Saturday, 1 June 2019

The Batavian in the press

Announcing my planned presentation of De Batavier on Saturday 8 June at De Kler bookstore, De Kempenaerstraat branch, Oegstgeest, a few press releases were published in regional newspapers in my area. De Oegstgeester Courant writes: "In the refurbished two-mast ship he sails towards the Mediterranean":

announcement in Oegstgeester Courant, 29 May 2019

The Leids Nieuwsblad also announces the presentation; Leiden and Oegstgeest border directly to each other and De Kempenaerstraat is a stone's throw from where I live in Leiden:

Announcement in Leids Nieuwsblad 30 May 2019
Finally, I found the first reader review of De Batavier on, by Erik Barth, who writes:
The Batavier is the beautifully written debut of Ted Polet. It describes the urgent, exciting quests of two individuals from completely different worlds who accidentally cross each other's paths.
When Mark is declared unfit for work against his will and almost simultaneously loses his last family, he goes looking for himself. After a bombing raid on her hospital in Aleppo, Leila decides to undertake the dangerous flight from Syria to safety and tranquility.

The book never elaborates too much. There might have been less seafaring terminology, because as a landlubber I often had to consult to the glossary at the end of the book. The somewhat sudden perspective changes are explained at the end. Without becoming pedantic, Ted describes events which many people in the Western world are actively looking away from. And that hits home.

Many thanks, Erik! The full review (in Dutch) can be found here.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Newspaper interview

On April 24th, local journalist Maarten Baanders published an interview with me in the cultural column 'Heilig Vuur' (Holy Fire) of the leading regional newspaper Leidsch Dagblad. The interview tells something of my approach in writing novels, and also gives some background information for my recently published book De Batavier (The Batavian).

Interview about De Batavier in the Leidsch Dagblad
Here is a summary in English of the interview, which is entitled I must have written this novel thirty times over.

It tells of my seafaring background and the parallels between the protagonist and myself. Some of the personages in the book have been modelled after people I have known. The book itself follows an established pattern I have seen in the work of British novelists such as Hammond Innes: a slow build-up of the story culminating in an adventurous tale. The canvas upon which the tale unfolds is the refugee crisis and the contested sea area between Turkey and Greece, both of which have been extensively researched. Finally, it mentions my translation of the book in English, which also served as an in-depth check on the text.

On June 8th I will give a short lecture on De Batavier, followed by a book signing session, at De Kler booksellers, De Kempenaerstraat 39B in Oegstgeest near Leiden.

More lectures are being planned.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

presentation at De Kler booksellers, Leiden

On Saturday 13 April 2019 I presented De Batavier at the De Kler booksellers in Breestraat in Leiden. There was a surprising turnout and in the end quite a few copies went over the counter.

After introduction by
Hanneke Tinor-Centi, my literary agent, I told my story, which takes about fifteen minutes. The reactions were heart-warming, some old acquaintances and totally unknown visitors came to have me sign a copy. Below are some pictures, once more. *

The local press
An interesting piece of news is that a local newspaper, Leidsch Dagblad, gave me an interview, which will be published in their cultural column 'Heilig Vuur' (The Holy Fire), on April 24th.

More presentations and signing sessions will follow in due course. Further information will follow.

ready to go...
Hanneke doing the introduction
the presentation
the public

signing my son's copy
*apart from close family, members of the public have been disguised in the images.

Friday, 29 March 2019

De Batavier formally launched

The formal launching of my book De Batavier (published in Dutch on March 16) has taken place in the public library of my home town of Leiden on March 23. I spoke for an audience of about 50 people, and it was great fun. Here are a few photos:
My agent, Hanneke, introducing me. 
Presenting the book and answering questions.
Signing copies for the audience.
The book is now on sale at various booksellers.

More presentations are planned.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

The Batavian published in Dutch

Today, 140 copies of my book De Batavier (The Batavian in Dutch) were delivered on my doorstep. The remainder is in store with the publishers, Palmslag in Groningen, for distribution to bookshops and through their own webshop. My copies will be used during presentations and for distribution in local bookshops.

It is a strange feeling to physically hold your book in your hands for the first time, 290 close-typed pages, and despite all my previous doubts it looks good. When I read back a passage it feels all right, a sense of accomplishment if you like.

Next Saturday I will formally launch the book at the Public Library (BplusC) in Leiden, as announced elsewhere, and in three weeks’ time I will repeat it at De Kler Booksellers, Breestraat, Leiden. My speech has been written. This is the end result of several years of writing, having it edited and published. I hope the book will be a success and give many hours of reading pleasure to my readers.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

My Huguenot ancestors

Refugees play a major role in my book 'De Batavier', which will be published in two weeks' time. In all the political bickering about refugees we would almost forget how many born and bred 'real' Dutch people are descended from, as they are called today, 'migrants'. Some sources mention huge percentages of foreigners in 17th century Dutch cities: French, Polish and Germans as well as Portuguese and German Jews.

I also am a refugee. More precisely, I am descended from refugees.

In 1610 Jean Polet and his wife Marie Baisseur left Tourcoing on the border between France and the Spanish Netherlands with their children, bound for Leiden in the Dutch Republic. I do not know about their journey, nor of the dangers they had to endure. They were French Protestants, Huguenots fleeing persecution by the then French state. Tourcoing and Lille did not belong to the places de sûreté in which the Huguenots, according to the Edict of Nantes of 1598, knew self-government and security. The Spanish Netherlands, through which they had to travel north, were equally unsafe for the family.

Throughout the 17th century, French Protestants would flee their country as Cardinal Richelieu and his successor De Mazarin gradually stepped up persecution. In 1685 Protestantism was declared illegal by Louis XIV in the Edict of Fontainebleau. The destination of this migration wave? The Republic of the Netherlands, Württemberg, Brandenburg, Prussia, Switzerland, England, eventually even the Cape Colony. The estimates range from 200,000 to half a million displaced people.

Persecution of Huguenots in La Rochelle, 1661
Image from Wikipedia

Interestingly, the Dutch Republic, which initially received the Huguenots with open arms because they brought with them money, knowledge and activity, and also strengthened the rather strict Calvinist church of the 17th century, eventually began to impose more restrictions. This had a political and economic background: some of the more liberal-minded authorities didn’t like the stiff-necked Calvinists, and in addition, financial guarantees were increasingly demanded of the newcomers. In that sense, the attitude towards refugees has changed little in four centuries. 

An interesting article about the Huguenots can be found on Wikipedia.

Jean and Marie Polet had five children. In 1608 their son Jacques was born in Tourcoing, who would later succeed his father in his small business as a fuller on the Vollersgracht in Leiden. Jacques Polet and his wife Judith Carette (also of French descent) are my ancestors, through their son Anthoine, born 1645.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Sailing to Kalkan and Kastellorizo

Almost six years ago, my wife and I sailed with friends along the Turkish coast from Göcek to Cold Water Bay, Kalkan and the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

This journey was an important factor in creating my new book, The Batavian, which to a large extent is set in these waters. Off
the Turkish coastal town of Kalkan, the protagonist Mark Schouten rescues a group of Syrian refugees from the sea, after their leaking boat has failed. The book moves slowly, but inexorably towards that moment, which will prove to be a turning point in Mark's life.

During our trip in 2013 I made video, from which a selection has appeared on YouTube. The first one shown below pictures Cold Water Bay, the deserted Greek town of Livissi and the journey from there to Kalkan.

The second video (below) shows the journey from Kalkan to Kastellorizo, during which the drama in the book takes place.

The other videos of this series, six altogether, can be found on my YouTube channel. 

Friday, 25 January 2019


In my book The Batavian I describe how the protagonist encounters dolphins at sea and later meets with a sperm whale. Those images are drawn from my own memory: dolphins drawing glowing tracks at night in a shining sea, and a sperm whale appearing just ahead of my ship, then diving deep, showing its enormous black tail fin.

Dolphins are often seen at sea, but in Dutch coastal waters I have never met them. Porpoises (also known as 'sea pigs'), are common though, often seen in the distance, showing their backs above the surface. But once I saw them close by. A few years ago my wife and I sailed on the Grevelingen, a former estuary closed off by a sea wall, on our way from Brouwershaven to Bruinisse, eventually bound for Antwerp. We had just departed from Brouwershaven, when I heard something snorting alongside and saw a large, streamlined black shape appear.

It turned out to be three porpoises, coming to play on the bow wave of our sailboat. I could also observe how they breathe, dive deep and emerge again. The first thing you notice is a dark shadow underwater and a bubble path indicating exhaled air. Then they pop up and the inhalation is heard as a short snorting sound, made with the nostril in the top of the head. Sometimes they remain on the surface for a moment, but usually they disappear at once.


It was almost an encounter with an alien creature, a 'close encounter of the third kind', at least a glimpse of a completely different world for which we normally do not get the chance.

Monday, 21 January 2019


The Moon is a funny customer. Its weight is 1.23% of Earth and it revolves round us in 27 days, 7 hours, 43 minutes and 11.5 seconds. It originated about 4.5 billion years ago, not long after Earth, and always turns the same face towards us. Its distance to the center of Earth varies between roughly 350,000 and 400,000 kilometers. 

Due to its gravity forces the Moon is the prime mover of marine tides on our planet, so I have experienced the Moon’s influence for a large part of my life. In the past we occasionally used the Moon in celestial navigation at sea. Occasionally, because the arithmetic involved is more complex.

When you look at the sky, you see the Moon tracing its way more slowly from east to west than the Sun. Starting from a new Moon, it drops behind day by day and after a little over 13 days it stands right opposite the Sun - a full Moon.

But unlike the Sun, which travels a neat course through the sky and reaches its highest and lowest position every summer and winter, the Moon staggers over the expanse
like a drunken sailor. In two weeks time, the largest angle it makes with the equator changes from north to south or vice versa. Now it is almost above your head, then again low above the horizon.

Depending on the light of the Sun shining on the Moon we see it either as a full moon, a part moon or not at all. When the Moon is facing the Sun, it is full. When it is almost in line with the Sun, we can hardly see it (new moon). So when the Sun sets and the Moon rises on the opposite side at the same time, it is full. If it sets shortly after the Sun, we hardly see it, apart perhaps from a narrow sickle.

Lunar eclipse
Earth casts a shadow cone in space, which the Moon passes through occasionally due to its apparently erratic course. The shadow of Earth on the Moon obscures the light of the Sun. Now it is full, and a while later it has partly or completely gone. The last complete lunar eclipse was early this morning, January 21, 2019. I filmed it.

The reddish sheen is due to the red light from the Sun being deflected in Earth's atmosphere and striking the Moon's surface.

Lectures and presentations

My new book The Batavian will be published in Dutch as De Batavier, on March 16, 2019. Meanwhile the book has been announced on the publisher's website (Palmslag Publishers, based in Groningen).

Formal launch of De Batavier will take place in the Public Library, Nieuwstraat 4, Leiden, on 23 March 2019 at 2pm. Applications to HT-C Communicatie en Marketing.

Following that, a lecture and signing session has been arranged at De Kler Booksellers, Breestraat 161, Leiden, on 13 April at 2pm. Applications once again to HT-C Communicatie en Marketing.

During the presentation I will give a short talk on the subject of my book and my authorship. Following that I am available to answer questions, exchange views and sign copies of the book.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Publishing is hard work

Writing is fun, but publishing is hard work! My new book De Batavier is now approaching its final stage. Months ago, most of the correction work was done by my agent (HT-C Communicatie), who also found the publisher (Palmslag publishers) for me.

Before Christmas I got final printing corrections from the publisher on the manuscript. Inevitably this caused a lot of work. In part this was related to spelling changes in which seafaring slang had been altered to what is known as 'preferred Dutch spelling'. These changes had to be reversed as they were detrimental to the atmosphere of the book.

Apart from this and despite the extensive earlier editing, we still found some flaws and stylistic errors, which I always make during writing. Like all authors, I am blind to my own style errors. You can re-read your text a hundred times and they pass unnoticed. The book in print will number about 290 pages, rather more than I envisaged.

The nice idea shown above which I had for the cover design, of a two-master such as the Batavier against the Turkish coast, as expected was rejected by the publisher. The resolution of the design wasn’t enough for a cover. They came up with a different design - an aerial photograph of a sailboat in an immense expanse of water, which expresses the lonely voyage of the protagonist on his way to the Mediterranean Sea. Although the photo shows a small boat of maybe 8 meters with a second crew member on the front deck I found the idea so attractive that I accepted it almost immediately.

Meanwhile we are also looking for a location for the 'launching' of the book (it is like a moon rocket) in my home town of Leiden. This can either be in a bookshop or in a public library. The first contacts have already been made. In addition, I have developed various activities on the internet, such as this blog and films that I made five years ago in Turkey and Kastellorizo. You will find the link to my Youtube channel at the top right of this page.

Publishing and promoting a book, even for the author it seems, slowly turns into a full working day...

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Ode to a hummingbird

For 28 years I sailed marine ply boats, first an 18-footer, and later a 23-footer. These boats were delivered as a kit of parts, from the 1960s up to the 1980s. Of the 18-footer over 900 were made, and the 23-footer lagged badly behind with only 80 boats tasting the waters. They were marketed under the brand 'Kolibri', which translates as 'Hummingbird'. In the late 1980s and 1990s the yard produced several types of boat of a more modern design, but I never owned one of those.

My first boat was acquired soon after I had to quit my seafaring career for health reasons in 1979. I simply couldn't quit the sea and it must have been in '82 that I bought the 18-footer, a dainty little boat which I named 'Shipshape'. This was sailed in the estuaries and coastal waters of the south, and eventually my wife-to-be and I sailed her to England and back, coast-hopping along the Belgian and French coast and crossing to Dover and Ramsgate.

The little boat had no more than sitting headroom and cramped accommodation for two and was exchanged for a bigger one in 1995, as we wanted to take our kids sailing. This was a 23-footer, a true family boat with (as we thought at the time) lots of space, and the same excellent sailing qualities as the previous one. For obvious reasons, having three young mutineers on board, we named her 'Muiterij', which translates as 'Mutiny'.

The 23-footer was used for many long family holidays, mainly in Dutch waters, and on short coast hops. Her seagoing qualities were excellent as we never shipped any water - the marine ply hull simply was very lightweight and floated like a cork. The down side of this was her liveliness in rough conditions.

Even so, sailing and navigating this little boat was great fun, and I still remember her with joy and not a little emotion. We anchored in the lee of sandbanks, reefed down in a blow and she took us everywhere without complaining. With a little juggling, the cabin contained two adults and three growing boys, and later we had a cockpit tent made so we could chuck the luggage outside under the tent when we needed to sleep.

Each spring and autumn I sailed her between the winter storage and the summer berth in the north of the country - a two- or three-day solo trip in often inclement weather which I treated as a short break. On one such occasion in 2005 I made a video, which can be found here:

Finally, with much regret, in 2010 we exchanged her for a bigger 32-foot GRP boat which we still sail today.