Life at Sea | European Spirit

A short video providing a glimpse of life aboard TeeKay’s Aframax tanker European Spirit.

Life at Sea | European Spirit

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New York Fleet Week May 20 — 26

fw2015From May 20 — May 26 an estimated 1,500 Navy sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen will visit New York City in celebration of Fleet Week New York.  Which ships will participate and what events are planned for them have not yet been announced.  Watch this space.

Fleet Week New York

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Update: WHC Movie Night — MV Liemba

liemba2Last week we posted that the Working Harbor Committee is sponsoring the showing of a wonderful documentary on the MV Liemba, an ex-German warship, a minor movie star, and also, at one hundred years old, the world’s oldest passenger ferry in service. The documentary will be shown at 6PM tomorrow evening, Tuesday, March 31, at the Community Church of New York, 40 East 35th Street (btwn Madison & Park) New York, NY 10016.

After the documentary James Wong, Director of Ferries, NYC Economic Development Corp and I will will be discussing ferries. I am looking forward to hearing more about the new planned expansion of ferry service in New York harbor.  If you are in neighborhood and can make it, please stop by and say hello. Click here to learn more:

WHC Film Night – Tuesday 31 March 6:00 p.m.

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Ray Collins — Catching the Waves

Surf photographer Ray Collins recently released a series of amazing photographs of ocean waves. Below is a short video of of the photographs and how he captured the amazing shots.

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Hard Times for the Famine Ship Jeanie Johnston

JeanieJohnstonHere is a reminder just how difficult it is to fund, build, operate and maintain historic or replica ships.  Those who do so successfully, deserve more credit than they receive. The Irish Examiner recently described how the replica “famine ship” Jeanie Johnson has fallen on hard times. The replica is described as “haemorrhaging money” and in dire need of repair.  The ship was intended to serve as a sail training ship and as a living history museum on 19th century emigration.  Because of her condition, she cannot leave the dock and she is not attracting significant numbers of visitors as a dockside attraction. Construction of the three masted barque originally cost Irish taxpayers  €14 million.

Ailing €14m replica Famine ship is worth just €150k

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Help Urban Boatbuilders Win $62,000!

In August we posted about Rocking the Boat, an after-school program in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx, a borough of New York City, which has been teaching neighborhood kids to build wooden boats for the last 15 years. Urban Boatbuilders offers a similar program which teaches boat building to youth in the St.Paul/Minneapolis area.   Urban Boatbuilders is now a finalist in the Building Community Award. If they win, the program will receive a $62,000 grant.  All it takes is votes, which cost nothing but a moment of your time. If you have a moment click here to vote for a good cause.

Urban Boatbuilders on Twin Cities Live

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Working Harbor Committee Movie Night — MV Liemba

liembaIf you happen to be near New York City next Tuesday night, March 31st, be sure to stop by the Community Church to “take an epic journey down the longest lake in the world on Africa’s last surviving steamship…. the MV Liemba,” and all without leaving midtown Manhattan.

The Working Harbor Committee is sponsoring the showing of a wonderful documentary on the MV Liemba, an ex-German warship, a minor movie star, and also, at one hundred years old, the world’s oldest passenger ferry in service. The venerable ship provides a critical link to the isolated ports along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. (See our post from last November, MV Liemba — the World’s Oldest Passenger/Cargo Steamer at 100 .)  A trailer for the documentary appears below the page break.

From their announcement:
Before there was the African Queen, before there was the East River Ferry and the NYC Ferry plan, there was Liemba! A ferry connecting communities and people with work on the great Lake Tanganyika. Come see this warming and entertaining documentary about the 100 year old vessel; its history, interviews with the people who run and use it; and hear the marvelous sound track of East Africa music.

Special guest speaker: James Wong, Director of Ferries, NYC Economic Development Corp.

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Lan Yu “Canoes”

We are very pleased to have a guest post from Joan Druett, who recently visited Taiwan. Joan is the multi-award winning author of more than 20 books, including her latest, Lady Castaways and Eleanor’s Odyssey.

A priority for anyone from the Pacific who visits Taiwan is the Shung-Ye Museum of Formosan Aborigines.  After all, it is now both scientifically and popularly believed that the greatest migration of seafarers in history — the discovery and settlement of the islands of the Pacific — began in Taiwan.  It was from the east coast of this mountainous island off the coast of mainland China that the people we now call Polynesians set out on their epic voyages.  Our New Zealand Maori are distant cousins of the Formosan Aborigines, with a great deal in common, both in appearance and in personality. There are echoes of the local language in Maori te reo.

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Commodore John Barry — the Other Father of the US Navy

John Barry by Gilbert Stuart 1801

John Barry by Gilbert Stuart 1801

This seems like a good day to celebrate birthdays.  So, happy birthday to Commodore John Barry, born on this day in 1745, in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland.  He is considered by many to be the “father of the United States Navy.”  But wait, isn’t John Paul Jones also considered to be the “father of the United States Navy?”

As the saying goes, success has many fathers. Over the years, the birthday of the US Navy has been celebrated on at least four different dates. Likewise five different cities and towns lay claim to its birthplace. So, perhaps it is not surprising that the Navy has more than one candidate as father.

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The Kelly Brothers — Starship Sailors, A Shared Mission to the Heavens and on the Ground


Mark & Scott Kelley

In January 2011, we posted about Mark and Scott Kelly, two “starship sailors” — identical twin brothers who both graduated from merchant marine academies and went on to be astronauts in the US space program. Now, Scott Kelley is about to embark on a marathon, year long voyage on the International Space Station, while his brother Mark will remain on the ground, yet will still play an important role in the mission.

Identical twins, Mark and Scott were raised in New Jersey and both attended merchant marine academies. Mark graduated from United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY, while Scott is a graduate of the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler, only a few miles across Long Island Sound from Kings Point. Both served as naval aviators and then became astronauts.  They are the only siblings and the only twins to ever have flow in space.

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Will Prince Albert of Monaco Save Cousteau’s Calypso?

Calypso in better days

Calypso in better days

We posted recently that Jacques Cousteau’s famous research vessel, Calypso, might be in danger of being sold or scrapped.  The Calypso, however, may have a savior in Prince Albert II  of Monaco.

After a long legal battle, a French court ordered Francine Cousteau, the second wife of the late Jacques Cousteau, to settle outstanding yard bills and remove the RV Calypso from a Brittany shipyard by March 13. If she failed to do so, the shipyard would be allowed to sell the 43 meter wooden research vessel.   Apparently for the last several months talks have been underway between the Cousteau Society and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. The Prince is said to be interested in acquiring scientific and educational material of the famous French oceanographer, consisting in movies, books, photos including the ship Calypso.

If the ship is brought to Monaco, it will be something of a homecoming.  Jacques Cousteau served as the director of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco for more than three decades, from 1957 to 1988.  The Calypso was featured in Cousteau’s books and the award winning documentary “Silent World” as well the American TV series “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” which ran from 1968 to 1975.   Thanks to Erik Abranson for pointing out the news on the MarHistList.

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Star of India Tacking and Wearing

Maneuvering a square-rigged ship can be a highly choreographed performance requiring both skill and timing. Here is a well done video of the 1883 built Star of India tacking and wearing.

Star of India tacking and wearing

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The Shantyman, Reviewed by David Hayes

David Hayes recently reviewed The Shantyman on his Historic Naval Fiction blog.  Reposted with permission.

If you want to be taken to the deck of a clipper in the mountainous seas of a southern ocean gale, Rick Spilman is the author for you. His description of life at sea in such vessels are vivid and bring to life the conditions faced by the officers and crew of such vessels.

In his latest book, The Shantyman, he tells the story of one such crew, on the Alhambra, voyaging from Sydney to New York in 1870. Jack Barlow is hoisted aboard paralytic drunk but proves to be not just an able shantyman, but when the captain dies and the murderous mate is washed overboard, the man who will pull the crew together and as the new captain get them home. Facing the southern ocean ice and later a hurricane, he overcomes his tragic past to get them to safety and restart his life.

Successful, tragedy strikes again, but will the crew he has saved now rally round and manage to save him.

A fast paced and well written story of life at sea and also of New York at this time. Hard to put down and highly recommended.

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Happy First Day of Spring — Equinox, Eclipse, Supermoon & Snowstorm

EclipseHalo1Happy first day of Spring! The arrival of the vernal equinox happens to coincide with a solar eclipse, as well as with a “supermoon,” and here on the west bank of the Hudson River, a snowstorm designated “Winter Storm Ultima.” (Let us hope the name “Ultima” is as in, “last or final.”)  A very busy day, indeed. I would have been happy just settling for warm winds and blue skies.

The solar eclipse is expected to be visible in parts of Northern Europe today, although there have been reports of cloudy skies which may obscure some of the better vantage points. Clouds are not the only concern.  Yesterday, a Czech tourist who was camping on the remote Arctic island of Svalbard in order to watch the solar eclipse, was dragged out of his tent by a polar bear. Fortunately, the bear was driven off and the Czech’s injuries were reported not to be life-threatening.

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Is Captain Mary Becker Greene Still Watching Out for the Delta Queen?

Captain Mary B. Greene and her husband Captain Gordon Greene

Captain Mary B. Greene and her husband Captain Gordon Greene

Some say that Captain Mary Becker Greene is still watching out for the riverboat Delta Queen. Captain “Ma” Greene served for almost sixty years as master and pilot of some of the finest steamboats on the inland rivers. She died in her cabin aboard the Delta Queen in 1949. Some say that she never left. Employees and guests have reported sounds and activities aboard, particularly around her cabin.

Mary Becker married Captain Gordon C. Greene in 1890 and set up housekeeping on his Cincinnati packet boat, the H. K. Bedford. In 1896, she earned her pilot’s license and took command of the riverboat Argand. She and her husband built the Greene Line, which at its peak operated twelve riverboats carrying freight and passengers on the Ohio and its tributaries. When Gordon Greene died in 1927, two her sons, Tom, who has been born on riverboat, and Chris, helped their mother run the company.

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Will the Steamboat Delta Queen Sail Again?

dq1Since 2008, the 1927 built sternwheel steamboat Delta Queen has been tied to a dock in Chattanooga, Tennessee, serving as a hotel.  Now, with luck and a considerable investment, the old steamboat may be returning to the rivers to carry passengers once again.  This weekend, she will be slipping her lines on the way to a major restoration. Her new owner, New Orleans businessman Cornel Martin, is arranging to have the steamboat moved to undergo a $5 million reconstruction.  From a press release posted on their the Delta Queen Facebook page:

“My partners and I are thrilled to be taking this critical first step toward the preservation and restoration of this important piece of American and river history,” said Cornel Martin, President and CEO of Delta Queen Steamboat Company. “We look forward to the day when the Delta Queen will once again be able to ply America’s waterways and allow passengers to relive the experiences of Mark Twain and his unique cast of river characters from the decks of a true 1927 steamboat.”

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Did Saint Brendan the Navigator Sail the Atlantic?

brendan_origOn this St. Patrick’s Day, it seems worthwhile to recall the story of another Irish saint, Brendan the Navigator, who is said to have sailed off on a seven year voyage across the Atlantic, from Ireland to the “Isle of the Blessed” and back.  The tale is recorded in the Latin text, “Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis“,  “The Voyage of Saint Brendan, the Abbot.”  The text is thought to date to AD 800 and to describe events of AD 512–530.

According to the legend, Brendan set sail in a currach, a boat made of animal skins stretched over a wooden frame, with a crew of around 18.  On the voyage, Brendan is said to have seen towering crystal pillars afloat on the sea, a huge sea monster, an island with giant sheep and a land where giants hurled fireballs reeking of sulfur at their boat. They finally arrived at the “Promised Land of the Saints” where they stayed for 40 days and then sailed for home.

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Shinano — WWII’s Largest Aircraft Carrier and the USS Archerfish

Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano

Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano

We recently posted about the discovery of the wreck of the Japanese battleship Musashi, in the Sibuyan Sea off the Phillipines. The Musashi was the second of the Yamato class of battleships, which were considered by many to be the largest battleships every constructed.  There was a third Yamato class ship under-construction in Japan toward the end of the World War II.  It was the Shinano, which was converted into a “super-carrier,” the largest aircraft carrier ever built at the time.  Not only was Shinano the largest of her type, but she also had the shortest career of any major warship of World War II.  From commissioning to sinking, she survived only ten days.

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Sailing A Sinking Sea, a Film about the Moken People

A trailer of Sailing A Sinking Sea, a feature length film by Olivia Wyatt which recently premiered at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.  It explores the lives of the Moken people, a small group of seafarers have kept their nomadic culture alive, along the coast of Myanmar and Thailand.

Sailing A Sinking Sea – Trailer from olivia wyatt on Vimeo.

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Cousteau’s Calypso in Peril

Photo: Olivier Bernard

Photo: Olivier Bernard

After a long legal battle, a French court has ordered Francine Cousteau, the second wife of the late Jacques Cousteau, to settle outstanding yard bills of €273,000 and remove the RV Calypso from a Brittany shipyard or the shipyard will be allowed to sell the 43 meter wooden research vessel.  Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a former French naval officer, writer, conservationist, scuba diver, documentarian and explorer who became famous for his expeditions on RV Calypso.  The ship was featured in his books and the award winning documentary “Silent World”  as well the American TV series “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” which ran from 1968 to 1975.  Kim Willsher, writing in the Guardian describes the Calypso as the “the ship that launched a thousand childhood dreams.”

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