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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bullfrog Bud Marquis, Hero of the Everglades

This is Bullfrog Bud Marquis, hero of the Everglades, who, while frog hunting one night from his airboat in the swamp and muck of South Florida, became one of the very first on scene when Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crashed on December 29, 1972.

Bud rescued a number of desperate souls that night, at great personal risk, but to this day he doesn't consider himself a hero. They had to force the award on him; he even returned a $125 check Eastern had sent him by mistake, thinking that he had been hired to take part in the rescue.

Many of the survivors tried to pay Bud for his aid that night; he wouldn't accept their money.

If you're in the area, you can join the Southern Airboat Association for a " Bullfrog Bud Marquis Ride, Feast and Appreciation Ceremony." As advertised on their website:

Ride the Glades to the crash site with The Angel of the Everglades,
"Bullfrog" Bud Marquis, rescuer of Eastern Airlines Flight 401 crash victims

See Bud's historic airboat as rebuilt by members

All Airboaters are welcome and encouraged to relive this unparalleled event in airboating history and to join members of as we retrace the path and efforts of a historic Gladesman, "Bullfrog" Bud Marquis.

While frog hunting deep in the Everglades 35 years ago, Bud saw the plane crash and responded with his own airboat. He showed uncommon courage in spite of tremendous personal peril and was injured by his actions to save victim's lives deep in the heart of Florida's Everglades.

Join us as we honor the heroic efforts of Bud, show him and Nancy our deep appreciation and share in a Florida Airboat Association hosted Florida Cracker Feast immediately after the ride.

George Washington is a Better Captain

A bunch of re-enactors trying to retrace George's crossing of the Delaware underestimated the strength of the current and ended up having to be pulled to safety by a rescue boat. But these weren't the failings of inexperienced men. They'd been doing this since 1976 and had never failed to cross in the past. However, this time, the current was too much for them. I'd refer you to the AP story but that page has some problems with it.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Navigation Radar Overlay

If you know me, or you've been reading my columns and blog entries, you know I'm not a fan of the nav-radar overlay. The weather overlay's great, it's just the nav-radar I have issues with. I'm sure there are other mariners out there who think the nav-radar overly is the best thing since the invention of the paddle. I'm just not one of them. I find the image at best distracting and at worst misleading. It's even worse when you start adding AIS and ARPA capability. Too Much Information (TMI) on one screen for my taste -- or maybe it's my 54 year old brain that can't unravel the two-system imaging.

Look at the screen grab below as presented by an ICAN radar overlay. Everything is lined up perfectly where there is a bold shoreline or a bold target but at locations where there are softer targets the image, for obvious reasons, doesn't quite correspond. It's misleading. If you were looking at the radar on a dedicated screen, with no overlay, you would automatically reference a chart first to make sure you weren't creeping into shoal water, say toward the souther'd of the chart, where you see the darker blue or light green of what might be a bar. Also, if you look closely at the image, you'll notice a lot of sea clutter around the position of the boat. To be honest, I can't tell from this screen grab if it's true sea clutter or a bunch of contacts. Either way, if you were to add chart images of nav-data, buoys or day markers, you'd be looking at a lot of different colored imaging. Personally, I would rather have the two screens side by side on two separate and dedicated display units, without the distraction of multiple and confusing images. I could then verify ship's position with the radar, which, if installed and tuned properly, is considerably more accurate and trustworthy than the GPS-based electronic charting and tracking system. Let's face it, the GPS plotter is not 100% accurate, no matter how it's installed.
Here's another screen grab, this time from a MAXSEA overlay (below). Similar issue. Presumably, where the shore isn't bold, there's no radar return. Where the target is hard and, particularly where it has some height (inland) there is a good strong return. But how do we know we don't have a GPS accuracy issue at play here?

Granted, if we had GPS accuracy issues, we would have them with the overlay as well as without. In other words, the dedicated chart display would be similarly skewed by the incorrect GPS input data. Some might argue that having the overlay brings the GPS inaccuracy to the attention of a helmsman faster than if he or she had been staring at two dedicated displays. It's a valid point, but I would argue it instills a false sense of security and confidence. I would rather see my helmsman operating on the basis of not knowing for sure than assuming the position of the target is somewhere between the charted position and that of the radar image. It's too easy to make that visual leap of faith with an overlaid image.

Finally, I think the TMI issue is serious enough that electronics manufacturers have to dial back on the technology until such time as a study has been completed to determine if captains and mates are susceptible to information saturation. We already hear reports of captains and mates filtering out AIS data while in high traffic areas. To me, this is a clear indication that the radar/plotter display has reached an information saturation point.

Perhaps these overlay issues wouldn't bother me if I was looking at a large, high resolution screen. Or maybe if I had picture and spot zoom capability. I'm not sure. My gut feeling is we need more data processing and less data imaging. If things keep going the way they're going, we'll have three dimensional virtual displays of everything taking place outside of the wheelhouse windows. When that happens, somebody is bound to ask why we need real captains and crews. (See USV below.)


How Will the Navy's USV Program Impact the Future of the Marine Industry?

This is a Protector series USV (Unmanned Surface Vessel) designed by the Rafael Armament Development Authority. It is only one of many surface vessels designed and built for unmanned and remote operator missions. Combined with a multi-integrated navigation and weapons delivery package and satellite communications there's no reason to think a helmsman can't be sitting in a high tech command center at the Pentagon while sending this, or something 100 times larger, into combat halfway around the world. In fact, this particular series has already seen action in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean.

Industry and military experts have long been anticipating the successful implementation of remote-operated unmanned service vehicles to broader areas of the marine environment. We already have them in use as anti-terror and surveillance devices, weapons delivery systems and research and survey robotics. I can remember reading an article in Popular Mechanics Magazine when I was a kid about unmanned tankers crossing the oceans to deliver their product. Back then, it was the stuff of science fiction, as nobody in their right mind would believe the on-site decision-making ability of a real captain and crew could be systematically bypassed by wires, servos and radio waves.

That was then, 30-plus years ago, and this is now.

With powerful high speed satellite communications, AIS and ARPA capable radars, precision GPS tracking and a full-functioning remote helm, anything is possible. I'm sure, with today's technology, a captain can deliver an 800' tanker from Dubai to New Jersey -- provided nothing goes wrong along the way.

I suspect we're safe, for awhile. Until air-rescue reaches a point where a crew can be delivered to an unmanned ocean going vessel in time of need and at supersonic speeds, the concept of large scale unmanned transport across the oceans will remain on the drawing board. In the meantime, USVs, and their underwater cousins UUVs, will be limited to relatively small, high speed attack and surveillance operations.

CRS USV Report to Congress.


Ancestral Rat-Whale Found . . .

I'm not sure I'm buying this one. (Just kidding. Who am I to say?)

Above is an artist's rendering of what The National Geographic and others say might be the missing link to the whale. About the size of a raccoon, scientists claim it shares many of the whale's physical and anatomical characteristics, including bone thickness, DNA, and something about the ears. It has long been theorized the whale evolved from a primarily land animal. Still, look at the thing. It looks more like an amphibious rat. I would rather believe the whale has more in common with a platypus (below). More on this story here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Furuno FR 8002 Series Radars w/ Trackball

Furuno is billing its new FR 8002 Series radars as "Pure Radar for the Radar Purist," and that's a slogan that attracts my attention. As far as I'm concerned, you can take your radar overlays and multi-function displays and shove them in the back of your bosun's locker. I like my radar simple and unadulterated, and I've been that way ever since the days when a radar meant sticking your head into the rubber hood and waiting for the sweep to tell you if there really was a contact or if it was just a low flying gannet.

Seriously, I'm all for a GPS interface, AIS, ARPA, etc. It's just the radar overlays and the split screens that give me angina. I think it's too much on too small a screen and a terrible distraction. I'd rather split my time between dedicated screens.

Another thing I missed with the rash of so-called technical achievements was the retirement of the track ball, which I'm very happy to see Furuno has brought back in the 8002 series.

Understandably, track balls were prone to problems, similar to the problems you had with your original mouse. You had to clean them regularly by rotating the locking nut, removing the ball, and wiping or picking the accumulated dust and grease off the three or four contacts underneath. In a radar with a waterproof head, this meant taking the cover off the radar, which meant removing all the cables and screws from the back. Pain in the proverbial butt.

Hopefully, Furuno has a more robust trackball in the 8002 series, or one that cleans with less effort.

The thing with the trackball as compared to the joystick button that replaced it is this: The trackball is faster, much faster, than the joystick button. I challenge any joystick radar user to a cursor race. Give me a new trackball, and I will leave the joystick user in my wake. Hey, as we all know, sometimes cursor speed counts for a lot, particularly if you're in a high traffic area and you're on the radio trying to tell a seemingly oblivious boater off the starboard bow exactly where to look for you.

Another thing: Although the joystick button is probably longer lasting than the older trackballs, it still wears out and gets dirty from oil and grime that finds its way under the rubber waterproof boot. In fact, I find them very susceptible to radar operators with "heavy" thumbs. The trackball, while prone to dirt problems, can withstand more of this type of abuse.

So, thank you, Furuno, for bringing back the trackball in a small, powerful radar. And thank you for appreciating the concept of "simple IS beautiful."

Furuno 8002 Series PDF.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Tanker Ops

Winter Storm Casualty - Broke Loose From Mooring!

12/16/07: This Eastern Rig broke from its mooring in the north end of Rockland Harbor and got blown into Lermond Cove on the easterly. I heard the Coast Guard came in and took it in tow but obviously that was incorrect information. If they took it in tow, they didn't get very far. Highest winds at Matinicus Rock were 60 knots. Highest sea at the Eastern Shelf Buoy was about 20'.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Word of Caution About Garmin GMR 404 and 406 Radars

I've been looking for a replacement radar for the one I soaked during one of November's many SW gales and came across what looked to be a great deal on the new Garmin 404 radar. Imagine buying a 4 kW-72 mile marine radar scanner for under $725. Granted, you have to also buy a display head but with Garmin's proprietary plug-in and go network technology you have your choice of combining the GMR scanner unit with any Garmin chart display. This means you can go as big or small as you like, fitting the display head into the specific space (and budget) needs of your own wheelhouse. It also means you have the option of a radar overlay, something I prefer to do without simply because I find the combination too much on the one screen. (I'll take a separate screen for my plotter any day.)

Of course, if a deal sounds to good to be true, it usually is. Sure, the scanner head is $725, but if you read the fine print in the ads you'll discover you will also need to purchase the pedestal, sold separately. How much is the pedestal? It's about $2,550. So, all in all, you're looking at about $4,000-$5,000 to get a 4 kW radar from Garmin, and that's no great savings over any other 4kW radar.

Why Garmin and its dealer network offer a radar scanner without the required pedestal unit is beyond me, unless they're trying to suck you into a mail order purchase. That's like selling a car without an engine. Oh, by the way, in order to drive it out of the lot, you have to buy one of these motor things and have it installed.

If Garmin had several pedestal options, I'd understand. But they don't. So why not sell the scanner and pedestal together?


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Birds and Fish Dying in the North Atlantic

There was an interesting news item awhile back about millions of dollars worth of farm raised salmon being killed off by a population explosion of a certain type of jellyfish known as the mauve stinger. (Belfast Telegraph story here.) Some people, of course, were quick to blame global warming, observing that this particular type of jellyfish has never been this far north in these types of concentrations or numbers. Others pointed to cyclic activity and the earth's natural ebb and flow as the cause. Either way, one thing we can say for sure, there's nothing natural about farming salmon in unspoiled coastal areas. It's industrialization, plain and simple. (I'm not saying this is bad, just calling it for what it is, part of man's industrialized complex.)

But here's another story -- and I want to thank my friends at BIRDCHAT for bringing this to my attention -- about pelagic seabirds dying from eating, or trying to eat snake pipefish, a species of small fish typically found in northern waters in only small numbers. For a bref overview I've taken the liberty of copying and pasting a post by Wim Vader of the Tromsø Museum in Tromsø, Norway.
The Snake Pipefish Entelurus aequoreus, a quite large and somewhat pelagic pipefish species has indeed during the last few years experienced an explosive population increase im the North East Atlantic: in N.Norway, where I live, this used to be a rarity, only occurring in the area west of the North Cape. When I published my fish list of the area in 1979, not much more than 50 specimens had been reported. Now, in the last years, many hundreds are washed ashore on the outer coast near Tromsø, the seabirds also here feed pipefish to their young, often with disastrous results, and the species has also extended its distribution: it has been found (vomited by a Kittiwake) at Hornøya nëar the Norwegian/Russian border, and even off Ny Ålesund, at 78*N off the west coast of Spitsbergen (Fleischer 2007)!. Harris and colleagues (2007) have shown a similar explosive population growth on the Scottish coast, and what it has meant for the seabirds there, and this is probably what has been referred to in the National Geographic.

In these northern waters such sudden flare-ups of certain species are not unheard of, and in my opinion it is a bit too easy to blame this pipefish bonanza without more ado to Global warming; Mike Harris is very careful not to do so. Puffins, who fish mostly pelagically, will of course meet these pipefish most often.


Yann Martel's Lost at Sea Survival Tips from His Acclaimed Novel Life of Pi

[Seabgb's Note: The following 15 Survival tips come from author Yann Martel's fictional book Life of Pi, a story about a young Indian boy marooned on a life raft with a cast of zoo animals for over 200 days. It's a philosophical fable, not meant as a serious dissertation on survival at sea. However, there is certain merit in some of these 15 survival tips. I bring them to you here as part of an ongoing discussion on survival techniques that began with the previous post, D'Angelo's first hand account of his experience surviving the sinking of the M/S/ Explorer. My commentary on these 15 tips is in brackets.]

15 Shipwreck Survival Tips from Life of Pi by Yann Martel

1. Always read instructions carefully.

[Great advice, if you have instructions. Truth is, if you are in a life raft, and the raft is equipped with survival tools, e.g. flare guns, rations, first aid, desalination pumps and/or solar stills, etc., then by all means read the instructions first.]

2. Do not drink urine. Or sea water. Or bird blood.

[Do not drink alcohol, colored snow and ice, engine coolant or anything that might contain antifreeze or chemical additives, stagnant pond water, or any type of blood. Alcohol increases dehydration and impairs judgment, urine is contaminated by metabolites, stagnant water is bacterial and blood is too hard to digest without water. For that matter, so is food. Eat sparingly if there's no fresh water.]

3. Do not eat jellyfish. Or fish that are armed with spikes. Or that have parrot-like beaks. Or that puff up like balloons.

4. Pressing the eyes of fish will paralyse them.

[Not sure about this. Never tried it. Best just to knock their heads on a seat or gunnel.]

5. The body can be a hero in battle. If a castaway is injured, beware of well-meaning but ill-founded medical treatment. Ignorance is the worst doctor, while rest and sleep are the best nurses.

[Don't let anyone sleep if they have a recent head injury or are suffering from hypothermia or heat exhaustion.]

6. Put up your feet at least five minutes every hour.

[Sounds like good advice.]

7. Unnecessary exertion should be kept occupied with whatever light distraction may suggest itself. Playing card games, Twenty Questions and I Spy With My Little Eye are excellent forms of simple recreation. Community singing is another sure-fire way to life the spirits. Yarn spinning is also highly recommended.

[Tom Hanks had his little friend Wilson in the movie, Castaway. Not sure how much that helped him.]

8. Green water is shallower than blue water.

[Not always true at the greater depths but mostly true in shoaler waters.]

9. Beware of far-off clouds that look like mountains. Look for green. Ultimately, a foot is the only good judge of land.

10. Do not go swimming. It wastes energy. Besides, a survival craft may drift faster than you can swim. Not to mention the danger of sea life. If you are hot, wet your clothes instead.

11. Do not urinate in your clothes. The momentary warmth is not worth the nappy rash.

12. Shelter yourself. Exposure can kill faster than thirst or hunger.

[The general rule here is: To be dry is to not die.]

13. So long as no excessive water is lost through perspiration, the body can survive up to fourteen days without water. If you feel thirsty, suck a button.

[Just don't choke on it. It's very hard to give yourself the Heimlich maneuver.]

14. Turtles are an easy catch and make for excellent meals. Their blood is a good, nutritious, salt-free drink; their flesh is tasty and filling; their fat has many uses; and the castaway will find turtle eggs a real treat. Mind the beak and the claws.

[Good luck finding a turtle in today's ocean environment. But I think he's talking about a castaway on land, with "beak and claws". And remember what we said earlier, don't drink the blood, and remember to eat sparingly if you don't have water. Also, your survival kit will have fishing gear. Small fish will begin to congregate in the shadow under your raft or lifeboat. Try to catch the small ones, eat some, and use the others as bait to catch larger ones. Try not to catch or attract really large ones that would be more trouble than they're worth.]

15. Don't let your morale flag. Be daunted, but not defeated. Remember: the spirit, above all else, counts. If you have the will to live, you will. Good luck!

[Stay dry, protected from the sun and elements, and collect water at every opportunity. Build a solar still (a plastic bag with a rock and some vegetation or wood in it; leave the bag out in the sun and it will collect condensation. Check all water collected off a tarp for debris and particulates. Bird droppings and flakes of plastic and other material can make you deathly sick.]

OK, that's a start. If anyone wants to add, please use the comment button below.


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Peter D'Angelo's First Hand Account of Surviving the M/S Explorer Sinking in the Antarctic

This is a PDF File and should open automatically with Adobe Acrobat. Use your browsers backspace button to return to this page. CLICK HERE FOR STORY.

Interesting to note Mr. D'Angelo's speculation about the actual cause of the vessel's loss -- a breach in watertight integrity through the sewage system. Moreover, being that his report is disseminated to us by MARAD, I'm inclined to believe the Administration is taking his cause/effect suggestion seriously.

[12/9/07] After thinking a bit more about what I first wrote on the 7th, which I have since edited, I feel I need to add the following: It's probably true there's a weak link in a vessel's watertight integrity through the plumbing/sewage system, but is it enough to cause rapid and catastrophic flooding through the other compartments in a ship? I'm not sure. The M/S Explorer wasn't a particularly large vessel. It had a small number of private cabins with private heads. Even if half of them flooded back through the holding tank and into the other cabins, would it be that much as to be uncontrollable? Unless something else in the system let go, it's hard to believe flooding through the sewage system could cause a ship to sink as quickly as the Explorer sank. But I wouldn't count it out, either.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

How Can This Happen?

A lot of people don't realize a tanker with a single screw will maneuver pretty well on its anchor and a shot or so of chain (a shot is equal to 15 fathoms or 90'). While small boat owners are inclined to think this poses a danger to the vessel's propeller, ship captains remind us that large oil tankers are hundreds of feet long. All they're doing is dropping the anchor in the mud under the bow, using it as a break or drag against the force of the screw.

I can't say this is what happened to the tug in the video above but it's likely an order was given to drop the anchor for maneuvering not realizing the tug was in position under the hawse pipe.

Tanker on Approach to Penobscot Bay

The news this morning carries a report of a tanker explosion in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the report failed to mention it was a tanker "truck" and not a seagoing oil tanker. (I didn't have a public domain photo of an oil tanker or a tanker truck to post so I posted a video of one entering Penobscot Bay from the East. This was taken early last fall.)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

M/S Explorer Suffers Further from Media Misinformation

I chose to use the promotional picture of the M/S Explorer above instead of the ones taken by Chilean Navy personnel because I wanted this post to have the appearance of calm and responsible reporting, not the knee-jerk reactions some media outlets have thus far provided. Photo above is from the expedition travel company G.A.P. and you can visit them at their Web Site and get a full update as to the whereabouts and condition of passengers and crew.

No. The hole in the side of the ship was not the size of a fist as originally reported. It was considerably worse. Anybody who has any maritime work experience knows that a hole that small in a ship this size would not cause catastrophic flooding.

No. The ship did not have a crew of 5 to 10. That's an absurd thought. There was a ship's crew of 54 plus two or more G.A.P. Expedition staff members.

No. The ship did not run into an iceberg the size of a mountain. I don't what what the berg looked like that breached the hull but it was most probably submerged and virtually impossible to see with radar or the naked eye.

Yes. The ship was fully found, professionally crewed, and structurally reinforced for traveling in arctic, ice-filled waters.

Yes. Adventure travel is risky. (The food's not that great either.)

Yes. The rescue and recovery of all passengers and crew from any sinking cruise ship in sub-freezing latitudes without incident or serious injury (one passenger reportedly has a hurt foot) is an heroic and meritorious act and a testament to the crew of the explorer, those on the rescue vessel (M/S Nordnorge) and the Chilean Coast Guard and Military.

Yes. The passengers and crew were very lucky the weather in this unpredictable and sometimes fierce region was favorable. (It deteriorated rapidly after the actual rescue, i.e. the plucking of the passengers and crew from their life rafts, which took about an hour according to the captain of the Nordnorge.)

Yes. Accidents happen. And sometimes they're not caused by simple human error.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interesting Boats: Great Rough Seas Video

Damn Those Japanese Whalers

Those stinkin' Japanese whalers are at it again. This time they're heading out to take their largest whale allotment ever, including 950 minkes and fifty humbacks. They haven't hunted humpbacks since 1963, when humpbacks were added to the endangered species list. Humpback whale populations have since rebounded but that's not the point. Humbacks are a docile, caring and communicative species. They sing songs to each other. The world should be mortified by this hunt and the Japanese government's continued mistreatment of our oceans, particularly as it relates to marine mammals.

You can be sure Greenpeace and the Sea Shepard will be doing whatever they can to interfere with this planned hunt. I'm certain we will see some dramatic and heartbreaking footage and in time will hear a report of drastic measures taken on behalf of the whales. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that one of these vessels has been rendered inoperable. Remember the collision/ramming that occurred a few years ago?

I would offer a link here if I thought a formal protest would make any difference. Truth is the Japanese government has nothing but disdain for those of us who oppose them on the whale issue. They could care less. Some analysts think their insistence on hunting whales is simply their way of telling us all to get stuffed.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Heading Home in 6' Seas and 30 - 35 Knot Winds

Heading Into a Gale off Monroe Island

Shortening Up in a Gale off Shag Rock

Hawaiian Government Changes Law for Superferry

For the record, I'm a die hard capitalist who believes in the power of free enterprise, which means I think the government should promote, support and encourage private enterprise and entrepreneurship and not be planting creative obstacles in its way in the form of double- and triple- dipping taxation. On the other hand, government has a responsibility to protect the public and the environment -- which belongs to all of us -- from stupid business practices, excessiveness, folly and waste.

Earlier this year a Hawaiian court ruled against the superferry and for the activists who wanted service stopped until after an environmental study had been completed. Sounded like a reasonable course of action to me. But now we learn the Hawaiian government passed a new law in emergency session that will force the courts to allow the superferry to run. If this isn't a case of big business buying government I don't know what is. Hasn't anybody bothered to see if Governor Linda Lingle's bank account has appreciated lately?

Who am I to suggest the Hawaiin governor and the state legislature would stoop so low?

Clearly, there's a lot of money at stake. But at some point we have to say to business: "You know what, we really have enough shit going on right now? Come up with something less environmentally controversial."


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bay Area Crab Fishermen Set Back By Spill

Gov. Schwarzenegger responded to area fishermen and ordered the postponement of the Dungeness Crab fishery that was due to start this week. Fisherman and state health officials were worried about food contamination from the spill of 58,000 gallons of diesel oil from the container ship that hit the Bay Bridge.

The Governator also made some comments critical of the Coast Guard's initial emergency response to the spill. He later toned down his criticism, presumably after learning that the CG acted in a timely and professional manner. In fact, it was the Coast Guard's notification and warning to the public that was delayed. A CG spokesman has gone on record saying the reason for the delay was that the spill had been originally reported at about 140 gallons, not 58,000 gallons, as was the case. We can just imagine that when Coast Guard responders first arrived on scene, they were confronted with considerably more than they expected. As a result, communications to civil authorities might have been given secondary importance to the game of catch-up.


Golden Gate Bridge Collision Illustrates Need for Improved Vessel Monitoring

After a preliminary investigation of the collision between the Cosco Busan and the Bay Bridge, the USCG has reached the conclusion that operator or pilot error was to blame. Language differences and/or a lack of communication were not contributing factors. Investigators further concluded the pilot was not aware of the extent of the damage to the ship and that the severity of the spill could have been lessened had the pilot taken different emergency steps.

A lawyer for the pilot stated the damage wasn't assessed as severe because nobody on board had any idea a fuel tank had been breached or that the skin of the ship had been compromised.

This is not uncommon for large ships like this. A ship entering Long Island Sound several years ago approached shore with a whale stuck to its bulbous bow. Nobody aboard was aware of the collision or the fact that the whale was still stuck on the bow. Another collision occurred a few years ago in the Gulf of Maine between an oil tanker and a herring seiner hailing out of Rockland. The tanker continued on its course, unaware it has been involved in a fatal collision.

People unfamiliar with the workings of huge vessels like this find it hard to believe a catastrophic accident can go largely unnoticed. However, the men and women who sail on these behemoths know differently.

It's time for the international maritime industry to establish hull monitoring standards for large tankers, cruise liners and container ships. These vessels are getting larger and larger. They have reached the size where it's no longer possible for a bridge crew to be aware of what happens to the vessel's outer hull.

Ships have all kinds of equipment for monitoring what happens inside the vessel, e.g. bilges, engines, fluids, compartments, heat, smoke, temperature, etc. But except for navigation, weather, closed circuit video and, in some cases, stress and/or fatigue monitoring devices, there's nothing to let the captain know what and/or if anything has happened to the outside of the hull.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

What's Left of Noel Hits Maine Hard

Noel proceeded to weaken as a hurricane as it moved up the coast but it strengthened as an extra tropical low. In other words, instead of having a warm core, as it would have as a tropical system, it had a cold core. Winds associated with the new low reached hurricane force in some places. Here in Maine, at the Matinicus Rock Station, highest wind gust was recorded at 63 knots or 72.499 mph. Not quite hurricane strength but darn close.

Fortunately, the system moved rapidly. The seas, while building to 22 feet up to 25 miles offshore, did not have time to cause significant damage. I am not aware of any boat related calamities in the Rockland area.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Update to Pirate Post

The Navy ship above provided assistance and medical help to the North Korean hostages I wrote about in the previous post. Apparently, the hostages took control of their vessel after overwhelming the hijackers during a U.S. helicopter flyover and radio warning. One pirate was killed and three were wounded. Three hostages were also wounded. This is the third time a ship's compliment got the better of their hijackers. The AP has a pretty detailed accounting of what happened here.I think it's very cool that a U.S. warship came to the aid of a North Korean merchantman. I'm also betting there's considerably more to this story, for instance, was the Navy shadowing the North Koreans or was it on the lookout for pirates or both?

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

Kill Pirates and other Bad Guys!

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

Maine Wants You -- Or Just Your Money!

(Photo from Maine Sea Grant)
If you have any thoughts of moving to Maine to realize your dream of becoming a commercial fisherman, please read on so I can save you a great deal of aggravation, time and money.

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

Saved from a Sinking

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.

Boat and Ship Crews May Face New On-Site Drug Test

A company called American Bio Medica, trading on the NASDAQ as ABMC, has come up with a an oral fluid drug test that they say provides much faster results than those available by current drug test methods. At present, urine samples are collected and sent to a lab, results can take days if not weeks. According to the company, the OralStat, as its called, can deliver results in 16 minutes and is much more sensitive to marijuana than other testing kits.

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

Interesting Boats: An Idea in Need of Further Review

The Navy Ship Acadia pictured above, a Yellowstone-class Destroyer-Tender decommissioned in 1994, just might find a new home, or, I should say, become someone's new home. According to an AP report, the Navy was planning to give the ship away, sell it for scrap, or dispose of it, as they usually do with these relics. However, a non-profit group looking for a new homeless shelter has expressed interest in retrofitting the vessel with accommodations and other such accouterments. Negotiations, apparently, are ongoing with the State of Hawaii for a place to keep the ship, and someone, I pray, is calculating costs.

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

Neat Photo from NOAA Public Domain Archive

Follow Up to Joe Cool Story

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

Interesting Boats: The Proteus WAM-V

This is the experimental WAM-V, Proteus, presently undergoing sea trials. WAM-V stands for Wave Adapting Modular Vessel and, supposedly, this one is ocean capable. Powered by twin 355 hp Cummins diesels, she stretches 100' x 50'.

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.


Collision off Coney Island

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 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.

One Dead, Two Rescued After Vessels Collide in Long Island Sound

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.

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.

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

Another Boat Mystery . . . or Maybe Not.

Click here for the full story from

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

Treasure Hunting Ship Boarded by Spanish Authorities

Treasure Hunter Odyssey Explorer
I'm translating this story from a Spanish Online News magazine so please bear with me. Given my limited understanding of the language, chances are I've gotten a lot of the details seriously messed up. (#Note: If you speak Spanish, and can translate, please go here:
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

(Photo courtesy of Mike Vecchione, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service)
The above photo is a tabular iceberg calved from the ice shelf in the Weddell Sea. I borrowed the photo from a site called publicdomainclip-art. Check it out.

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.


Joe Cool Case Thin According to Defense

I've already written about this in a previous post, and if you've read it you know how I feel: I want to see these two scumbags hung by their balls. But now we hear from defense attorneys the case is paper thin. Why? Because there are no bodies, no witnesses and no murder weapon. In other words, they say, the case is circumstantial. There is no physical evidence.

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?

7. Why haven't the authorities released a description of this "alleged" pirate vessel? If Archer and Zarabazo saw it, they can surely describe it. What kind of vessel is it?

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

Researchers aboard the CCG Cutter/Icebreaker Amundsen are studying arctic mud in an effort to learn more about sea ice. The scientific method being used is similar to the study of concentric rings in trees and coral. In this case, scientists are hoping to establish a record of sea ice concentrations over a period of two or three hundred years. At present, sea ice records are generated by satellite imagery, which provides data for only twenty to thirty years.

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

Exhaust Scrubbers Do More Harm Than Good

Here's another story illustrating the need for restraint on the part of environmental activists. Holland America started a pilot program whereby they installed emission scrubbers on the stacks of one their their cruise ships. The scrubber uses seawater pumped through the stack to reduce sulfur and other contaminants from the engine's exhaust. The seawater is then pumped back overboard. But recent studies have shown the sulfuric acid added to the ocean water actually increases the release of carbon dioxide, which further exacerbates the greenhouse effect. Much like the story below, it's a case where the best intentions have led to the worst consequences.

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

What's Wrong with Fisheries and Environmental Legislation

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

Hawaii Super Ferry Shut Down

According to the AP this morning a judge in Hawaii shut down the operation of the Hawaii Superferry. The boat had only made one trip before it was asked to cease operations.

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

Paint the Titanic

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

Got Some Spare Change?

This is a picture of Octopus, a luxury motoryacht for charter. I don't know how you come up with a weekly charter rate for a vessel such as this or how you pay for it . . . check, money order, PayPal? I do know that prices have gone up. In fact, it will cost you $912,079 to charter the 280-foot Alysia, which I believe is the most expensive charter out there right now, as of an October 5 report in Forbes Traveler. That's the part I'm fuzzy on, the $79. You'd think at this level an even million would make things a lot simpler. And how do you end up with $79? I seriously doubt there is an item on this boat, or one that could be installed, costing the paltry sum of $79. Not the tableware, Champagne, the caviar or the fruit salad. It must be for a week's worth of Internet connectivity. Or maybe after each charter they replace the embossed brass handled toilet brushes.


Friday, October 05, 2007

The LOVE of a boat!

You gotta love this story. Just showed up on the AP. See it here.

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

A federal grand jury just indicted 5 members of the Makah Indian Tribe for harpooning this grey whale without a federal permit. The indictment never would have happened had it not been for a law suit by a certain animal protection organization. Point is, nobody, not even Native Americans, have a free pass to circumvent the law and use the Earth as their own private grocery store, especially when they try to do it with motor boats and high powered rifles. The five were so incompetent at their hunting that the whale -- after being harpooned and shot sixteen times -- sank and was never harvested. A bunch of cultural zealots trying to make the most of their genetic heritage. Somewhere in my past is an aboriginal ancestor who hunted and skinned his own meat. Doesn't give me the right to walk out my front door and tackle a deer and eat it out of season. Screw 'em. I hope they go to jail. But, of course, they won't. . . .


Friday, September 28, 2007

Ulstein X-Bow vs UT-Design

Revolutionary new bow from Ulstein versus traditional flared monohull bow. Ulstein claims significant reductions in vibration and noise and less pounding than with conventional bow. From the video, it's hard to tell. One would have to actually be on the vessel. Also, the conventional bow in the video is considerably smaller than the X-bow. Although I'm sure both vessels are roughly the same length and breadth, comparisons like this can be misleading.

For one thing, you can tell that if a wave were tall enough there's a chance it could climb the X-bow unimpeded to the bridge windows, whereas with a flared conventional hull, the curve of the flare serves to peel the power of the wave in a way that protects the bridge.

By the same token, excessive flare can be a impediment to vessel buoyancy. If a vessel is driven bow down by the force of the sea, the flatter and greater surface area of the forward deck created by the flare makes it harder for the bow to recover. In the X-bow, you can see how the bow would pop up quickly if ever it were driven under by the force of its own motion and the sea.

Funny thing about vessel designs. What makes a vessel more stable and more comfortable in certain pre-critical conditions makes the same vessel less capable when the seas exceed a given state.

You would think that if the vessel were built large enough, as appears to be the case with the bow on the Ulstein service or utility vessel, nothing much would challenge it. But only time and mother nature know for sure.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

I mentioned this movie before (see Clyde Puffers below) but couldn't post a review until today. Suffice it to say, it's a gem. Reminds me, in spirit, of another movie I reviewed here, I Know Where I'm Going, similar in that it also involves a fish-out-of-water traveling to far off locales and meeting richly engrossing characters of the Scottish seacoast. Although, in The Maggie, one could say the main character isn't of flesh and blood but rather riveted steel and coal.

The stage is set from the start when the boat enters Glasgow and the two harbor masters make a rather disparaging remark about both vessel and crew. From that moment on the Maggie is on a journey to save herself from the scrap yard. Fortunately for the tired old gal, she has a dedicated, tenacious captain and a crew who love her and will do anything to save her.

There are some ethical issues regarding the captain's methods of obtaining the cargo that will ultimately pay the Maggie's trip up the ways to repair her thinning plates and tired old two-cylinder steam engine. But who in their right frame of mind would fault a desperate man for keeping his mouth shut and choosing not to sink his only chance of survival and salvation?

On the other hand, Captain MacTaggart must be more than just mum in order to save his boat. He must be wily as a fox. And wily he is as the story unfolds, taking us from Scottish port to Scottish port, through the Western isles and Hebrides, through the canals, onto the flats, hitherto and yonder; MacTaggart and the crew of the Maggie doing their best to outsmart and outrun the man who hired them, just so they can get the job done and get their three hundred pounds.

As I mentioned earlier, the Clyde Puffers attained mythical status thanks to the serialized musings of author Neil Munroe. I have Munroe's book as well and started reading it a few days ago. Although there is no reference in the movie to Munroe's fictional captain (Para Handy) or his boat the Vital Spark, this film does them both justice. In many ways it's much better than the BBC TV adaptations, which were, as I'm told by a very reliable source, full of lager and whiskey mayhem.

The Maggie: Four and a half out of five stars.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Joe Cool Mystery

Today's wires are following a story out of Miami Beach about four missing crew members from the charter boat, Joe Cool, shown above. The four missing crew are the captain and his wife and two young men, first and second mates. The boat, in disarray but apparently not damaged, was found adrift 100 miles off the coast of Cuba; the two young men who chartered her, the only other two on the boat, were pulled from one of the vessel's two life raft, found about twelve miles from where the Joe Cool was found. FBI and other investigators are questioning the two men recovered from the life raft. One of the charterers, a US Army deserter, is also a fugitive and a suspect in a $92,000 Wal-Mart heist.

The captain of the vessel supposedly had both a shotgun and a pistol on the boat. Add to this the fact that he had with him his wife and the two male crew members, all experienced big game charter fishermen, and you have to consider them as not your typical victims. How can two ocean going neophytes, one of them 19 years old, get the better of four experienced, able bodied and armed mariners? One thing we know for sure is that nobody in their right mind leaves a perfectly good boat to get into a tiny inflatable life raft, or worse.

Unfortunately, the most likely story is that these two charterers did something criminal to the crew, after which they climbed into the life raft in hopes of covering their actions with an alibi or just escaping the scene of the crime. (Not sure if they took the boat and it broke down on them or they left the boat and tried to make it to Cuba in the raft.)

In fact, as of 17:00 EST, it's looking more and more like a criminal act on the part of these two scumbags. All the more reason for the Coast Guard and FBI to show them no mercy. If I was interrogating them, I'd chum up some sharks and dangle their sorry asses in the water until they talked. I suppose that's not the American way. However, it's plainly obvious they know more than they're saying. If the crew of the Joe Cool are in the water somewhere in the Florida Straights, treading water, waiting and praying for a rescue, and these two assholes know where they are, then someone should make them talk, by whatever means necessary. Sounds uncivilized, unless it's your father or your mother or one of your own boys you're trying to save.

This tragic crime is shaping up in a way that reminds us of just how difficult it is to fight the war on terror. We're up against people (and I use that term loosely) who have no moral or ethical standards, who will say and do anything to achieve their goal, whether it's pirating a 47' sport fishermen or instilling Allah's will on the so-called heretics of the world.

It's also a lesson to charter boat owners and captains everywhere. Never take anything for granted. Be prepared to defend your boat, crew and passengers by any and all means necessary, including acts of violence.

I knocked out a passenger and tied him in a bunk once, and I have threatened other unruly passengers with the same. I also know one captain who had to lock himself in the wheelhouse with a shotgun in order to keep his rowdy charter party from taking over the boat.


Cabot Cove