Sanctions do not mean much if they are not enforced. The UN has been imposing increasingly stricter limitations on the importation of crude and refined oil to North Korea. Still, oil has been getting through. In the past few days, South Korea has seized two tankers; the Koti, an 8,000 dwt Panamanian-flagged product tanker, and the 16,500 dwt, Hong Kong-flagged, Lighthouse Winmore. Both tankers are believed to have been making at-sea transfers of oil to North Korean tankers, in violation of the UN embargo.
On first reading, the story appears to be that of a young possibly mentally disturbed young sailor who made a series of bizarre choices. Looking just slightly more in depth, it is also clear that much else was wrong aboard the Ticonderoga-class cruiser, which earned the nickname, USS “Bread and Water.”
About Dorade from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2017 website: From the Famous American classic wooden boat Dorade is a revolutionary S&S, designed by a then 21 year-old Olin Stephens and built under younger brother Rod’s (20) supervision. Features a deep keel with external ballast, very narrow beam and a generous sail plan. The yawl took the yachting world by storm and made headlines around the world after scoring an upset victory in the 1931 Transatlantic Race from Newport, Rhode Island to Plymouth, competing against much larger boats. In the next 10 years, Dorade scored overall victories in the 1931 and 1933 Fastnet races and the 1936 TransPac Race. Adrienne Cahalan, the first woman to sail 25 Hobarts, is navigating.
It is brutally cold on the Northeast coast of the US right now. Temperatures are hovering around the 20s F (in negative digits measured when in Celcius) from Virgina to the Canadian border. It is so cold there are reports of sharks freezing. Two thresher sharks were found dead on a Cape Cod beach, believed disabled by cold shock, which led to their stranding and death.
Cold shock response is a physiological response to sudden cold, especially cold water. Newsweek reports that the program director of the Cape Cod-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy [says] that it’s not uncommon for sea turtles to wash up on the beach after experiencing cold shock. However, sharks are water-breathing fish, so when they wash up on a beach, they can suffocate and die.
This year’s Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race saw drama at both the start and the finish of the race. Indeed, the drama at the start determined who would be awarded the line honors at the finish. Let’s start with the finish line. Supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, completed the 628 nautical mile race in a record-shattering time of one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds, besting the previous record set last year by Perpetual Loyal by almost five hours. Directly behind Wild Oats, LDV Comanche also beat the previous record, crossing the finish line just 33 minutes after the leader. LDV Comanche was declared the line winner. Why? The answer was at the start of the race.
The story of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia is as grim and tragic as it is fascinating. The Batavia was wrecked on her maiden voyage in 1629 when she ran aground on Beacon Island off Western Australia. Of the original 341 passengers and crew, 282 survived the shipwreck. Around 115 people subsequently died, many murdered by mutineers. Only 68 made it to the ship’s namesake port of Batavia. Not surprisingly, Beacon Island has come to be known as “Batavia’s Graveyard” and “Murder Island.”
Recently, archaeologists have located five additional bodies on the island. Based on the care evident in the burial of the bodies, the scientists believe that these individuals died prior to the outbreak of the mutiny. The bodies, interred neatly in a row, showed no signs of violence, likely died soon after the wreck.
We hope that everyone is having a most merry Christmas. Here is a repost from 2014 of a poem by C. Fox Smith adapted for song by Charlie Ipcar. Cecily Fox Smith was a Victorian poet best remembered for her poems about ships and sailors in the last days of the age of sail. She wrote more than 600 poems which were published in more than two dozen volumes. In recent years, her work has seen a revival as her poems have inspired musicians to write music to her verses. Over 70 of her poems have been adapted as songs, including this one.
Spirobranchus giganteus are beautiful underwater creatures, only about 1.5 inches tall, which look like tiny decorated Christmas trees. They are almost too attractive to be described as what they are, tube-building polychaete worms. They are, however, often referred to as Christmas tree worms. Each worm has two brightly colored crowns that protrude from its tube-like body. The crowns look like miniature fir trees often in a wide range of brilliant colors. The worms live in tropical waters around the world. Here is a video of spirobranchus giganteus, Christmas tree worms, from Taiwan.
Paraquita Bay, Tortola — Before and After Hurricane Irma
When a hurricane approaches, there are only two choices for the crew of a yacht — either get out of the hurricane’s path, which may or may not be possible and can be very risky, or to hunker down in a “hurricane hole, an anchorage protected from the winds and seas until the hurricane passes. As long as a hurricane does not make a direct hit, “hurricane holes” usually provide refuge from the storms.
After being lost for 103 years, the wreck of Australia’s first submarine, HMAS AE1, has finally been located in almost 1,000 feet of water east of Rabaul, not far from Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea. The submarine, built in the Vickers yard at Barrow-in-Furness, England arrived in Sydney Australia in May of 1914, just a few months before the outbreak of World War I. In September, HMAS AE1 participated in an operation to capture German New Guinea and helped secure the surrender of Rabaul in East New Britain. The next day, however, the submarine and its crew disappeared without a trace. It was the first submarine to be lost in World I.
Thirteen searches have been undertaken to locate the lost submarine. The search vessel Fugro Equator located the wreck earlier this week. The exact location of the wreck has been withheld to attempt to prevent “unauthorized salvage attempts”. The submarine sank with the loss of 32, a mix of Australian and Royal Navy personnel. The wreck is considered to be a war grave. Continue reading →
Happy Winter Solstice to all! In the northern hemisphere, today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun is at its southernmost point of travel, over the imaginary circle on the globe we refer to as the Tropic of Capricorn. Today is also the day in which a person standing outside at noon in the northern hemisphere, outside of the tropics, would cast the longest shadow. If you are on the Tropic of Capricorn, however, at noon today, you would have no shadow at all.
Up to 80% of illicit drugs enter the US by maritime routes. (We recently posted about the ongoing battle against cocaine being imported into the US by narco submarines.) Here is another example, although it does not involve submersibles. It involves a sea turtle. Sailors from a US Coast Guard Cutter patrolling in the eastern Pacific recently rescued a sea turtle that had become entangled in lines holding together 26 bales of cocaine, weighing around 1,800 kilos. One source put the value of the cocaine at $53 million. The Coast Gaurd freed the turtle which had significant chafing on its neck and flippers. They also recovered the cocaine.
Congratulations to Francois Gabart who just set a new record for sailing around the world single-handed. The 34-year old Gabart sailed his 30 meter (98 foot) long MACIF maxi-trimaran around the globe alone in a remarkable 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds, breaking the previous record set by Thomas Coville last year by six days and 10 hours. Over the 27,860-mile journey, Gabart achieved an amazing average speed of 27.2 knots.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, has notionally been leading a sweeping crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment. This has not stopped him from making some rather impressive purchases himself. Two years ago, the prince purchased, through intermediaries, Chateau Louis XIV, which has been described as “the world’s most expensive home,” for $300 million. Even more expensive, however, was his purchase of the superyacht Serene in 2015.
While vacationing in the south of France, the prince was apparently quite taken with the yacht Serene. He was apparently so impressed that he bought it on the spot from its Russian oligarch owner, Yuri Shefler, for a reported $500 million. At 134 meters (440′) and 8231 tonnes, Serene ranks among the world’s largest yachts. She was built at Fincantieri in 2011, with 12 guests cabins and 30 crew cabins. The yacht also features a helicopter, two helideck platforms, one heli-hangar, a five-person submarine, a spa with sauna, a climbing wall, and a multiple deck water slide. In 2014, Bill Gates reported chartered Serene for $5 million for one week.
On November 13, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted a self-propelled submersible loaded with over 3,800 pounds of cocaine in international waters off the coast of Panama. All three suspects will face charges in the U.S. The crew of three was arrested and will face charges in the U.S.
While 3,800 pounds of cocaine may sound like a lot, it is small in comparison to a submersible nabbed in March 2016 in the eastern Pacific loaded with 12,800 pounds of cocaine. A submersible with an even larger shipment, 17,000 pounds, was intercepted in 2015 by the USCGC Stratton.
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.