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The Zeno Project

In 1997 Laura Zola, the intrepid Italian yachts-woman, was forced by bad
weather to take refuge in Kirkwall in Orkney and there, by chance, she
read an article about Prince Henry Sinclair's momentous voyage to the New
World in 1398.  This article followed the Sinclair Symposium  which was
held as part of the Orkney Science Festival in September of that year.
Laura was particularly intrigued to learn about the Venetians,  Nicolo
and Antonio Zeno who were members of one of the noblest and most ancient
families in Venice and who had assisted Prince Henry Sinclair in gaining
control of the Shetland Isles and, thereafter in 1398, Antonio had sailed
with Prince Henry to the New World.

Earlier, in 1993, Henry had despatched Nicolo to carry out a survey of
Greenland but, on his return in 1395, Nicolo had died as a result of
the prolonged exposure to the cold climate which was so different from
the softer climate of his Mediterranean homeland.

As Laura's home is on the island of Elba she had not heard of the
exploits of the Zeno brothers from Venice but she was determined to
make amends by going to Venice to check out the story sand, if true,
to do a re-run of the voyage in her own yacht.

On 18th December, 1999 I met up with Laura in Venice.  By this time she
had enlisted the aid of the Venetian Commune and of the Italian Navy
which has its training college in the Arsenale in Venice.  Laura had
even arranged for me to give a talk to them about the activities of
the Zeno brothers whilst they were serving Prince Henry Sinclair in,
what they described as, "Polo Artico".

In the meantime, Laura had been preparing her yacht to follow in the
footsteps of the Zeno brothers and, on the 6th January, 2000 she left the
Arsenale.  A flotilla of the Italian Navy escorted her out to open water.
Since then, she has made her way down the Adriatic, round to toe of Italy
and back to her base on the Isle of Elba before heading North for the
ports of France and Spain but Laura tells her own story in a despatch
which I have just received from her:

The program around the voyage is going on very well. The second week of
February we arrived in Elba after a very successful trip around Italy.
During "7 Roses" stops in the ports of call,  we had a good follow by the
press and  the chances of giving small conference about the Project. A
good interest from adults and even young peoples, specially in the
South of Italy (Brindisi, Crotone, Reggio and Anzio), where exist a more
developed care on Maritimes history and where there is  a considerable
presence of Templar remain and Templar interest.  In Anzio we have
been guest at the sailing section of the Italian Navy that furnish
us with nautical charts and pilots for the European water and show an
appreciation for the "Zeno Project".  At the starting of the voyage I
have got a small contract with a daily paper for writing my articles
in a weekly bases relative to 7 Roses sailing in the wake of history:
navigation, reference to the ancient sailors and particular interest
on the various ports of call. The nautical magazine Bolina confirmed
the interest of following the  voyage throw monthly articles that I
regularly send, and in Elba Island a weekly paper with a section for
children is proposing the following of the voyage written in the form of
"Stella stories" (Stella is my little white dog).  All that it is a good
psychological input for the program and a bit of economical help with the
payment of the articles.  Some time it is hard to keep the boat going,
go aver the difficult moment, take care of the technical and practical
side of a sea voyage, the contact , the writing , the local research
and remember to find a moment to sleep and rest. I am tired but very
satisfied.  In  Elba  we took "7 Roses" out of the water, for the last
checking, painting and anodes. We did a lot of work on the rigging and
we keep two good conferences in the council room and in a private club.
Very hard work up to the departure for Corsica where we remain 2 days
before starting the sailing on the southern coast of France.  Now we
are in Sete, very interesting place, near to Aigues Morte, mediaeval
commercial port where Templar and Venetian use to prepare the ship for
the Crusade and exchange goods for there trade.  France in general it is
very sensitive on Templar  and Maritimes history. We have been offered a
Web site free of charge relative to the Voyage, and some friend passion
in history are doing for pleasure some more researches concerning the
fourteenth century and the Sinclair - Zen voyage.  We count leave Sete
Tomorrow morning very early and the next port of call will be Barcelona.
We meet a lot of bad weather on our course, mainly contrary wind that
with Jack, we  call  "the papal wind".  We said that as a jock, but it
is unbelievable that around any cape the wind keep coming strait toward
our bow.  In the coming day we will certainly have a bit more time and
I will write to you


I will keep you posted as and when I have further news from Laura.  She
has no set time time-table because she is doing a lot of 'exploration' of
old Templar sites so that she can build up the history of the period when
the Zeno brothers left the warm embracing climate of the Mediterranean
for the storms the North Atlantic although, having said that, it has to
be noted that Laura was facing rough seas off Corsica.

She is a gallant lady who deserves our support and it is to be hoped
that we will all turn up to give her a welcome when she reaches Orkney,
Shetland, Nova Scotia, Boston and Rhode Island.  I will certainly
be there.

Niven Sinclair.
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