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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why Save Loran?


Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut seem to think the Coast Guard and DHS should upgrade and save the LORAN Navigation System. They see the LNS as an important part of a mariner's tool bag and point to the economic advantages of keeping it operational. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is slated to decide one way or the other. The Bangor Daily News has the full story here.

While I can see the advantage of a land-based navigation system set on US soil from a security perspective, and I can see the point in keeping a system that costs as much to save as it does to dismantle, I can't see saving a system based on the needs of a handful of 2oth century navigators and manufacturers who can't leave the past behind.

GPS has been surprisingly robust and effective. It's expensive, and it has its vulnerabilities, including solar radiation, cosmic rays, weather, degraded hardware, and orbital anomalies. But LORAN isn't nearly as precise, and it has equally if not worse coverage and reliability issues. Moreover, if the point of technological advancement is to move forward and up, then I can't see saving LORAN. It has as much practical use for the modern mariner and/or pilot as the CB radio, which the vast majority of professionals had the good sense to toss in the drink 30 years ago. In fact, the country's entire navigational capability, in virtually every sector, commercial, industrial, and recreational, is based on the GPS. We've come too far to go back. We've passed the point of no return. LORAN is dead. Accept it. If you need a back-up to GPS, use a chart, your compass and a watch, which suggests something a lot of Loran proponents aren't mentioning.

Let's say we save LORAN and keep it as a GPS back-up. How is it going to help a navigator who doesn't have a LORAN receiver on his boat or plane? Obviously, it's not. So what's going to happen? Will plotters and other navigation equipment have to be made with dual receivers? Will the Coast Guard require commercial vessels to be equipped with a back-up LORAN receiver, either as a stand-alone or as a dual purpose unit. Will we have to carry yet another piece of required equipment, like our AIS, which I assume will need to be integrated with the back-up LORAN. And what about our EPIRBs.

I remember when the Coast Guard and industry forced mariners to switch to 406 mHz EPIRBS. We all had to suck up and embrace the new technology even though many of us who fished inshore (inside 20 miles) knew our best chance for survival after a catastrophic hull breach was a continuous emergency tone transmitted over VHF Channel 16. Well, too bad. We had to trash our older EPIRBs and buy new ones that cost ten times as much. But hang on a second. Because we're allowed once again to transmit MAYDAYs on Channel 16. Manufacturers have reintroduced continuous tone MAYDAY transmissions over VHF frequencies in the form of an Emergency Channel 16 DSC. These MAYDAY transmitters are available in DSC-equipped VHF radios and Personal VHF-based EPIRBs known as VPIRBs. These MAYDAY transmitters send out a continuous digital call that includes, you guessed it, your GPS position. But if we have LORAN as a back-up, how is the back-up signal integrated into the VHF or VPIRB, or a similarly equipped EPIRB that also transmits a GPS location? And how does the transmitter know which signal to use and when? Hmm, sounds complicated, and expensive.

But that's just what they want. To pass the cost of everything onto us. First they'll stick it to us as the taxpayer, then we'll get it again as the consumer.

My vote is to say no to LORAN. The Coast Guard and the IMO picked GPS as the system of choice. Let's stick with it. If a back-up is necessary, it should be able to work with onboard equipment in use today -- not tomorrow, or worse, yesteryear!

~seabgb


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Portland Fire Boat Runs Aground

The Portland Press Herald has run a couple of stories about the new $3.2 million fire boat going aground during the rescue attempt of a stranded mariner on Saturday, November 7. I use the term mariner lightly because there's some question as to what the victim and his wife were doing out around Jewell Island. Was he bird hunting out of a kayak or taking a leisurely paddle with his wife in a canoe? Apparently, nobody knows which. However, we do know that going to Jewell Island in November in a canoe or kayak is certainly no picnic cruise. Jewell sits at the outer edge of the Casco Bay archipelago. In other words, it's out there.

Sometime in the afternoon the victim and his wife ended up on Jewell Island suffering from hypothermia. They built a fire and called for help and the USCG and Portland fire boat responded. Two rescuers in a skiff made it to shore and attended to first aid but the tide was ebbing and before they knew it their skiff was high and dry. The fire boat turned around and headed back to Portland for additional manpower and equipment and it was on this return leg that they ran aground in Whitehead Passage between Peaks Island and Cushing Island.

The Portland Press Herald article makes it sound as if an insidious rock jumped off the bottom and took hold of the fireboat. But if you look at the chart you will see a clearly marked channel holding plenty of water (four to six fathoms) for a boat with a 4' draft, provided you don't run straight courses between markers.

Portland Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne said that they would be retracing the fireboat's course to determine what it was the boat hit -- to determine the precise location of any navigable hazards.

I think it's safe to assume the fireboat hit a rock or ledge. And I would further suggest that spending taxpayer money looking for an unmarked hazard is not as important as determining the piloting and/or navigation error that contributed to the grounding.

I'm also curious as to why the fireboat was dispatched in the first place. The Coast Guard and the Marine Patrol are tasked with these types of rescues, and it was the Marine Patrol that eventually completed the evacuation in a small boat. So why did the fireboat go? I can understand dispatching the fireboat in a "standby and assist if necessary role." But when you have a call for help from a man who is not physically in the water, who is on an island with almost no easy landing or access . . . unless the fire boat was out there because of the small fire the man reportedly had started. Anyway, I think the Fire Department owes it to the taxpaying public to look closely at their response to this emergency so that some specific emergency response parameters can be established for the future.

Incidentally, the man who was rescued didn't require hospital attention. He and his wife were dropped off at a marina by the Marine Patrol.

~seabgb

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Maine Halibut Fisherman Getting Steamed, Again!

The Feds have decided the Maine halibut is over-fished. Consequently, DMR has little recourse but to impose new fishing restrictions, i.e. there will be new minimum size limits and new catch limits. We're looking at a minimum size of 41" and a catch limit of 30 fish per fisherman. Recreational fisherman are limited to one fish per day.

To say this has pissed off a few fisherman is an understatement of gargantuan proportions. Fishermen feel as if they're being pushed out of the resource altogether.

Look, I'm all for conservation of resource, and I'm a firm believer that commercial fishing is a privilege and not a right. And I'm also convinced that commercial fishing has done as much harm, if not more, to the resource than coastal development and pollution. But -- and it's a big but -- the feds and the state have contributed greatly to the problem of ecological collapse.

First, they operate in a knee-jerk capacity. Instead of being pro-active they're reactive, and all final decisions are highly political. Regulations are determined based on questionable science and compromise solutions.

In the halibut debate, fishermen claim there are plenty of fish. Well, guess what? They always say that. Let's face it. Fishermen lie. They lie to the feds. They lie to each other. They lie to themselves. Maybe they don't even think they're lying. Sure, there are plenty of fish, based on what? Based on how many they caught in previous years? How many years? One? Ten? It doesn't take a genius to see what has happened to the Gulf of Maine over the last twenty years alone. And fishermen should see it and know it before anyone else.

But the state and the feds are equally out there in fantasy land. They say they're being pro-active by making sure all the 950-plus people who have licenses don't got out next winter and decimate the fishery. Well, if they're worried about that, why don't they just freeze licenses? Why don't they turn all fishing licenses into ITQs (Individual Transferable Quotas)?

The state and the feds are thinking ideologically. They are not taking into consideration reality:

1. Most of the halibut endorsements on the books belong to lobstermen and others who will never fish for halibut. They got their endorsement because they figured if they didn't get one the state would take away their privilege. Who could blame them? The state has taken away scallop permits and urchin permits from fishermen who have let their permits expire. I can attest to this because I'm one of the ones who lost both his urchin and scallop permits.

2. Fishermen who hold Federal Fishing Permits for groundfish are limited to one halibut per day and can't fish the same way fishermen with state licenses can fish. My 2,500 hook groundfish permit went to 400 pounds per day, then to 75 pounds per day. My current federal permit for groundfish is for 75 pounds a day, but this permit is for all groundfish, including halibut. What happens if I catch a 150 pound halibut? I'll tell you what happens. I have to throw it back dead. How ridiculous is that?

3. There are plenty of fishermen who catch and sell halibut without a license, permit or any regard to the law, and there are not enough marine patrol officers or other law enforcement personnel to monitor these and/or any other infractions or violations of fishery laws.

I understand why fisherman are pissed and I sympathize. They seem to get nothing in return for their sacrifice except more and more regulations and laws and more and more costs. The state is now looking at raising the price of lobster tags. What??!! They've done nothing to help the lobstermen deal with the rising costs of fuel and bait or the drop in price of lobsters, and all they've done is used revenues to create more restrictions and bureacracy. It's almost conspiritorial the way the feds and industry work together to create gear, equipment, and electronics that fishermen have to buy in order to keep fishing.

So what should we do? I think it's simple.

Freeze licenses and turn everything on the books to ITQs based on catch records. Give fishermen a chance to have something of value on the back end. Give them something to work toward. A business they can sell.

Forget these stupid size and catch limit regulations. Forget the days-at-sea limit crap. None of these are working. They're barely enforceable, starving-out fishermen, and they're based on questionable science. Instead, create no-fishing conservation zones. Fish need a refuge, a place where they can rebound without interference from fishermen AND regulators.

~seabgb

Oysters: To Slurp or not to Slurp.

OK, here we go again. The government insists on sticking its big nose into something else. This time it's Gulf Oysters. About 15 people die of food poisoning every year in the U.S. from oysters contaminated with a toxic bacteria known as vibrio vulnificus. This bacteria grows during the warm months between April and October. Typically the bacteria is dangerous to people with compromised health issues. Full story here.

Here's the thing. People who live and eat seafood on a regular basis, particularly people who eat raw fish on a regular basis, will not have a problem with most fish toxins. But people who come from the mid-west who never eat shellfish can find themselves in a world of hurt eating just one oyster, clam or scallop. If you have spent your life living a comfortable and relatively protected life in New York City, and then one day you decide to go to Africa on a safari, and let's say one night you're out in the bush taking a leak in your bare feet and you step on a contaminated thorn. Guess what? You can get an infection and die. Your guide, or any other person who grew up stepping on thorns in the same area, probably wouldn't even notice the scratch.

I'm all for government oversight, but let's not take these things too the extreme.

If you've never eaten raw oysters or raw fish, or if you suffer from an immune disorder, or have kidney or liver problems, you should know well enough NOT to risk your life on exotic foods.

~seabgb

20' Great White


It's nice to know the big ones are still out there. Full story here. We get great whites here but they're usually small. On the other hand, we've had some big Mako sharks here. I have seen two small great whites here in the Gulf of Maine.

~seabgb

Sperm Whale Eating Giant Squid Photos


Great photos and story here. Last two sperm whales I saw were both dead. One had washed ashore and the other was bloated and floating about 50 miles out to sea.

~seabgb

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's Going On At The National Weather Service?

I'm no weather expert, but I've noticed lately the weather experts are not weather experts, either. Sure, I hear you saying: "What else is new?" But hear me out. Until recently, I actually thought the guys at NWS did a pretty good job. Maybe they have somebody new, a complete guppy, on the Coastal Maine desk. That's probably it.

The problem is at NWS in Gray, Maine. Here's an example: A couple of weeks ago, I heard on the weather radio there was going to be an easterly gale. I went on-line, dialed up the Matinicus Rock Light NDBC page, and brought up the Latest NWS Forecast 2. The Penobscot Bay forecast called for northely winds to 15 knots, while the Stonington to Port Clyde out to 25 nautical miles forecast called for east winds 15 to 25 knots with gusts to 40 knots. This was for a low tracking through the center of the state toward the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Like I said, I'm no expert, but that's impossible. It can't be both, and it's unlikely to be easterly or northerly with a low tracking inland, basically up Rt. 95. In fact, that night it turned out to be southeast and backing.

So, what do we have today? Almost a repeat performance in accuracy, except this time it's a low tracking south and east of us. Great. I moved my boat because one hour earlier NWS was calling for easterly winds to 40 knots. Now, as you can see, it's northeast to only 25 knots.

Meanwhile, when is somebody going to inform NWS in Gray, Maine that Stonington to Port Clyde out to 25 nautical miles ***IS*** Penobscot Bay.

Here's the current forecast:

ANZ151-153-160915-
PENOBSCOT BAY-CASCO BAY-
303 PM EDT THU OCT 15 2009

...SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM EDT FRIDAY THROUGH
SATURDAY MORNING...

TONIGHT
NE WINDS 5 TO 10 KT...INCREASING TO 10 TO 15 KT WITH
GUSTS UP TO 25 KT AFTER MIDNIGHT. SEAS 2 TO 4 FT...BUILDING TO 3
TO 5 FT AFTER MIDNIGHT.

FRI
NE WINDS 10 TO 20 KT WITH GUSTS TO 25 KT...BECOMING N 10 TO
15 KT IN THE AFTERNOON. SEAS 3 TO 5 FT. A CHANCE OF RAIN OR SNOW
IN THE AFTERNOON WITH VSBY 1 TO 3 NM.

FRI NIGHT
N WINDS 15 TO 20 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 25 KT. SEAS 4 TO
7 FT. A CHANCE OF SHOWERS IN THE EVENING.

SAT
NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 20 KT. SEAS 4 TO 6 FT.

SAT NIGHT
NE WINDS 10 TO 15 KT...INCREASING TO 15 TO 20 KT AFTER
MIDNIGHT. GUSTS UP TO 30 KT. SEAS 2 TO 4 FT. A CHANCE OF SNOW AFTER
MIDNIGHT.

SUN
NE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 25 KT. SEAS 3 TO 5 FT.
A CHANCE OF SHOWERS.

SUN NIGHT
NE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT...INCREASING TO 20 TO 25 KT AFTER
MIDNIGHT. SEAS 4 TO 7 FT. A CHANCE OF RAIN.

MON
NE WINDS 20 TO 25 KT...BECOMING N 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS 4 TO
7 FT...SUBSIDING TO 3 TO 5 FT. RAIN LIKELY.

TUE
W WINDS 10 TO 15 KT. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT...SUBSIDING TO 1 TO 2 FT.


ANZ150-152-154-160915-
STONINGTON ME TO PORT CLYDE ME OUT TO 25 NM-
PORT CLYDE ME TO CAPE ELIZABETH ME OUT TO 25 NM-
CAPE ELIZABETH ME TO MERRIMACK RIVER MA OUT TO 25 NM-
303 PM EDT THU OCT 15 2009

...SMALL CRAFT ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 2 AM EDT FRIDAY THROUGH
SATURDAY MORNING...

TONIGHT
NE WINDS 5 TO 10 KT...INCREASING TO 15 TO 20 KT WITH
GUSTS UP TO 25 KT. SEAS 2 TO 3 FT...BUILDING TO 4 TO 6 FT AFTER
MIDNIGHT. A CHANCE OF RAIN OR SNOW AFTER MIDNIGHT WITH VSBY 1 TO
3 NM.

FRI
NE WINDS 15 TO 25 KT...DIMINISHING TO 10 TO 20 KT IN THE
AFTERNOON. SEAS 6 TO 9 FT. A CHANCE OF RAIN.

FRI NIGHT
N WINDS 15 TO 20 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 KT. SEAS 6 TO
9 FT. A CHANCE OF RAIN AND SNOW SHOWERS IN THE EVENING.

SAT
NE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 25 KT. SEAS 5 TO 8 FT.

SAT NIGHT
NE WINDS 15 TO 20 KT...INCREASING TO 20 TO 25 KT AFTER
MIDNIGHT. SEAS 4 TO 7 FT. A CHANCE OF RAIN AFTER MIDNIGHT.

SUN
NE WINDS 20 TO 25 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 30 KT. SEAS 5 TO 8 FT.
SHOWERS LIKELY.

SUN NIGHT
NE WINDS 15 TO 25 KT...BECOMING 20 TO 25 KT AFTER
MIDNIGHT. SEAS 6 TO 9 FT. RAIN LIKELY.

MON
N WINDS 20 TO 25 KT...BECOMING NW 15 TO 20 KT. SEAS 6 TO
9 FT...SUBSIDING TO 3 TO 5 FT. RAIN LIKELY.

TUE
NW WINDS 10 TO 20 KT...BECOMING W 10 TO 15 KT. SEAS 2 TO
4 FT...SUBSIDING TO 1 TO 2 FT AFTER MIDNIGHT.


Obama to Kick Sportfishermen in the Knees

Feds to 60 Million American Anglers: We don't need you


IRVINE, Calif. USA – October 5, 2009 – A recently published administration document outlines a structure that could result in closures of sport fishing in salt and freshwater areas across America. The White House created an Interagency Oceans Policy Task Force in June and gave them only 90 days to develop a comprehensive federal policy for all U.S. coastal, ocean and Great Lakes waters. Under the guise of ‘protecting’ these areas, the current second phase of the Task Force direction is to develop zoning which may permanently close vast areas of fishing waters nationwide. This is to be completed by December 9, 2009.

Dave Pfeiffer, President of Shimano American Corporation explained, “In spite of extensive submissions from the recreational fishing community to the Task Force in person and in writing, they failed to include any mention of the over one million jobs or the 6o million anglers which may be affected by the new policies coast to coast. Input from the environmental groups who want to put us off the water was adopted into the report verbatim – the key points we submitted as an industry were ignored.”

Recreational fishing generates a $125 billion annual economy in the United States and supports jobs in every state according to government figures. Through the Sport Fish Restoration program, anglers have provided more than $5 billion through excise taxes on fishing tackle to fishery conservation and education for decades.

In addition to the economic aspects, anglers lead the nation in volunteer conservation efforts on behalf of improving fish habitat, water quality and related environmental areas. “There was no mention of the fishery conservation efforts which anglers have led for over 50 years in every state – an environmental success story that has no equal in the world”, said Phil Morlock, Director, Environmental Affairs for Shimano. “The Task Force did not make any distinction between the dramatic differences between harmful commercial fishing harvest methods and recreational fishing, even though we spelled it out for them in detail,” added Morlock.

Claiming to be the result of a public consultation process the report states, “Having considered a broad range of public comments, this report reflects the requests and concerns of all interested parties.”

The original White House memo and not surprisingly the Task Force report contains multiple references to developing a national policy where Great Lakes and coastal regions are managed, “consistent with international law, including customary international law as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” - a 300-page treaty the U.S. has never ratified.

“We question what implications there will be for state authority and jurisdiction in the Great Lakes and coastal regions if the U.S. adopts the U.N. Treaty,” said Pfeiffer.

The report makes it clear that future authority for implementing the policy for coastal and inland waters will fall under White House jurisdiction with a new National Ocean Council comprised of over 20 federal agencies at Cabinet Secretary or Deputy Secretary level. No reference to Congressional jurisdiction is indicated.

“This significant change in U.S. policy direction is the result of a 90-day fire drill process as ordered by the President that, not surprisingly, lacks balance, clarity and quality in the end product,” said Morlock. “People who simply want to take their kids fishing on public waters deserve better from their government,” he added.

Shimano is joining with other members of the recreational fishing industry to urge anglers to contact their members of Congress and the administration to request this process be required to adopt the economic, conservation and social contributions of recreational fishing as key elements of the policy. It is critical that we ensure Congressional oversight and state jurisdiction and management continues.

E-letters can be sent to the administration and members of Congress by visiting KeepAmericaFishing.org. The future of fishing is in your hands.

###
Editor’s Note: Phil Morlock is attending Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus functions this week in Washington, DC, but will make himself available for questions, interviews on this. Contact John Mazurkiewicz with Catalyst Marketing for arrangements.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Consolidated Merchant Mariner Credential

The picture above depicts Jessica Dennis receiving the very first consolidated Merchant Mariner Credential. This was back in May of '09.

The new credential, if you haven't already seen it, is like a passport. It contains all your licenses, endorsements, qualifications, waivers, limitations, etc. Any additional endorsements will be added in the form of a sticker. Like your original license, it's good for five years.

The new credential takes the place of the previous four, seperate USCG documents: Merchant Mariner Document, Merchant Marine License, Certificate of Registry, STCW Certificate.

When I needed to renew my captain's license, which was up this year, I was advised to apply for my MMD (AB-Unl.) at the same time, even though my MMD still had four years left to go to its expiration date. Putting all your licenses together on one credential and having them set to expire at the same time saves quite a bit of money, and not just in license fees. Don't forget, each renewal requires a new physical and a new drug test (or proof of enrollment in a random drug pool).

Anyway, as I understand it, you must carry the new license with you, and also keep your paper captain's license with you, even though the latter has expired. In fact, I think the expired paper license is still suppose to be posted on your vessel.


~seabgb

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Working Waterfront Can Be A Bit Much

I enjoy the Working Waterfront but sometimes I think they take advocacy too far. For example, sometimes their articles suggest that islanders are a completely different species of human and that this distinction entitles them to special privileges. It’s like they’re writing about the indigenous tribes of the Amazon.

Let’s take the recent article on Ethanol. They act as if we on the mainland have different Ethanol concerns than those who live on the islands. Moreover, I hardly think they can compare the fuel requirements and idiosyncrasies of an airplane to those of a lawn mower. Also, I should point out . . . water isn’t the worst problem of phase separation.

You can get rid of the water by draining, filtering or siphoning it out. The big problem is that once the Ethanol goes through phase separation, the fuel’s overall octane rating drops below a functional minimum. Best thing to do is keep fuel tanks and fuel cans full. If this isn’t possible, simply transfer unused fuel from a large storage container to a smaller one. How hard is that?

The second article that caught my attention was the one on the Reader’s Program. I love the idea of the Reader’s Program, but I was a little concerned by Van Dusen’s comment: “… it’s OK to take a true story and turn it around to make a new story from it.” Granted, the quote is a little out of context, and I understand the subtext. However, I wouldn’t want the message to confuse kids. History should be sacrosanct. Do we want people one hundred years from now to take the story of 9/11 and “make a new story from it?”

Speaking of which, according to most accounts, the boiler didn’t actually blow in the Royal Tar. The engineer lit the firebox not realizing the boiler had been drained the night before. The boiler became red hot and set fire to the ship.

Last but not least on the subject, the paper mentioned Van Dusen’s adherence to the truth in his artistic depictions of the event. I would like to add that his whimsical drawings of The Circus Ship seem to capture the magic of sea and boats.

The third article that caught my attention was on the Maine Lobster Task Force: You mean to tell me that after all this time and money the best they could come up with is a plan to spend more money on advertising and create what is essentially another task force? And why would we want to get into a shooting match with the Canadians over product quality? Do we really think we can convince the public there’s a difference between a Canadian lobster and a Maine lobster?

The lobster task force should analyze what other states and even other countries do to advertise and promote their natural resources; pick the best of the best of these methods and implement them here. It would also help if the state provided a directory of industry services and resources, including names and contact information for Maine fishermen who want to participate. Perhaps a direct link between fishermen and public will open up new sources of revenue.

Meanwhile, what’s presently killing a fisherman’s bottom line is the simple fact that a pound of lobster is worth less than a gallon of diesel fuel. I don’t have an answer but I don’t think anything will can change until this ratio changes. Clearly, selling more lobster isn’t the solution.

~seabgb

Interesting Boats: Ghost Fleet Off Malaysia

The Daily Mail has an article about the growing number of cargo-less ships waiting for orders off the coast of Malaysia. You can find the article and some great photos here.

This isn't breaking news or anything, and the article has a doomsday slant to it. Still, it's worth a look. Last time I dropped anchor someplace I was the only one there.

~seabgb

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Whale "Experts" Protecting Their Own Turf

Fisherman fined $500 for disentangling whale

A fisherman in Cape Cod was fined $500 for freeing a whale by himself. According to authorities he violated The Marine Mammal Protection Act by not contacting "Official" disentanglers. He had faced much more serious punishment.

I'm not sure what whale protectionists and our government hope to gain by prosecuting good samaritans but if their intent is to antagonize commercial fishermen and other professional mariners then they are succeeding magnificently.

When scientists and government conspire against logic and common sense they enter the realm of absurdism.

-seabgb

Monday, September 21, 2009

Anchoring in Duck Harbor, Isle Au Haut






We took a trip to Duck Harbor in Isle Au Haut yesterday and hiked around the the section of the island designated as part of Acadia National Park. There are 18 miles of trails carved in a rustic, idyllic setting. Pristine, root strewn woods trails, polished, granite cliffs and smooth stone beaches highlight the area. Our hike took us from the Duck Harbor landing to the cliffs on the south side of the island all the way around the western end and back to our point of origin, a distance of 3.3 miles. I was sore when I got back.

There is a ferry or mail boat that will take you to Duck Harbor in the summer and early fall. I took Moonfish out. Vefore leaving, I tried to get some info on what I'd find at Duck Harbor for moorings or an anchorage. A Google maps search showed a dock and wharf but I had no idea if it was even good for a landing at all tides. Hence, we left Tenants Harbor with a "final destination unknown" mind-set.

For the record, there are no moorings, and although Duck Harbor has fairly good holding bottom for an experienced mariner who brings with him or her a damn good anchor and rode, it's exposed to the west and southwest. Even a moderate breeze from these directions will kick up a nasty chop inside the harbor. This is not a place to lay on a lunch hook, unless you plan to stay with the boat.

The landing itself is set-up to handle the 40-plus foot mail boat that arrives twice a day, so it is substantial enough. But don't leave your boat here. Common courtesy requires swiftness when loading and unloading.

The other alternative is to go to the town landing located in the Isle Au Haut Thoroughfare and sheltered by Kimball Island. From here, however, it's about a five mile hike to the park.

-seabgb

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Controlling Hurricanes

Last month or thereabouts USA Today reported that Bill Gates and climate scientist Ken Caldeira filed an application for a patent on a Hurricane Management System consisting of giant barges and turbines that would interchange warm surface water for cold sub-surface water. The barges, placed strategically in the path of hurricanes, would be used to remove a hurricane's primary source of energy.

Pure, unmitigated, vainglorious gall!

Whenever I read or hear about Man's grandiose plans for controlling the planet I get this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach and the sense that life as we know it will soon come to an end. Who are we to think we can correct nature? Who are we to think hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods, tsunamis, lightening storms, blizzards, etc., are something other than our planet's attempt at self-preservation and self-correction?

Please, someone give me an example, just one, of an environmental, atmospheric or ecological engineering, regulatory or management plan that has worked successfully without consequence. Just one.

So we reduce one hurricane's strength. Maybe two. What happens next? A hurricane so big and powerful we have to come up with a new rating system just to quantify it.

Instead of trying to live in harmony with Earth's natural ways, instead of working and living within the boundaries of common sense, we insist on going head-to head with nature and our planet's tendency to stabilize itself.

When are we going to get it? We are but a pimple on the ass of the universe. We are less than nothing. And yet we continue to think we can buy our way to a Gene Roddenberry future.

That's right. Mine more ore from the Earth. Smelt more steel. Weld more barges and machine more engines and turbines. Build humongous vessels and have giant pumps suck massive amounts of seawater and fish and God knows what from the depths of the ocean to replace warm water on the surface. As if it is something that can be done without consequence. Right.... Good plan. Why not just figure out a way to change the tilt and orientation of the Earth in its orbit? Better yet, why not change the orbit of the Earth itself?

And I thought Bill Gates was trying to destroy the planet with Vista.

-seabgb

Monday, August 10, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009

More on VMS: Fishing Boat Captains Seek Relief from Electronic Shackles



Here's a follow-up to my "Failed Technology" post below. It comes from a reader out in Morro Bay, California. Believe me, they're not alone out there. Fishermen all over the country are petitioning the government about VMS requirements.

My view on this: As I stated in the previous post, we have reached a technological saturation point at which each and every innovation is brought to market, and sometimes legislated into general use, without regard for its benefit to industry or society.
Fishing Boat Captains and Owners Seek Relief from Electronic Shackles

The vessel monitoring system, VMS, requirements implemented by the Fishing Councils (under authority of the Secretary of Commerce by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA)) require any boat even occasionally fishing in certain fisheries, such as the albacore fishery, to have a VMS tracking unit (a long range technology analogous to the ankle units for criminals under house arrest) which must be turned on at all times whether in port or at sea and whether or not fishing in the targeted fishery or fishing at all. Small and medium size family owned commercial boats are dependent on access to diverse fisheries and cannot sustain additional encumbrances such as this.

Major problems with the VMS based attempt at enforcement monitoring:

If the VMS unit breaks down, the vessel cannot be moved until some outside repair person comes and successfully repairs it. This has happened to a number of vessels.

The smaller boats cannot conveniently maintain the electric draw of the VMS on their battery when they are in port as is required by these regulations. This has been a problem where owners were, for instance, intermittently and necessarily (due to previous exclusion from various traditional fisheries) employed elsewhere and therefore absent from their boats.

'Evidence' of fishing includes such things as stopping, changing directions or slowing to three miles an hour or less. For instance, the captain might be passing through a no fishing area and change direction to head for a likely fishing area because of finally spotting a warm current on the infrared satellite images (certain fish congregate along the edges). This would make it look to the VMS like fishing is occurring in the no fishing area and could result in a $25,000 fine.

The VMS data may be being recorded, but it is poorly monitored by the monitoring service. Allegedly there are only two employees involved and they have to also maintain the receiving and computer equipment (for the West Coast, or for the whole country?). There is a need to verify this assertion, but the vessel operators feel they have reason to believe it.

If the VMS breaks down, or loses contact with the satellites at while at sea, a red light comes on, and the vessel is required by law to return to port immediately and wait there until repair may be arranged. Even small boats use enormous amounts of fuel and no one, owner included, gets paid for all this time and lost fishing. This has happened to numerous vessels, many of which remain under a threat of $25,000 fines, because, in many cases, due to weather, etc. (maybe even financial desperation) it was not practical to return directly to port.

This last difficulty may be financially devastating, even when not involving a fine, whether a vessel has to stop fishing, after finally finding some fish, or whether it simply has to return to port (often several hundred miles) and be stranded there waiting for this police device to be repaired. Times are hard and some vessels have to borrow money for fuel just to get out to sea to fish in the first place. These devices are expected to soon extend to all commercial fishing boats in all fisheries, including charter boats as well as long liners, etc.

The fear about being put out of business by enormous fines has many fishermen and women afraid to oppose or otherwise offend the Councils or associated agencies, because they may have their VMS records searched for something to be used in reprisal. Under the MSA, the Fishing Councils are supposed to protect the human fishing community, not terrorize it.

Therefore concerned community members starting at Morro Bay, CA but hoping to get signatures from fishers throughout the Coastal US have created a petition to be sent to the government officials listed in it. It seeks to:

Discontinue this particular (apparently chaotic and unmanageable) program in favor of existing, less technologically impractical options,
OR
Make the enforcement agencies completely responsible for the cost and for the maintenance of the units at the reasonable convenience of the operation of the vessels (with no more returning directly to port, or being trapped in port).


If you wish to circulate this petition in your area, please download it in MS Word (also OpenOffice Writer compatible) format by clicking the link below. When you have collected your local signatures, please mail it and the signatures to the Morro Bay address at the top and it will be combined with other copies and sent on to the named officials in Washington DC.

You may wish to make extra copies of page 3 for additional signatures. Lets try to get these back to Dr.Mac by the end of March or before mid April 2009.

(Download the petition at the bottom of this page.)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Is Technology Failing Us? The Sinking of the Patriot!

If the purpose of technology is to make our lives simpler and easier and as a direct consequence spur society to a better state of being, then I have to question the some of these innovations and the government that spawned the legislation to support them. Not only are our lives more complicated and difficult, we have a stagnating society, and some would even say devolving.

Computers have gotten faster, smaller and much more powerful. As a result, Web pages are so crowded and busy with video and other ads they crash all but the most robust browsers. Every other month new software has to be downloaded in order to keep up with the changes at Yahoo, Google, CNN, etc. And with each new software update comes a spate of anti-spy ware, anti-malicious ware, anti-spam ware and anti-virus ware. Of course, what it means to you is that your two year old computer is fast becoming a useless digital dinosaur and soon it will be time to head to Staples or Best Buy and plunk down another $1,500 for a faster, more capable machine.

But that's only half the rub.

When the 406 mHz EPIRBs came out to replace the VHF Channel 16 and 121 mHz EPIRBs, I was one of the few who rang a bell of caution. My complaint was that VHF FM and 121 mHz AM distress signals were 100% immediate, and 406 mHz signals were not. With the two former, the call went out, and if a boat (monitoring VHF Channel 16) or a plane (monitoring the emergency 121 mHz aircraft frequency) was in the area, it was going to pick up the MAYDAY instantly. With 406 mHz EPIRBs, the signal goes to the satellite, then to the ground station, then to the Coast Guard, where it is processed, identified, verified, and finally, acted on. Don't get me wrong, the older EPIRBs had their problems: crank MAYDAYs, no locating beacon, false positives, interference, and the biggest one – nobody in range to hear the call. But. . . .

Eliminating the older EPIRBs forced a level of technology on inshore mariners that in effect reduced their window of opportunity. By how much? Who can really say? All we can say for certain is that two 406 mHz EPIRB-equipped boats, not also equipped with VPIRBs and DSC VHFs, even if they’re only a few miles away, might have to wait to hear a PAN-PAN from the Coast Guard before responding to each other. This wait can be as much as an hour, and maybe even longer.

Enter the VMS (Vessel Monitoring System) and AIS (Automated Identification System), two further advances in marine technology that have in effect made life more complicated and more difficult, the first for commercial fishermen, the second for all mariners.

A case in point:

According to a report in the Boston Herald on January 9th of this year, the Coast Guard took 2-plus hours to respond to an emergency on board the Patriot, a 54' ground-fish dragger that was in serious trouble about 18 miles off the coast of Massachusetts. Apparently, a remote fire alarm went to the home of the boat’s owner/operator. The owner's wife notified the local Fire Department and/or the Coast Guard of the alarm, but the S&R response got hung-up in the pipe.

To date the bodies of the two crewmen have been found and the sunken vessel located and photographed underwater by an R.O.V. There is still no clue as to what caused the tragedy, or if the Coast Guard was too slow in responding or if it could have helped at all. An investigation is ongoing. However, it has been suggested that the delay was due to an attempt by the Coast Guard to verify the nature of the emergency using VMS and AIS data.

If this is what took place the morning the Patriot sank, it illustrates what can happen when technology and government regulation work in concert to alter the course of normal human interaction. When somebody calls for help, the first response from our government agencies shouldn't be: "Let's check the computers."

-seabgb

Where Have I been?

A long time has passed since I last posted to this blog. While I wish I could say the reason is that I have been busy as a beaver on a tree farm, the truth is I'm just worn out by all that has happened in the news. Let's face it, this has not been the best of times. The economy is in shambles. The world stage is a horror show. And future prospects look bleak.

If we had confidence in our leaders to make the right choices, brighter days would surely follow. Unfortunately, the governments of today are run by ideologues instead of managers. Everybody has a grand plan for the future. They're all trying to get their names in the history book, get into heaven, or change the world. Why can't anyone be satisfied with steering the ship in a straight line and keeping it off the rocks?

So, I'm frustrated. In part because all my commercial charters have dried up, in part because my savings has dwindled to practically nothing, in part because commercial operators like myself are left to face the current hardships head on while others in the industry get special financial assistance, and in part because I don't see things getting better.

One of the problems we face is that our new government is doing all it can to re-institute a level of growth and prosperity it has told us for months is wrong for the country and the planet. I don't get it. If it was the wrong direction for the country and the world a year ago, why do we want to have it all come back? Is it simply that our legislators are worried about their own portfolios? Because we all know there are too many houses, and too many condos, and too many boats and ships, and too many cars and trucks, and too many freaking people buying shit they don't use and then throwing it away and turning the whole planet into a garbage dump. Prosperity and security should not have to be a consequence of wasteful production and spending and gross exploitation of resource. Growth does not need to come at such a high cost. Nor does it need a government hell bent on rewarding loss and celebrating mediocrity.

A new direction should mean INNOVATION!!!!!!!!!! CLEAN, RESPONSIBLE INNOVATION!!!! It means looking at the way we manufacture things, the way we move things, and they way we communicate, and CHANGING THESE THINGS FROM THE FOUNDATION UP!!!

You want real change. Here are some ideas:

1. Get rid of every brochure, catalog, newspaper and magazine in places where there is both TV and Internet. Why do we need all of it? It's wasteful and redundant. Pick one form of media and ban the other. "This is a paper-free zone." Or, "This is a broadcast-free zone." Better yet: "This is a media-free zone." Besides, look at all the newspapers and magazines going out of business. WHat does that tell us?

2. The news media around the world is broken. Fix it! There should be a law prohibiting opinions and commentary in the news. People need straight, hard facts, not biased, partisan reports and propaganda. Leave the commentary for other media outlets and different types of shows. As Sgt. Friday says: "Just the facts."

3. Stop building new roads and bridges. We have enough freakin' roads. Besides, the way things are going, there won't be anybody left who can afford to drive on them.

4. You want health care? Here's a tip: Let people die when they get old. Stop trying to scrape every single second out of life. When your time is up it is up. You know what terminal cancer is? It's God's way of telling you your time is up. Sorry to be so cold-hearted, but do you know how much money is spent trying to squeak a few more moments of life into somebody? It's absolutely ridiculous, as well as being morally and ethically questionable.

5. Put an end to clone research. There's only one place for this research to take us: Organ banks that keep the very wealthiest members of the human race alive indefinitely. This research is morally, ethically and socially wasteful. Go back and read number 4.

6. Build bigger atom smashers and fund more inner space and particle research. The future of mankind is dependent on radically new concepts in physics, not clone research, wind energy, or a cure for cancer. Speaking of which, let's understand one thing: THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN ENERGY! No matter what we do, whether it's take energy from the wind, the tides, or geothermal, none of it comes for free. Take enough of it out of the planet and we will pay an environmental price. We just don't know what it is yet. If you really think anything comes free, especially energy, you are living in the proverbial fantasy world. Instead of trying to harness the good (tides, heat from the earth, prevailing winds), we should be trying to take the sting out of the harmful phenomenon, i.e., tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis and lightening. We get twice the bang for our buck harnessing destructive energy. Hurricane Katrina alone destroyed 300 million trees, not to mention all the human-related damage.

7. Legalize drugs. Put an end to the cartels and the terror networks that fund their campaigns with drug money. Reserve our penal system for anti-social criminal elements, not self-medicating hedonists.

8. Fix our legal system. Put an end to ridiculous malpractice, libel and personal injury lawsuits, limit professional compensation, and get settlements under control.

9. Fix our government. Our legislators are not above the law when it comes to their taxes or indiscretions. In the past, they were kicked out of office. Some even went to jail. Now they don't even lose their jobs.

10. Put our kids in school at 1 year of age. Stop treating them like babies and teach them languages and math and exercise them. Make them laugh and show them how to enjoy a life of learning. By the time they're 6 years old they'll be multi lingual, math smart and on their way to greatness. Nobody will complain about everyone in the country being English-speaking-only because we'll all be adept at three or four languages. Furthermore, math is the universal language. Some day we'll meet creatures from other planets. When this day comes, we'll have to be a lot smarter than we are now.

OK, that's enough of a morning rant for now.

-seabgb

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rudder Box Casualty

The captain of the Portland-based lobsterboat, Whistlin' Dixie, reported colliding with something in the water that drove the vessel's rudder up through the bottom of the boat. Flooding was too severe to control and the vessel soon filled with water, and by the looks of things, rolled and foundered. The captain and his mate acted quickly to deploy the liferaft and abandon the vessel. Both escaped serious injury.

If you think about it, a boat's rudder arrangement is a potential weak link, particularly with modern lobsterboats built for speed and efficiency. If you have a narrow, streamlined skeg, you have a situation in which something hitting the bottom can deflect the skeg and rudder. Even a deflection of a few inches is enough to drive the rudder blade into the bottom of the receiver (bolt) in the rudder box. If it's a good, smart hit, and the rudder is stainless steel - as so many are these days - the force of the blow can dislodge the whole rudder box and drive the four through-bolt heads through the bottom of the boat. This might be what happend to the Whistlin' Dixie.

A heavier, beefier skeg would help prevent this type of casualty, as would a smaller rudder blade. Then again, a boat with a heavier skeg and smaller rudder blade is going to be less efficient and less maneuverable. There's your trade-off.

But what would you rather have? A boat designed to take the heavy punishment of the work you do, or a boat designed for speed, efficiency and a trophy at the races?

Here is the MAYDAY call to Coast Guard from Whistlin' Dixie.

UPDATE: I heard a report yesterday that the boat was towed to shore for repairs and an eventual return to service.

-seabgb

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Hamas Unveiled

Hamas Unveiled. In their own words.

Although I have written about piracy and have often defined it as a form of terrorism, the fact is it doesn't matter whether we call them pirates, terrorists, extortionists, anarchists or gang-bangers. What's important is that we recognize them as a hostile and dangerous group that plans to do us grievous harm. They are our enemy, and we should treat them as such. Any attempt to explain, excuse, dilute or find meaning or rationalization in their message is intellectual folly and a deadly step in the wrong direction.