US Navy Turns on AIS — Useful Tool, Band-aid, or Both?

Following the recent collisions between US Navy destroyers and merchant ships, various internet sites posted the AIS tracks of the collisions. Well, they posted half the AIS tracks anyway.  The merchant ships used AIS while the Navy did not. While US Navy ships have AIS transponders onboard they do not transmit their positions nor apparently do Navy crews regularly consult the receivers showing the location and course of other ships. It was possible to track merchant ships’ courses but not the destroyers’. That now appears to be about to change. The Navy appears ready to finally switch their AIS transmitters on.

If the acronym AIS is not familiar, the Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automatic tracking system which broadcasts a ship’s unique identification, position, course, and speed to other ships close by. AIS is required by the SOLAS (Safety of LIfe at Sea Convention) for almost all commercial ships. Use by military vessels is optional.

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Wreck of German WWI Submarine Found Off Belgium

German type UBII Submarine

The almost intact wreck of a German submarine that sank during World War I has been located in the North Sea off Belgium, in 98 feet of water. The type UB-II submarine is said to be in good condition, with its hatches sealed, leading officials to believe that the bodies of the crew of up to 23 may still be inside the wreck. BBC quotes West Flanders Governor Carl Decaluwé saying, “The submarine is in such good condition that we reckon all the bodies are still on board.”

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Kalmar Nyckel – A Tall Ship with a Broad Reach

Here is a short video about the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of Dutch built pinnace purchased by Sweden in the mid-1600s. What makes the Kalmar Nyckel so fascinating for me is that while there are a goodly number of 18th century replicas sailing today, actively sailing 17th century replicas are rare.

If you are interested in rigging, the Kalmar Nyckel is a particular treat.  From her sprit-topsail that appears to balance precariously on the bow sprit, to the bonnets tied to the bottom of the sails, instead of reef points, there is much that would seem very strange even to an 18th or 19th century sailor. In addition to bunts and clewlines, the tall topsail and course are also furled by martinets, an intricate web of lines led to the long leeches. Add in the lateen mizzen and the whipstaff steering and the Kalmar Nyckel is an intriguing sailing vessel which is both familiar and an exotic relic of the past.

Kalmar Nyckel – A Tall Ship with a Broad Reach from Kalmar Nyckel Foundation on Vimeo.

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Evening Grey Morning Red at JC Book Festival — Tales of our Cities

I will be participating in Jersey City’s 9th Annual Book Festival — Tales of Our Cities, in Van Vorst Park this Sunday. I will have a table with my books and books by other Old Salt Press authors starting at 11AM. I will be reading from my new novel, Evening Gray Morning Red at 3:30PM. I will also be giving away five Advance Reading Copies (ARCs) of the novel. Be sure to stop by and say hello if you are in the area. 

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More Fallout from Pacific Casualties — Admiral and Captain Removed Prior to Senate Hearing

The fallout continues from the recent collisions with merchant ships in the Pacific involving the destroyers USS Fitgerald and the USS John McCain. The collisions resulted in the deaths of 17 US sailors. Earlier in the year, two guided missile cruisers based in the Pacific were also in casualties — one grounding and one collision — without loss of life.

The Navy has announced the removal of Rear Adm. Charles Williams, commander of Combined Task Force 70, the Navy’s largest operational battle force. Also being removed is his subordinate, Captain Jeffery Bennett, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 15, the squadron. The Navy describes the actions as being part of “ongoing accountability actions as part of the Navy investigations.”  Not directly related to the dismissals, the head of U.S. Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Tom Rowden put in a request last week to retire about two months early, several Navy officials confirmed to USNI News.  

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Evening Gray Morning Red Available for Pre-Order

My latest novel, Evening Gray Morning Red, will be published on October 15th in print and as an ebook. The Kindle ebook is available for pre-order on Amazon. 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.

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Foamy Balls & Killer Fatbergs Washing Up and Beaches in France and the UK

Not all oil pollution is petroleum. Recently, there have been reports of strange yellow blobs washing up on the beaches of France’s Opal Coast. The blobs described variously as “foamy balls,” “strange spongelike clumps,” “yellow mousse” and “possibly the biggest balls of earwax ever,” have been identified as industrial paraffin. Some speculate that the blobs which cover roughly 30km of the coastline may be the result of tank cleaning by a ship which had a cargo of paraffin.

Over the last few years, what have been referred to as “fatbergs,” congealed blocks of palm oil, have been washing ashore from time to time on British beaches of Sussex, Kent, Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Hampshire. While, so far posing no threat to humans, the fatbergs have proven deadly to dogs. Dogs like the smell of the palm oil but chunks can get caught in their throats, causing them to choke. Also the blocks of weathered palm oil become a home for a wide range of bacteria and toxins.

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Why the UK’s New Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth is Not a Nuke

The UK’s latest and greatest new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth is driven not by nuclear power but by fossil fuels. Why is that? The Save the Royal Navy blog has an interesting analysis. Here are a few of the salient points:

1. The Navy oiler is already there.

The biggest selling point for nuclear power is that a nuclear-powered ship only needs to be refueled once every 25 years, give or take. In the case of an aircraft carrier, however, the ship is not the only hardware which requires fuel.

As long as the aircraft on the ship are in use, they require lots and lots of fuel, so a Navy oiler is already part of the carrier battle group. And since most of the carrier battle group is also powered by fossil fuels, several Navy oilers are required.

As virtually every other ship and plane requires fuel oil, providing oil for the carrier is not that big a deal, especially as it is likely that the Royal Navy will be spending most of its time in the Atlantic, a smaller ocean, as compared to the Pacific, making replenishment that much easier.
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Vendee Globe, Volvo Ocean, & AC 2021– Are Foiling Monos the Future of Yacht Racing?

Volvo Ocean Concept Design

Almost two years ago, we raised the question — Are the new foiling Open 60 monohulls “the future of ocean racing or [are they] a foil too far?” The results of the Vendee Globe around-the-world, single-handed race last January may have answered that question.  Armel Le Cléac’h crossed the finish line in France on January 19, 2017, winning in record time, sailing the foil-assisted IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire VIII. The next three finishers were also foil-assisted boats. The success of foiling monohulls in what is arguably the world’s toughest race may have changed the face of international racing.

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Tampa Bay & the Disastrous Storm Surge That Wasn’t

Graphic: Washington Post

Hurricane Irma devasted islands in the Caribbean and did serious damage to cities in Florida. 6.5 million residents of Florida alone lost power and the damage toll is still being calculated across the state. The cities on the West Coast of Florida, particularly those on Tampa Bay, were damaged by high winds and rain but missed the predicted deadly storm surge when Irma jogged slightly eastward. 

So far, the Tampa Bay area has been remarkably lucky with hurricanes. One day that luck may run out. When it does, the result won’t be pretty.

By luck, a quirk of geography, or perhaps both, no significant hurricane driven storm surge has hit the Tampa Bay area in almost 100 years. The cities of Tampa, St.Peterburg, and Clearwater are highly vulnerable to catastrophic flooding damage from a storm surge.

Recent studies have identified Tampa as the city most vulnerable to storm surge in the US, ahead of New Orleans. A study by the World Bank called Tampa Bay one of the 10 most at-risk areas on the globe. Fortunately, despite potentially dire projections, the storm surge from Irma in Tampa Bay and much of the rest of the West Coast of Florida was a manageable 2-4 feet.  Continue reading

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Post-Irma Caribbean Catastrophe — Navies, Cruise Ships and Private Boats Aid Victims

Hurricane Irma absolutely devastated many islands in the Caribbean. Now, in the aftermath of the catastrophic storm, aid is being sent by a small armada of ships and boats from governments, corporations and private citizens.

The need for help is enormous. On the island of Barbuda, 90% of buildings have been damaged or destroyed and 50% of the population of about 1,000 people left homeless.  Anguilla suffered major damage first from Hurricane Irma and then from Hurricane Jose, which followed close behind. Eleven people were killed, and more than 100 injured in the French overseas collectivities of St Martin and St Barthélemy (St Barts). 95% of the buildings on St. Martin were reported to be damaged or destroyed. Damage in the US Virgins Islands of St. Thomas and St. John was also extensive, as was damage to buildings in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands where a large sailboat charter fleet was also wiped out. 

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Repost on 9/11: BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience

I watch this short documentary on the Great Manhattan Boat Lift of 9/11/01 at least once a year. In the face of natural and unnatural disasters, it is good to be reminded that when things are at their worst mariners will do all that they can to help. On the 16th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, BOATLIFT, An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience.

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Krill Joy — Drone Video of Blue Whale Feeding

Something to take one’s mind off the apocalyptic hurricane bearing down on the west coast of Florida.

Rare images of blue whale feeding behavior

Krill Joy
From Slate:This video catches a rare glimpse of a gigantic, lunge-feeding blue whale deciding on what’s for lunch. A nonintrusive drone from Oregon State University quietly observed the world’s largest animal in the Southern Ocean off Australia. Cruising along at 6.7 mph—according to Leigh Torres of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State, who led the expedition—it spots a worthy mass of krill and flips on its side, mouth wide open, to plow into its unlucky meal at 1.1 mph.

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Escaping Hurricane Irma by Sea on RCL’s Enchantment of the Seas

MS Enchantment of the Seas beneath sunnier skies

As Hurricane Irma proceeds toward South Florida with apocalyptic fury, it is getting harder and harder to find a place of safety or a way to escape. Gasoline and supplies are in short supply. The few north-south roads out of the state are clogged with traffic. Shelters are filling rapidly. Royal Caribbean International took a different approach to evacuating its 1,500 employees in Port Miami. Yesterday, it put them aboard the 2,252-passenger Enchantment of the Seas and sailed out of the Port of Miami, away from the path of Hurricane Irma.

The Miami Herald reports: Royal Caribbean canceled Enchantment’s regular sailing scheduled for Friday earlier in the week, said spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez, and decided to offer the ship to employees and their families — free of charge. “Felt that was the right thing to do,” Martinez said in an email.

Guests from the Enchantment’s previous sailings who wished to stay aboard because they could not leave Florida were allowed to do so, she said. No one will be charged for staterooms, food, entertainment or gratuities. Continue reading

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Record Breaking CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt Becomes Largest Container Ship to Call in Port of NYC/NJ

Photo:Reena Rose Sibayan | The Jersey Journal

Yesterday morning, the 14,400 TEU container ship, CMA CGM Theodore Roosevelt, sailed under the newly-elevated Bayonne Bridge becoming the largest container ship ever to call on the Port of New York and New Jersey.  She previously set a record as the largest ship to navigate through the Panama Canal. She is also the largest container ship to make a port call on the United States East Coast.  For more photos click here.

The ship is 1,202 feet (366 meters) long — the length of four football fields — and 166 feet (50 meters) wide.

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Update: Death on the UC3 Nautilus — Madsen Claims Wall Killed in Accident

Kim Wall

On August 10th, inventor Peter Madsen took Swedish journalist Kim Wall on a trip aboard his private submarine UC3 Nautilus in Copenhagen harbor as part of an interview. The submarine sank under mysterious circumstances. Madsen was rescued but Wall disappeared. Madsen initially claimed that he had put Wall ashore on an island. About two weeks later, Wall’s headless and limbless torso washed ashore. 

Madsen, who has been charged with murder, is now claiming that Wall was killed accidentally when she was struck in the head by the submarine’s 155-pound hatch. Madsen claims that he threw her body overboard in a panic. He then intentionally sank the submarine. Madsen denies dismembering the body and offered no explanation as to how Wall’s headless and limbless torso came to wash ashore in Copenhagen harbor.

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Adventure, the Epic Voyage of a Playmobile Pirate Ship

Two Scottish brothers, eight-year-old, Ollie and five-year-old, Harry Ferguson, are too young to go to sea themselves, so instead, they sent their toy pirate sailing ship on a voyage from the fine old port of Peterhead, Aberdeenshire earlier this year. The toy was a plastic Playmobil ship, named suitably Adventure.  With the help of their father the boys modified Adventure to make more a seaworthy craft. They added ballast and polystyrene foam to help it stay afloat. They also included a note asking anyone who finds the boat to send them a picture and launch Adventure back into the sea.

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Gloucester Schooner Festival Parade of Sail, September 4, 2017

One day, I really want to make it to Gloucester, MA for the yearly schooner festival held over the Labor Day weekend. Perhaps one year I will sail there in my own boat, which is definitely not a schooner.  In the meantime, here is a beautiful video of yesterday’s Gloucester Schooner Festival Parade of Sail.

Gloucester Schooner Festival

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Inflated Wing Sail — Rig of the Future?

Here is a fascinating new approach to the design of a mast and sail. The developers at Next Technologies claim that their Inflated Wing Sail (IWS) is stable in every wind conditions and offers a smooth balanced new way of sailing. No more winches, halyards, shrouds or complex deck gear.

Inflated Wing Sails – Voile gonflable

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Can Pacific Bluefin Tuna Be Saved?

The Pacific bluefin tuna is at risk of becoming commercially extinct. Overfishing has depleted stocks of the fish by an estimated 97%. Now the principle tuna-fishing nations have reached an agreement to gradually rebuild the depleted stocks, while still allowing Japan, by far the largest consumer of the bluefin, to continue to catch and consume the highly prized fish. Japan eats 80 percent of the $42 billion global haul of bluefin and had resisted restrictions on the fishery.  

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