Update: Pen Hadow Returns From the North — First Vessels in Central Arctic Ocean Without Icebreaker

An update on a previous post — in August, we posted about Pen Hadow’s latest expedition to the Arctic. Hadow is best known for being the only person to walk solo to the North Pole and back without being resupplied. With the ever decreasing Arctic ice pack, walking to the pole is no longer an option.  Instead, Hadow set out in one of two steel ice-strengthened sailboats to sail to the pole. They didn’t get too close. The two sailboats were stopped by ice north of 8o degrees north latitude. The two steel yachts then turned around and returned safely to Nome, Alaska in September. Nevertheless, the two yachts are the first vessels in history to sail into the Central Arctic Ocean without icebreaker assistance. 

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How Dirty are Cruise Ships? Scrubbing Sulfur and Particulates

How dirty are cruise ships? How much pollution do they really create? It is hard to tell. Several years ago we posted about a claim by the Friends of the Earth which asserted that cruise ships “flushed more than a billion gallons of sewage into oceans” each year. Even a quick glance at the data showed that that wasn’t the case. As we wrote then, the claim was a “wild exaggeration at best. Calling it a boldfaced lie might be a more accurate characterization.”  

Recently, the UK’s Independent reported on an undercover investigation which found high levels of ultra-fine particulates on the deck of P&O Cruises’ ship Oceana downwind of the ship’s stacks.  The particulates were over twice as high as those recorded in Picadilly Circus, London. Directly adjacent to the stacks the figures were even higher. P&O Cruises is owned by Carnival Corp.

Are the results on the Oceana typical of modern cruise ships?  Continue reading

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Hywind Scotland — The Story Behind the World’s First Floating Wind Farm

At the end of September, we posted about Hywind – the First Full-scale Floating Wind Turbine . Here is a short video that looks at taking the project from an idea to the design and the challenges of fabricating and installing the massive hardware necessary for the cutting edge engineering of the first floating wind farm, which is not becoming operational off the coast of Scotland..

Full story of Hywind Scotland – world’s first floating wind farm

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Bloody Rain — Murder, Madness and the Monsoon : Free on Amazon & B&N

My short story Bloody Rain — Murder, Madness and the Monsoon, set on a sailing ship in the 1880s, is free as an ebook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  That’s right — free.  Feel free to grab a copy.

About the short story: Queen Charlotte was a fine, three-masted iron bark; trim, low and fast on a reach – in all respects, the perfection of the shipbuilder’s art. If she had a single great flaw, it was on her quarterdeck in the man that the owners had chosen as captain. Captain John McPherson maintains absolute control over his ship and those who sail upon her. The only one that he cannot control is himself, slipping into murder and madness in the face of the relentless monsoon.

If you like Bloody Rain, (or even if you don’t,) a short review is always appreciated. You may also want to check out my award-winning novels, Hell Around the Horn; The Shantyman; and my latest, Evening Gray, Morning Red.

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Maryland’s Beloved Chesapeake Bay Crabs

With decreased pollution, the Chesapeake Bay has seen a significant recovery in its blue crab population in recent years. All is not good news, however. The 2017 crabbing season was cut short by a significant population decline. With luck, the drop will only be short term.

Here is a short video about catching and eating blue crabs in Maryland.

Maryland’s Beloved Chesapeake Bay Crabs

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HMS Warrior — Steam Powered Frigate of 1860

HMS Warrior is a fascinating ship. It may be heresy to say so, but when I visited Portsmouth, I spent more time on HMS Warrior than I did on Nelson’s Victory. Warrior is a 40-gun steam-powered armored frigate built for the Royal Navy in 1859–61. Warrior and her sister ship HMS Black Prince were the first armor-plated, iron-hulled warships. Combining sail and steam, the two ships were briefly the largest, most powerful, and most technologically advanced warships in the world. Nevertheless, HMS Warrior‘s guns were never fired in anger and she was obsolete within a decade following her commissioning.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about HMS Warrior is that she has survived. Her iron hull didn’t rot or hog, so she was used as a storeship and depot ship, assigned to the Royal Navy’s torpedo training school and ultimately was converted for use as an oil jetty. Restored over an eight-year period the grand old ship was returned to Portsmouth as a museum ship in 1987.  Here is a video tour of HMS Warrior

Queen Victoria’s Historic Battleship HMS Warrior. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Royal Navy History.

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Saving Long Island Sound — Great Progress, More to be Done

When my wife and I recently passed through Western Long Island Sound near City Island on a recent Saturday morning, we saw dozens of fishing boats — large and small, including at least three kayaks outfitted for fishing. I recall a couple of decades ago when the western sound was so depleted of oxygen by algae blooms that fish couldn’t survive. There were no fish to be caught, and if there had been fish, the range of pollutants in the water might not have made them appealing to catch and eat. 

Likewise, when we picked up the launch to go out to the boat in Oyster Bay the night before, I was amazed to see a large school of bluefish swarming right off the dock. Menhaden, also known as bunker, have returned to the Sound and to Oyster Bay with a vengeance and the bluefish are feasting. So too are the humpback whales, which have returned to Long Island Sound for the first time in two decades.

Recently, at a conference titled “Orchestrating Both Coasts for a Better Sound 2.0,” held at the US Merchant Marine Academy at King’s Point, officials from both sides of the Sound celebrated the progress which has been made and called for more to be done.

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Two Sailors and their Dogs Rescued by Navy After 5 Months at Sea

Tasha Fuiaba boarding USS Ashland Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Navy

On Wednesday, the dock landing ship USS Ashland rescued two woman sailors and their two dogs from their sailboat roughly 900 miles southeast of Japan. The sailboat had been spotted by a passing Taiwanese fishing boat, which alerted the navy.

The two sailors, Jennifer Appel and Natasha “Tasha” Fuiava, had attempted to sail from Hawaii to Tahiti and had been lost at sea for almost 5 months. Their engine had been crippled in a storm and their mast was damaged. Nevertheless, the sailors had a years worth of food and a watermaker aboard, so that both were well-nourished and in good health when rescued. 

ABC News reports: On May 3, Appel, an experienced sailor, and Fuiva, a sailing novice, set sail from Honolulu aboard the 50-foot “Sea Nymph” bound for Tahiti, 2,600 miles to the south. Also aboard were Appel’s two dogs, Valentine and Zeus.

Early into their voyage, they realized that a structural failure on their sailing mast would impact their voyage and limit their sailing speed to 4 to 5 knots. Continue reading

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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18: Episode 2

Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18: Episode 2

The Volvo Ocean Race, now in its 13th edition, is back. From the start on October 22 in Alicante, Spain, seven teams are racing around the world, and will be stopping in 12 cities before finishing in June 2018 in The Hague, Holland. The Volvo Race organization is producing weekly videos of the race. Here is Episode 2.

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Earliest Astrolabe Recovered from Wreck of the Esmeralda

A year ago last March, marine archeologists determined that the wreck of a ship found off the coast of Oman was the Esmerelda, one of the ships in a fleet led by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1502. The wreck was discovered in 1998, but excavation didn’t begin until 2013, and since then, researchers have recovered more than 2,800 coins and artifacts. One of the more interesting artifacts is a bronze mariner’s astrolabe, a device used to measure the altitude of celestial bodies. The astrolabe, a primitive precursor to a sextant, is believed to be the earliest of its type ever located.

When the bronze disk was brought up from the wreck in 2016, it was suspected to be an astrolabe but was sufficiently worn so that no markings used in navigation were visible. Subsequently, laser scanning by scientists at the University of Warwick revealed etches around the edge of the disc, each separated by five degrees, confirming that it was indeed used for navigation. The Portuguese coat of arms and the personal emblem of Don Manuel I, the King of Portugal at the time of the sinking, were also found on the disk.  

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The Drunk Guy, the Stolen Skiff, the Ferry Terminal & the Illusion of Security

Last Thursday evening, a man described as being extremely drunk, stole a skiff in Bayonne, NJ, and drove it across New York harbor to Staten Island. He docked the boat in a slip at the St. George Staten Island Ferry Terminal, walked up the gangway and disappeared. The problem is that the ferry terminal docks are considered to be a “secure area” and the drunken man walked right through several restricted areas to make his escape. Alarms bells, literally and figuratively, have been going off ever since.

The Staten Island Ferry is the single busiest ferry route in the United States with an average daily ridership of around 65,000 passengers. Last year it set a record for carrying almost 24 million people.

How serious was the security breach? Continue reading

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Evening Gray Morning Red — Now Available in Print and as Ebook

I am pleased to announce that my latest novel Evening Gray Morning Red is now available in print and as an ebook

A little about the novel:  In Evening Gray Morning Red, a young American sailor must escape his past and the clutches of the Royal Navy, in the turbulent years just before the American Revolutionary War.

In the spring of 1768, Thom Larkin, a 17-year-old sailor newly arrived in Boston, is caught by a Royal Navy press gang and dragged off to HMS Romney, where he runs afoul of the cruel and corrupt Lieutenant Dudingston. Years later, after escaping the Romney, Thom again crosses paths with his old foe, now in command HMS Gaspee, cruising in Narragansett Bay. Thom Larkin must face the guns of the Royal Navy, with only his wits, an unarmed packet boat, and a sandbar.

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Volvo Ocean Race Sets off From Alicante, Spain

A fleet of seven teams of racers set off this morning from Alicante, Spain bound for Lisbon, on the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018.  The eleven leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents, ending next July in The Hague, Netherlands. The teams will race Volvo Ocean 65 one-designs 45,000 miles around the globe.

The seven teams are Team AkzoNobel, backed by a Dutch paint company; Team Dongfeng, sponsored by a Chinese automobile manufacturer; Team MAPFRE, backed by a Spanish insurance company; Team Vestas, supported by the Dutch wind turbine producer; Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, representing a Hong Kong real estate firm; Team Turn the Tide on Plastic/Clean Seas representing a UN environmental group with the support of the Spanish government; and Team Brunel, backed by a Dutch-based global consultancy. 

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Sultana Downrigging Weekend Tall Ship and Wooden Boat Festival — October 27-29

The Sultana Downrigging Weekend and Tall Ship and Wooden Boat Festival has grown to be one of the largest annual Tall Ship gatherings on the East Coast. Now in its 17th year, it is held on the Chester River in Chestertown, MD, one of America’s best preserved colonial seaports. It always worth the trip. This year the downrigging weekend is from October 27-29

If you are interested in the history of sailing craft, just walking the Chestertown docks at the downrigging is an education in itself. Four centuries of sail will be represented. From the 17th century, the Kalmar Nyckel is a  re-creation of the first colonial Swedish settlement ship to arrive in America in the mid-1600s.  The schooner Sultana, the festival host, is a replica of an 18th-century colonial schooner. The schooners Lynx and Pride of Baltimore II  are replicas of 19th century “Baltimore clippers” from the War of 1812. Also from the 19th century is the Lady Maryland, a replica pungy Chesapeake Bay cargo schooner. Three non-replicas represent the 20th century. The oyster-dredging skipjacks Elsworth and Sigsbee were both built in 1901.  The A.JMeerwald, launched in 1928, was one of hundreds of oyster schooners built along the South Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore before the Great Depression.

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The Coffee Table and the Nemi Ships — Remembering Caligula’s Great Pleasure Barges

Part of one of Roman Emperor Caligula‘s ceremonial Nemi ships has been recovered from an unexpected location. The New York Times reports that a four-by-four piece of mosaic flooring from one of the ships has been “sitting in … the Park Avenue apartment of an antiques dealer where it was used as a coffee table often to hold a vase of flowers and, occasionally, someone’s drinking glass. … Last month, prosecutors seized the mosaic, saying they had evidence it had been taken from an Italian museum before World War II. On Thursday evening, the piece was returned to the Italian government at a ceremony, along with two other recently recovered antiquities.” 

However the 2000-year old mosaic panel may have traveled from the small volcanic lake south of Rome to aNew York Park Avenue apartment, the transit may have saved it. The two Roman ships in Lake Nemi, dating from the 1st century were destroyed in 1944 during World War II. 

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The Long Strange Voyage of Rimas Meleshyus

His name is Rimas Meleshyus. He recently showed up adrift on his 30-foot sailboat, Mimsy, off Saipan, where he was towed into port. He had last been reported almost 3,000 nautical miles away on July 31, off Fiji. 

Over the last several years, he has undertaken a series of increasingly bizarre Pacific voyages in three different donated sailboats.Meleshyus is a 60-something Russian immigrant and naturalized US citizen, who set off to sail alone around the world without necessarily knowing much about sailing. Here is a brief recap of his ongoing voyaging, to the extent I can put it together. 

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Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race 2017 — A Great Race

The 2017 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race turned out to be a great race indeed. The schooner Virginia, which has been absent in recent years due to financial issues, returned to race and was the first across the finish line, breaking her own past record time. At the smaller end of the fleet, schooner Norfolk Rebel, under the command of Steve Briggs, won a respectable third place in the Class C race. Click here for a detailed summary of the race results.

The schooner race began in 1988 when Captain Lane Briggs of the Norfolk Rebel challenged Pride of Baltimore II  to a race from Baltimore to Norfolk. Lane Briggs died in 2005 and his son Steve has stepped in as captain. Norfolk Rebel, a sail assisted tugboat, often referred to as a “tugantine,” consistently places well in her class. 

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Stepping Stones Light & the Devil’s Stepping Stones

Steppings Stone Light Photo: K. Lorentz

My wife and I were moving our boat last weekend from her summer mooring in Oyster Bay to winter layup in Cheesequake Creek in Raritan Bay and passed Stepping Stones Light as we rushed to catch a favorable current through Hell Gate.

Even on a gray morning, the lighthouse is very attractive. Built in 1876, it is a Victorian design and has been called New York City’s “cutest lighthouse.” (It is technically just outside New York City.) I am not sure that I would describe it as “cute” but then again, I am not sure that “cute” is a wholly appropriate adjective when describing lighthouses. 

The lighthouse marks Stepping Stones Reef, which is part of a group of the twenty nearby islands and rocks referred to as the Devil’s Stepping Stones.

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SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Loses Power in Newport Harbor

The 200′ long three-masted square-rigger SSV Oliver Hazard Perry was departing from a local dockside festival on Sunday evening when she lost power while maneuvering in very close quarters in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island. The steel ship drifted into four boats. No one was injured in the collisions.  

This morning just before 10AM, the Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island organization released the following statement:

At approximately 6:15 p.m. on Sunday, October 15, while leaving the Bowen’s Wharf Seafood Festival, the Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry’s two propellers became entangled by a dock line, resulting in the loss of engine power. Thanks to the quick actions of the captain, crew, the Newport Harbor Master, Oldport Marine, and the U.S. Coast Guard, the ship was safely secured to the docks at Newport Harbor Hotel and Newport Yacht Club in the northeast corner of Newport Harbor. Continue reading

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MV Yara Birkeland, Autonomous Container Ship — Is This Really a Good Idea?

The first autonomous container ship, the 120 TEU feeder vessel, MV Yara Birkeland, will be launched in 2018. The ship will also be battery-powered and emissions-free. After a period of testing with a crew, the ship is expected to go into autonomous service in 2020. MV Yara Birkeland will sail on two routes within Norway, between Herøya and Brevik (~7 nautical miles (13 km)) and between Herøya and Larvik (~30 nautical miles (56 km)) carrying chemicals and fertilizer. The ship is being jointly developed by two Norwegian companies — agricultural firm Yara International and Kongsberg Gruppen, which builds guidance systems for both civilian and military use.

One question needs to be asked — are autonomous ships really a good idea?  Continue reading

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