Stepping Stones Light & the Devil’s Stepping Stones

Steppings Stone Light Photo: K. Lorentz

My wife and I were moving our boat last weekend from her summer mooring in Oyster Bay to winter layup in Cheesequake Creek in Raritan Bay and passed Stepping Stones Light as we rushed to catch a favorable current through Hell Gate.

Even on a gray morning, the lighthouse is very attractive. Built in 1876, it is a Victorian design and has been called New York City’s “cutest lighthouse.” (It is technically just outside New York City.) I am not sure that I would describe it as “cute” but then again, I am not sure that “cute” is a wholly appropriate adjective when describing lighthouses. 

The lighthouse marks Stepping Stones Reef, which is part of a group of the twenty nearby islands and rocks referred to as the Devil’s Stepping Stones.

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SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Loses Power in Newport Harbor

The 200′ long three-masted square-rigger SSV Oliver Hazard Perry was departing from a local dockside festival on Sunday evening when she lost power while maneuvering in very close quarters in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island. The steel ship drifted into four boats. No one was injured in the collisions.  

This morning just before 10AM, the Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island organization released the following statement:

At approximately 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, October 15, while leaving the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival, the Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry’s two propellers became entangled by a dock line, resulting in the loss of engine power. Thanks to the quick actions of the captain, crew, the Newport Harbor Master, Oldport Marine, and the U.S. Coast Guard, the ship was safely secured to the docks at Newport Harbor Hotel and Newport Yacht Club in the northeast corner of Newport Harbor. Continue reading

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MV Yara Birkeland, Autonomous Container Ship — Is This Really a Good Idea?

The first autonomous container ship, the 120 TEU feeder vessel, MV Yara Birkeland, will be launched in 2018. The ship will also be battery-powered and emissions-free. After a period of testing with a crew, the ship is expected to go into autonomous service in 2020. MV Yara Birkeland will sail on two routes within Norway, between Herøya and Brevik (~7 nautical miles (13 km)) and between Herøya and Larvik (~30 nautical miles (56 km)) carrying chemicals and fertilizer. The ship is being jointly developed by two Norwegian companies — agricultural firm Yara International and Kongsberg Gruppen, which builds guidance systems for both civilian and military use.

One question needs to be asked — are autonomous ships really a good idea?  Continue reading

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Picton Castle’s Seventh World Voyage

In March of 2018, the barque Picton Castle will set off on its seventh world voyage — an epic year-long voyage under sail.  Berths are available for trainees for the full year-long voyage or for individual voyage legs.

Beginning in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada, Picton Castle will sail south to the Caribbean, then through the Panama Canal, to the Galapagos Islands, islands in French Polynesia, the Cook Islands including Rarotonga and Palmerston Atoll, Vava’u in the Kingdom of Tonga, a number of islands in Vanuatu, Bali, Rodrigues, Reunion, South Africa, Namibia, St. Helena, a number of Caribbean islands and Bermuda before returning to Lunenburg in May 2019.  

This voyage is open to men and women ages 18+ of all nationalities. No sailing experience is required, just good health and the desire to be a working part of the crew.  Click here to learn more.

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Sacré’ Bleu — Flavoured Oysters from France?

As one who is very fond of oyster-flavored oysters, I am not sure that a raspberry, ginger, shallot or muscat flavored oyster is necessarily a good idea.  Nevertheless, French oyster farmer Joffrey Dubault, 29, is working to bring these flavored oysters to the world. To achieve this culinary alchemy, Dubault places oysters in 400-litre trays which contain water infused with the chosen flavor. 

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Will the Tallship Providence Sail to Alexandria?

I had kind of lost track of the replica Revolutionary War sloop Providence. In January 2015, she was blown off her jackstands by blizzard winds while on the hard in Newport, RI, incurring significant damage to her hull and rigging. In August 2016, there were reports that repairs were underway.  There are now reports that the Providence may be moving to Alexandria, VA. Toward the end of September, Scott Shaw, principal of Alexandria Restaurant Partners, presented a plan to permanently dock the Providence at Waterfront Park in Alexandria.  

The sloop Providence is a 1976 built fiberglass replica of a Continental Navy sloop of the same name.  Originally built as the merchant sloop Katy in 1768 by the Brown family of Providence RI, the sloop was outfitted with guns in 1774 to cruise against the British in Narraganset Bay.

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Offshore Wind Energy to Power the Globe — First Floating Offshore Wind Farm off Scotland

A new study released this week suggests that offshore floating wind farms could generate enough energy to power the entire world. The study is not referring to the existing offshore wind farms in shallower waters but to deep-sea wind farms where the full power of the ocean’s winds can be utilized.  It is an interesting analysis although somewhat theoretical as until very recently deeper-water floating wind turbines were either only on the drawing board or operating as small demonstration projects. 

This summer, however, twenty-five kilometers off the coast of Peterhead in north-east Scotland, five floating wind turbines are being installed in depths of water of 95-120 meters. Known as Hywind, the facility will be the world’s first floating wind farm. Each turbine is 78-meters-tall and is held upright by underwater ballast and by three mooring lines. The project is being developed by Norway’s Statoil, which is seeking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels. The five turbines, each designed to generate six megawatts of electricity, are expected to power 20,000 households and are expected to go online within the month. 

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Fridtjof Nansen, Exploring the Arctic and Saving Refugees

Today’s Google Doodle commemorates the 156th birthday of Fridtjof Nansen — arctic explorer, scientist, diplomat, humanitarian and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Nansen seems particularly relevant in these times as the polar ice cap continues to melt and as refugee crises grow across the globe. 

Nansen once wrote, “I demolish my bridges behind me – then there is no choice but forward.”  In 1893, Nansen set off in command of an expedition to attempt to drift in the ice across the North Pole. He sailed on a specially built ship with a round hull designed to resist being crushed by the ice. The ship was built by the famous Norwegian-Scottish shipbuilder Colin Archer and named appropriately, Fram, or in Norwegian, Forward.    

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Remembering George Cuthbertson — Designer, Boatbuilder, & Entrepreneur

Yacht designer, boatbuilder, and entrepreneur George Cuthberston died on October 3, age 88. Cuthbertson was one of the founders of the Canadian yacht builder, C & C Yachts, which was a major player in the world of sailing in the 1970s and 80s. As a yacht designer, Cuthbertson was known for fast designs with long waterlines, low wetted surface, and light but rigid cored hulls.

George Cuthbertson, who trained as a mechanical engineer, opened a yacht design and brokerage firm not long after he graduated from the University of Toronto in 1950. His design of Inisfree, a 54-footer which was launched in 1958, was an early success.

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The Great Chesapeake Schooner Race 2017 — Racing to Save the Bay

The festivities associated with the Great Chesapeake Schooner Race 2017 kick off tomorrow at 10 AM with a  “Salute to Schooners,” where schooners and other vessels will “fire” cannons, horns, etc. On land, students from Baltimore City schools will sing and play a musical tribute to the USA. From 1700-1900 hours, (5PM  – 7 PM) the schooners will be available for viewing dockside in Canton at the Baltimore Marine Center at Lighthouse Point. 

Wednesday will feature educational programs on certain schooners and dockside viewing from 10 AM to 2 PM. A Parade of sail will begin at 5 PM. The public is invited to view the schooners from the Canton, Fells Point, Harbor East and Inner Harbor shorelines. Click here for a more detailed schedule of events.

The race itself starts on Thursday featuring 30 schooners ranging from the Class AA Pride of Baltimore II to the Class C, PeanutContinue reading

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Grim Discovery in Kim Wall Murder

Kim Wall

The Danish police made a grim discovery in the murder of Kim Wall. On Friday, divers discovered the severed head, legs and arms of the Swedish journalist, as well as some of her clothing and a knife. The body parts were found in bags which contained pieces of metal presumably to weigh them down. The bags were located in Koge Bay, less than a mile from where Ms. Wall’s torso was located on August 21. 

Kim Wall disappeared after going on a trip in Copenhagen harbor onboard Peter Madsen’s private submarine, UC3 Nautulis, as part of an interview. The submarine sank under mysterious circumstances and Ms. Wall disappeared. Mr. Madsen was rescued and subsequently charged with murder. Ms. Wall’s dismembered torso washed onto a nearby beach eleven days later.

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ROUGH SEAS! Bad Weather in Atlantic Ocean

I love the videos shot and produced by maritime vlogger JeffHK. He describes himself as a sailor with a passion for photo/videography and drones who do vlogs while traveling the world on a mega container-ship.

This has been a rough week, so his video of rough weather in the Atlantic on an OOCL container ship seems especially appropriate. The storms at sea have both a fury and a beauty that seems somehow far preferable to what has been going on ashore. 

ROUGH SEAS! Bad Weather in Atlantic Ocean | Life at Sea

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Volvo Ocean Race 20117-2018 Starting Soon, Future Races Uncertain

Photo: Francisco Vignale/MAPFRE/Volvo Ocean Race

Seven boats will be setting off on the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race in 16 days. The race will start in Alicante on October 22, 2017 and finish in The Hague in June 2018, visiting 12 stopover ports– Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, The Hague — on a route extending for 45,000 nautical miles. The seven teams will each be racing Volvo Ocean 65s.

While the teams for the 20117-2018 races are making final preparations, the Volvo Ocean Race organization has announced a delay in the 2019-20120 race. The race organizers say that additional planning time is required before further announcements can take place. In addition, Mark Turner, the CEO of Volvo Ocean Race, has stepped down, and a replacement is being sought.

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More Disturbing Evidence in the Death of Kim Wall on the UC3 Nautilus

More disturbing evidence has emerged in the death of Swedish journalist Kim Wall on the private submarine UC3 Nautilus last August. Peter Madsen, the owner of the submarine, has been charged with her murder. 

On August 10th, Danish inventor Peter Madsen took Swedish journalist Kim Wall on a trip aboard his private submarine in Copenhagen harbor as part of an interview. The submarine sank under mysterious circumstances. Madsen was rescued but Wall was never seen alive again. About two weeks later, Wall’s headless and limbless torso washed ashore.  

Recently, the Danish police have revealed that Wall’s body was stabbed 15 times around the time of her death. Traces of Madsen’s DNA have also been found on the body. A hard drive taken from Madsen’s lab was also found to contain video footage of women being tortured and decapitated. Madsen denies that the hard drive was his. He also continues to claim that Wall’s death was an accident.   Thanks to Phil Leon for contributing to this post.

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Beery McTallShipFace? Nah — Beer Naming Contest Supporting Sunderland Tall Ships Festival

Next year, the UK port of Sunderland will be hosting 80 tall ships at the start of the Tall Ships Races 2018. To support the festivities, Maxim Brewery will be brewing a special nautical themed porter. But what to call it? That is the question at hand. In partnership with The Sunderland Echo and SunFM, the brewery is holding a competition to name the rum-porter. The winner will receive a tour of Maxim Brewery and may even get to help out in the brewing of the Tall Ships beer.  Here is how it will work:

  • October 2 to October 13 – Both the Sunderland Echo and Sun FM will hold a joint competition for a Tall Ships cask beer name.
  • October 16 – The best entries will be chosen and the top ten will go forward to a public vote.
  • October 18 to October 25 – Watch out for details on how you can pick your favorites, through a vote on the Sunderland Echo website.
  • November 6 – The name of the winning beer will be announced.

To enter send your suggested beer name by by midday on Friday, October 13 to

Sunderland on River Wear has a long and rich history of shipping and shipbuilding.  The region was once called “the largest shipbuilding town in the world.”  Shipbuilding began on the River Wear in 1346. Throughout its history, Sunderland has had over 400 registered shipyards. The last remaining shipyard closed in 1988.


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The Hidden Harbors of Staten Island — October 15th

On Sunday, October 15, the Working Waterfront Committee is presenting “The Hidden Harbors of Staten Island,” a behind the scenes tour of a fascinating island led by Mitch Waxman of the Newtown Creek Alliance and Gordon Cooper, WHC Board Member and maritime consultant. From the WHC Hidden Harbor Tour press release:

Our route will carry us up the busy Kill Van Kull, with the oil terminals and factories of Bayonne on one side and the maritime industrial North Shore of Staten Island on the other. We will pass by floating dry docks, tugboat ports, and then under the Bayonne Bridge. The Shooters Island Bird Sanctuary, and the wooden ruins of a coaling station will be next. Our Captain will then guide us into the busy Arthur Kill waterway. We will pass Global Terminal (formerly NYCT) where the age of cargo box shipping began in 1956, and then we will see the newly rebuilt Goethals Bridge, a railroad lift bridge, and the Outerbridge Crossing.

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Farming the Sea: Oystering at Mystic Seaport

Here is a wonderful short video about oystering in Long Island Sound from the Mystic Seaport Museum

Farming the Sea: Oystering at Mystic Seaport

More information about oysters from the Mystic Seaport site:

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2011 Japanese Tsunami Sent Invasive Species to the US, But Not Radioactive Fish or Mutant Wasps

Marine sea slugs from a derelict Japanese vessel that washed ashore in Oregon. (John W. Chapman)

Since the Japanese tsunami of 2011 and the meltdown of the reactors at Fukushima, the Internet has been full of scary accounts of the Pacific Ocean becoming radioactive as well as stories of radioactive salmon and other fish. One widely repeated story said that Fukushima scientists have warned that fish in the Pacific Ocean will never again be safe for human consumption due to radioactive contamination. Another account claimed that radiation from the Fukushima disaster had caused 100% infant mortality among orca whales. There was even a story about mutated giant hornets from Fukushima killing people in Nebraska! 

All of these accounts are urban legends, fake news — call them what you will — they are not true. Which is not to say that the US environment has not been impacted by the 2011 tsunami.  A recent story in the Washinton Post describes how the tsunami brought a plethora of invasive species to the US West Coast, riding on the 5 million tons of debris swept into the ocean by the tsunami. Scientists have identified more than 280 species of organisms on the flotsam drifting ashore on the US West Coast.   

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In Hurricane Ravaged Puerto Rico & the Virgin Islands, RCCL’s Adventure of the Seas to the Rescue

Royal Caribbean Cruise Line canceled their weekly scheduled cruise on the  MV Adventure of the Seas and instead sent the 3,114 passenger ship on a relief mission to carry supplies to those in need and to evacuate people from islands devastated by Hurricane Maria.  The ship called in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Wednesday and picked up 1,700 evacuees. The Adventure of the Seas arrived in St.Croix today to drop off supplies and pick up additional residents. It is expected to call in St. Thomas on Saturday to drop off supplies and pick up more evacuees before returning to Fort Lauderdale, arriving on October 3rd.  

This is the second round of relief voyages for RCCL. The Adventure of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas both evacuated residents from St. Maartin and St. Thomas in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, earlier in the month.

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TBT Repost: Wanderer — the Slave Ship Flying a New York Yacht Club Burgee

For Throw-Back Thursday (TBT) here is a repost of an unlikely bit of history which we posted three years ago.  

USS_Wanderer_(1857)The schooner yacht Wanderer was built in 1857 for Colonel John D. Johnson, a New Orleans sugar baron. At just over 100 feet long, she was luxurious, sleek and extremely fast, reportedly capable of sailing at 20 knots.  The Wanderer is not remembered, however, either for her beauty or her speed. She is remembered as the last slave ship to carry a human cargo to the shores of the United States.

In her only voyage as a slaver, she flew the New York Yacht Club burgee at her peak. That turned out to be a critical detail. The burgee and the complete implausibility of a luxury yacht whose owner wore the uniform of the New York Yacht Club, operating as a slave ship, allowed the ship to slip past the American and British anti-slavery patrol on the African coast.

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