Aak to Zumbra
A Dictionary of the World’s Watercraft
Aak is an old Germanic term for a wine-carrying river barge used on Belgian, Dutch, and German rivers from the 17th to early 20th centuries. A zumbra, we are told, is an early Spanish skiff or yawl boat. Such entries make this latest effort – reportedly 25 years in the making by the staff at The Mariners’ Museum – a delight to read, or tour, since the experience is a wander through history and around the globe as viewed through the medium of watercraft. It’s a fine book to read and is an important addition to nautical history, particularly at this time, as we rely more and more on texts such as this one to keep alive culturally based skills like boatbuilding before they are lost.
The book can be exceedingly technical, which is good news for boat nerds, and is exhaustively cross-referenced, so that the reader is drawn, for example, from zumbra to a reference of yawl, a term that is then defined in eight different ways and further referenced to other entries in the Dictionary, such as tercer bote, Deal yall, cock boat, cutter-rigged smack, and Staithes yacker, to name a few.
The Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, Va.; 757-596-2222; 676 pgs.