Wednesday, October 31, 2007
This past Sunday, the Navy blew up three alleged pirate skiffs with all aboard. Good riddance.
Perhaps honest, law abiding Somali fishermen and other mariners will come to realize it might be better for them to kill their own pirates than wait for the U.S. or some other navy to do it. You don't always know who's who when you're looking at them down a gun sight. If I were a fisherman in the Indian Ocean, and I was being approached by a strange vessel that kept on coming, I would be inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.
Come to think of it, I'd probably feel the same way in the Florida Straights. Have you been following the Joe Cool story?
Unfortunately, the crew of the Joe Cool were duped by a couple of vicious con men who didn't give them much of a chance.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I'll try and keep this rant on topic because my natural inclination is to lump all bad guys in the same category.
Off the coast of Somalia, in the Indian Ocean, things have gotten really bad for mariners. Somali pirates are taking ships and hostages on an almost weekly basis. The latest is a South Korean ship seized not far from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. All of the ships crew were taken hostage.
These Somali pirates have no conscience or morality. They have no sense of right and wrong and they could care less about human life. I'm sure they're quite familiar with the Al Qaeda play book.
The Somali Coast is the second worse place in the world for piracy. The first is the coast of Indonesia, where they are also quite familiar with the Al Qaeda play book.
Some day we will have geostationary satellites in orbit over places like this. The satellites will shoot high energy lasers or particle beams toward Earth, vaporizing rogue pirate vessels before they can do any harm. One minute you'll be cruising along the high seas drinking ouzo, smoking hashish and looking for illegal booty, the next you'll be wondering why your scalp is on fire.
But before that day comes, hopefully, the navies of civilized nations will band together to help protect honest, hard working mariners. If not, mariners who transit these areas will arm themselves to the teeth and take matters into their own hands.
You might remember a story told awhile back about a cruise ship that used sound waves to thwart a pirate takeover. The media and the public thought this was a great victory for seafarers and the free world. I didn't agree. I thought the cruise ship should have turned the pirate vessel into a great sucking hole in the water or a ball of fiery death. Big deal, they sent the pirates away with a few earaches.
Monday, October 29, 2007
The simple truth is, the State of Maine (and by this I'm referring to the government, or more correctly a management body intent on sucking every last dime and ounce of motivation from its citizens) doesn't want you here, at least not if you're planning to work as a commercial fisherman. What they really want are rich retired people who they can sponge off of through real estate, income, estate and other taxes, and welfare families, who will, by their very presence, legitimize the need for bigger government and further socialization of services.
If I sound irritated it's because I just got off the phone with someone in the Maine Department of Marine Resources, who, through no fault of her own, had to tell me I was shit out of luck. I wanted to get a scallop diver permit and a scallop tender permit, which I held fifteen years ago. Could I get these? No. Why not? Because in 1995 they (our illustrious leaders in Augusta) passed a law requiring all harvesters to take a scallop and urchin collection course, for which, of course, you have to pay. I've done a lot of things in my life and collecting scallops and/or urchins was not one of the ones that required an excessive degree of intelligence. But, who am I to say we shouldn't have to take a course? Sure, I tell the lady on the phone, I'll take a course.
"Well, actually," she says. "We don't have one scheduled."
Isn't that great government in action? People call up to get a license that will allow them to legally harvest fish from state waters. However, before a license can be issued, the government requires you to take a course it doesn't have.
When I first moved here, I tried to eek out a living as a charter boat captain. I took fishing and diving charters in the summer and harvested scallops and urchins in the winter. When the ground fish stocks tumbled because of overfishing and piss poor fisheries management, I had no choice but to shift my business to eco-tours. I bought a different boat and let my winter harvesting licenses lapse. Now I can't get them back. Moreover, the eco-tour business went down the tubes when the state and feds allowed the herring boats to pair trawl. The pair trawlers sucked so many fish out of the sea the whales and pelagic birds had no choice but to head farther offshore, out of range of the small eco-tour boats.
So I sold the eco-tour boat and decided to get back into commercial fishing. Not so easy. My tax return states I've been a charter and sightseeing boat, and now the state requires me to pay sales tax. That's money I was going to use to rig up for scallop dragging. OK, no problem, I say, I'll take a couple of scallop divers instead (no more urchin permits available), and go dragging next year.
But noooo. I can't take scallop divers because I don't have the scallop diver safety course, which I'm betting is about as useful as having a dozen nipples on your forehead.
Fishermen have a sweet deal with this state. They don't have to pay sales tax on their boats and/or boat related gear. They don't have to pay sales tax on their fishing supplies. They get to deduct their trucks and a portion of their homes. They get special no interest loans. They get a break on fiscal deadlines. If they wish, they can get real estate tax breaks on their shore frontage. In fact, if you have a dragger and you don't want to go fishing anymore, the federal government will buy you out. Your tax dollars at work.
Charter boat and other commercial boat operators don't get these breaks. They pay all taxes on their vessels and boat related equipment. They can't deduct their pick ups unless they have a second vehicle. And they don't get a break on a portion of their homes unless they designate an area as an office and maintain a separate phone.
I don't begrudge commercial fishermen their entitlements; I am not pissed off because the state has decided to give commercial fishermen a break. I am pissed because -- in an industry that profits from a natural resource that effectively belongs to all -- the state has decided it, and it alone, determines who and who doesn't become a commercial fisherman.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Saul Steinberg, the famous artist who used to do covers for The New Yorker magazine, died in 1999. But he lives on in his art -- even more so now that a mural he did for a cruise ship, scheduled to be sunk off Texas as an artificial reef, has been saved by a conscientious and observant Parks Specialist. Here's the full story.
However, before you go investing in the company, take a minute to remember the hoopla that started when the government first introduced drug testing on a national level. Some people, and even some human rights groups, tried to prove drug testing was an invasion of privacy. They lost their fight but managed to make some changes in drug testing policy.
Even when their is high probability that the person being tested is a habitual drug user, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is essential for law enforcement or other people of authority to adhere strictly to procedure in order to maintain the highest degree of a given test's lawfulness and integrity. What good is proving a person committed a crime or was involved in a costly or fatal accident if the proof is worthless in a court of law?
Let's see what happens when the defense attorneys start challenging the new test and the people in the field who administer it. Maybe it will be as legally rock solid as the result obtained from a professional laboratory, and maybe it won't.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
All I can say is, WHAT???!!!
How can a homeless shelter made out of the rotting remains of an aging 642' steel Navy ship be anything but a giant sucking hole for money? I own a 37' fiberglass lobster boat that generates income and serves as a business and it hemorrhages money like a monkey-loving pop star. If the Navy can't afford to keep the ship, how are homeless people and their benefactors going to afford it?
My recommendation: Start small. Take one homeless guy and place him in a 30' wooden cabin cruiser. Tie the boat up to the end of the public pier. See how that works out before jumping into the big leagues.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Remember the Joe Cool, the charter fishing boat out of Miami I've been writing about? Four of its crew were killed and dumped overboard by "persons unknown." At least that's what the defense attorney's for the two charterers would like us to believe, that the perp's were "person's unknown." The defense is going with the pirate tale told to investigators by the two yahoos that chartered the boat. Defense lawyers. Don't get me started.
Seriously. I watch Law & Order all the time, and I'm constantly saying to myself, "Hey, wait a minute, they don't have any evidence. It's all circumstantial. There's no case." And yet, there goes Jack, with a bone in his teeth.
So, OK, I have in me the desire to preserve a person's right to be proven guilty. Burden of proof and all that. But this case is different. This case gives new meaning to the phrase, circumstantial evidence.
Today the two "survivors" of the so-called pirate attack were denied bail. Thank you, sweet justice. I say, lock 'em up and throw away the key -- or just do to them what they did to the crew of the Joe Cool.
Note#: Photo is public domain from BurningWell.Org. It has nothing to do with the Joe Cool, except for the fact it shows a soldier on a boat ready to pounce on bad guys.
Monday, October 22, 2007
The principle idea behind this concept is that the hull shape and form permit it to bend and flex instead of fight the motion of the sea.
To be honest, I'm not convinced of her sea keeping. I'm even less impressed by her looks. I think I'll keep an open mind and wait for the final verdict.
The Hickman Sea Sled was a great concept and an even better boat but you don't see companies rushing to build them. Come to think of it, the SWATH is a pretty good concept, and yet, it's another idea failing to break industry records.
Bottom line, it's hard to beat the traditional mono-hull for cost, sea keeping, and practicality.
A collision between a tug and tow and a small (24') private fishing boat claimed the lives of two men the other day. I believe it happened Friday or Saturday. Photo above is a stock, public domain picture from dieselduck.net with no connection to the story, nonetheless relevant in that it helps demonstrate who's the big dog in a match-up between certain vessels at sea.
Two men survived the accident. They were plucked from the Atlantic and airlifted to an area hospital.
New York waters have seen their share of tragic collisions between commercial vessels and small recreational power and sail boats. In the majority of situations the cause of the incident can be traced to operator error on the part of the master of the recreational boat.
The area off Coney Island is particular heavy with commercial coastal traffic as many tugs with oil barges in tow transit the area.
Meanwhile, it was a year ago to the date the Coast Guard released the following report on another fatal collision off Roanoke Pt. Shoals in Long Island Sound, approximately 80 miles to the east. In this case, the photo is relevant.
This situation is probably a little different than the first in that the 92' yacht was most likely professionally crewed. This doesn't necessarily make the master of the yacht more knowledgeable or experienced than the master of the small recreational fishing boat, but if you had to choose one skill set over the other I think it would be safe to choose the master of the yacht's.
NEW HAVEN, Conn.--A woman is dead and two men were rescued following an early morning collision between a 600-foot freighter and a 92-foot sailboat five miles north of Roanoke Point Shoals in Long Island Sound, 4:00 this morning. Roanoke Point Shoals is located north of Riverhead, N.Y., along Long Island's North Shore.
A Coast Guard rescue boat from Station New Haven recovered two of the three-person sailboat crew and transferred them to local EMS. The woman was pronounced dead at Yale New Haven Hospital. A man was being treated for mild hypothermia. The third crewman, the sailboat captain, was rescued by the freighter's small boat and was transported by the Coast Guard rescue boat to shore. He is reportedly in good physical condition.
The 600-foot coal carrier BARKALD was transiting outbound to Halifax, Nova Scotia, from Bridgeport, Conn., and a 92-foot sailing vessel was transiting inbound to Greenwich, Conn., when the collision occurred. Coast Guard Sector Long Island Sound received the initial call at 4:04 a.m. and immediately launched a rescue boat from Station New Haven. The Coast Guard rescue crew arrived on scene at 4:29 a.m. Seas were reported at two-to-three feet.
The Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Long Island Sound ordered the Marshall Islands-flagged BARKALD to a New Haven anchorage area pending the start of an investigation. As is standard for all marine incidents, the Coast Guard ordered drug and alcohol screening of the BARKALD's crew.
The sailing vessel sank with 600 gallons of diesel onboard. The Coast Guard is monitoring for potential pollution from this incident.
If anything, the collisions show the cost of complacency and over confidence, regardless of who is finally determined to be at fault, if any fault is found. Sometimes, circumstances conspire against mariners in insidious ways.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
The above boat was photographed after being towed back from somewhere between SW Shoal and Six Mile Reef in Long Island Sound. A private company brought it in using lift bags to right it. Apparently, the boat flipped over at some point during the day. Wind and seas were calm that day . . . there were no special weather advisories in effect.
One of the two people on the boat, the captain, is still missing. The second person, a woman, was found yesterday. No foul play is suspected.
Tragic story about two people, a man and woman, who were great friends and loved to fish.
Boat is 19' long. It had been modified with a wheelhouse, windshield and trunk cabin and some are suggesting the modification made the boat unstable and bow heavy. Too much weight in the bow of a vessel tends to make it squirrelly and unpredictable underway.
However, the boat was found with it's anchor out. It's not known if the anchor was deliberately set before the vessel capsized or if the anchor deployed accidentally when the capsize occured.
In the photo above the boat looks a tad bow down, but not enough to say it's bow heavy. Many vessels of this type will idle at a slow bell with their bows down slightly; it doesn't necessarily mean they're bow heavy.
This story recalls the tragic incident in New York when a modified Dyer passenger boat on a lake boating cruise (its deck and cabin had been raised) capsized with fatal consequences for a group of seniors.
It's too early to tell if the vessel flipped because it was overly "tender" due to the modification or if a freak wave pooped the boat. There is enough tide in this area of the Sound that if it ran counter to a rogue wave or wake . . . it could spell trouble for a small boat at anchor with its stern facing the approaching wave.
One thing can be certain: Any structural after-market modification to a vessel's original concept has untested and potentially dangerous consequences.
My sympathies to the families.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
and then post corrections in the comment section. Just click on the comment link at the bottom of this post. Thanks.)
Spanish authorities boarded the Treasure Hunter Ship Odyssey Explorer after it departed from Gibraltar. The ship had been engaged in salvage operations in waters off the coast and had recovered some $500,000 worth of silver ingots or coins from a Spanish shipwreck code named the Black Swan. (The actual value of the treasure is still a matter of speculation.)
The Spanish government claims all its shipwrecks, regardless of age, to be state owned property, a policy shared by most other world governments. However, in most, if not all cases, the Maritime Law of Finds and the Maritime Law of Salvage is used as a means of superseding a government's claim of ownership. These wrecks, having been submerged and unclaimed for so long, are considered abandoned property. Meanwhile, this particular case is further complicated by the geopolitical brouhaha between Spain and Portugal.
The Odyssey Explorer was met by a Spanish warship not long after it left Gibraltar. She was escorted back to Spanish waters because of unfavorable wind and sea conditions, the actual boarding and seizure of the vessel's log and some of its findings taking place in a Spanish port. I'm not certain if the vessel and or its crew have been arrested or seized. (A more recent report suggest the vessel is under blockade.)
This story will be an interesting one to watch as both the Spanish government and the Odyssey Explorer's owners fight over the treasure and the legality of the boarding and seizure.
(For a BBC Update to this story click here.)
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I'm using the photo above to illustrate a story I came across day before yesterday in a South African Online newspaper. Apparently a fishing boat in St. Francis Bay off the Eastern Cape of South Africa spotted an iceberg where an iceberg should never be. The captain and crew of the vessel said they turned around and got closer because they couldn't believe their eyes, at which time they said they were sure it was an iceberg about 25 meters and 20 meters high.
No other sightings have been made of this mysterious iceberg and as such the weather service and the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) are downplaying the report. They have, however, issued an alert to all vessels transiting the area.
A spokesman for the NSRI has issued a statement saying, essentially, that it is highly unlikely this thing was an iceberg. The question then becomes, what was it?
Commercial fishermen are generally not in the habit of drawing attention to themselves by falsifying reports or playing practical jokes on the authorities.
Bullshit! Let's review.
The "alleged" survivors claim the vessel was boarded by pirates and that the pirates killed the captain, his wife, and the first mate and threw the bodies overboard. They say the pirates then commandeered the boat for Cuba but ran out of fuel. At this time the "alleged" survivors claim the pirates were picked up by another boat and that they (the "alleged" survivors) were placed adrift in the Joe Cool's only life raft.
How can this be considered anything but a bald faced lie? And how can defense attorneys say there is a lack of physical evidence. In fact, it's the so-called lack of physical evidence that completely proves the "alleged" survivors' guilt.
1. There were no radio transmissions or maydays about a hijacking from the boat. In fact, the boat was equipped with a DSC call button that would have sent an automatic MAYDAY and the vessel's GPS position.
2. The four spent shell casings found on scene had stamps matching ammunition purchased by Zarabozo (one of the two "alleged" survivors) in February.
3. There were no scratches or marks on the Joe Cool's hull. How would an unwanted, unwelcome vessel get alongside without causing damage to the Joe Cool and itself?
4. Archer (the other "alleged" survivor) and Zarabozo say they were going to rendezvous with girlfriends on Bimini, but no women have come forward.
5. Although the survivors told investigators the killings occurred on the boat's exterior deck, human blood and three of the four shell casings were found inside the main cabin.
6. Why would pirates commandeer a vessel only to leave it just because it ran out of fuel? If the pirates were picked up by another vessel, presumably the vessel they came in, why didn't the other vessel take the Joe Cool in tow back to Cuba?
8. Why didn't the pirates scavenge the Joe Cool? If they were pirates, and if pirates are after treasure, why didn't they take valuables off of the Joe Cool?
9. Why did they leave witnesses? They were willing to kill the captain and crew, why didn't they also kill Archer and Zarabazo? Why bother placing them in a life raft of the Cuban coast?
I think it's obvious what happened here and all I can say is that if these two guys manage to get off, they'll probably be dead in six months. They went into Miami and messed with the wrong industry. I'm going to take a guess and say that there are plenty of people in Miami just waiting for these two to walk. The two are probably better off pleading guilty than waiting to suffer the wrath of those who will be looking for them on the outside.
Monday, October 15, 2007
One of the benefits of the research will be furthering our understanding of greenhouse effects and global warming.
The study involves measuring levels of lipids. Lipid concentrations relate directly to concentrations of algae, which relates to the presence of sea ice.
The study can help determine pack ice conditions for a given year, e.g. the year Sir John Franklin of the Royal Navy lost two ships and 129 men in search of the Northwest Passage.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Don't misunderstand me, I'm a staunch conservationist. I believe in protecting the environment. And I'm active on behalf of many environmental causes. But when activists or lobbyists promote change that does more harm than good, it's time for said activists to find another line of work.
PS. Please check out the comment by Chris Leigh-Jones, of MD Krystallon Ltd, who argues on behalf of scrubbers. In a nutshell, he says that although it's true the sulfuric acid effluent from scrubbers releases CO2 from seawater, the overall release of CO2 from the alternate fuel supply side (either from the creation of low sulfur fuel or the creation of low sulfur distillate fuel), at present the only other two emission control methods, is much worse. I don't doubt this claim for a second, but I wonder why, if this is the case, we in the U.S. have switched to lower sulfur fuels?
Friday, October 12, 2007
Here's a prefect example of how seriously detached and ill-informed our legislators are as they try to enact laws to help protect the endangered right whale.
We now have a new law prohibiting float rope between pairs of lobster traps. What, you ask, is the big deal? Isn't this a good thing? Well, no. In fact, it's really, really bad.
Lobstermen place float rope between their traps on the bottom to prevent the rope and the traps from getting twisted and snagged on rocks. Now they'll have to use rope that sinks, which means their traps will get hung-down more often.
But that's really not going to happen that much, because lobstermen aren't going to bother with pairs anymore. They'll go back to singles, which means there will be twice as many buoys and ten times as much rope in the water as there is now.
So, in effect, the new legislation forced down the throats of fisherman actually makes things worse for whales.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The argument against the ferry, posed by environmental groups, is that it threatens the humback whales' sanctuary and the delicate marine environment of the islands. Because of its intended route and its speed (it travels at speeds in excess of 40 mph), scientists worry it will disrupt whale activity and increase ship traffic and the possibility of deadly collisions. An additional concern is that it will introduce invasive species of plants and animals into protected habitats.
The judge ordered an end to ferry service until an environmental impact study was completed, a process that is slated to take 8 months.
Ferry representatives said they are not sure what they will do in the interim but you can bet they're looking for a route and a berth elsewhere. They have another ferry on the ways in the U.S. so it's unlikely they can afford to wait the 8 months.
It's hard to imagine launching a $300 Million ferry venture without first conducting an environmental impact study, especially when the ferry is planning to traverse one of the richest marine environments in the world.
Ship owners and operators should take this news to heart. You can't underestimate the power (and anger) of the people and their advocates.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Does anybody know if Ballard has gotten anywhere with his plans to paint the Titanic? Back in 2005 he was promoting an effort to preserve the most famous of all shipwrecks as a museum. He wanted to stem the corrosive action of the ship's deep sea grave by adding an anti-fouling cover to the skin of the vessel. According to interviews with the renowned oceanographer from Kansas City, he had planned to experiment with smaller sunken wrecks. Meanwhile, I have heard nothing further about his efforts, except that a few days ago I was reminded of the plan when someone on an archeology mailing list mentioned it in regards to legal ownership of underwater sites.
My ambivalence here is twofold: (1) The Titanic is a precious grave site fated to dissolve into history and, (2) Anti-fouling pain is a pollutant. If you dumped a 55 gallon drum of it overboard and someone in authority saw you do it chances are you would be fined or imprisoned or both. Obviously, Ballard is thinking he might be able to devise a system whereby a protective coating is applied without harm to the ocean. I can think of a lot of reasons why coming up with a way to do this would be of great benefit to industry and the environment, but I have mixed feelings about doing it on the Titanic, or for that matter, any other shipwreck.
Saturday, October 06, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
This guy had his super yacht driven ashore by Hurricane Wilma. Rather than take the loss he stood by the boat to make sure nobody would scavenge it. He worked with the government for years to work out an environmentally sound salvage plan and is now, finally, getting his boat back. The cost has been, according to his estimates, one million dollars a month. Yeah, you read that right. Original purchase price: $16 Million. Obviously, this guy isn't really hurting for cash (he made his money selling credit card insurance) and he really loves his boat.
The salvage delay is all about the seagrass, according to the AP report. You can't damage seagrass. It's protected, dammit!
No, seriously, there's a good reason to protect seagrass. I won't get the specifics here, but suffice it to say seagrass is essential to ocean biology.
I can't help myself. I like a guy who loves his boat.
Thursday, October 04, 2007