Why are the Big Boats Burning? More Than Just Superyachts at Risk

yachtfireThe headlines in the UK Daily Mail and Bloomberg ask the same question — “Why Are All These Superyachts Catching on Fire?” This year has seen a string of fires on “superyachts.”  In early January, in the Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris, Turkey, a fire broke out on the 239′ yacht The One before spreading to the 170′ yacht Barbie.  Later in January, the 95′ yacht Queen Anna was destroyed by fire at a marina in Fethiye, Turkey.  In early March, a fire broke out at the Abu Dhabi Marina Yacht Club, destroying eight yachts, three of which were over 90′ long, including the 101′ yacht Asfar. Also in March the 77′ yacht Positive Energy went up in flames at Charlotte Amalie harbor on St Thomas, in the Virgin Islands.

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USS Zumwalt is Too Stealthy — Adding Radar Reflectors

zumwalt1The Navy’s newest destroyer, the $7.5 billion USS Zumwalt, is designed to be stealthy. The ship is intended to be 50 times harder to detect on radar than current destroyers thanks to its angular shape and other design features. This is turning out to be a problem. The ship is now undergoing sea trial and testing off the often foggy coast of Maine.  She is apparently very difficult for local boats to spot.

Lawrence Pye, a lobsterman, told The Associated Press that on his radar screen the 610-foot ship looked like a 40- to 50-foot fishing boat. He watched as the behemoth came within a half-mile while returning to shipbuilder Bath Iron Works. “It’s pretty mammoth when it’s that close to you,” Pye said.

So, what is to be done? Gizmodo is reporting that the Navy plans to install removable radar reflectors to avoid wreaking havoc on local mariners.

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Nauticus Buying Schooner Virginia with $1M State Grant

svirgina1In the Summer of 2014, the schooner Virginia ended her season early. The Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation which operated the schooner announced that she would be put up for sale.  Now, Nauticus, a maritime-themed science center and museum located on the downtown waterfront in Norfolk, Virginia, is planning to buy the schooner with funds from a $1 million state grant. $850,000 will go to purchase the schooner, with the remained used for maintenacne and upkeep.

The schooner Virginia is a reproduction of the last all sail pilot vessel built for the Virginia Pilot Association. She is 114′ on deck and sets 6,538 square feet of sail. The original ship sailed for the pilots from 1917-1926, training apprentice pilots in seamanship and navigation. The reproduction was built in Norfolk between 2002-2004.  The Nauticus Foundation plans to use the schooner as part of Sail Nauticus, a program that gives underprivileged children around Hampton Roads access to the water.

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Remembering Captain Robert M. Cusick

captbobcusickCaptain Robert M. Cusick was born today on April 10, 1923, in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the chief mate and one of only three survivors on the SS Marine Electric when she sank on February 12, 1983. His testimony in the investigation which followed helped lead a major reform of US maritime safety standards.

When the Marine Electic sank, Cusick was throw into the 39 degree F Atlantic waters. He found a swamped lifeboat and hauled himself aboard. As the seas broke over him he found himself singing “rise again, rise again” from Stan Rogers’ song, “The Mary Ellen Carter.” Here is Captain Cusick telling the story from the documentary, “One Warm Line.”  Captain Cusick died on Thursday September 12, 2013 at the age of 90.

Stan Rogers performs “The Mary Ellen Carter” in One Warm Line documentary

Thanks to Paul Bryant-Smith for contributing to this post. Continue reading

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A Sea Lion Pup Wanders into a Seafood Restuarant

MarinaSo, a sea lion pup wanders into a seafood restaurant and settles down in a booth ….. It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but last February, a malnourished 8-month old sea lion pup appeared in a booth in The Marine Room, an upscale waterfront restaurant in La Jolla, California. The pup had found its way in from the beach through a door left open by a cleaning crew. Chef Bernard Guillas said that the female pup climbed into a booth “almost like she wanted to have dinner.” And perhaps she did, as the pup was seriously malnourished and dehydrated, weighing only 20 pounds (9 kg), less than half the normal size for its age.

The sea lion pup, which has been given the nickname Marina, wasn’t served at the restaurant but was instead taken to SeaWorld’s Animal Rescue Center. Since then Marina has been nursed back to health. She gained 25 pounds and proved she could find food for herself. Ths week Marina and several other rescued sea lions were returned to the wild.

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The Kings Yacht – HMY Britannia

hmyBritanniaHMY Britannia was the personal sailing yacht of two British kings. Built in 1893 for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII, the Britannia would also be sailed by his son, King George V. Designed by the Scottish designer, George Lennox Watson, the yacht won 231 races and took another 129 flags over her long racing career. The Britannia followed King George V to his grave. In accordance with his dying wish, on 10 July 1936, the yacht was stripped of her spars and fittings and her hull towed out to St Catherines Deep near the Isle of Wight where she was scuttled. Britannia‘s burgee and racing flag were presented to the Royal Dorset Yacht Club, where they are still on display.

The Kings Yacht – Britannia’s Story

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NYC Hidden Harbor Tour — Forgotten Harbor, Found in Art

hiddenharborartA sure sign that Spring has finally arrived in New York harbor is the return of the Working Harbor Committee‘s Hidden Harbor Tours. The first, scheduled for May 1st, is Forgotten Harbor, Found in Art.  Here is the description of the two-hour tour:

Join the Working Harbor Committee on a unique Hidden Harbor® Tour of the history of NYC maritime art in our working waterfronts. The tour will take us to places in the harbor where famous scenes of historical art have been captured in public art you can visit in NYC!

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The Many Names for the the Many Masts of the Schooner Thomas W. Lawson

lawsonsailThe seven-masted iron schooner Thomas W. Lawson, delivered in 1902, is remembered as the largest schooner ever built and the largest pure sailing vessel, in terms of tonnage, to ever sail.  Mostly, however, she is remembered for her rig. She was the only seven-masted schooner in commercial service.  She carried primarily coal and oil in her short career. She was lost off the island of Annet, in the Isles of Scilly, in a storm on December 14, 1907, killing all but two of her crew of eighteen and a harbor pilot. Her cargo of 58,000 barrels of light paraffin oil caused one of the first large marine oil spills.

Each of the masts, as well as each of the 27 sails, had to have names. But how does one name seven masts? Looking into it, I found that according to Lars Bruzelius’ The Maritime History Virtual Archives, at least, eleven different naming schemes were used to keep track of the masts.  That is right, eleven different sets of names for the seven masts.
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Harnesses, Tethers and Sailors Overboard — No Easy Answers

Photo: Bob Aylott

Photo: Bob Aylott

On April 1, Sarah Young was swept from the cockpit of the yacht IchorCoal sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in the Clipper Round the Word Race. By the time the crew reached her, she had died. She was wearing a life-jacket with an AIS locator device but she had not been tethered to the boat. Many have commented that being tethered might have saved her life.

On the other hand, going overboard without being clipped in is not necessarily a death sentence. In the previous Clipper Race in 2014, Andrew Taylor, 46, from London, a crew member on Derry–Londonderry–Doire yacht fell overboard in the Pacific, untethered, and was rescued safely after ninety minutes in the water.

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Public Notice: Ferryboat Binghamton Removal for Preservation and Restoration

binghamton starboardsidecrop

See additional photographs below.

We have been asked to post this public notice seeking interested parties to remove and restore the Ferryboat Binghamton, now aground, flooded and seriously damaged in the Hudson River off Edgewater, NJ.  Interested parties should email FerryboatBinghamton@gmail.com for more information.

PUBLIC NOTICE :

FERRYBOAT BINGHAMTON REMOVAL FOR PRESERVATION AND RESTORATION
BOROUGH OF EDGEWATER, NEW JERSEY

The NOEL LOVE GROSS, TRUSTEE OF TRUST B UNDER ARTICLE IIIB OF THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF NELSON G. GROSS seeking interested qualified parties to enter into an agreement to remove the ferryboat Binghamton from its current site, in Edgewater New Jersey, for the purpose of preservation and restoration.

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US Tests Sea Hunter, Anti-Submarine Drone Ship Technology

seahunter

Sea Hunter Being Made Ready for Sea Trials Photo: DARPA

The US military is testing the technology for Sea Hunter, the first ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV), a 132 feet long autonomous drone ship designed to track enemy submarines. The ship is designed to be unmanned and operate autonomously and/or by remote control. Each ACTUV is expected to cost around $20 million dollars.   The project was initiated by the Pentagon research group, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  The Navy could move to the next phase of development by 2018. If the project is successful it could have a major impact on the role of drones in both maritime security and ship operations.

The US Navy is facing the challenge of countering the potential threat from a new generation of diesel-electric submarines. The new submarines are more silent and stealthy than nuclear submarines and far cheaper to build and operate. The concern is that China, Iran or some other nation might be able to send a fleet of these subs toward the United States and overwhelm US anti-submarine tracking capabilities. The idea is to counter this threat by using a fleet of unmanned drone ships to detect and continuously track diesel-electric submarines.

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Congress Authorizes Privateers April 3, 1776

Letter of Marque & Reprisal, Click to see more

Letter of Marque, Click to see more

Two hundred and forty years ago today, the Continental Congress authorized the commissioning of privateers to attack British ships. It was still three months before the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.  The legislation was in many respects simply catching up with what was already going on in New England and elsewhere along the coast. A year earlier, in the spring of 1775, the colony of Massachusetts had begun commissioning privateers. Likewise, General Washington began chartering schooners to act as commerce raiders to help supply his army surrounding Boston.

Over the course of the war, about 1,700 Letters of Marque and Reprisal, which is to say, privateering commissions, were granted to nearly 800 privateering vessels, which captured or destroyed about 600 British ships. By comparison, the Continental Navy never numbered more than 70 vessels and captured fewer than 200 British ships.

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Second Fatality on IchorCoal in Clipper Round the World Race

sarahclipperrtw

Sarah Young

Terrible news. A second sailor has died in the Clipper Round the World Race. On 1127 UTC on Friday, Sarah Young, 40, was swept over the side of the IchorCoal boat (CV21) in the Pacific Ocean by a series of waves, after reefing the mainsail. She was not tethered to the boat and was carried off in 35 – 40 knot winds. Her body was recovered but she never regained consciousness. The cause of death is yet to be determined but is suspected to be drowning or exposure.  Her death took place at approximately 39 N 160 E, approaching the International Date Line, on the 12th day of the ninth race between Qingdao, China, and Seattle, USA, with over 3,242 miles left to reach its destination.

Last September, four days after the start of the Clipper Round the World Race, Andrew Ashman, 49, a paramedic, suffered a head injury and died while reefing the mainsail, also on the racing yacht IchorCoal (CV21).  In the last twenty years of the Clipper Round the World Race, these have been the first fatalities. Thanks to Alaric Bond for contributing to this post.

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The Ten Stack Luxury Superliner!

tenstack

There is a lot going on in the cruise world these days. There is all the talk about returning the SS United States to service, although probably without a steam plant or much of the original ship coming along for the ride. Then there is the allegedly ongoing project to build a replica of the RMS Titanic, which will be exactly like the original except for more beam, no steam, and no shear, as well as more lifeboats, and, at least, one fewer iceberg. Here, however, is a plan for a ship that would top them all — a ten stack luxury superliner out of Germany.

At this point, it is tempting to start riffing on the German shipowner, Drumpf Line and their “yuge” ship (although the stacks, like ten fingers, do look on the short and stubby side.)  The photo above is, in fact, an April Fools photo from Germany in 1938, reprinted by Life magazine. The copy below the photo reads:

Its launching was announced for April 1. The photographer christened the ship President Roosevelt, declared that among its many superlative features was an auto track on which car-crazy Americans could race just to keep their hands in.”

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Throwback Thursday: New York Harbor Tugs — Then & Now

mcaltugs1When I arrived in New York back in the mid-70s, a vast fleet of tugs swarmed across the harbor like so many water beetles.  Most kept busy assisting ships in docking. Now there are fewer but larger ships, many with bow thrusters, so fewer tugs are needed to get them to their berths.

Here are two videos about New York harbor tugs, separated in time by more than a half-century. The first “Workhorses of the Harbor!” is about Dalzell Towing in 1954. The second, from the PBS program “New York On the Clock” — “Chris Baker, Tugboat Captain” follows a McAllister tug captain in assisting ships to their berths in 2009.  In more than one respect, the two videos are related. Dalzell Towing, which specialized in ship docking, was purchased by McAllister Towing in 1965.


Dalzell Towing — New York harbor tugs 1954

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America’s Cup Racing Returns to New York, May 7 – 8th

acjimmystatueIn early May, America’s Cup racing will return to New York City for the first time since 1920. The Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series regatta, one of a series of warm-up races sailed in AC 45s, 45′ foiling catamarans,  prior to the main event, the 35th sailing of the America’s Cup Races, will take place in Bermuda in 2017.  From the AC websiteOn both Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8, the epicenter of the race festivities will be Battery Park City and the Brookfield Place Waterfront Plaza. All races will finish just off the plaza, which will be home to one central event village. Thousands of spectators are expected to watch the race, either on land along the pier or from hundreds of spectator boats on the water near the race course. 

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German WWI Destroyers V44 & V82 Lost and Now Found in Portsmouth Harbor

germandestroyers2British archeologists have located the wrecks of two German destroyers, V44  and V82, from World War I in an unlikely location — on the tidal mudflats near Whale Island in the eastern part of Portsmouth Harbour, opposite the Brittany Ferries Terminal. This is less of a discovery than a rediscovery. The destroyers had been abandoned and then forgotten for almost 80 years.

As reported by the Independent: In the early 1920s, thieves looted the two destroyers for loose scrap metal – and later in the same decade, both ships were sold for scrap. However, only parts of the vessels were removed by the scrap merchants. The substantial remnants – including much of the ships’ hulls – were then abandoned and rapidly forgotten. Eight decades then passed before they were rediscovered by the archeologists.

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Xenoturbella, the Mighty Purple Sock of the Sea

For the last sixty years or so, scientists have been puzzled how to classify the xenoturbella, a mysterious sea creature which resembles a purple sock. The xenoturbella has no brains, guts or even eyes. It only has a gaping mouth that allows it to take in food and release waste. Scientists have now identified the species, rather farther down on the “tree of life” than they had expected.


This Strange Sea Creature Looks Like A ‘Purple Sock

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Methane Bubbles — Latest Bermuda Triangle Silliness Sweeps the Internet

bt1The Bermuda Triangle nonsense continues, as does the media’s fondness for dramatic headlines, whether or not there are any facts to support them.  The most recent silliness is about late ice age methane explosions. The UK’s Daily Mail headline reads: “Has the secret of the Bermuda Triangle finally been discovered? Scientists find giant craters underwater which may explain how ships disappear without trace.”  The International Business Times headline reads:  Bermuda Triangle mystery: Missing ships victim of enormous methane blowouts on ocean floor?  Likewise, the Guardian leads with: “Do giant gas bubbles explain the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle?” There are literally dozens of other articles and posts that are variations on the same theme.

What is this all about? It seems that scientists have found underwater craters in the Barent Sea off Norway. The craters were apparently caused by methane explosions on the ocean floor that occurred after the last ice age, or more than 10,000 years ago.

What does this have to do with the so-called, Bermuda Triangle? Virtually nothing, as it turns out. Continue reading

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Lobsterman by E.B. White

When I think of E.B. White I think of the classic children’s books, Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web, and The Trumpet of the Swan, among others. He was also the co-author of the English language style guide The Elements of Style.

E.B. White was also a sailor. His adopted home was in Brooklin, Maine, where he lived for almost 50 years. His son, Joel White, was a naval architect and boat builder, who owned Brooklin Boat Yard.  Here is a video, Lobsterman, written and narrated by E.B. White from the PBS show Omnibus.

Lobsterman by E.B. White from Two Fish on Vimeo.

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