I am very pleased to learn that my latest novel, The Shantyman, is being featured as one of Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month for August.
The Kirkus starred review from last June, called The Shantyman …a fabulously gripping sailor’s yarn. The review also says: With eloquent accuracy, Spilman’s novel captures the life of a 19th-century sailor…. A profound understanding of nautical terminology and procedure is also evident, yet the author is careful not to confuse readers who don’t know a “crojack” from a “spanker.” … Spilman’s colorful, well-researched novel will enthrall both sailing enthusiasts and landlubbers.
This is only marginally nautical, although it does begin and end on a beautiful sailboat. Mostly is it merely silly and yet it is kind of fun. A bit of over-the-top marketing for Johnny Walker Blue, it is a short film starring actors Jude Law and Giancarlo Giannini. And did I mention the beautiful sailboat?
Today I went aboard El Galeon Andalusia, at South Street Seaport. The ship is billed as “a 170 foot, 495 ton, authentic wooden replica of a galleon that was part of Spain’s West Indies fleet.” It is a intriguing ship that has successfully sailed thousands of miles, including crossing the Atlantic. The original galleons, and the carracks that preceded them, were the ships that first girded the globe in 16th and 17th centuries. They changed the vast oceans from barriers to highways. For good and/or ill, these ships literally changed the course of the world’s civilizations.
The only problem with Galeon Andalusia is that the description “authentic wooden replica” promises a bit too much. The hull is primarily fiberglass, sheathed in wood above the waterline. There is nothing actually wrong with this. Fiberglass is far easier to maintain than a wooden hull. If the description merely becomes “authentic replica” things might be OK.
Recently, sharks and the internet have begun to interact. On the Atlantic coast, shark researchers have been tagging great white sharks, allowing thousands of internet fans to watch their travels across the world’s oceans on the web. On the other side of the globe, the Australian government has given over 300 sharks swimming off Western Australia their own Twitter feeds, in order to help limit fatal shark attacks.
From left to right — masts of the Peking, l’Hermione and the masts of El Galeon
Last week provided a rare opportunity to glimpse over 400 years of sailing ship history in three ships, tied up almost side by side, at New York’s South Street Seaport. Berthed on the south side of Pier 15, El Galeon Andalucia is a replica of a 16th century Spanish galleon. On the north side of the pier wasl’Hermione, a replica of an 18th century French Concorde class frigate. On Pier 17, the four-masted barque Peking, built in 1911, represents the culmination of sailing technology, before the world’s commercial sailing fleet was finally pushed aside by steam and motor ships.
What I find fascinating about the three ships is that while their designs are separated by centuries, the DNA of each is easily identifiable in the others. In some respects, the three ships bracket the great European Age of Sail.
On a nearly windless, overcast and rainy morning, the French replica frigate l’Hermione led an impressive flotilla of every sort of craft from very large yachts to jet skis, from below the Verazzano Narrow’s Bridge through the inner harbor and up the North River. Here is a video I shot and edited of the parade. I was a passenger on the lovely schooner Shearwater.
Last March we posted “Will Prince Albert of Monaco Save Cousteau’s Calypso?” sadly, the answer to the question appears to be, “no.” Earlier in March, following a long legal battle, a French court ruled, that Francine Cousteau, the second wife of the late Jacques Cousteau, owed €273,000 in shipyard bills and was required to remove the RV Calypso from a Brittany shipyard. If she failed to do so the shipyard would be allowed to sell the 43 meter wooden research vessel. Shortly thereafter, rumors began to spread that Prince Albert II of Monaco might rescue the ship and bring it to the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco where Jacques Cousteau served as director for more than three decades, from 1957 to 1988. These rumors appear to have been unfounded. The Calypso has not moved and appears to be in the first stages of being broken up. As reported by the New York Times:
This morning, the replica French frigate l’Hermione arrived in New York harbor and was welcomed by American and French officials, led by French Minister Ségolène Royal and Mayor of Rochefort Hervé Blanché at Pier 15 at the South Street Seaport on the East River. The ship is a replica of the frigate that carried the Marquis de Lafayette to America in 1780 with the news that France was committing to support George Washington and his forces in the revolution against Great Britain. l’Hermione will be open for the public for ship tours tomorrow and Friday, July 2-3, 2015 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.
As reported by Slate Magazine: Scientists have discovered a trippy scene under the Red Sea, full of fluorescent, glowing corals. An international team of researchers discovered the colorful corals at depths of more than 150 feet below the surface and published their findings in PLOS ONE.
Puritans were notorious for weird names. Some first names are strangely long, such as “If-Christ-had-not-died-for-thee-thou-hadst-been-damned” or “Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith”. Some names were short but just disturbingly odd. Fly-fornication, for example. In 1766, Preserved Fish was born in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. His first name, Preserved, pronounced “pre-SER-vedd” is thought to be a shortening of “Preserved in Grace” or “Preserved from Sin.”
As a young man, Preserved shipped out on a whaling ship on a voyage to the Pacific. At 21, he became a whaling ship captain. When he came ashore, he became a successful merchant in first New Bedford and then New York City. He founded the shipping firm, Fish & Grinnell. He later became one of the 28 brokers of the New York Exchange Board, which later became the New York Stock Exchange and also became a director of Bank of America. He also served until his death as President of the Tradesman’s Bank. His family, which remained prominent in New York, also gave rise to Hamilton Fish, governor, senator, and secretary of state, and Stuyvesant Fish, a notable railroad president.
The Philly giant inflatable duck been the subject of some controversy. The Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman who created sculpture named “Spreading Joy Around the World” but universally known simply as “Rubber Duck,” is charging that the Philly duck is an “unauthorized rubber duck project.” Various incarnations of the rubber duck have appeared at over 20 locations around the globe.
If you are in the neighborhood, stop by the Cutter Lilac on Saturday for the Artist’s Midsummer Party at the Hudson River Park’s Pier 25. The ship opens to visitors at 2:00 PM. The party is from 6:00 – 9:00 PM.
In addition to a fleet of tall ships attending the Philadelphia-Camden Tall Ships Festival 2015, there will be a 61-foot tall, 11-ton inflatable rubber duck. The duck is said to be based on a the plans for a inflatable sculpture originally made by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman named “Spreading Joy Around the World” but universally known simply as “Rubber Duck.” While the rubber duck has indeed been spreading joy around the world, appearing at over 20 locations around the globe, the artist is not happy about this rubber duck. Hoffman is charging that this is an “unauthorized rubber duck project.” Is the Philly Rubber Duck an imposter?
The Philadelphia-Camden Tall Ships Festival running from June 25-28th, promises to be something special. I am sorry that I will be out of town and will miss the festivities. The events begin on Thursday, June 25, with a “Parade of Ships” up the Delaware, starting around 1 PM and continuing all afternoon, as the more than 16 tall ships arrive on the Philadelphia and Camden waterfronts. Headlining the tall and historic ships will be l’Hermione as she continues her tour of the East Coast. l’Hermione is a replica of the 145-foot long Concorde class frigate that brought General Lafayette to the aid of the fledgling United States during the Revolutionary War. l’Hermione will be docked just outside the Independence Seaport Museum.
Some friends of mine think that I am crazy because I seem to find nautical connections in just about everything. (Other friends think I am crazy for other reasons.) Take for example, the modern donut. What about a donut could possibly have anything to do with sailors, ships or the sea? In fact, the development of the modern donut is usually attributed to Hansen Crockett Gregory, 1832-1921, a ship’s captain from Rockport, Maine. Here is the “hole” story.
The first donuts in America did not have holes. They are believed to have been introduced to the continent by the Dutch who fried dough in oil. Washington Irving was the first to mention doughnuts in “The History of New York” in 1807. We wrote, “[I]t was always sure to boast of an enormous dish of balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called dough-nuts, or oly koeks: a delicious kind of cake, at present known scarce to this city, except in genuine Dutch families.”