Volvo Ocean Racers Battered in the Southern Ocean

The third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town to Melbourne has subjected the fleet to the fury of the Southern Ocean.  With steady winds of 50 knots with gusts to over 60, the seven boats have been surfing down huge waves. Boat speeds of 38 knots have been reported. 

Team AkzoNobel suffered damage to the yacht’s mast and mainsail in a gybe in very strong winds and massive seas. A section of the mainsail track was ripped from the mast, several battens broken and the sail ripped and punctured. The team continued racing under headsails alone and is attempting to fix the damage today under very challenging conditions.

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Florida Shark-Draggers Might End Up in Prison

Photo: Tampa Bay Times

A disturbing video of a shark being dragged backward at high speeds behind a motorboat off the Gulf Coast of Florida hit the internet this summer. Now, three men behind the video may be facing prison time.

The Miami Herald identifies this as part of a new fad which they dub “fish porn” where “a gang of MTV Jackass-like characters talks smack about fishing online and posts images of themselves taking shots at fish with handguns, swilling beer and Jägermeister from the gills of stunned or dead fish, and committing acts that may violate state and federal fishing rules.

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Dressing for Tall Ships Sunderland — the Tall Ships Hat and the Belle Poule Pouf

The Sunderland Tall Ships Festival is projected to attract m ore than 1.5 million people next July. For those of us lying awake at night wondering what we should wear to the event, designer Kathryn Russell has at least one possible answer. She has designed an ensemble for a young lady featuring a unique Tall Ships dress, complete with its very own ship’s hat, set on a sea of “waves.”

SunFM describes the outfit: “The hand-stitched bodice has been worked to resemble ships’ rigging, with a gold thread galleon stitched under the net skirt, while the jacket has a hand embroidered ships wheel on the back.

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North Atlantic Right Whales Pushed Closer to Extinction

North Atlantic right whales are among the rarest of marine mammals. Only about 450 of the whales are thought to exist. In 2017 alone an estimated 17 right whales have died while only 5 whales are believed to have been born.  Ship strikes and entanglements with fishing nets and gear are the leading causes of death for North Atlantic right whales.

As reported by

The situation is so dire that American and Canadian regulators need to consider the possibility that the population won’t recover without action soon, said John Bullard, the Northeast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. The high year of mortality is coinciding with a year of poor reproduction, and there are only about 100 breeding female North Atlantic right whales left.

“You do have to use the extinction word, because that’s where the trend lines say they are,” Bullard said. “That’s something we can’t let happen.”…

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Ian Farrier, Designer & Builder of Folding Trimarans

Ian Ferrier

The Sailing Anarchy blog has posted a note from Rob Densem, General Manager of Farrier Marine, of Christchurch, NZ.:

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you Ian Farrier passed away in San Francisco on his way back from the USA yesterday. We are in deep shock as we come to terms with the huge loss of our captain, and our focus is on Ian’s immediate family and the Farrier Marine team.

Ian was a visionary, a multihull genius, an all-round nice guy who leaves behind a huge legacy to the sailing world.

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Old Salt Blog Ranked in Feedspot’s Top 50 Oceanic Blogs and Websites on the Web

Oceanic Blogs
We are pleased to learn that the Old Salt Blog has been ranked 14th in Feedspot’s Top 50 Oceanic Blogs and Websites on the Web. The criteria for selection were:

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

Thanks to Feedspot for the recognition. 

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136 Year Old Steamer Jane Miller Found in Georgian Bay

On November 25, 1881, the steamer Jane Miller sank in the Georgian Bay off Lake Huron with the loss of 28 passengers and crew. This summer, American shipwreck hunters Jared Daniels, Jerry Eliason and Ken Merryman, located the wreck in Colpoys Bay, an inlet of Georgian Bay leading to Wiarton on the east side of the Bruce Peninsula north of Owen Sound. They delayed the announcement until the November anniversary of the sinking.

The 24-meter ship is remarkably intact and with its mast rising within 23 meters of the surface. The shipwreck hunters also reported spotting what could be the remains of bodies. The Jane Miller was launched in 1879 on Manitoulin Island and ran between Collingwood and Manitoulin with stops along the way, taking on passengers, farm goods, and other freight.

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Evening Gray Morning Red on gCaptain’s Best Nautical Books Of 2017 List

I am very pleased and grateful that my new novel, Evening Gray Morning Red, has been selected to be on gCaptain‘s list of the Best Nautical Books Of 2017.   About the novel:

In Evening Gray Morning Red a young American sailor must escape his past and the clutches of the Royal Navy, in the turbulent years just before the American Revolutionary War.

In the spring of 1768, Thom Larkin, a 17-year-old sailor newly arrived in Boston, is caught by a Royal Navy press gang and dragged off to HMS Romney, where he runs afoul of the cruel and corrupt Lieutenant Dudingston. Years later, after escaping the Romney, Thom again crosses paths with his old foe, now in command HMS Gaspee, cruising in Narragansett Bay. Thom Larkin must face the guns of the Royal Navy, with only his wits, an unarmed packet boat, and a sandbar.

Evening Gray Morning Red is my third novel, following Hell Around the Horn, and The ShantymanThe Shantyman was chosen as one of the Best Indie Books of 2105 by Kirkus Reviews.

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Chief Boatswain’s Mate Joseph L. George, No Longer the “Unknown Sailor” on USS Vestal

Joe George is no longer the “unknown sailor” on the USS Vestal. The Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer has announced the posthumous award of the Bronze Star Medal with V device for valor to Chief Boatswain’s Mate Joseph L. George for heroic achievement during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was under attack by Japanese planes. On the mortally wounded battleship USS Arizona, six sailors were trapped on the control platform on the ship’s main mast, which was wholly engulfed in flames.  Joe George was Boatswain’s Mate Second Class on the repair ship USS Vestal, which was tied up next to the battleship. Hearing the cries from the trapped men, Bosun’s Mate George attempted to throw a heaving line to the trapped men across the 70 to 80 feet gap between the Vestal and the control platform. After multiple attempts, George succeeded. He then fed a heavier line across which allowed the trapped sailors to climb hand-over-hand to the relative safety of the repair ship. 

Bosun’s Mate George was commended for his bravery and initiative but received no other recognition. His actions were not forgotten, however, even if he was not personally remembered. One history of the attack on Pearl Harbor mentions the “unknown sailor” on the Vestal who saved six men from being burned alive. Even George’s family was unaware of his heroism. 

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High Tech Square Rigger Black Pearl, Inspired by Maltese Falcon

Russian billionaire oligarch Oleg Burlakov recently spent around $200 million to purchase the Black Pearl, a new sailing yacht built by Oceanco Yachts.  The yacht has three free-standing DynaRig masts and is strongly reminiscent of the three-masted Dynarig Maltese Falcon, launched in 1990. The Black Pearl is, however, about 20% longer and carries 20% more sail area than the Maltese Falcon.  The Black Pearl has a steel hull and an aluminum superstructure.

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Red Hook WaterStories — 1860: Slave Ship Erie Sold in Atlantic Basin

Red Hook WaterStories delves into the rich and varied past and present of the waterfront of the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.  If you haven’t discovered the site, a project of PortSide New York, be sure to check it out.  Here is an excerpt from a post about the slave ship Erie, which was condemned and sold 157 years ago today, on December 5, 1860, in Red Hook’s Atlantic Basin.

In December 1860, the first shots in the Civil War would not be fired for another six months. Slavery would continue to be legal in the United States for another five years, until the adoption of the 13th Amendment. Nevertheless, the seizure and sale of the slave ship Erie marked a milestone in the struggle against slavery.

From Red Hook WaterStories

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Norman Baker — Adventurer & Navigator Dies in Plane Crash at 89

As a teenager growing up in Brooklyn, Norman Baker dreamed of adventure.  And he didn’t just dream. At the age of 13, he won a contest where the first prize was flying lessons. He became an avid pilot and at the age of 89, died as he lived, in the crash of his 1966 four-seat single-engine Cessna on November 22nd. Captain Baker was flying to join his extended family for Thanksgiving when his plane crashed in a wooded area on Nov. 22, near Pittsford in central Vermont. His body was found in the wreckage. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

Although trained as an engineer, Norman Baker is best remembered as an adventurer. He mined for gold in Alaska, climbed the Matterhorn and lived on a 19th-century schooner that he and his wife had rebuilt.

In 1969 and 1970, he served as the navigator and radio officer on Thor Heyerdahl’s two Ra expeditions. Continue reading

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16 Year Ban on Fishing in Central Arctic Ocean

Photo: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

Nine nations; the United States, Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China; and the European Union have agreed to ban commercial fishing in the Central Arctic Ocean for at least the next 16 years. The goal of the pact is to allow scientists enough time to better understand the region’s ecology and the potential effects of climate change before allowing widespread fishing.

“There is no other high seas area where we’ve decided to do the science first,” says Scott Highleyman, vice president of conservation policy and programs at the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C., who also served on the U.S. delegation to the negotiations. “It’s a great example of putting the precautionary principle into action.”

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Magnificent Panoramas from Tallinn Maritime Days

We are several months late in posting about Tallinn Maritime Days from last July. The port of Tallinn, on the Gulf of Finland, is the capital and largest city of Estonia and hosted 50 sailing ships in this summer’s Tallships Race. Here are some amazing 3D VR images of the festival.  Click here for a panoramic view of the Norwegian full-rigged ship, Christian Radich. Click here for another panoramic view of the festival shot by Andrew Bodrov. Click and drag with your mouse to see the full images.

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American Diver Dies in Cocos Island Shark Attack

An American diving in a tour group off Costa Rico’s Cocos Island was attacked and killed yesterday by a tiger shark. The name of the victim has not been released and the circumstances of the attack are not known. The dive master was also attacked and seriously injured. He is reported to be in stable condition.

Cocos Island is a Costa Rican National Park roughly 300 miles off Puntarenas on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. The sharks are a big part of what attracts tourists to the island, which has been named one of the best 10 scuba diving spots in the world by PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). Surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents, the island attracts large schools of hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins, orcas and other large marine species. The schools of hammerhead sharks are among the largest in the world.

What makes the recent attack so shocking is that, according to the Shark Attack Data website, there have been only twelve shark attacks recorded in Costa Rica, not including the recent fatality, since 1919. Of these, only four attacks were fatal. Of the attacks recorded on their database, no attacks were near Cocos Island, prior to yesterday’s attack. 

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Building a Petrel Play Strip Kayak in One Minute

I am a big fan of strip kayaks in general and the designs of Nick Schade of Guillemot Kayaks in particular. Given that our family already owns five kayaks, it has become harder for me to argue that I really need one more.  Nevertheless, I have even considered building a strip kayak in my basement but quickly realized that if I did manage to complete the project, I would have no way to get it out, short of excavation. I would not have the same problem if I built a strip kayak in my living room, but divorce is so expensive these days, so I decided against it.  So, instead of building a  kayak, through the wonder of Youtube, I can watch others build them. Here is a time-lapse video of one of Schade’s Petrel Play kayaks being built in just under one minute. If only it was really so quick and easy.

For those wanting more detail, Schade also has eight and twenty-minute videos of the same process.

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103 Year Old MV Doulos — on the Beach at Bintan

MV Doulos once held the title of the oldest operating passenger liner. Now 103 years old, the historic ship may be close to beginning a new life as a shoreside hotel in the resort town of Bintan, Indonesia. 

When the refurbished ship will open as a hotel is unclear. Reports from 2016 said that the newly named Doulos Phos The Hotel would open by early 2017. The project has been delayed, however. The Tribun Batam reports as of November that “… until the end of 2017, in the field, the hotel is still in the process of working. This can be seen from the number of workers and heavy equipment that are on site.” (Translated by Google from the original Indonesian.)

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Latest Ghost Ships Wash Ashore in Japan

A derelict wooden boat washed ashore on Monday on Miyazawa beach in the northwest of Japan’s main island Honshu. The boat’s only cargo was eight skeletons. Evidence suggests that the boat and the bones came from North Korea. This boat is the fourth vessel believed to be North Korean to have washed ashore or have been rescued in Japanese waters this month alone. Fifteen of those aboard these vessels were found dead while eleven survivors were rescued and returned to an uncertain fate in North Korea. 

Sky News reports that forty-four wooden vessels believed to be from the Korean peninsula have washed up on Japanese shores – or drifted off the country’s coast – so far this year, compared to 66 in the whole of 2016. 

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Captain James Colnett’s Barrel & the World’s Most Unusual Post Office

Current mail barrel at Post Office Bay, Floreana Island, Galapagos

In 1793, Captain James Colnett of the merchant ship Rattler placed a barrel a short distance from a bay on the island of Floreana in the Galapagos archipelago. Captain Colnett was a British Naval officer, an explorer, and a maritime fur trader. On this voyage, he had been hired by British whaling interests to chart the Galapagos. In the barrel, he left the ship’s mail with the request of any homeward-bound ship that they would deliver the mail on their return to England. A replica of the barrel exists to this day, as does the free-lance postal service established by Colnett.

Why did Captain Colnett place his barrel on this island in a remote and generally arid archipelago? Continue reading

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Ghost Coral Reefs of the Florida Keys

In 1775, George Gauld, a surveyor for the British Admiralty, charted the waters off the coast of the British colony of West Florida.  Recently, Loren McClenachan, historical ecologist and professor of environmental studies at Colby College, has compared Gauld’s charts of the coral reefs along the Florida coast to modern imagery. The results were grim. Compared to Gauld’s charts, far more coral reefs have disappeared than had been previously thought. The reefs have become ghosts.

Gizmodo reports: By comparing Gauld’s maps with modern coral cover information from several databases, McClenachan and her colleagues arrived at a bleak conclusion: roughly half of the seafloor occupied by corals in the vicinity of the Florida Keys in the late 18th century no longer is. Much of the dieback seems to have occurred in Florida Bay (where coral cover was an estimated 88% higher in the late 18th century) and close to shorelines (an estimated 69% higher per Gauld’s maps).

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