HMS Ocean to be Sold to Brazil

HMS Ocean, amphibious assault ship and flagship of the Royal Navy has reportedly been sold to Brazil for £84.3million. HMS Ocean is the last British warship capable of launching aircraft.  The Ocean carries 18 helicopters. Britain has lacked the capacity to launch and land fixed wing aircraft since 2016 when it scrapped its last aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious. The Royal Navy’s new flagship, the aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is not expected to be fully operational until 2020.  

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Russia Reported to be Supplying Oil to North Korea; More Ships Seized

Sanctions do not mean much if they are not enforced. The UN has been imposing increasingly stricter limitations on the importation of crude and refined oil to North Korea. Still, oil has been getting through.  In the past few days, South Korea has seized two tankers; the Koti, an 8,000 dwt Panamanian-flagged product tanker, and the 16,500 dwt, Hong Kong-flagged, Lighthouse WinmoreBoth tankers are believed to have been making at-sea transfers of oil to North Korean tankers, in violation of the UN embargo.

Who is behind the oil smuggling? Continue reading

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Happy New Year! A Ballad by Cicely Fox Smith Sung by Larry Kaplan

Happy New Year to all!  Here is a poem by Cicely Fox Smith, from Full Sail: More Sea Songs and Ballads, sung as a ballad by Larry Kaplan.

New Year by Cicely Fox Smith

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USS Shiloh — A Disturbed Sailor in Hiding on USS “Bread & Water”

Back in June, we posted about a 50-hour, 5,500 square-mile man-overboard search across the Philippine Sea on the USS Shiloh.  The search effort also included Japanese Coast Guard and naval forces. The sailor who was thought to have fallen overboard showed up after hiding in one of the ship’s engine room access trunks for a week.  Recently, the Navy Times posted the result of an investigation into the incident, How Peter Mims spent a week hiding in a warship’s engine room

On first reading, the story appears to be that of a young possibly mentally disturbed young sailor who made a series of bizarre choices. Looking just slightly more in depth, it is also clear that much else was wrong aboard the Ticonderoga-class cruiser, which earned the nickname, USS “Bread and Water.” 

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Classic Yawl Dorade Finishes Second in Division in Sydney Hobart Race

Four years ago, the yacht racing world was caught aback when Dorade, a yacht designed by Olin Stephens II  and delivered in 1930, won the 2013 Transpac Race. Dorade has previously won the Transpac 77 years before.  Now the 87-year old Dorade has placed a very respectable second in her division under both IRC and ORCi in the Sydney Hobart Race.

About Dorade from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race 2017 website: From the Famous American classic wooden boat Dorade is a revolutionary S&S, designed by a then 21 year-old Olin Stephens and built under younger brother Rod’s (20) supervision. Features a deep keel with external ballast, very narrow beam and a generous sail plan. The yawl took the yachting world by storm and made headlines around the world after scoring an upset victory in the 1931 Transatlantic Race from Newport, Rhode Island to Plymouth, competing against much larger boats. In the next 10 years, Dorade scored overall victories in the 1931 and 1933 Fastnet races and the 1936 TransPac Race. Adrienne Cahalan, the first woman to sail 25 Hobarts, is navigating. 

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The Hazards of Cold Shock — When It is Cold Enough to Freeze Sharks

It is brutally cold on the Northeast coast of the US right now. Temperatures are hovering around the 20s F (in negative digits measured when in Celcius) from Virgina to the Canadian border. It is so cold there are reports of sharks freezing. Two thresher sharks were found dead on a Cape Cod beach, believed disabled by cold shock, which led to their stranding and death. 

Cold shock response is a physiological response to sudden cold, especially cold water. Newsweek reports that the program director of the Cape Cod-based Atlantic White Shark Conservancy [says] that it’s not uncommon for sea turtles to wash up on the beach after experiencing cold shock. However, sharks are water-breathing fish, so when they wash up on a beach, they can suffocate and die.

Cold shock is a leading cause of cold water deaths in humans, as well. Continue reading

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Record Breaking Sydney Hobart, LDV Comanche Winner After Protest

This year’s Rolex Sydney to Hobart yacht race saw drama at both the start and the finish of the race. Indeed, the drama at the start determined who would be awarded the line honors at the finish. Let’s start with the finish line. Supermaxi yacht, Wild Oats XI, completed the 628 nautical mile race in a record-shattering time of one day, eight hours, 48 minutes and 50 seconds, besting the previous record set last year by Perpetual Loyal by almost five hours.  Directly behind Wild OatsLDV Comanche also beat the previous record, crossing the finish line just 33 minutes after the leader. LDV Comanche was declared the line winner. Why? The answer was at the start of the race.

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Update: Rebuilding the Schooner Mary E. at Maine Maritime Museum

Mary E sailing into Bath, Maine.

One year ago, we posted that the schooner Mary E., the oldest surviving fishing schooner built at Bath, Maine would be returning home to the Kennebeck River where she was built in 1906. The Maine Maritime Museum purchased the schooner from her previous owner Matt Culen of Pelham, N.Y., who has been operating the vessel in partnership with the Connecticut River Museum, in Essex, CT. 

On April 23, 2017, the Mary E. returned to the port of her birth and new home a the Maine Maritime Museum in Bath.  Now the real work has begun. The museum has committed $2 million to restore the schooner and to allow her to carry passengers.  

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Five More Bodies Found on Batavia’s “Murder Island”

Beacon Island, also known as Murder Island

The story of the Dutch East Indiaman Batavia is as grim and tragic as it is fascinating. The Batavia was wrecked on her maiden voyage in 1629 when she ran aground on Beacon Island off Western Australia. Of the original 341 passengers and crew, 282 survived the shipwreck. Around 115 people subsequently died, many murdered by mutineers. Only 68 made it to the ship’s namesake port of Batavia. Not surprisingly, Beacon Island has come to be known as “Batavia’s Graveyard” and “Murder Island.”

Recently, archaeologists have located five additional bodies on the island. Based on the care evident in the burial of the bodies, the scientists believe that these individuals died prior to the outbreak of the mutiny.  The bodies, interred neatly in a row, showed no signs of violence, likely died soon after the wreck.

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

round_horn_dawson We hope that everyone is having a most merry Christmas. Here is a repost from 2014 of a poem by C. Fox Smith adapted for song by Charlie Ipcar.  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

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Underwater Christmas Trees

Spirobranchus giganteus are beautiful underwater creatures, only about 1.5 inches tall, which look like tiny decorated Christmas trees. They are almost too attractive to be described as what they are, tube-building polychaete worms. They are, however, often referred to as Christmas tree worms. Each worm has two brightly colored crowns that protrude from its tube-like body. The crowns look like miniature fir trees often in a wide range of brilliant colors. The worms live in tropical waters around the world. Here is a video of spirobranchus giganteus, Christmas tree worms, from Taiwan.

Spirobranchus giganteus in Green Island, TAIWAN

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When Hurricanes Hit a Hurricane Hole — the Aftermath of Irma and Maria

Paraquita Bay, Tortola — Before and After Hurricane Irma

When a hurricane approaches, there are only two choices for the crew of a yacht — either get out of the hurricane’s path, which may or may not be possible and can be very risky, or to hunker down in a “hurricane hole, an anchorage protected from the winds and seas until the hurricane passes. As long as a hurricane does not make a direct hit, “hurricane holes” usually provide refuge from the storms.

Among the best-known hurricane holes in the Caribbean is near Coral Bay, St. Johns, Virgin Islands, which is designated as the Hurricane Hole Storm Refuge in the Virgin Island’s Coral Reef National Monument.  This year, however, not one, but two Cat 5 hurricanes struck the Caribbean hurricane holes dead on. First, Hurricane Irma struck in early September, with sustained winds of up to 185mph. Only two weeks later, Hurricane Maria followed with sustained winds of 175 mph. Tornadoes, spawned by the hurricanes, generated wind gusts of up to 270 mph. The results were ugly. Nearly all the boats which sought cover in Coral Bay were lost. 

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Australian Submarine Lost For More Than a Century Finally Located

After being lost for 103 years, the wreck of Australia’s first submarine, HMAS AE1, has finally been located in almost 1,000 feet of water east of Rabaul, not far from Duke of York Islands in Papua New Guinea.  The submarine, built in the Vickers yard at Barrow-in-Furness, England arrived in Sydney Australia in May of 1914, just a few months before the outbreak of World War I. In September, HMAS AE1 participated in an operation to capture German New Guinea and helped secure the surrender of Rabaul in East New Britain. The next day, however, the submarine and its crew disappeared without a trace. It was the first submarine to be lost in World I.

Thirteen searches have been undertaken to locate the lost submarine. The search vessel Fugro Equator located the wreck earlier this week. The exact location of the wreck has been withheld to attempt to prevent “unauthorized salvage attempts”. The submarine sank with the loss of 32, a mix of Australian and Royal Navy personnel. The wreck is considered to be a war grave.  Continue reading

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On the Winter Solstice — Shortest Day & Longest Shadows, or No Shadow At All

Happy Winter Solstice to all! In the northern hemisphere, today is the shortest day and the longest night of the year. The sun is at its southernmost point of travel, over the imaginary circle on the globe we refer to as the Tropic of Capricorn. Today is also the day in which a person standing outside at noon in the northern hemisphere, outside of the tropics, would cast the longest shadow. If you are on the Tropic of Capricorn, however, at noon today, you would have no shadow at all. 

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USCG Frees Sea Turtle from Floating Cocaine Bales Worth $53 Million

Up to 80% of illicit drugs enter the US by maritime routes. (We recently posted about the ongoing battle against cocaine being imported into the US by narco submarines.) Here is another example, although it does not involve submersibles. It involves a sea turtle. Sailors from a US Coast Guard Cutter patrolling in the eastern Pacific recently rescued a sea turtle that had become entangled in lines holding together 26 bales of cocaine, weighing around 1,800 kilos. One source put the value of the cocaine at $53 million. The Coast Gaurd freed the turtle which had significant chafing on its neck and flippers. They also recovered the cocaine.

U.S. Coast Guard Crew Freed A Turtle Tangled In Bales Of Cocaine

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Christmas at South Street Seaport

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A few photos from an evening walk at New York’s South Street Seaport.

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Around the World in 42 Days — Francois Gabart Sets New Solo Round the World Record

Gabart Arriving in Brest

Congratulations to Francois Gabart who just set a new record for sailing around the world single-handed. The 34-year old Gabart sailed his 30 meter (98 foot) long MACIF maxi-trimaran around the globe alone in a remarkable 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds, breaking the previous record set by Thomas Coville last year by six days and 10 hours.  Over the 27,860-mile journey, Gabart achieved an amazing average speed of 27.2 knots. 

Francois Gabart is not new to setting records. In November, we posted about Gabart setting a new solo 24-hour speed record of 851 miles sailed in 24 hours. In 2013, Gabar won the Vendée Globe round-the-world single-handed race in 78 days and two hours, shattering the previous record of 84 days and three hours.    

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Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Superyacht Serene

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the heir to the Saudi throne, has notionally been leading a sweeping crackdown on corruption and self-enrichment.  This has not stopped him from making some rather impressive purchases himself. Two years ago, the prince purchased, through intermediaries, Chateau Louis XIV, which has been described as “the world’s most expensive home,” for $300 million. Even more expensive, however, was his purchase of the superyacht Serene in 2015.

While vacationing in the south of France, the prince was apparently quite taken with the yacht Serene. He was apparently so impressed that he bought it on the spot from its Russian oligarch owner, Yuri Shefler, for a reported $500 million. At 134 meters (440′) and  8231 tonnes, Serene ranks among the world’s largest yachts.  She was built at Fincantieri in 2011, with 12 guests cabins and 30 crew cabins. The yacht also features a helicopter, two helideck platforms, one heli-hangar, a five-person submarine, a spa with sauna, a climbing wall, and a multiple deck water slide. In 2014, Bill Gates reported chartered Serene for $5 million for one week.

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The Battle Against the Narco Submarines

Photo: US Coast Guard

On November 13, a U.S. Coast Guard cutter intercepted a self-propelled submersible loaded with over 3,800 pounds of cocaine in international waters off the coast of Panama. All three suspects will face charges in the U.S. The crew of three was arrested and will face charges in the U.S.

While 3,800 pounds of cocaine may sound like a lot, it is small in comparison to a submersible nabbed in March 2016 in the eastern Pacific loaded with 12,800 pounds of cocaine. A submersible with an even larger shipment, 17,000 pounds, was intercepted in 2015 by the USCGC Stratton.

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Volvo Ocean Racers Battered in the Southern Ocean

The third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town to Melbourne has subjected the fleet to the fury of the Southern Ocean.  With steady winds of 50 knots with gusts to over 60, the seven boats have been surfing down huge waves. Boat speeds of 38 knots have been reported. 

Team AkzoNobel suffered damage to the yacht’s mast and mainsail in a gybe in very strong winds and massive seas. A section of the mainsail track was ripped from the mast, several battens broken and the sail ripped and punctured. The team continued racing under headsails alone and is attempting to fix the damage today under very challenging conditions.

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