Explosion, Death and Bandits on the Peruvian Amazon

Aqua

Aqua

Last October, we took a five day cruise on the Amazon from Iquitos, Peru.  It was a fascinating trip. Iquitos is 2,000 nautical miles up the Amazon and yet is a deep water port with a controlling draft of around 20 feet. With a population approaching a half million, it is also the largest city in the world which is not accessible by road or rail.  A small eco-tourist excursion cruise industry has developed in and around Iquitos.  While the cruises are wonderful, they are not wholly without risk.  The last few months have particularly difficult. Continue reading

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Reefing the Ana Cecilia

anaceciliaLast week, we posted about the upcoming scuttling of the Luck Lady, ex-Newtown Creek, later this month as an artificial reef off Pompano Beach, FL. Recently, about fifty miles to the north of Pompano, the cargo ship Ana Cecilia was sunk about 1.25 miles offshore off Rivera Beach, as the newest of 11 other vessels that that have been scuttled as artificial reefs in the immediate area.

The Ana Cecilia has a colorful past. She was the first vessel to  deliver cargo from Miami to Cuba in 50 years when she carried humanitarian aid in 2012. She was seized in September 2015 after Customs found more than 386 bricks of cocaine aboard, valued to $10 million. The ship was later donated to Palm Beach County in support of its system of more than 150 artificial reefs.

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John Willis Griffiths — Father of the Clipper Ship

In June, we posted about the upcoming unveiling of a headstone for the brilliant, but largely forgotten, American naval architect John Willis Griffiths. This Saturday, July 23rd, the National Maritime Historical Society will unveil the headstone at Griffiths’ previously unmarked grave in Queens at the Linden Hill United Methodist Cemetery at 10:30 am.  Griffiths was a pioneer in both sail and steam, a designer, a shipbuilder, a hydrodynamicist, a writer and an editor. Of all his accomplishments he is best remembered as the father of the clipper ship. Here is a short documentary honoring Griffiths, done to raise money for the new headstone, narrated by Captain Matt Carmel.

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Dead Rise Summer Ale & Olde Salt Oysters at Merroir

ale&oystersI am currently in the Northern Neck of of Virginia, where I will soon sit down with a boatyard to hear the latest estimated launch date for my Albin Nimbus 42, Arcturus.  As I left the boat with the yard last September and had discussed a May launch, which has now slipped to August, I will admit to being neither happy nor hopeful. Nevertheless, I do feel better about the world after having an ale and oysters at Merroir last night, a restaurant described as a “tasting room,” owned by the Rappahannock Oyster Company, which features oysters raised in their local oyster beds.  Merroir, by the way, is defined as “how environmental and external factors influence the flavor and taste of seafood, such as shellfish. These factors influence the flavor profile and taste as well as the size and quality of meat in the shellfish.”

On this visit, I didn’t order just any ale and oysters. I had Flying Dog’s Dead Rise Summer Ale, named in honor of the Chesapeake deadrise workboats, developed first in the 1880s and still in use on the bay today. And for the oysters, Merroir offered three choices —  Rappahannock River, Stingray, and Olde Salt oysters. Guess which one I chose? Yup, I chose the Olde Salt, which were delicious. The Olde Salts are the Rappahannock Oyster Company take on the famed Chincoteague Salts from the bay of the same name.

So yes, while I would much rather be out sailing my boat than listening to a boat yard technician explain why it is still on the hard, oysters and ale make it all more bearable.

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Fourni Archepelago, an Underwater Graveyard of Ships in the Aegean

Photo: Vasilis Mentogianis

Photo: Vasilis Mentogianis

An area off the Fourni archepelago, a group of 13 islands between the islands of Samos and Icaria in Greece, is known as a graveyard of ships.  In June, underwater archaeologists discovered 23 ship wrecks during a survey period of only 22 days.

The team of 25 divers identified wrecks spanning more than 2,000 years of Greek maritime history. As reported by National Geographic, “the earliest shipwreck dates to roughly 525 B.C., while the most recent is from the early 1800s. The other wrecks range across the centuries, with cargoes from the Classical period (480-323 B.C.), the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), the Late Roman period (300-600 A.D.), and the Medieval period (500-1500 A.D.) Cooking pots, plates, bowls, storage jars, a palm-size lamp, and black-painted ceramic fine-ware are among the artifacts recovered from the wrecks so far.

Previously, in September of 2015, 22 ancient ship wrecks were identified off Fourni. The total of 45 wrecks now located represent 20% of all known shipwrecks in Greek waters.

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Great News for Whales — Navy Sonar Rules Reined In

humpbackbreachIn 2012, we posted about how U.S Navy low frequency sonar training and testing could kill or deafen thousands of whales and dolphins.  Environmental groups, led by the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a lawsuit in San Francisco arguing that actions violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Last Friday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the environmentalists, reversing a lower court decision upholding approval granted in 2012 for the Navy to use low-frequency sonar for training, testing and routine operations. The five-year approval covered peacetime operations in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans and the Mediterranean Sea. The appellate panel sent the matter back to the lower court for further proceedings.

As we posted in 2012, in an Environmental Impact Statement for 2014-2018, the Navy estimated that sonar training and testing might unintentionally harm marine mammals 2.8 million times a year over five years, including deafening 15,900 whales and dolphins and killing 1,800 more over the next five years, in testing in Hawaii, off the California and Atlantic Coasts, and in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Bringing History to Life: Interpreters at Mystic Seaport

mysticsm1The first time I visited Mystic Seaport Museum was around 1974 when, as a student of naval architecture with a summer job in New York City, I took the train out to Mystic, CT. It was like no museum I had ever visited. Instead of exhibits inside of a large building I found myself in an 18th century coastal shipping village with a cooperage, a chandlery, a bank, an apothecary, a print ship, a ropewalk, and of course, the ships. The whaler, Charles W. Morgan; the full rigged ship, Joseph Conrad; the fishing schooner, L.A. Dunton and at least a half score more of various shapes and sizes were a veritable fantasy world for one as ship obsessed as I. And what all brought it to life were the interpreters who both explained and demonstrated the technology, crafts and skills of the times past. I think I must have spent an hour on my first visit talking to the cooper about making barrels and in the ropewalk learning about spinning of ship’s hawsers. Alongside the ships, the interpreters are the living heart of this remarkable museum. Here is a video about how the interpreters bring history to life at Mystic Seaport.

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Bay City Tall Ship Celebration 2016

baycitytallshipsBay City Michigan kicked off its sixth Tall Ship Celebration yesterday, featuring a diverse mix of historic ships and replicas, including the U.S. Brig Niagara; the replica galleon El Galeon Andalucia; the replica Viking longship Draken Harald Hårfagre;  the brigantines Pathfinder and Playfair; and the schooners Pride of Baltimore II, When and If, Mist of Avalon, MadelineDenis Sullivan, Appledore IV and Appledore V.  The Bay City Tall Ship Celebration is one stop on the Tall Ships America Tall Ship’s Challenge featuring port calls-in nine ports in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

The Tall Ship Celebration also  features arts, craft beer, food and activities for children and coincides with the International Maritime Music Festival.  The Tall Ship Celebration continues through Sunday.

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North Korea’s Dangerous & Decrepit Submarine Fleet

nkmissilelaunchLast Saturday, a North Korean submarine fired a ballistic missile while submerged off the country’s eastern coast.  The missile was successfully ejected from the submarine but the missile was believed to have failed in its initial flight stage. This was the second North Korean failure to launch a missile from a submarine in the last three months. The United States and South Korea both condemned the launch.

“We strongly condemn North Korea’s missile test in violation of U.N. Security Council Resolutions, which explicitly prohibit North Korea’s use of ballistic missile technology,” said Gabrielle Price, spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

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Beijing’s Claims to South China Sea Rejected By Hague Tribunal

For those concerned by China’s aggressive expansion into the South China Sea, there is some very good news and some not so good news. The very good news is that an international tribunal in The Hague has overwhelmingly rejected Chinese claims to rights in the South China Sea, including the construction of artificial islands. The ruling also found that Chinese claims to sovereignty over the waters of the region had no legal basis.

The case against China had been brought by the Philippines in 2013, after China seized Scarborough Shoal. (See our previous post, Standoff in the South China Sea .) “It’s an overwhelming victory. We won on every significant point,” said the Philippines’ chief counsel in the case, Paul S. Reichler. “This is a remarkable victory for the Philippines.”

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Update: Draken Harald Hårfagre Sails on to Tall Ships Celebration Bay City

dhhlongboatDespite being burdened with unmanageable pilotage fees, the Norwegian Viking longboat, Draken Harald Hårfagre, and her crew have decided to sail on to the Tall Ships Celebration in Bay City, MI, on July 14 -17th. From their press release:

There is not room in our budget to go further west into the Great Lakes, but we can not let the people in Bay City down. The Tall Ships Celebration in Bay City is just days away and the planning is in it’s final stages, it would be great disappointment for us and more importantly to the people we already committed to, says captain Björn Ahlander.

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Draken Harald Hårfagre May Be Forced From Tall Ships Challenge by Fees

drakensailThe Norwegian Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre has successfully weathered the seas of the Atlantic Ocean only to be turned back by exorbitant pilotage fees in the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence Seaway. Unless changes are made, pilotage fees could potentially exceed $400,000. The sail training vessel may be forced to leave the Great Lakes and to withdraw from the Tall Ships Challenge Great Lakes 2016. From their press release:

The Norwegian Viking Ship, Draken Harald Hårfagre, is most probably forced to leave the Great Lakes and the Tall Ships Challenge 2016 due to the cost for pilotage.

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Update: Lady Luck, ex-Newtown Creek, to be Scuttled off Pompano Beach

ladyluck1In April we posted, Farewell to Newtown Creek, New York’s Lovely “Honey Tanker”.  It was a fond farewell to a lovely coastal “honey tanker” that carried sewage sludge around New York harbor for decades.  When she was sold we did not know what was to become of her. We wrote: “The two rumored bidders were a scrap dealer from Maryland and a town in Florida with plans to sink the ship offshore as an artificial reef.” It turns out that, like so many other aging New Yorkers, the tanker is going to retire in Florida, in this case as a reef off Pompano Beach.

The ship was purchased at auction from the City of New York by Shipwreck Park, Inc., a not-for-profit organization initially funded by the City of Pompano Beach and the Isle Casino Racing Pompano Park in a public-private endeavor. Shipwreck park has renamed the Newtown Creek, the Lady Luck. After being stripped and cleaned of all pollutants, the 324′ tanker will be scuttled roughly a mile offshore in an area with 16 other existing wrecks.  She will be sunk on July 23rd in around 120′ of water with the top of her stack about 50 feet under the surface.

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Newfoundland’s Dildo Island, Captain Cook, and “The Twins”

captaindildoThe New York Times recently featured an article, “Proud to Live in a Town Called Dildo” about a Newfoundland fishing village with an odd name. The name was first applied to nearby Dildo Island and apparently dates to at least 1711, when it was spelled “Dildoe.”  No one knows the origin of the name, but odds are that the island was not named after a sex toy. One common theory is that “dildoe” was a variation on somewhat phallic shaped “thole-pin” or “dole-pin,” single or double pegs in the gunnel of a dinghy or skiff, used as oarlocks when rowing. In addition to the town and the island, there is also the Dildo Arm of Trinity Bay and a point named Dildo Head.

The town locals, called Dildoians, have an annual waterfront festival, Dildo Days. This year it will be on July 27-31. According to the reporting in the NY Times, “a flotilla of boats circles the bay, led by a wooden statue of a certain Capt. Dildo in a rain slicker painted bright yellow. Souvenir-hunting visitors can purchase commemorative apparel, but be forewarned: The “I Survived Dildo Days” T-shirts sell out fast.”  Fortunately, the wooden carving of Captain Dildo is of a fisherman with a white beard, smoking a pipe, bears no resemblance to a sex toy.

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Sailing Windjammer Angelique

A beautiful video of sailing aboard the Windjammer Angelique.  The 95′ ketch-rigged Angelique was built specifically for the windjamming trade in 1980 and sails from Camden, Maine.

Sailing Windjammer Angelique

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Update: Oil, Sewage & “Super Bacteria” at Rio Olympics Venues

riopollutionIn May 2104, we posted “Sailing in Sewage — Olympic Sailors in Guanabara Bay at Rio de Janeiro.” The post was about the challenge of sailing the Olympic trials in Guanabara Bay, a body of water thoroughly befouled with garbage and sewage.  Local officials promised that the Bay would be cleaned up in time for the Olympics themselves. Now, sadly, two years later, not enough has changed.

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A New Fantasy “Ark” Opens in Kentucky

hamark

The “ark” under construction in Williamstown, Ky. Photo: Kyle Grillot for The New York Times

The latest and greatest ark fantasy exhibit is opening in northern Kentucky. The new “Ark Encounter” bills itself as “one-of-a-kind, historically themed attraction. In an entertaining, educational, and immersive way, it presents a number of historical events centered on Noah’s Ark as recorded in the Bible. As the largest timber-frame structure in the US, the 510-foot-long full-size Ark is designed to be family-oriented, historically authentic, and environmentally friendly.

It is hard to know whether to consider the claims of historical authenticity to be a joke or simply a outright lie. The “young earth creationists” behind this absurd project appear to be in deadly earnest, so the former is unlikely. The “ark” itself is generally shaped like a ship, but is, in fact, a building, featuring a steel reinforced concrete foundation with a steel bracketed wood structure on top. It is safe to say that if there ever was a flood in that region of Kentucky, the structure wouldn’t float. It would be broken up and carried away by the flood waters in pieces.

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Captain Boomer & the Cachalot Plastique

Photo: C. Allain / APEI / 20 Minutes

Photo: C. Allain / APEI / 20 Minutes

I am not entirely sure that I get the joke.  In a year when sperm whales have been washing up dead on shores around the world; dying after ingesting plastic, fishing nets and auto parts; the arrival of a beached sperm whale made entirely of plastic on a river bank near Rennes, France, seems less thought-provoking that simply poor timing. The 15′ long resin sperm whale, or cachalot plastique, if you prefer, is the work of the Captain Boomer collective based in Belgium. Why? Captain Boomer’s explanation from their website:

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Pogo and the Latest Florida Algae Bloom

bluegreenalgae

Photo: Ryan Stone for The New York Times

A massive blue-green algae bloom has hit Florida’s “Treasure Coast,” coating the beaches and inlets with a foul-smelling, sticky green-goo that some resident describe as “guacamole thick.” A state of emergency has been declared the Lee, Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, the four counties hardest hit by the stinking, oozing muck.

There is no secret as to the source of the problem. This is not the first algae bloom although many consider it to be the worst. Fingers are pointing at the state and federal governments and the out-sized political influence of “Big Agriculture,” specifically the sugar industry. To quote Walt Kelly’s cartoon Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.

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The Star Spangled Banner & the Battle Of Fort McHenry

The Star Spangled Banner over Fort McHenry

The Star Spangled Banner over Fort McHenry

Here is a lightly modified repost from two years ago that seems appropriate for July 4th.

At around 6AM, Sep 13, 1814, the British Royal Navy began a fearsome bombardment of Fort McHenry at the mouth of Baltimore harbor. The British had attempted to take Baltimore by both land and sea. The British army attack stalled the day before, with the loss of Major General Robert Ross. As the British Army prepared a second attack on the American earthworks, the Royal Navy took its turn. Baltimore’s defenders had sunk 22 ships in the main channel. Any attempt to clear the channel would bring the British under the the guns of Fort McHenry and other American batteries.

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