Trucker’s Hitch — What Does the Knot Say?

You may recall the Norwegian comedy team Ylvis from their viral hit, “What Does the Fox Say?,” which was viewed more than a half billion times on Youtube. One of their more recent music videos, released in September, is on knot tying, specifically, the Trucker’s Hitch. The Trucker’s Hitch also known as a Power Cinch Knot is useful for securing a dinghy to the deck as well as having a number of other uses. Now, thanks to Ylvis, it is also a dance move. While their video is a lot of fun, if you actually want to learn how to tie a trucker’s hitch check out the video from the good folks at Animated Knots by Grog, after the page break.

Ylvis – Trucker’s Hitch

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Swimming the Gowanus Canal on Earth Day? Don’t Drink the Water!

Photo:Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Photo:Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Christopher Swain, an environmental activist, spent about an hour swimming in New York’s Gowanus Canal earlier this week on Earth Day.  He said he made his swim as a “call for an accelerated cleanup of the Canal.”  The Gowanus Canal is a 1.8-mile-long waterway connecting Upper New York Bay (the bay in between Brooklyn, Manhattan, New Jersey, and Staten Island) with the formerly industrial interior of Brooklyn. It is also one of North America’s most polluted waterways and has been a “Superfund” site since 2010. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency developed a cleanup plan which is expected to cost $506 million and should be completed by 2022.  It is unclear how Mr. Swain’s swim will speed up the process.

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Half Moon in Perspective

halfmoontravelerHalf Moon, a replica of Henry Hudson’s ship, looks very small sitting on the deck of the heavy-lift ship Traveler, which is carrying the ship to its new berth at the  Westfries Museum in Hoorn, in the Netherlands.  As heavy lift ships go, the Traveler, at 326 feet long, is one of the smaller ships in the Big Lift fleet, yet still looks very large as compared to the 85 feet long Half Moon.  Nevertheless, small as it may have been, the original Half Moon, or Halve Maen in Dutch, was one of the ships that changed the world.

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Carnival Spirit Delayed Off Sydney in High Seas

The cruise ship Carnival Spirit docked this morning in Sydney Australia after being held offshore for a day due to high winds and seas which closed the port. The ship had been on a 12 day cruise. A serious storm closed four ports between Newcastle and Wollongong, including Sydney Harbor, where swell of 13 meters were reported. One passenger described the motion of the ship while off Sydney Heads as like that of a ‘a giant washing machine on a spin cycle

On shore, three people died as more than a foot of rain led to flash flooding. More than 200,000 homes and businesses lost power. There were no injuries reported aboard the cruise ship. Thanks to Irwin Bryan for contributing to this post.

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On Earth Day — the Worldwide Wind on the World Wide Web

This beautiful visualization of the winds blowing across the face of the earth and the sea from
Windyty seems like an appropriate post for Earth Day. Click and drag the chart around to see the winds on any part of the globe. You might also wish to check out NASA’s Perpetual Ocean, which shows ocean surface currents.

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Forty Five Years Ago — Williwaw, An Oceangoing Foiling Tri

We recently posted about Gunboat’s new G4 carbon-fiber catamaran which can fly on foils. (It can also capsize dramatically.)  As high tech and leading edge as the G4 may be, it is not the first cruising foiling multihull.  Forty five years ago in the late 60s, David Keiper built a foiling trimaran, Williwaw. He ultimately sailed the 31′ tri 20,000 miles across the Pacific, including several West Coast to Hawaii Passages and a voyage to Samoa, New Zealand and Tahiti.  He would go on to write a book about his voyages —  Hydrofoil Voyager: WILLIWAW, From Dream To Reality and Toward the Sailing Yacht of the Future.  David Keiper died of a heart attack in 1998, at the age of 67.  A rough video of the flying trimaran.

HYDROFOIL — 20,000 MILES SAILING!!!. David Keiper’s, Williwaw

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Update: Migrant Death Ships — 900 More Die on Sunday

Photo: REUTERS/MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/Handout via Reuters

Photo: REUTERS/MOAS/Darrin Zammit Lupi/Handout via Reuters

The migrant crisis in the Mediterranean continues to grow more grave. Last week, we posted about the drowning of 400 migrants in an overloaded ship which capsized not long after leaving port in Libya bound for Italy.  On Sunday, a larger ship sank under similar circumstances. 900 are believed to have died. Several other boats and ship were also in danger of foundering today.

The escalating crisis comes as conditions in Libya, Eritrea, Iraq and Syria, in particular, have worsened, causing more refugees to flee, even as the European Union has cut back on rescue services.  The Mare Nostrum program run by the Italian Navy which ended in December has been replaced by the Operation Triton run by Frontex, the EU border control agency. Mare Nostrum cost € 9 million per month, while the much smaller Triton has committed € 2.9 million.

As an estimated 500,000 refugees are waiting for boats to cross the Mediterranean, the escalating body count has cause many to question the cutback in rescue capacity. The EU is proposing a doubling of the budget, which critics have suggested may not be enough.

Migrant crisis: Granting of asylum to those in need an obligation

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A Belaying Pin from Frigate l’Hermione

hermionebelayingpin1Within a few hours after the replica French frigate l’Hermione set sail on her maiden voyage to the United States, friends stopped by our house on the west side of the Hudson River for drinks and brought an unexpected gift. They had recently returned from France and brought back a belaying pin. But not just any belaying pin. The pin has a brass plate attached which reads “L’Hermione,  La Frégate de la Liberté.”  The tag also reads: “Ce cabillot servi à bord de la frégate de XII l’Hermione lors des essais en mer de l’automne 2014” (This belaying pin served aboard the frigate Hermione XII during the tests at sea Autumn 2014.)

So at least part of l’Hermione has arrived before the ship itself. Thank you so much, Sheridan and Sylvie.

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l’Hermione Sets Sail To America Today

Today the replica frigate l’Hermione will sail from its mooring off the small island of Aix on the west of France, and navigate up the Charente river to the historic naval town of Rochefort, before setting out across the Atlantic to recreate the voyage of its namesake frigate which carried the Marquis de Lafayette to America with the news that the King of France had agreed to support the American rebellion against the British. l’Hermione is expected to arrive in Yorktown on June 5 to begin an tour of the east coast.

Warship replica ‘L ‘Hermione’ sets sail for North America

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Farewell to Newtown Creek, New York’s Lovely “Honey Tanker”

Photo: Will Van Dorp

Photo: Will Van Dorp

The Newtown Creek was recently sold at auction. At 324′ long and 49.6′ wide, she is a lovely coastal tanker that traversed New York harbor’s waters for close to a half century.  For a vessel of her size and type, I always found the Newtown Creek to be particularly attractive.  With relatively fine lines, a sharp bow, and a grey hull with rub rails that made the ship seem longer and sleeker than she was, it was perhaps even more pleasing that her appearance didn’t give away her job, which was carrying sewage sludge from various points around the harbor. Many of us, however, did not call her a sewage tanker or even a sludge tanker, but preferred the more delicate term “honey tanker.”  The name is adapted from the US Army trucks that used to empty latrines. The trucks were called sarcastically, “honey wagons.” So, calling the Newtown Creek a “honey tanker” seemed to fit, both for her cargo and because, at least to some eyes, she was a sweet little ship.

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Help Kitsap Maritime & Fiddler’s Dream — 110% Matching on May 5th

fiddlers-dream-slideLast May we posted about the donation of the schooner 64’5″ Fiddler’s Dream to the Kitsap Maritime Heritage Foundation.  The foundation’s mission is to celebrate the Puget Sound’s maritime heritage through exhibition, education, and helping people of all ages and abilities to have a hands on nautical experience.

For anyone wishing to help, Kitsap Maritime just announced a great opportunity: The next $100,000 in donations to Kitsap Maritime will be matched by an anonymous donor! And in even more awesome news if you donate on May 5th on-line through the Kitsap Great Give your donation will be increased by a 10% match from local sponsors before it is doubled. A $100 donation on May 5th will be $110 from the Great Give, that will then be matched 100% making your donation $220 to Kitsap Maritime.  Click here to learn more. 

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Interview on BBC Radio’s Mark Forrest Show

I was invited onto the Mark Forrest Show on BBC radio to discuss the history and importance of sea shanties. A quick five minute interview.


To hear more of the program, click here.

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Desperate Exodus Continues — 400 Migrants Feared Dead in Latest Capsize


Photo: Reuters

An estimated 400 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized, 24 hours after leaving Libya.  Approximately 145 people were rescued.  Italian authorities say that around 8,500 migrants had been rescued at sea between Friday and Monday alone.  Nearly 3,500 migrants died attempting to cross the sea in 2014, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

An unprecedented number of refugees are attempting to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded and often decrepit boats, driven by instability and warfare in Libya, Eritrea and Syria. The EU border agency Frontex estimates that more than 500,000 people are now waiting to set out from Libya for Europe, so the body count is only likely to rise.  Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

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Update: Gunboat’s New G4 Flying Cruiser!

In December we posted about a new 40′ carbon-fiber racing/cruising catamaran from Gunboat, the G4, that with the optional J foils could fly like an America’s Cup racer. Here now is a video of the G4 being put through the paces by her design and build team during her first week on the water.

GUNBOAT G4 from Gunboat on Vimeo.

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The Shantyman, Ice Islands and Climate Change

iceislandIn my new novel, The Shantyman, the clipper ship Alhambra nearly collides with a massive ice island.  From Chapter Nine:

In the forenoon watch came the cry, “Ice, dead ahead.”

It was my watch below, but I jumped up with the rest and headed forward, expecting to see an iceberg. Instead, I only saw white. It took me a few minutes to realize that I was wasn’t staring at fog but at the white face of an ice cliff, the sheer side of a drifting island of ice, rising close to one hundred feet high. The massive floating island looked as tall as the masts and stretched out to port and starboard, disappearing into the fog on either hand. And we were sailing straight for it

The event in the novel was based on various accounts from clipper ship voyages from the 19th century.  By using Matthew Fontaine Maury‘s Wind and Current Charts  as well as his Sailing Directions, clipper ships of the day had been making faster passages around Cape Horn. Maury’s charts and sailing directions did, however, send the ships farther south, closer to the ice and icebergs. The clipper ship John Gilpin sank after hitting an iceberg in 1858 while just a year later, the clipper Fleetwood met the same fate. Numerous ships were also damaged by ice but made it to port. Every year, ships simply disappeared rounding Cape Horn, so it is unknown whether they hit ice or were overwhelmed by the seas.

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Flying Dutchman Ghost Ship — Sailing on Water & Light

ghostship1What should a ghost ship be made of? Why not water, wind and light? That is precisely what the designers at the Romanian Art collective Visual Skin used to create the Flying Dutchman, a glowing ghost ship anchored in front of ARCAM Amsterdam Centre for Architecture and the Scheepvaartmuseum.  It floated gently on the water of the canal,  with the spectral sails billowing in the wind. The ghost ship was part of the Amsterdam Light Festival which ended last January. Thanks to Cynthia Drew for pointing it out.

The video below shows how Visual Skin made the magic happen.

Ghost Ship Test 23.10.2014

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2011 Tsunami Derelict Drifts to Oregon with Live Yellowtail Jack in Hold

jfishingd1Given the recent discussion about where a derelict might drift in the Atlantic, here is an interesting news item from the Pacific. Four years after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami which hit Japan and washed an estimated 5 million tons of debris into the ocean, a 25-30′ section of a Japanese commercial fishing vessel drifted into Oregon waters. Remarkably, in the hold were about 20 yellowtail jack, a fish usually found in the waters off Japan. The fish could have been caught and loaded aboard the boat before the tsunami, or they could have hatched from larvae that were aboard when the boat was set adrift.

The derelict section of what is believed to originally have been 50′ trawler was intercepted before it reached shore. In 2012 a much larger derelict made it all the way to shore when a 66 feet long, 165 tonne, starfish and barnacle encrusted, steel and concrete floating dock has washed up on Agate beach, south-west of Portland, Oregon.

Boat likely destroyed in 2011 Japanese tsunami turns up in Oregon with live fish still aboard

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Discomfort on the USNS Comfort As it Deploys on Continuing Promise 2015

comfort1The hospital ship USNS Comfort recently deployed on a five month mission to Central and South America and the Caribbean. The ship will call on eleven nations in support of Continuing Promise 2015. The ship sailed with a new captain, the third, (or fourth) captain in the last 19 months. In August 2013, Capt. Kevin J. Knoop was relieved of duty by Rear Admiral Thomas Shannon and replaced by the ship’s Executive Officer, Rachel Haltner. At the end of March, Admiral Shannon relieved Captain Haltner of her duties as commanding officer. The Executive Officer, Capt. Miguel Cubano, briefly assumed command prior to the arrival of Capt. Christine Sears, Fleet Surgeon for the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. Fourth Fleet, who assumed permanent command just before the ship sailed.

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Help Keep Hawaiian Chieftain Afloat

Hawaiian Chieftain

Hawaiian Chieftain

Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority of Washington State, owns and operates two tall ships, Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain. In the past five years they have introduced over 42,000 school children to tall ship sailing and program up and down the entire West Coast and have a stated goal or reaching ten times that number in the years to come as well as continuing to train new tall ship sailors. They are now attempting to raise funds through crowd-sourcing to support a major upgrading of the Hawaiian Chieftain

Built of steel in Hawaii in 1988, Hawaiian Chieftain was originally designed for cargo trade among the Hawaiian Islands. Naval architect Raymond H. Richards’ design was influenced by the early colonial passenger and coastal packets that traded among Atlantic coastal cities and towns. Grays Harbor Historical Seaport purchased Hawaiian Chieftain in 2005.  The ship often sails in company with Lady Washington, engaging in their extremely popular “battle cruises” where they fire black power ships’ guns in mock naval combat.

Their goal is to raise $50,000. Click here to donate and/or to learn more.

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Derelicts Adrift — Angel & Fannie E Wolston

fanniewolcottdriftOne of the more interesting questions about Louis Jordan’s ordeal is “why didn’t he drift farther north on the Gulf Stream?” Jordan was dismasted in his Alberg 35 sailboat, named Angel, somewhere off the North Carolina coast in January and drifted for 66 days until he was spotted by a German container ship roughly 200 miles east of the North Carolina shore. Jordan was somewhat north of where he entered the Atlantic but the primary direction that his boat drifted, dismasted and with a damaged rudder, was easterly. How is this possible?

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