USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” Leaves Drydock

After a two year drydocking for restoration work, USS Constitution “Old Ironsides” has returned to the waters of of Boston harbor. The frigate is the world’s oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Launched for the first time in 1797, she earned her famous nickname in battles during the War of 1812. She was later memorialized in the poem Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

As reported by the Washington Post: The ship enters dry dock about every 20 years for below-the-waterline repairs. The most recent work included replacing 100 hull planks and installing 2,200 new copper sheets, 500 of which were signed by nearly 100,000 museum visitors, according to USS Constitution Museum President Anne Grimes Rand, who called the ship “a wonderful symbol for our democracy.  It was meant to last for 10 or 20 years, and to have (the) ship here more than 200 years later, it needs constant care,” Rand said.

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What Could the Captain of the ACX Crystal See? Container Ship Visibility & Maneuvering

One recurring comment related to the collision between the USS Fitzgerald and the container ship ACX Crystal was that the container ship might not have been able to see the destroyer over the containers stacked on deck. There are photographs of containers on ACX Crystal stacked five high on deck forward of the house. Exactly how far forward did the ship’s blind spot extend? Was the view of of the USS Fitzgerald obscured by the containers stowed on the 2,858 TEU container ship? Are standards for container ship visibility too lax?

No doubt the answers to these questions will be answered in the multiple ongoing investigations. The answers will depend on the specifics of the container stow plan on the ACX Crystal as well as the ship’s draft and trim.

Visibility, however, may only be part of the story. Maneuverability — the ability to stop and/or turn the ship — can be even more important.

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Navy Testing Ship to Ship Texting with Signal Lamps

In 1867, Royal Navy Captain, and later Admiral, Philip Colomb, worked out a system to send signals by a code of dots and dashed using signal lamps. Since then, navies around the world have used only slightly improved versions of signal lamps to send secure messages over short distances between ships. The system has lasted because it relatively simple and effective. Nevertheless, signaling with light is not without its problems. The technique is fairly slow and requires trained personnel skilled in the use of Morse Code to make it work.

Now, the US Navy is testing a high-tech version of the old signal lamps which use computer operated lights to flash signals, potentially much faster and more accurately than the old manual lamps. Sailors will be able to send messages over the updated signal lamp systems in the same way they send text messages over their smart phones. The devices being tested are referred to as Flashing Light to Text Converter (FLTC) systems. The FLTC is, in some respects, an old and proven technology updated for the iPhone generation.

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Combi-Dock III Sailing from New York Harbor Carrying Windjammer Peking

The ship was just a silhouette in the haze as we sailed into New York harbor. We were on the last leg of the delivery of my new/old sailboat Arcturus from southern Virginia to Oyster Bay, Long Island.  The ship in the distance looked odd. The ship’s deck-house was forward with three pedestal cranes aft.  What was strange was the other rigging, which at first looked like four king posts, rising from the deck.  Why would a ship with pedestal cranes also have king posts?

I then realized what I was seeing. Continue reading

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USNS Lewis B. Puller, First Expeditionary Sea Base on Maiden Deployment

The USNS Lewis B. Puller has sailed from Norfolk on its maiden voyage as an expeditionary sea base supporting the U.S. Fifth Fleet.  The Puller is the first of two expeditionary sea bases. A sister vessel, the USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams  is expected to enter service in 2018. 

What is an expeditionary sea base? The Military Sealift Command (MSC) defines the type asAn afloat forward staging base-variant of the mobile landing platform designed to provide dedicated support for air mine countermeasures and special warfare missions. The ship is capable of executing additional missions including counter-piracy, maritime security, and humanitarian and disaster relief. The platform supports a variety of rotary wing aircraft.

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Orcas Acting Strangely, Part 2 — Stalking and Stealing Fishermen’s Catch in the Bering Sea

Since at least the 1960s there have been reports of orcas, also known as killer whales, stealing fish, particularly halibut, caught by fishing boats operating in the Bering Sea. Recently, the problem seems to be getting much worse.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports:

Fishermen say they can harvest 20,000 to 30,000 pounds of halibut in a single day, only to harvest next to nothing the next when a pod of killer whales recognizes their boat. The hooks will be stripped clean, longtime Bering Sea longliner Jay Hebert said in a phone interview this week. Sometimes there will be just halibut “lips” still attached to hooks — if anything at all.

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Orcas Acting Strangely, Part 1 — Dissecting Great White Sharks

Along the shore of South Africa, at least four great white sharks have washed ashore with their livers almost surgically removed.  Two were also missing their hearts.  The culprit appears not to be human. All indications seem to suggest that orcas have removed the organs from the sharks, causing them to bleed out.  One male shark carcass was found on June 24 in a relatively fresh state of decomposition, missing not just its liver, but its stomach and testes as well.

Why are orcas attacking great white sharks, and why are they only taking specific organs? No one has a clear answer. 

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In Honor of the Peking — Rolling Home to Dear Old Hamborg

In honor of the windjammer Peking, on her way home to Hamburg to be restored and refurbished — here is a fine old sea shanty — “Rolling Home to Dear Old Hamborg.”  We can only hope that the 106 year old windjammer has many fine years ahead of her.

“Rolling Home” is a capstan shanty.  A favorite among 19th century sailors, it has survived in many versions. The shantyman Stan Hugill called “Rolling Home” “the most famous homeward-bound shanty of all.”

Some have claimed that the shanty was inspired by a poem written by Charles Mackay, written on board ship in 1858. Hugill suggests, however, that Mackay based the poem on a shanty that he heard sung by sailors aboard the ship. Whatever its origins,various versions of the shanty include choruses of “rolling home to dear old England”, “dear old Ireland”, “dear old Scotland” and “dear New England.” The rendition below is the Plattdeutsch version “rolling home to dear old Hamborg” sung by the Shanty Chor Bremerhaven.

Shanty Chor Bremerhaven – Rolling Home

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Fisherman Killed by a Right Whale, US Suspends Rescue Program Temporarily

Last week, Joe Howlett, 59, a Canadian fisherman and a founder of Campobello Whale Rescue, died after rescuing a North Atlantic right whale, which was entangled in fishing nets off the coast of New Brunswick.  Howlett was apparently struck by the whale just after he cut the last piece of rope which had been wrapped around the whale.  “They got the whale totally disentangled and then some kind of freak thing happened and the whale made a big flip,” Mackie Green, a co-founder of the whale rescue team, told Canada’s  

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Windjammer Peking Loaded on Combi Dock II for Voyage Home

Photo: Will Van Dorp

On an overcast Friday in New York’s inner harbor, the windjammer Peking, was gently slipped into the flooded well deck of the heavy-lift ship Combi Dock III.  Once in position, the heavy-lift’s ballast tanks were pumped out, lifting the historic steel-hulled four-masted barque. In the next few days, the Combi Dock III will carry the Peking across the Atlantic for a complete restoration in a shipyard near Hamburg, where the ship was built in 1911. Once restored, the beautiful old ship will be the centerpiece of Hamburg’s new maritime museum. 

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2017 Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival

Some 400 divers and snorkelers rocked-out to a unique sub-sea concert that promoted reef protection on part of the world’s third-largest living coral barrier reef last Saturday.  The Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival took place at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary about 6 miles south of Big Pine Key. Staged by the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce and Keys radio station US1 104.1 FM, it provided a “submerged soundtrack” for divers discovering the Keys’ diverse realm of tropical fish, coral formations and other marine life.

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Beach Goers Form Human Chain to Rescue Family Caught in Rip-Current

Rip currents can be treacherous. Last Saturday, ten swimmers — six members of a single family, four adults and two boys — and four others, were carried out into the Gulf of Mexico by a rip-current off Panama City Beach in the Florida panhandle. Apparently, the two boys on boogie boards were initially caught in the current and the rest of the family was trapped when they tried to rescue them. 

Remarkably, all those caught in the current were rescued safely when beach-goers, most strangers to each other, formed a human chain from the shore into the rip current. At its peak, upwards of 80 people locked arms and legs to form the chain to reach the swimmers. The chain was reported to have extended out around 300 feet, starting in shallow water and ending in water around 15′ deep. Others helped by paddling out on surf and boogie boards to help the trapped swimmers reach the chain. 

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Update: Windjammer Peking Heading Home to Hamburg

Peking before downrigging

I heard this morning that the heavy lift ship Combi Dock III has entered New York harbor.  (Thanks Daniel Pine for the heads-up.) The ship is reported to be the heavy-lift chartered to carry the windjammer Peking back to her home port of Hamburg for restoration.

The German newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt  recently reported: According to the current timetable, the dock ship “Combi-Dock III” will arrive in New York on July 12, so the trip could start on July 17th. 

In the next three days they will be working on the Caddell shipyard in front of Staten Island. The anchor and two approximately 20-meter-long original yards have to be tied to the deck for the crossing and the lines to which the “Peking” is towed from the port.

The article goes on to say that the arrival and refloating of the ship in Hamburg is expected to be around July 31st. 

The “Peking” – now begins her journey home

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Larsen C Iceberg Calves — Trillion Tons of Ice, the Size of Delaware

For months we have been watching a vast crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice-shelf in the Weddell Sea.  Today, a huge block of ice calved from the ice-sheet, forming one of the largest icebergs in recorded history. The new Larsen C iceberg with a surface of 2,200 square miles, is almost the size of Delaware and contains roughly a trillion tons of water, or more water than Lake Erie, one of the Great Lakes.

Larsen C is the fourth-largest ice-shelf in Antarctica. The iceberg reduces the size of the ice-shelf by 12 percent. There is concern that the calving of the large iceberg will destabilize the ice-sheet. If the ice-sheet collapses, it could allow glaciers, which had been blocked behind the shelf, to flow more rapidly to the sea, contributing to rising sea-levels. Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

Huge Antarctic iceberg finally breaks free – Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica

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Mysterious Underwater Forest off Alabama Coast

In the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Alabama, divers have discovered an underwater forest rising out of the sediment, 60 feet below the surface. Ben Raines — an environmental reporter for the Mobile Press Register, told the Washington Post, “It was like entering a fairy world. You get down there, and there are these cypress trees, and there are logs lying on the bottom, and you can touch them and peel the bark off. It was an otherworldly experience where you knew you were in this ancient place.”

The wood from the ancient trees has been dated to around 50,000 years ago, when the seal level was far lower and much of North America was covered by a one-mile thick sheet of ice. The Washington Post reports:

Scientists believe the forest may have remained hidden were it not for Hurricane Ivan, which caused billions of dollars in damage after it slammed into the Alabama and Florida coast in 2004. The storm produced massive waves that may have scooped out about 10 feet of sediment covering the forest.

The Underwater Forest

Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

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NYC City of Water Day, July 15th

This year’s City of Water Day hosted, by the Waterfront Alliance, will take place Saturday, July 15th, from 10 AM to 4 PM, on Governors Island in New York harbor as well as at neighborhood sites across the harbor. There will be free boat rides, lots of children’s activities sponsored by Disney and the ever-popular Con Edison Cardboard Kayak Race.  

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Keels in the Air at Équihen Plage — the Village of Overturned Boat-Houses

Équihen Plage is a village on the Opal Coast, along the English Channel, in Pas-de-Calais, France. Until the early 20th century, it was a fishing village. Lacking a harbor, the fishing boats would be run aground on each tide and hauled up higher on the beach on rollers. This repeated beachings would, over time, wear the boats out. New boats would be built and the old ones abandoned. The poorest of the village hauled the abandoned boats up above the beach, and used then as small cottages. On a rudimentary foundation they would turn a boat upside down and use the bottom of the boat as a roof. Toward the end of the 19th century there was a small community of these overturned boat houses which the locals called, “quilles en l’air,” or “keels in the air.”

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Cyber-Security at Sea — XP on Carriers, Hacking Tridents & Spoofing GPS

Originally posted on gCaptain. Reposted with permission.

When reporters were recently being given tours of the Royal Navy’s new “supercarrier,” HMS Queen Elizabeth, some were surprized to see a distinctive logo on several computer screens on the bridge and in control rooms. The logo was for Windows XP, the Microsoft computer operating system introduced in 2001. The ship itself was under construction for over eight years and the many of the procurement lead times were even longer. The reporters were told that the software was ordered in 2004, when XP was the latest and greatest version of the operating system. 

Other than being slightly embarrassing that the brand new £3.5 billion aircraft carrier is running outdated software, why is this a problem? The problem is that the older operating systems are much more vulnerable to security breeches.  In May, a worldwide ransomware attack was launched, which created havoc in networks in 99 counties around the world.  (A new wave of ransomware cyber-attacks has hit recently. This time, port operations were also impacted, including Moller-Maersk and others.) 

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Return of the Steamer Sabino at Mystic Seaport

In January 2016, we posted about how during a major restoration of the 1908 coal-fired steamer Sabino at the Mystic Seaport Museum, it was determined that the boiler was beyond repair and would need to be replaced. Now with new decking and planking and a reverse-engineered 1908 boiler, the steamboat Sabino is back.

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Keels Falling Off — How Many More Sailors Will Die?

Cheeki Rafiki without her keel

We posted yesterday about the death of Dutch yacht designer Frans Maas and two of his crew when the fin keel broke off from Capella, a boat he designed and owned. The boat capsized without warning and the three sailors drowned.

Sadly, keel failure is a common enough occurrence that the folks at the Sailing Anarchy blog to have coined a name for it  — keel kills.  The sudden detachment of a fin keel from a fiberglass sailboat hull too often ends up with one or more dead. 

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