Team Vesta Wind Runs Aground on Mauritius Reef in Volvo Ocean Race

Team-Vestas-WindOn Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Team Vesta Wind boat ran aground Saturday on a reef in the Cargados Carajos archipelago about 430 km to the northeast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. There are no reported injuries and the nine members of the crew are reported to have abandoned the stricken sail boat on Sunday morning.  They were rescued by local coast guard shortly after dawn.  Fellow Volvo racer,  U.S.- based Team Alvimedica, which had been standing by to render assistance as necessary, was released to continue racing toward Abu Dhabi.

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Humpback Whales Dramatic Return to New York Waters

Humpback spyhopping, Empire State Building in background.   Photo:Artie Raslich

Humpback spyhopping, Empire State Building in background. Photo:Artie Raslich

In 2009, a humpback whale sighting in New York Bay was a surprise. In 2011, there were 5 whales sighted over the course of the season. By 2012, there were 25 whales sighted, then 43 whales in 2013, and in 2014, the number reached 100.   Gotham Whale, a volunteer non-profit founded by naturalist, Paul Sieswerda, has been tracking the influx of whales in New York water, in partnership with American Princess Cruises, which runs seasonal whale-watching three times a week.

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Antoine Vanner’s New Novel, Britannia’s Shark Out Dec. 5th, Available for Pre-Order

britsharkLast month we posted about the third book in Antoine Vanner’s Dawlish chronicles, published by Old Salt Press. The new novel titled Britannia’s Shark is due out on December 5th, and is available for pre-order in the US and the UK.

Joan Druett recently interviewed Antoine Vanner about his new book:

Britannia’s Shark, interview with the author

J.D.: Nicholas Dawlish is a fascinating character in the classical mode, a hero with a fatal flaw. Who or what was your inspiration for such a complex person?

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Thanksgiving, Whaling Ships, Sarah Josepha Hale, Mary’s Lamb & a Liberty Ship

"The Gam," 1926 oil on canvas by Clifford W. Ashley.

“The Gam,” 1926 oil on canvas by Clifford W. Ashley.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Thanksgiving is one of the central creation myths of the founding of the United States. The story is based on an account of a one time feast of thanksgiving in the Plymouth colony of Massachusetts in 1621 during a period of atypically good relations with local tribes. Thanksgiving only became a national holiday in 1863.  Before the celebration spread across the country, Thanksgiving was most popular in New England. On 19th century American whale ships, which sailed from New England ports, they celebrated only the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Of the three holidays, Thanksgiving may have been the most popular. On Norfolk Island in the Pacific, they also celebrate Thanksgiving, the holiday brought to the island by visiting American whaling ships.

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The Board of Longitude Project — Digitizing 18th Century Science and Technology

The Board of Longitude Project, a partnership between Cambridge University Library and the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich in the UK, has digitized the complete papers of the Board of Longitude from its founding in 1714 until its abolition in 1828.  Embedded below is a playlist of five very well done videos about the project.

The Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea, popularly known as the Board of Longitude, was established following the Scilly naval disaster of 1707 which resulted in the loss of four Royal Navy warships and more than 1,400 sailors. The disaster was blamed on the inability to accurately determine longitude.

Board of Longitude

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Rare ‘Black Seadevil’ Anglerfish Caught on Video in Monterey Bay

The video below is footage of a ‘black seadevil’ anglerfish.  The fish in the video is only about 9 cm (3.5 inches) long, but is still fairly terrifying regardless. Other varieties of angler fish can grow to over 3 feet. Living in the deep sea, they are called angler fish because of a long dorsal spine with a luminous bulb which they use like a fishing pole to attract their prey.

The anglerfish: The original approach to deep-sea fishing

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Update: US Navy Deploys Laser Weapon on USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf

Last February, we posted that the US Navy planned to deploy its first laser weapon on one of its oldest ships. The new laser weapon has now been deployed on the 43 year old USS Ponce, an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, for field testing in the Persian Gulf. The prototype 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System (LAWS) has been aboard since late August, according to officials.  The laser is designed to be able to destroy planes, drones and small boats at a range of ten miles.

U.S. Navy Deploys Its First Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf

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Older Sailors and the Sea — Robin Knox-Johnston, Stanley Paris & Jeanne Socrates

Sir Robin Knox Johnston

Sir Robin Knox Johnston

An update on previous posts involving sailors of a certain age.  Sir Robin Knox Johnston, 75, sailing Grey Power, placed third in the highly competitive Class 40 fleet in the Route Du Rhum race between St. Malo in Brittany to Guadeloupe.  In 1968, he was the first sailor to circumnavigate the world non-stop in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Sir Robin was also the the second winner of the Jules Verne Trophy (together with Sir Peter Blake) and in 2006, became the oldest yachtsman to complete a round the world solo voyage in the VELUX 5 Oceans Race at the age of 67.  He is also the founder and chairman of the Clipper Round the World Race.

Stanley Paris

Stanley Paris

In December and January last year we posted about the attempted solo-circumnavigation by Dr. Stanley Paris, then 76, on the Kiwi Spirit.  After a rig failure, Paris was forced to abandon the attempt. Now Captain Paris, 77, is back at sea after restarting his voyage, south of Bermuda in the mid-Atlantic. As reported by Scuttlebutt Sailing News:

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America’s Cup to be Sailed in Bermuda

Unless I am mistaken, when the Oracle Team US AC 72 sailed to victory in 2013, there was only one American citizen in the crew. The members of Emirates Team New Zealand, which needed the sponsorship of Emirates Airlines to fund the costly venture, were all sailors from New Zealand, except for two Aussies, who both had family ties in New Zealand.  So, I guess it wasn’t all that much of a surprise that the next America’s Cup in 2017 will not even be sailed in America. For the first time in history, an American defender has chosen a foreign port to race in, specifically, Bermuda. So, the crew sailing the “American” boats may not be actually American and now, neither will be port where the races are held. The Oracle Team will still be funded by Larry Ellison’s greenbacks, so at least the cash behind the defense of the America’s Cup is still largely American.

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120 Year Old Schooner Ernestina to be Restored at Boothbay

Great news!  The Massachusetts of Department of Conservation and Recreation has signed a contract with Boothbay Harbor Shipyard for $6,048,025 for the restoration of the schooner Ernestina, ex-Effie M. Morrissey.   As we posted in July, private donors, Bob Hildreth and Gerry Lenfest, contributed $2.8 million, more than matching the State of Massachusetts’ $2.5 million contribution to the project.  The Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey Association has also raised a considerable sum toward the refurbishment of the schooner. The restoration is expected to start this winter and take around two years. The work will allow the 120-year-old schooner, a National Historic Landmark and Massachusetts’ official tall ship, to to sail for the first time since 2004.

As reported by the Bangor Daily News: Launched on Feb. 1, 1894, the vessel, originally called the Effie M. Morrissey and owned by Capt. William E. Morrissey and the John F. Wonson Co. of Gloucester, was named after Morrissey’s daughter.

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TS Royalist Decomissioned, Smooth Sailing to the New Royalist

royalistThe TS Royalist has sailed into Portsmouth for the final time. The 43 year old sail training ship owned by the UK Marine Society & Sea Cadets is being decommissioned. Since her delivery in 1971, TS Royalist has taken 30,000 cadets to sea. Hundreds of sea cadets gathered at Petrol Pier in Gosport to say farewell to the old ship.

A new training ship, a 32-metre (105ft) brig also named Royalist, is under construction at the Spanish shipyard Astilleros Gondan S.A. and is expected to be delivered in March. The new ship is reported to offer greater use of space, with better all-round sailing ability and performance. Faster and easier to handle, the new Royalist is also expected to be more economical to run. Following the example of her namesake, the new Royalist is expected to be taking cadets to sea for the next 40 years. So, farewell to the Royalist and may the new Royalist have smooth sailing for decades to come.

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The Wreck of the Antares on Australia’s Shipwreck Coast 1914

Here is a short video by Sean and James McAnulty, narrated by Rex Mathieson, telling of his family history with the wreck of the full rigged sailing ship Antares, which came ashore in 1914 on Victoria, Australia’s “Shipwreck Coast.”

The story of the Antares from sean on Vimeo.

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The Grand Banks Tsunami — 85 Years Ago Today

19291118_1929_75anncovThe word tsunami usually brings to mind seismic waves in the Pacific or the Indian Oceans. Eighty five years ago today, an major earthquake, in the Atlantic, approximately 250 km south of Newfoundland along the southern edge of the Grand Banks, caused a tsunami that slammed into the Newfoundland coast.

On November 18, 1929, at 5:02 PM local time, the Grand Banks was rocked by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.  The earthquake triggered a large underwater landslide, which severed 12 submarine transatlantic cables.  The landslide also generated a tsunami which raced towards Newfoundland at speeds of up to 140 km/hr, before slowing to about 40 km/hr in shallower water. Three waves would crash into Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula, flooding dozens of communities and washing entire homes out to sea. Twenty eight residents would die in tsunami’s path.

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Norovirus Outbreak on the Crown Princess

450px-Crown_PrincessA month long Pacific cruise on the Princess Cruise Line Crown Princess has been disrupted by a norovirus outbreak.  158 of 3,009 passengers were sickened by highly contagious stomach virus, while 14 of 1,160 crew members were affected.  The ship will return to the port of San Pedro Sunday. It set off from Papeete, Tahiti to Los Angeles on Oct. 18.

The outbreak on the Crown Princess pales compared to the 700 person outbreak on RCCL’s Explorer of the Seas last January in which more than 20% of the passengers were stricken.

Thanks to Irwin Bryan for passing the news along.

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Here Comes Lafayette’s Hermione — Voyage 2015

hermoinebannerTwenty years ago, a small group of enthusiasts conceived a plan to build a replica of the French frigate, l’Hermione, the ship which carried the Marquis de Lafayette, to America in 1780 with the news of French support for the American revolution. The new l’Hermoine has now successfully completed two months of sea trials and in April 2015 will sail across the Atlantic and visit 12 ports on the US East Coast and Canada.

On Saturday, I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Miles Young, President of Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH-LA) and Chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather.  He described the planned voyage, as well as the education & outreach programs being developed to support the arrival of the ship. The programs are intended to highlight the too often overlooked French contribution to the American Revolution.

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Australian Rides Dead Humpback Whale

Let’s hope this sort of stupidity doesn’t become popular. Recently, 26-year old Australian, Harrison Williams, thought that it would be a good idea to jump onto the back of a dead and decomposing humpback whale, drifting in the ocean off Australia’s west coast, as tiger and great white sharks were feeding on the carcass. Reportedly Williams’ mom has opined that her son is an idiot. It is hard to disagree with mom.

Australian man rides dead whale

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Restoring the Schooner Nathaniel Bowditch

Great news about the schooner Nathaniel Bowditch. In February, we posted about the foreclosure and auction of the 82 foot long schooner. There were no bids at the auction in Camden, ME,  which ended after 27 seconds. The future of the 1922 built wooden schooner, which for years had carried passengers around Penobscott Bay as part of the Maine Windjammer Association, was very much in doubt.

In August, Noah and Jane Barnes acquired Nathaniel Bowditch in a transaction that the Penobscott Bay Pilot describes as with “an unnamed owner and for an undisclosed price.” The Barnes’s have been owners and operators of the schooner Stephen Taber out of Rockland since Noah’s parents retired in 2003.  The Barnes are currently restoring the Nathaniel Bowditch at the Lyman Morse Boatbuilders on the Thomaston waterfront and hope to have the schooner back sailing by mid-summer 2015. There is a lot of work to be done however. As described by the Penobscott Bay Pilot:

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The World’s Largest Wo-Wos — Oasis of the Seas & Ocean Shearer

wowosBack in the 70s, the advent of oceangoing ships with wheeled cargo introduced the shipping community to the Ro-Ro (roll-on/roll-off.)  Since then acronyms with an “o” sound have gained in popularity.  General cargo and container ships became Lo-Los (lift-on/lift-off). Combination bulk carriers became OBOs  (ore-bulk-oilers) or just OOs (ore/oilers) and so on.  Today we will look at the world’s largest Wo-Wos, which is to say Walk-on/ Walk-off ships, in which the paying cargo is ambulatory. The ships are the cruise ship Oasis of the Seas and the livestock carrier, Ocean Shearer.

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Horizon Line Sold — the End of an Era

Horizon_LinesYesterday, Horizon Line, a US Flag Jones Act container ship operator, announced that it was ending operations. It had sold its Alaskan service to Matson, its Hawaiian operations to Pasha Group, and would be shutting down its operations to Puerto Rico. This was not a great surprise as the company has been under financial strain for some time. Its ships average 37 years old. The firm has considerable debt, and operating revenues never quite recovered from the recession.

In a larger sense, Horizon Line’s demise marks the end of an era. Continue reading

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On Armistice Day, Remembering the German High Seas Fleet Mutiny of 1918

Soldiers' council of the Prinzregent Luitpold.

Soldiers’ council of the Prinzregent Luitpold.

In the US, today is Veteran’s Day, when we honor those who have served in the military.  It coincides with Armistice Day, the anniversary of the signing of the armistice which ended World War I, on the 11th hour of the 11th day, of the 11th month of 1918, when the guns finally fell silent after four years of bloody war. Today is a good time to recall the mutiny of the German High Seas Fleet, which played a significant role in finally ending the war.  The mutinies at Wilhelmshaven on October 29th and at Kiel on November 3, triggered the German revolution and swept aside the monarchy within a few days. The naval mutinies led directly to the end of the German Empire and to the establishment of the Weimar Republic.

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