literally, hole; akin to Old English geat gate)

: a natural or artificial channel or passage

swashway noun \ ˈswäsh-wā , ˈswȯsh-wā \ (Imitative of the sound of splashing or agitated water, or of a resounding blow + way Middle English, from Old English weg; akin to Old High German weg way, Old English wegan to move, Latin vehere to carry, via way)

: a channel across a bank, or among shoals

Medieval Cog

Hanseatic Seal of Stralsund


poliorcetics noun pol·i·or·cet·ics \ -sēt- \ (Mid 16th century; earliest use found in James Sanford [fl. 1567–1582], translator. From post-classical Latin poliorcetica siege engines from Hellenistic Greek πολιορκητικά [poliorkētika], use as noun of neuter plural of πολιορκητικός [poliorkētikos].)

The art of conducting and resisting sieges; siegecraft
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