Incat Passenger/Car Ferry Francisco — World’s Fastest Ship

The car/passenger ferry Francisco, built in 2013 by Tasmanian shipyard Incat, is billed as the fastest ship in the world. The 99 meter ferry has clocked speeds of 58 knots (67 mph; 107 km/h). Operated by Buquebus, an Argentine-Uruguayan ferry company, Francisco is capable of accommodating 1024 passengers and 150 cars. The ferry is an Incat wave piercing catamaran design, built of aluminium, and the powered by the two 22MW GE LM2500 gas turbines driving Wartsila LJX 1720 SR waterjets. The ferry is also notable in that it can run on either marine distillate fuel or liquefied natural gas (LNG.) Francisco operates on the River Plate between Buenos Aires and Montevideo. Thanks to David Rye for contributing to this post.

World’s Fastest Ship: Incat’s Wave Piercing Catamaran

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When Peggotty Met Petunia Seaways — an iPad Assisted Collision

Photo: Sun UK

The UK Marine Accident Investigation Branch (MAIB) recently released a report on a collision between the 50 ft wooden WWII-era training boat Peggotty and the 32,000 GT cargo ferry Petunia Seaways on the UK’s Humber estuary. The report concluded that the use of an iPad as a primary means of navigation aboard Peggotty was a key factor behind the accident. In the collision with the much larger vessel, the Peggotty sankwhile the captain of the cargo ferry was not initially aware that a collision had taken place. 

At first glance it would be easy to say simply “another inexperienced mariner relying more on electronics than seamanship.” What makes this story interesting is that the statement is only half true. No doubt, too much reliance was placed on electronics, but the mariners involved were all professionals. The owner and skipper of the Peggotty, David Carlin, holds an unlimited master’s license and works as a pilot on the Humber.

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William Liebenow, Decorated WWII PT Boat Skipper, Dies at 97

William “Bud” Liebenow recently died at the age of 97. He served on patrol torpedo boats, PT boats, in both the Pacific and the Atlantic during World War II. He was best known as the commander of PT-157, which rescued Jack Kennedy and the ten other surviving crew of the PT 109 from behind enemy lines near the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, after Kennedy’s PT boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer in August of 1943. Kennedy would later become the 35th President of the United States. Liebenow briefly joined Kennedy on the campaign trial during that election and he and his wife, Lucy, were invited by Kennedy to his inaugural ball in 1961.

During the Normandy landings of 1944, Liebenow was in command of PT-199 that helped rescue approximately 60 survivors of the USS Corry, the lead destroyer of the Normandy Invasion task force, which was sunk by by German artillery fire. Later in the war, he ferried Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gen. George S. Patton aboard his PT boat. 

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Carnival’s First Ship — TSS Mardi Gras

Today Carnival Corporation is the largest operator of cruise ships in the world with a combined fleet of over 100 vessels across 10 cruise line brands. Back in 1972, however, it owned exactly one ship, the RMS Empress of Canada, which they renamed Mardi Gras. On the day after Mardi Gras, it seems like a good time to take a quick look back at Carnival’s very first ship.

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African American Whaling Ship Captains: Part 2 — William Thomas Shorey, the Black Ahab

WilliamshoreyAs we noted in our post yesterday, over nearly three centuries of whaling, some 175,000 men went to sea in 2,700 ships. Of the 2,500 masters who captained whaling ships, at least 63 were men of color. Many of the 63 sailed from the US East Coast, including Absalom Boston, Paul Cuffee, William A. Martin, and Collins A. Stevenson, among others. Here is a revised repost from 2014, about a black whaling ship master from the West Coast in last days of the whale fisheries, Captain Shorey. 

Captain William Thomas Shorey, who was affectionately nicknamed “Black Ahab” by his crew, was born in Barbados in 1859 and ran away to sea as a young man. He learned navigation from a British ship captain and became a ship’s officer by the age of 21. After only a decade at sea, he rose to command whaling ships sailing out of San Francisco.

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African American Whaling Ship Captains: Part 1 — Absalom Boston

Captain Absalom Boston

As Black History Month for 2017 comes to a close, we look at African American whaling ship captains. Over nearly three centuries of whaling, some 175,000 men went to sea in 2,700 ships. Of the 2,500 masters who captained these ships, at least 63 were men of color. Today we will remember Absalom Boston, captain of the whaleship Industry, which sailed in 1882 with an all black crew.

Absalom Boston was born in Nantucket in 1785 to Seneca Boston, an African-American ex-slave, and Thankful Micah, a Wampanoag Indian woman. Absalom Boston’s uncle was a slave named Prince Boston, who sailed on a whaling voyage in 1770. At the end of the voyage in 1773, Prince Boston’s white master, William Swain, a prominent Nantucket merchant, demanded that he turn over his earnings. Boston refused. He took Swain to to court and won his earnings and his freedom, becoming the first slave set free by an jury verdict. 

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2nd Annual Kalmar Nyckel Foundation LEGO Shipbuilding Contest

I do not not immediately associate a replica of a 17th century Dutch pinnace with LEGOs, which may only reflect the limits of my imagination.  The Kalmar Nyckel Foundation is hosting their Second Annual LEGO Shipbuilding Contest. It sounds like a lot of fun. From their Facebook event page

Calling all LEGO enthusiasts and ship builders! On Saturday, March 4th, the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation will host its second annual LEGO Shipbuilding Contest. The free event will offer maritime and LEGO enthusiasts the chance to create replicas of the “Kalmar Nyckel,” other famous vessels like the USS “Maine” and USS “Wisconsin,” or any other creation of their choosing.

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This is Windjamming — Maine Schooners Captured by Fred LeBlanc

A relaxing video for a Saturday afternoon. I’ve long been a fan of Fred LeBlanc’s photography, particularly his photos of schooners. Here is a video of LeBlanc’s photos of scenes from Maine Windjammers fleet. LeBlanc hosts photo sailing adventure aboard the schooner Heritage. His next is scheduled for June 10 – 14, 2017, sailing from Rockland, Maine. Click here to learn more.

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German Bomb Dredged up in Portsmouth Harbor

In 2011, a drought lowered the levels of the Rhine River, revealing unexploded munitions from World War II partially buried in the river banks exposed by the falling waters. Now, in Portsmouth harbor in the UK, World War II bombs are also being uncovered, not due to a drought but from dredging. On Wednesday, one of the dredges discovered what is a believed to be a German SC250 bomb, weighing 500 lbs, containing 290 lbs of “high explosives.”  The harbor is being dredged to deepen and widen a four-mile channel to allow the the navy’s new 65,000-tonne aircraft carriers to dock. From the Royal Navy website:

The entrance to Portsmouth Harbour was closed until around 7.30am as a precaution while the bomb disposal team assessed the swiftest and safest way of removing the device. Divers from the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth-based Southern Diving Unit 2 towed the bomb away from the harbour, lowered it to the seabed, and planted explosive charges for a controlled detonation of the device. Shortly after 11am, it was destroyed in a plume of smoke and spray.

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Black History Month — Harriett Tubman & the Great Combahee Ferry Raid

Harriet TubmanAs Black History Month winds to a close, here is a throwback Thursday repost of a story I think is well worth telling and retelling.  

Born a slave, Harriet Tubman escaped and would become a leading “conductor” on the “Underground Railroad” which helped slaves escape from  bondage in the South to freedom in the North and in Canada, prior to the Civil War.  Nicknamed “Moses,” she is said to have made more than nineteen trips back into the slave-holding South to rescue more than 300 slaves.  Her greatest rescue mission, however, came when she planned and help lead a Union riverboat raid at Combahee Ferry in South Carolina on the second of June, 1863, freeing over 720 slaves.

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“North Into the Mist” — A Hovercraft on the Arctic Ice

Between 1893 and 1896, the Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen allowed his ship Fram to freeze into the Arctic icepack and attempted to drift with the ice across the North Pole. He came close but ultimately failed in the attempt. Recently, a new expedition was announced which hopes to succeed where Nansen failed. The MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) project will endeavor to drift in the ice using the 120m-long German research vessel, the Polarstern, starting in 2019. It is billed as “the biggest single Arctic research expedition ever planned and is expected to cost €63m (£54m; $67m).

Another group of scientists has been working on versions of Nansen’s Fram expedition on a much smaller budget. For several years, Yngve Kristoffersen, John K. Hall, and a small team of scientists have been using R/V Sabvabaa, an 11 meter hovercraft, as a mobile Arctic ice drift station. Their first expedition in 2012 was the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary, “North Into the Mist.”  (The video is after the page break.) 

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The Dragon in Winter — Draken Harald Hårfagre at Mystic Seaport

On a recent visit to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic CT, I came across the Viking longship, Draken Harald Hårfagre, tied up alongside a wharf, wrapped in glistening white plastic shrink-wrap, its single mast piercing what looked almost like a ship-shaped mound of snow.

The longship arrived in Mystic last October after an epic voyage across the Atlantic that began in Haugesund, Norway in April, with port calls in Reykjavik, Iceland, Qaqortoq, Greenland and Newfoundland, Canada. The ship then sailed into the Great Lakes as far as Green Bay, Wisconsin before turning around and visiting New York City in September. At 115 foot long, Draken Harald Hårfagre is largest Viking longship built in modern times. 

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Drama in Gibraltar — Sailing Yacht A Seized

Sailing Yacht A, one of the largest, most technologically advanced and, to my eyes at least, the ugliest, sailing yacht in the world, arrived in Gibraltar recently to be turned over to its owner, Andrey Melnichenko, following extensive sea trials. Not all went as planned. Within hours of its arrival, the futuristic yacht was seized by local authorities.

Sailing Yacht A, which took four years to build and is reported to have cost €400m, was arrested based on a claim of €15.3m (£13.3m; $16.3m) for unpaid bills, filed by Nobiskrug, the shipyard in Northern Germany, which built the yacht. The yacht is 143m (469ft) long and has three free-standing rotating carbon fiber masts. The main mast is 100m tall. Sailing Yacht A can set 40,330 sq ft of sail, which is 8,000 sq ft greater than sail area on the tea clipper Cutty Sark. The yacht also features eight decks, an underwater observation pod, and hybrid diesel-electric propulsion.  Thanks to David Rye for contributing to this post.

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Seven Still Sailing in Vendee Globe

One month ago, French sailor, Armel Le Cléac’h, 39, crossed the finish line at Les Sables d’Olonne, France to win the 8th Vendée Globe. Since then another 10 boats have followed Le Cléac’h across the line. It is a testimony to the enormity of the single-handed around-the-world race that seven of the original 29 to set sail are still racing, in a competition where finishing is a victory in its own right. Even of the original 29 racers withdrew from the race.

The closest of the remaining racers is Alan Roura sailing La Fabruque, who is less than 100 nm from the finish, while the farthest is Sebastien Destremau sailing TechnoFirst – faceOcean, who has over 3,000 nm to sail. Rich Wilson, sailing Great American IV, , the oldest sailor in the race at 66, will in all likelihood be the next to follow Roura across the finish line. Roura is the youngest sailor in the Vendee Globe at 23.

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King Harald “Blåtand” Gormsson, Bluetooth & the Jelling Stone Ship

Remember King Harald “Blåtand” Gormsson? No? The king of Denmark and later Norway in the late 10th century. The name still doesn’t ring a bell?  His rune mark is embedded in your phone and possibly your earbuds and speakers. His nickname, “Blåtand,” means “Bluetooth” in English.  

King Harald Bluetooth’s claim to fame is that he united Denmark and Norway. When Intel engineer, Jim Kardach, was working on a new wireless technology he was also reading a book about Viking history. He decided to name the new technology after the Danish king. Kardach was later quoted as saying, “Bluetooth was borrowed from the 10th-century, second king of Denmark, King Harald Bluetooth; who was famous for uniting Scandinavia just as we intended to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link.

The Bluetooth symbol adopted for short-range wireless communications is made of King Harold Bluetooth’s initials, B and T in Viking runes.

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US & Soviet Nuclear Submarine Collision Kept Hidden Over 40 Years

USS James Madison

A Russian spy ship lingering off the US coast has been in the news recently. Within the last day or so, the spy ship Viktor Leonov was hanging out off the US Navy submarine base at New London. (The ship has apparently now shifted to Norfolk.) The Navy has dismissed the importance of the spy ship. More threatening, however, may be submarines waiting underwater to follow US submarines from their bases. In some cases, high-stakes games of underwater “chicken” have been reported.  A recent release of documents by the CIA has confirmed a previously top-secret report of a collision between a US and a Soviet nuclear submarine off Scotland 43 years ago.

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Black History Month — William Tillman and the Privateer Jefferson Davis

William Tillman retakes the schooner Waring

A post in honor of Black History Month. On Throwback Thursday, a slightly revised post from July, 2011. 

William Tillman was the first black hero of the American Civil War. He was not a soldier but rather a 27-year-old  cook-steward on the schooner S.J. Waring.  On July 7, 1861, the schooner was captured by the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis while about 150 miles from Sandy Hook, New York.  Captain Smith, the master of the S.J. Waring was taken aboard the Jefferson Davis, and a five man prize crew was put aboard the schooner, with orders to sail her to a Southern port where the ship and her cargo would be sold.

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Cancer-Causing Chemicals Found in Deepest Ocean Trenches

Photo: Dr. Alan Jamieson

There appears to be no limit to the man-made pollution of the oceans. Toxic chemicals have now been found in the deepest portions of the ocean, at the bottom of the Marianas and Kermadec trenches. Each trench is over 10 kilometers deep and 7,000 kilometers apart in the Pacific Ocean. A study based on expeditions led by Newcastle University’s Dr Alan Jamieson found high levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the fatty tissues of amphipods, a crustacean, in the trenches.  PDBs and PBDEs were banned in the 1970s after they were determined to be carcinogenic. These chemicals are classed as Persistent Organic Pollutants – or POPs, because they are highly resistant to natural degradation and can persist in the environment for decades.

In a press release, Dr Jamieson, said, “We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth. In fact, the amphipods we sampled contained levels of contamination similar to that found in Suruga Bay, one of the most polluted industrial zones of the northwest Pacific. What we don’t yet know is what this means for the wider ecosystem and understanding that will be the next major challenge.”

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Frederick Douglass — “I Will Take to the Water”

Frederick Douglas

Frederick Douglass never knew his birthday but he chose to celebrate it every year on February 14th. So happy Frederick Douglass’ birthday and a most joyous Valentine’s Day. 

Frederick Douglass was born a slave around 1818. He taught himself to read and write and at 20 years of age, escaped to freedom. He would become known worldwide as a gifted orator, author and editor and as a leader of the abolitionist movement. He was a severe critic of President Lincoln and also a close adviser. He would help recruit black soldiers to fight for the Union in the Civil War and, after the war, would fight against Jim Crow laws in the South and for women’s suffrage and immigrant’s rights. Frederick Douglass is an American hero, of his time and of ours. 

From an early age, Douglass developed a close attachment to ships and the sea. His path to freedom led directly through the docks and shipyards of Baltimore, Maryland. Continue reading

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Pods Strike Again — Norwegian Star Breaks Down in Tasman Sea

Azipods strike again. The Norwegian Star, operated by Norwegian Cruise Lines, was towed into Melbourne, Australia over the weekend after losing propulsion when the ship’s azipods failed, leaving the ship adrift last Friday. In the latest round of failures, the ship’s Azipods have been breaking down on cruises since December, which has limited the ship’s speed and resulted in cancelled port calls.  

Pod failures have been a chronic problem on the Norwegian Star.  The sixteen year old ship has had intermittent problems with its Azipod propulsion system for at least the last 12 years, dating back to 2004. Pod failures persisted through 2006 and then reemerged in 2015 and have continued despite NCL efforts to repair the pods. 

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