Maine Windjammer Sailing — Come Sail with Us

Having just gotten back from warmer climes, I am still adjusting to the temperatures around 20 degrees F, with wind chills in the teens here on the banks of the Hudson River.  I have come across a new video from the Maine Windjammer Association.  They introduce the video as follows: “Best way to take the chill off a cold winter’s day? Check out our brand new 1:30-minute video that’s filled with warmth and sunshine! Enjoy!”   Personally, a cup of hot coffee and a thick wool sweater helps me fight the chill. Nevertheless, it is a fine video of fine sailing vessels.

Maine Windjammer Association: Come Sail With Us

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Harwich Mayflower Making Progress

_79924562_sails-diagramAs we posted in December, the Mayflower II, a replica of the ship which brought the Pilgrims across the Atlantic in 1620, is now undergoing a multi-year restoration in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. The Mayflower II was built at the Upham Shipyard in Brixham, UK and delivered in 1957.

A new replica of the Mayflower is now under construction in Harwich, Essex, England. They have are close to completing the farming of the keel. The charity, Harwich Mayflower Project, aims to raise £4m to complete the reconstruction by 2020, the 400th anniversary of the famous voyage. The charity, which has already helped train 300 young people in skills such as carpentry, hopes its training centre will act as a “legacy” of the ship build.

Harwich Mayflower Project: Build completes first stage

Posted in Current, History, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Delaware’s Tall Ship Kalmar Nyckel Seeks Volunteer Sailing Crew

The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation is seeking recruits to train as volunteer crew for the replica ship Kalmar Nyckel.  The original ship of that name served as Peter Minuit’s flagship for the 1638 expedition that founded the colony of New Sweden, establishing the first permanent European settlement in the Delaware Valley, Fort Christina, in present-day Wilmington, Delaware.

From the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation website:

Continue reading

Posted in Lore of the Sea | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Update: Sinking of the Cemfjord — Should the Ship Have Been Allowed to Sail?

Photo: British Royal National Lifeboat

Photo: British Royal National Lifeboat

As we posted on Sunday, the passengers on the NorthLink ferry Hrossey, crossing Pentland Firth, off Scotland, saw a grim sight out the ferry windows — the bow of the cement carrier Cemfjord floating vertically in the water. The ship was loaded with 2,000 tonnes of cement and had sailed from Aalborg in Denmark bound for Runcorn in Cheshire. Eight crew, seven Poles and one Filipino, are missing and are presumed to have drowned when the ship sank.

There are now serious questions as to whether the ship should ever have been allowed to sail.  The Cemford sailed with several serious mechanical deficiencies.  There was a serious problem with her bilge pumps. Though managed by the German company, Brise of Hamburg, the ship was registered is Cyprus.  The Cypriot authorities required the ship to carry two portable pumps on board the ship, presumably to supplement the ship’s bilge pumps, and limited the ship’s operation to 150 miles from the coast. The ship also had a faulty lifeboat davit, so an additional life raft was required to be carried.  One life raft was spotted after the ship sank, but no one was aboard.

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Update: Höegh Osaka Grounded Deliberately, Salvage Planning Underway

_80047418_80047417The answer to the question as to whether the Höegh Osaka ran aground due to steering failure or pilot error, is neither. The car carrier was deliberately grounded on Bramble Bank when the ship developed an unexplained list after leaving Southhampton.  Ingar Skiaker, chief executive of Hoegh Autoliners, said, “The captain and master and the pilot on board decided jointly to put the vessel on the sandbank to avoid any more serious problems. I think they executed their duties based on their best judgement and we’re not second-guessing their actions right now.”

It is unclear how the salvage of the ship will proceed.  BBC quoted marine salvage expert, Capt John Noble, who said: “At the moment the door is wide open on how they will do it.  The tidal option is no longer possible as it is clear she is hard and fast where she is. It won’t be as complex as the Costa Concordia and they used a leverage system there, which has been used in a number of cases. It can’t be done using ballasts due to the angle but I am sure they are exploring the dredging option. This could be done as long as the seabed stays where it is, but Bramble Bank may wash back and forth. That could be a high risk option. The priority is making sure the fuel is safe and may well be removed, but the other issue is the hull giving way as she is in a position she is not designed for.”

The ship is reported to be carrying 1,400 cars and 70 to 80 pieces of construction equipment, including 1,200 Jaguar Land Rovers and 65 Mini cars.

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Eight Crew of Cement Carrier Cemfjord Feared Lost

cementcarrierbowThe passengers on the NorthLink ferry Hrossey, crossing Pentland Firth, off Scotland, saw a grim sight out the ferry windows — the bow of the cement carrier Cemfjord floating vertically in the water. No distress call was received from the ship, which had been carrying 2,000 tonnes of cement and had been sailing from Aalborg in Denmark to Runcorn in Cheshire. Searches were conducted using lifeboats and helicopters but there was no sign of the crew of eight aboard the ship. The coast guard has said that chances of finding survivors is “very slim“.

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Car Carrier Hoegh Osaka Aground on Bramble Bank in the Solent

Hoegh_Osaka_Bramble_BankThe car carrier MV Hoegh Osaka ran aground on Bramble Bank in the Solent around 21:30 GMT on Saturday.  The crew of 28 was rescued and there are currently no reports of pollution. The ship was bound for Germany when she went aground.  Hoegh Osaka is 590′ (180m) long and can carry 2,520 cars or 450 trucks.  The ship has rolled to approximately 45 degrees. Were this another time, it might appear that the ship had been grounded for carreening.  Salvage operations are being planned. Video after the page jump.

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Captain John W. Doswell, the Final Voyage

john-on-ship-headpicOn Friday, New York lost an essential part of its waterfront when Captain John W. Doswell died after a long illness. John was a pioneer in multimedia presentations. He was a writer, designer, producer and programmer. He was also a Navy veteran who served in Vietnam as well as an experienced sailor. He was a loving father and husband. He will probably be best remembered, however, for his impact on the waterfront community.

He was the Founding Chair of Friends of Hudson River Park and was involved with the passage of the Hudson River Park Act, which led to the formation of the Hudson River Park Trust, a city/state agency charged with building the park. He served on the board of the North River Historic Ship Society and Save Our Ships NY, and was a founding board member of the Governors Island Alliance. He also was the Executive Director of the Working Harbor Committee which sponsors the Hidden Harbor Tours, educating people about the working harbor of NY/NJ.  At John’s wedding to his life-partner, Jean Preece, in July, Huntley Gill, architectural preservation specialist said of the two,John and Jean are the most important people in New York in terms of preserving the waterfront.  They are the people who get things done…

John’s wife, Jean made the following statement:


A star has fallen from the sky – a very bright star. John W. Doswell passed away peacefully Friday evening, January 2nd, surrounded by his family. He graced us with his knowledge, wisdom, leadership, and calm loving temperament. The ships of the harbor will sail on because of his influence, but we are immeasurably saddened by this great loss.

To every sailor comes time to drop anchor.
Haul in the sails, and make the lines fast.
You deep-water dreamer, your journey is over
You’re safe in the harbor at last.
You’re safe in the harbor at last.

Safe in the Harbor, Eric Bogle

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea | Tagged | 8 Comments

Team Vestas Wind Returning to the Volvo Ocean Race

Team Vestas Wind  being salvaged

Team Vestas Wind being salvaged

While they have no chance of winning, Team Vestas Wind will be returning to the Volvo Ocean Race. The team, sailing a Volvo Ocean 65, suffered a major grounding on the Cargados Carajos archipelago 430 km to the northeast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean on November 29th.  While there were no casualties, the boat lost both rudders and damaged the hull when the boat ran aground on a shoal at a speed of roughly 19 knots.  Just before Christmas the boat was salvaged and loaded aboard a geared Maersk Line container ship.

Recently, Chris Nicholson, the team skipper, announced that the $6 million boat is in better-than-expected condition and that the team plans to rebuild it at an Italian shipyard and reenter the race as it approaches the homestretch in Lisbon sometime in late May.  “I feel a little daunted by what’s in front of us, but at the same time, I welcome our chance to get back in the race,” Nicholson said from Abu Dhabi, where the remaining six teams hit the starting line bound for Sanya, China, on Jan 3.

Team Vestas Wind Seeks Return to the Volvo Ocean Race

Posted in Lore of the Sea | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Italy Rescues Abandoned Migrant Ship — Second in Three Days

Ezadeen with 450 migrants on board, off the southern coast of Italy, Photo: Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Ezadeen with 450 migrants on board, off the southern coast of Italy, Photo: Credit Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Italian Coast Guard has taken control of Ezadeen, a 240′ long, 50 year old cattle carrier registered in Sierra Leone, with 450 migrants aboard off the southern coast of Italy, near Crotone. The crew of the ship abandoned it and its passengers. The ship had been put on a collision course with the Italian coast but had run out of fuel and was left drifting. Some reports say that the migrants aboard the ship had also run out of food and water.  In high winds and rough seas, the Italian Coast Guard dropped rescue personnel on board the ship by helicopter. The first vessel to reach the Ezadeen was an Icelandic Coast Guard patrol boat participating in joint exercises.  After several hours of effort in high seas, the Icelandic vessel was able to secure a tow line to the Ezadeen, and begin to tow the ship toward the Italian port of Corigliano Calabro.

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Watching the Ball Drop — the Nautical Origins of a New Year’s Tradition

Time ball at US Naval Observatory, Washington D.C.

Time ball at US Naval Observatory, Washington D.C.

Last night in New York City, up to one million people watched a jeweled ball drop in Time Square at exactly midnight to mark the arrival of the New Year. Over a billion people are believed to have watched the festivities on television or on-line. The six ton Waterford crystal ball covered in 32,276 LED lights is not actually “dropped” but lowered from a flag pole on the roof of One Times Square.  In New York City, the tradition dates back to 1908.  But where did the tradition of dropping a ball to mark the time originate?  The practice dates back to 1829 and was related to helping sailors calculate their position at sea.

When out of sight of land, a navigator can determine latitude, his position north or south on the globe,  by measuring the altitude of the sun using only a sextant and a nautical almanac.  To determine longitude, his position east or west, however, a navigator must compare the time of the locally observed noon with the time on his chronometer, usually set to the time in Greenwich. UK.  The first chronometers rugged enough for use at sea were developed by John Harrison and others in the mid to late 18th century. By the 19th century, marine chronometers were adopted on naval ships and many merchant vessels.

Continue reading

Posted in Current, History, Lore of the Sea | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Blue Sky M — Abandoned Migrant Ship on Autopilot

blueskymStraight from rescue operations on the ro/ro ferry Norman Atlantic, the Italian navy and coast guard rushed to intercept the Blue Sky M, a 3,500 DWT Moldavian freighter, which was reported to be carrying 700–1,000 migrants.  A distress call had been received from someone aboard the ship. There were unconfirmed reports of armed men aboard the ship. When the Italian coast guard arrived, they found that the crew had abandoned Blue Sky M but had left it on autopilot steering straight for the coast neared Santa Maria di Leuca, on the southernmost tip of Italy. The coast guard averted a potential disaster by taking control of the ship, which was later taken to the Italian port of Gallipoli. The migrants are believed to to be mostly Syrian. There are unconfirmed reports of four to five dead aboard the ship.

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Update: Ferry Norman Atlantic, Death Toll Rises, Manifest Confusion

normanafireThe death toll among passengers and crew from the fire on the Norman Atlantic has risen to ten.  One man died when attempting to leave the ship and an additional nine bodies were found aboard.  The total death related to the fire rose to twelve, when two Albanian sailors died on a tug boat attempting to tow the stricken ship to port when a tow line snapped.

The authorities have been unable to reconcile the number of passengers with the ship’s manifest.  Given the discrepancy, the Italian transport minister Maurizio Lupi said “We cannot say how many people may be missing.”  The manifest lists 475 people aboard the ship while a total of 427 people were rescued, raising the possibility that 48 could still be missing. On the other hand, the figure on the manifest may represent reservations made to travel on the ferry rather than the number of passengers who boarded.

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A Close Encounter With a Walrus

A fascinating look at the cold and challenging job of photographing a walrus underwater by photographer Paul Nicklen.

A Close Encounter With a Walrus

Posted in Lore of the Sea | Leave a comment

Update: Norman Atlantic Fire, 478 Rescued, At Least 7 Dead

As of Monday evening, local time, 478 passengers and crew have been rescued from the burning ro/ro ferry Norman Atlantic, which caught fire Sunday morning around 6 AM in the Adriatic Sea.  At least 7 people have died.  Many of the passengers and crew were evacuated by helicopter.  The rescue was hampered by torrential rain and strong winds reaching 100 kilometers per hour.  As reported by CNN: It’s not known how the fire started, but it’s believed to have originated in the parking bay. A truck driver told the Greek news media that trucks filled with oil were “packed like sardines,” their cargo scraping the ceiling, which could have set off sparks in rough seas to start a fire, he surmised. Greek authorities said the vessel’s fire doors appeared to have failed, which allowed the flames to spread quickly.

Huge plumes of black smoke billow from burning Norman Atlantic ferry

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Italian Ro/Ro Ferry Norman Atlantic On Fire in High Winds & Seas in Adriatic

A fire broke out early Sunday on the Italian ro/ro ferry, Norman Atlantic, on route between the Greek port of Patras to Ancona, Italy with 478 passengers and crew aboard. The fire is believed to have broken out on the ro/ro deck. The ship is currently drifting west of the island of Corfu in the Adriatic Sea. Rescue efforts are underway but are being hampered by gale force winds, high seas and bitterly cold conditions. 150 people are reported to have escaped the burning ship.  The rest of the passengers and crew have sought refuge on the vessel’s bridge deck. There are no reported casualties. Attempts to airlift passengers off the burning ferry have begun but are being made difficult by high winds. Salvage tugs have been dispatcher from both Italy and Greece.

The Norman Atlantic is a 2009 built, Italian registry, 26,900-tonne, roll-on roll-off ferry chartered by Greek ferry company ANEK.  Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis is quoted as saying, “We are doing everything we can to save those on board and no one, no one will be left helpless in this tough situation. It is one of the most complicated rescue operations that we have ever done.”


Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Wilkes Exploring Expedition and the US Botanic Garden

 USS Porpoise made of bark, vines and twigs from the Botanic Garden

USS Porpoise made of bark, vines and twigs from the Botanic Garden

While visiting family in Washington DC, we visited the United States Botanic Garden. The Garden has a holiday exhibit that features model trains, specifically, Thomas the Tank Engine, which delighted my 2 year old grand nephew.  In addition to the trains and numerous models of buildings built from twigs, bark, branches and other material collected from the gardens themselves, there were also two ships from the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838 to 1842, lead by Lieutenant Charles Wilkes. The sloop of war USS Vincennes and the the brig USS Porpoise are also fancifully constructed from branches, wood, bark and vines collected from the gardens.  But what did Wilkes and his squadron have to do with the gardens? More than I realized before my visit.

The United States Botanic Garden was founded with plants brought back from the Wilkes Expedition.  It is the oldest continually operating botanic garden in the nation. As noted on the Botanic garden website:

Continue reading

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Alan Villiers, Mayflower II, Joseph Conrad and Mystic Seaport

Alan Villiers

Alan Villiers

While not a particular believer in ghosts, if the ghost of Alan Villiers is about, I suspect that he must smiling.  The arrival of the Mayflower II at Mystic Seaport Museum is the reunion, of sorts, of two ships long associated with the sailing ship captain and pioneer in sail training.   In mid December, the Mayflower II was towed from Plymouth, MA to the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut where she will begin the first phase of a multi-year restoration.

The Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship which carried the Pilgrims across the Atlantic in 1620, has been the one of the key exhibits at the Plimoth Plantation at the State Pier on Plymouth’s waterfront.  In 2013, the ship was found to be in need of a major refit.   As noted on the Mystic Seaport website:

Mayflower II

Mayflower II

The restoration of the 57-year-old wooden ship will be carried out over several years with the ship spending winter and spring at Mystic Seaport and returning to Plymouth each summer and fall. The project is scheduled for completion prior to 2020–the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival.”

So what does this have to do with Alan Villiers? Continue reading

Posted in Current, History, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Christmas Night by C. Fox Smith, Adapted for Singing by Charlie Ipcar

round_horn_dawsonWe hope that everyone is having a most merry Christmas. Here is a poem by C. Fox Smith adapted for song by Charlie Ipcar. As we posted last June, 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.

Christmas Night

By Cicely Fox Smith from Rhymes of the Red Ensign,  edited by Cicely Fox Smith, published by Hodder and Stoughton, London, © 1919, pp. 71-72. Adapted for singing by Charlie Ipcar, © 12/26/08 Tune inspired by Christmas Day in the Morning

Continue reading

Posted in Lore of the Sea, Songs | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Recovery of the Volvo Ocean Racer Vestas Wind

vestaswindshipIn the end of November, the Team Vestas Wind, racing in the Volvo Ocean Raceran aground on a reef in the remote Cargados Carajos archipelago about 430 km to the northeast of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean.  There were no injuries and the crew was rescued and taken to Mauritius. Before leaving, the crew and their support team promised to return to remove the Volvo 65 racing yacht from the reef.  Given the remoteness of the archipepelago, no doubt many thought that this might be a promise unkept. Nevertheless, 24 days after the grounding, the Vestas Wind team successfully re-floated the yacht and arranged for a gear Maersk container ship to come hoist the wreck aboard.  An impressive accomplishment to be sure.  Click on the link below for a video of the salvage.

A job well done 

Posted in Current, Lore of the Sea, Ships | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment