Author Archives: Rick Spilman

Repairing Sextants in the Age of GPS

I first arrived in New York harbor forty years ago, as a freshly minted naval architect working for Moore McCormack. In those days, the Brooklyn docks were crowded with US flag shipping companies, many with their headquarters or sales offices in … Continue reading

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Listening to the Eerie Songs of Icebergs & Glaciers

In the summer of 1997, researchers at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) detected a mysterious ultra-low frequency underwater sound over an acoustic hydrophone array in the Pacific ocean.  They had no idea what it was. was it some form of … Continue reading

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A Hornpipe for a Saturday — Come Ashore, Jolly Tar, With Your Trousers On

Here is a fine hornpipe for a Saturday. It is the tune from “Come Ashore, Jolly Tar, With Your Trousers On” played by Gavin Atkin. For the lyrics go to In the Boat Shed. Jacky Tar

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Not Just the Rum that Kills You — Lead Poisoning in Sailors and Soldiers in the 18th Century West Indies

For Royal Navy sailors and British soldiers in the West Indies during the 18th century, rum was a refuge for the discomforts of the duties of the day. The rum also may have been killing them. It wasn’t the alcohol, but … Continue reading

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Derelicts & Ghost Ships — Are Catamarans the New Lumber Schooners?

Derelicts, abandoned ships often waterlogged and just barely afloat, are fascinating ghosts which wander the seas according to the vagaries of the winds and the currents. They are also significant hazards to navigation. In the later half of the 19th … Continue reading

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Sailing Around the Globe, Part 2 — Clipper Round the World Race

Yesterday, we posted about signing aboard as trainee crew on the square rigged barque Picton Castle, to sail all or part of the way around the world. But what if you want to sail in a globe girdling ocean race instead of … Continue reading

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Sailing Around the Globe, Part 1 — Picton Castle

Let’s say that you want to circumnavigate the world by sail and yet you don’t necessarily have enough experience or even, for that matter, a boat. All the same, you really want to make a-once-in-a-lifetime voyage where you are more than just a … Continue reading

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USCG Cutter Tamaroa Reefed off New Jersey Coast

On May 10th, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Tamaroa was sunk approximately 26 miles off shore from Cape May, NJ to help develop an artificial reef.  ; Sinking of the USCGC Tamaroa Built in 1943 as USS Zuni, the 205-foot fleet ocean/salvage … Continue reading

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On Land and On Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection at Mystic Seaport

In 2011, we posted about the Rosenfeld Collection at the Mystic Seaport with a particular focus on their maritime photography. Mystic Seaport has a new exhibit of another aspect of the work of the Rosenfelds “On Land and On Sea: A … Continue reading

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The Problems with the USS Gerald R. Ford (Hint — It’s Not the Catapults)

In an interview with Time, the notional Commander in Chief again showed his willful ignorance by calling for steam catapults rather than “digital catapults” on the new Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers.  Aside from the limitations inherent in … Continue reading

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Berths Available for Oliver Hazard Perry Arctic Voyage

In September, we posted about an upcoming voyage on the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry into Canada’s Northwest Passage.  Apparently there berths still available for those who would like to join in the adventure. From the OHPRI website:  Earn your “Blue nose” … Continue reading

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Update: Indonesia Captures Shipwreck Thieves

In February, we posted about the strange disappearance of entire wrecks of Dutch and Japanese ships sunk off the coast of Indonesia during World War II. It was believed that grab dredgers might have literally picked the ships apart for … Continue reading

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Irish Beach Reappears Almost Overnight After Being Washed Away 33 Years Ago

The lost beach of Achill Island has returned after being gone for 33 years. Achill Island’s Dooagh Beach was a sand-covered strand until the summer of 1984 when a series of storms washed all the sand away, leaving a bare and … Continue reading

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Pioneering Spirit — Removing North Sea Oil Rigs

The oil fields beneath the North Sea are running out of oil. As there is less oil to pump, costs rise per tonne of oil delivered from the now aging offshore platforms. A decline in oil prices only makes the economics … Continue reading

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Will Whistleblower Rewards & Huge Fines End Cruise Line “Culture of Crime?”

For one Scottish ship’s engineer doing the right thing paid off. In 2013, Christopher Keays risked his entire career when he turned whistleblower shortly after taking a job as a junior engineer on board the cruise ship, Caribbean Princess. At the … Continue reading

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Sailing on the Four-Masted Schooner Margaret Todd

A short video aboard the schooner, Margaret Todd, sailing in Frenchman Bay from Bar Harbor, Maine. Built in 1998, Margaret Todd is the only four-masted schooner to work in New England in over a century Aboard the Margaret Todd

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Do We Really Need a Flying Jet-Ski?

Last week there was considerable media attention to a new “flying car” developed by a start-up called Kitty Hawk, which is funded in part by Google’s Larry Page, as well as Uber and Airbus.  The only problem, at least to my … Continue reading

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DNA Study Suggests Women Were on Franklin Expedition, Or Maybe Not

Researchers have published the results of their analysis of DNA from 24 individuals who died on the ill-fated Franklin Northwest Passage Expedition.  Surprisingly, four of the 24 individuals appear to be European women, based on DNA markers. Were there women … Continue reading

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Captain and the Masseuse Escaped by Jetski — Lawsuit Over Sinking of Quest 1

For affluent surfers, the ultimate escape is to take a luxury charter boat to surf perfect waves on distant islands. The Mentawai Islands of Indonesia are just such islands and the Quest 1 was just such a boat. Or it was … Continue reading

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The Tragic Sinking of the SS Cap Arcona, 5,000 Concentration Camp Prisoners Killed

On this day, 72 years ago, May 3, 1945, the German liner SS Cap Arcona, serving as a prison ship, was sunk by Royal Air Force  fighter bombers in the Baltic Sea. Almost 5,000 prisoners from Nazi concentration camps who were being transported … Continue reading

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