Saga of ex-Presidential Yacht Sequoia Continues with New Owner

sequoia1The National Historic Landmark and ex-presidential yacht Sequoia has fallen on hard times. In a recent ruling, Delaware judge Sam Glasscock describes her current condition. “The Sequoia, an elderly and vulnerable wooden yacht, is sitting on an inadequate cradle on an undersized marine railway in a moribund boatyard on the western shore of the Chesapeake, deteriorating and, lately, home to raccoons.”  The judge awarded ownership of the yacht to FE Partners, a Washington based investment firm backed by an Indian investor.  

The 104-foot yacht Sequoia was designed by John Trumpy and built by Mathis Yacht Building Company in Camden New Jersey in 1925. Between 1933 and 1977, she served as presidential yacht in seven administrations from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter.

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The Supermoon and King Tide — Big Deal or Not?

Not so big a difference --supermoon vs normal full moon

Not so big a difference –supermoon vs normal full moon

The media has been full of stories about tonight’s “supermoon,” which is the largest in 68 years. Supermoon is the popular term for what astronomers call a moon perigeesyzygy. This means that the moon is at its closest point to earth in its elliptical orbit and that the earth, moon, and sun are in alignment, resulting in a full moon. The last time the moon was this close to the earth was in 1948, and the next comparable supermoon will be in 2032.

Also associated with the supermoon is the so-called “king tide.” Tides normally vary with the phase of the moon, being higher or lower on days where the moon is full or there is a new moon. The king tide associated with a supermoon, called a perigean spring tide, is generally a few inches higher than a normal spring tide.

Is the supermoon a big deal? Opinions vary widely. Continue reading

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One-Day Ship Model Exhibit at National Lighthouse Museum

nlm1The National Lighthouse Museum on Staten Island is having a one-day model ship exhibit on Saturday, November 19th from 11:00 am to 4:00pm, featuring models and demonstrations by members of the Ship Model Society of New Jersey.

From the NLM press release: Their members will demonstrate the building of a small model ship and will also be available for conducting appraisals for repairs of ship models that you may own. Their membership spans all skill levels, from neophyte to highly the accomplished and a wide range of interests, from gadget guru to historical re-creator. We invite you to join us for this special event and to see these amazingly accurate creations.

As a special added attraction, “Augustin Fresnel” will make a special appearance at 2:00 pm to speak to us about the creation of his famous Fresnel Lens used for more than 100 years as a beacon of caution and direction for mariners worldwide. Continue reading

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Sailing Tall Ship Danmark

A video for a Saturday. A wonderful documentary from 1992 about sailing on the tall ship Danmark.

World of Discovery – Tall Ships: High Sea Adventure

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Rediscovering USS Independence — From WWII to Bikini to the Depths off San Francisco

Bow of USS Independence, seen for the first time after 65 years. Photo: Ocean Exploration Trust.

Bow of USS Independence, seen for the first time after 65 years. Photo: Ocean Exploration Trust

On Veteran’s Day, a post about a veteran ship, USS Independence, a light aircraft carrier that served in key battles at the Pacific toward the end of World War II. After the war, she was used as a target in atomic bomb tests in Bikini Atoll. In 1951, the ship was scuttled near the Farallon Islands off the coast of California. Now, 65 years later, an expedition, led by Robert Ballard and partnered with the Ocean Exploration Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has returned to the sunken ship.

USS Independence was built in New Jersey and commissioned in 1943, the first of a new class of carriers designed from converted cruiser hulls. She took part in the attacks on Rabaul and Tarawa before being torpedoed by Japanese aircraft. She returned to the conflict in time to launch strikes against targets in Luzon and Okinawa and to serve as part of the carrier group that sank the remnants of the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of Leyte Gulf and in the Surigao Strait. With Japan’s surrender, USS Independence brought US troops home as part of Operation Magic Carpet. USS Independence received eight battle stars for her service in the war, and was recognized for sinking Japanese the battleship, Musashi, during the Battle of the Philippines.

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Update: MV Liemba, Oldest Passenger Ferry Turns 102

liembaTwo years ago, we posted about MV Liemba — the World’s Oldest Passenger/Cargo Steamer at 100. Now 102 years old, MV Liemba continues her passenger and cargo ferry service along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. With luck and funding from the government of Tanganyika, the Liemba may continue to operate for years to come.  

This August, the Tanzanian government announced that they were budgeting 31 billion Tanzanian shillings (roughly US$14 million)  for the repair and refurbishment of three ships, including MV Liemba and the purchase of a new ship during the 2016/17 financial year.  Of these funds, 5.6 billion shillings (roughly US$2.6 million) will be dedicated to the Liemba.

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USS Zumwalt — Big Guns but Too Expensive to Fire

zumwalt3The destroyer USS Zumwalt was commissioned about three weeks ago. It is the latest and greatest, most high tech destroyer in the fleet. At a cost of around $4 billion dollars, it is also the most expensive destroyer ever built. The ship has two primary guns, 155 mm Advanced Gun System howitzers, intended to support ground forces in land attacks. These guns fire a Long Range Land Attack Projectile (LRLAP), a GPS guided round with a range of 60 nautical miles.  

The only problem is that the Navy just announced that they are cancelling the high-tech ammunition because each LRLAP is simply too expensive to fire. Continue reading

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Beautiful Sailors — Velella Velella

On a day distracted by a momentous national election, here is something wholly unrelated — the beautiful creatures called velella velella. As lovely as they are, these jellyfish, also known as “purple sailors” or “by-the-wind sailors,” can be an unwelcomed visitor. Last spring, velella velella by the thousands drifted onto Hallandale Beach, about 18 miles north of Miami. 

“This happens about every three years. We are flying our Purple flag for dangerous marine life,” city officials said on social media. Similar incidents occurred on Pacific Northwest beaches in 2015.


Velella VelellaThis beautiful creature is called Velella Velella.

Posted by Hashem Al-Ghaili on Thursday, December 10, 2015


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Brass Nails May Help Solve Mystery of the Acre Tower Shipwreck

acretowerThe mystery of the Acre (Akko) Tower shipwreck may be closer to being solved. The Jerusalem Post reports that 100 hundred brass nails may have given away the secret.

Discovered in 1966, the wreck was long assumed to be a British naval vessel sunk at the entrance to the port of Acre, in the northern end of Haifa Bay, to block access to Napoleon Bonaparte’s navy in 1799. Later research cast doubt on that explanation. Napoleon approached in Acre by land, making blocking the harbor channel less useful. Also the wreck, which was originally thought to be a vessel of 45 meters long was determined to be closer to 25 meters of length, and was thus more likely a merchant ship than a Royal Navy man-of-war. 

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And They’re Off — 29 Sailors Set Sail in Vendée Globe

vendeegToday, 29 sailors set off from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France in the eighth Vendée Globe single-handed round-the-world yacht race. The 24,000 mile circumnavigation will be sailed non-stop and without assistance along the clipper route: down the Atlantic Ocean to the Cape of Good Hope; then clockwise around Antarctica, keeping Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn to port; then back to Les Sables d’Olonne.  The race is considered by many to be the ultimate in ocean racing.

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“Lost Nuke” Found off Haida Gwaii, Canada

Mark 4 Atomic bomb

Mark 4 Atomic bomb

A Canadian diver swimming off Pitt Island near the Haida Gwaii archipelago, on Canada’s west coast, was looking for sea cucumbers, but didn’t find any. Instead, the diver, Sean Smyrichinsky, found a dummy nuclear bomb lost in a plane crash in 1950. As told to the Vancouver Sun:

“I found this big thing underwater, huge, never seen anything like it before,” Smyrichinsky related from Cortes Island.

“I came up telling all my buddies on the boat ‘Hey, I found a UFO. It’s really bizarre.’ And I drew a picture of it, because I didn’t have a camera.”

A couple of days later he ran into some fishermen and told them about his discovery. Continue reading

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Review: Eric Jay Dolin’s Brilliant Beacons — A History of the American Lighthouse

beaconsMy review of Eric Jay Dolin’s Brilliant Beacons : A History of the American Lighthouse, originally published in gCaptain. Reposted with permission.

Next only perhaps to an anchor, lighthouses are symbols of security and safety. Even with modern electronic navigation, there is something incredibly reassuring about seeing the lume of a lighthouse beacon shining through the darkness or hearing the moan of a fog horn reverberating through a blinding white fog. And yet, most of the time, we take lighthouses for granted. They often seem to be an integral part of the shoreline, or stony sentinels growing naturally up out of rocky reefs.

In reality, they are nothing of the sort. Lighthouses exist only because of those who built them, operated them and maintained them. Eric Jay Dolin’s Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse tells the story of how these iconic structures came to be and how they helped shape the commerce and the future of our young nation.

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SeaBubbles — Foiling Electric Water Taxis to be Tested in Paris

seabubbleAlain Thébault is known as designer and skipper of the record breaking ocean-going hydrofoil Hydroptère, which in 2009, was the first sailing boat to sail faster than 50 knots over a measured mile.  Now, Thébault is working on a very different project. Along with Swedish windsurfer Anders Bringdal, Thébault has developed SeaBubbles, electric water taxis that sail on hydrofoils, intended to cut both congestion and pollution in urban centers near water. The SeaBubble is a five person (four passengers plus a driver) battery-powered water taxi designed to fly on foils roughly two feet above the water. A prototype SeaBubble is expected to undergo trials in the spring on the River Seine in Paris. The SeaBubbles are reported to lift onto their foils at around 6-8 knots. Various media reports have quoted a range of top speeds from 11 knots to 25 knots.

If the prototype is successful, Thébault would like to introduce SeaBubbles to London, Geneva and New York. 

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Explosion Kills 21 at Gadani, Pakistan Shipbreaking Yard

shipbreakerexplosionThe shipbreaking yard in Gadani, Pakistan is one of largest shipbreakers in the world and is literally where ships go to die. Tragically, workers too often die there as well. A series of explosions yesterday in a tanker being broken up at Gadani has left 21 workers dead and 60 injured. Additional workers remain unaccounted for. 

UPI describes the explosions and fire:  “The explosions occurred in an oil tanker ship being disassembled at the world’s third-largest ship-breaking facility, which covers about 6 miles of the Arabian Sea coast in Baluchistan province. Some of the approximately 100 workers dismantling the ship were trapped within it. Some of those who escaped jumped into the water, India Express reported.

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Panama Canal & More Cracks in LCS USS Montgomery

ussmontgomery2The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) USS Montgomery suffered another hull crack, this time while transiting the Panama Canal on Sunday. “Under control of the local Panama Canal Pilot, the ship impacted the center lock wall and sustained an 18-inch-long crack between her port quarter and transom plates,” according to Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ryan Perry. “The crack is located 8-10 feet above the waterline and poses no water intrusion or stability risk.”

The newest ship of the LCS Independence Class continues to be having a very hard time on its maiden voyage to its new homeport in San Diego, California. In September, the ship broke down only three days after being commissioned, suffering two unrelated engine failures. Then in October, after having her engines repaired, a hard knock from a tug as she was leaving port in Mayport, FL to avoid the approach of Hurricane Matthew. The ship suffered a hull crack and bent five hull stringers.

USS Montgomery is now only her way to San Diego. We can only wish her good luck.

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Giant Pumpkin Paddling ! The Next Big Thing?

pumpkinraceGiant pumpkin paddling is apparently a new, hot water sport, with competitions around the globe. Who knew? From Nova Scotia, to Maine, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Oregon, Germany and the United Kingdom, people are carving out giant pumpkins, hopping aboard with a paddle and competing in regattas and solo events.

The races are paddled in giant pumpkins which originally weighed between 400 and 1,200 pounds. They are carved out to allow room for the paddler and to make the craft as light as possible for paddling. 

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Update: José Fernández Had Cocaine, Alcohol in System During Fatal Boat Crash

Last month, we posted about the tragic death of Jose Fernandez and two of his friends who died when their 32′ open boat in slammed into a rock breakwater at high speed off South Beach, Miami, FL at around 3AM on Spetember  25th. The Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner’s office has now determined that Fernandez was legally drunk with a blood-alcohol concentration of .147 at the time of the accident. Fernandez also had cocaine in his system according to the report.  

Autopsies on the two other men, Emilio Jesus Macias and Eduardo Rivero, had levels of alcohol below the legal limit in Florida, which is .08. Rivero also had traces of cocaine in his system, the medical examiner’s report said. The three men all ded after suffering blunt-force injuries from the high speed collision. Authorities have not determined who was piloting the boat, which Fernandez owned.

According the USCG Recreational Boating Accident Statistics for 2015, alcohol use is the cause of the most deaths on the water. Ranked by number of accidents, it ranks sixth, right behind excessive speed. The top three known contributing factors to boating accidents are operator inattention, operator inexperience, and improper lookout.  Sadly, it appears likely that all of these factors may have contributed to the needless and tragic deaths of these three men.

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Update: In Japan Vagina Kayaks Are Legal, Distributing Plans Are Not

We are about six months behind on this update, but it is a worthwhile topic to catch up on. In January of 2015, we posted The Vagina Kayak and Japanese Genital Politics, which was the story of a Japanese artist,  Megumi Igarashi, who goes by the nickname, Rokudenashiko – or “good-for-nothing girl.” She had a 3D printed plastic model of her vagina fabricated which was installed on a roto-mold kayak. Not long after the vagina kayak was completed, Igarashi was arrested on multiple obscenity charges.

Last May, she won and lost her court cases. Continue reading

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World’s Largest Marine Sanctuary Created in Antarctica’s Ross Sea

rossseasanctIn the end of August, we posted about the Obama administration‘s four-fold expansion of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument,a marine sanctuary northwest of the main Hawaiian Islands. Now, twenty-four countries and the European Union have reached an agreement to establish the world’s largest marine sanctuary in Antarctica’s Ross Sea.

“The Ross Sea is widely considered to be the last great wilderness area on Earth and known as the polar ‘Garden of Eden’,” according to a statement from the United Nations Environment Programme. The area is home to “50 per cent of ecotype-C killer whales (also known as the Ross Sea orca), 40 per cent of Adélie penguins, and 25 per cent of emperor penguins.”

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Vasili Arkhipov, Soviet Submarine Commander Who May Have Saved the World

ArkhipovFifty two years ago today, the world came perilously close to being destroyed in a nuclear World War III. Fortunately, one brave Soviet naval officer stood in the way.

Imagine — a Soviet submarine is trapped by an American destroyer at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet sub commander has not been in communication with Moscow in over a week. He does not know if the world is at peace or at war. Depth charges are exploding around the stricken Soviet sub. The temperature inside the submarine has risen above 100 degrees. Unknown to the Americans, the submarine commander has a new and terrible weapon at his disposal, a nuclear torpedo that could vaporize the destroyer and most of the American fleet. Certain that his ship is under attack, the submarine commander wants to fire the nuclear torpedo.  Given everything else that is going on on the surface, that launch would likely start World War III.  Only one man stood in the way of potential global nuclear annihilation, the Soviet flotilla commander, Vasili Arkhipov.

This sounds like a movie script and yet, it indeed happened.  On October 27, 1962, at the height of Cuban missle crisis, the world came perilously close to a nuclear Armageddon. Were it not for the cool head of Vasili Arkhipov, flotilla commander and second-in-command of the nuclear-armed submarine B-59, a nuclear World War III may have broken out. Thomas Blanton, the former director of the US National Security Archive, said, “Vasili Arkhipov saved the world.”

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