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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Rockland Harbor Storm Damage

The Miss Patti above broke from her mooring and ended up ashore at the North End. She was able to get off the beach at high tide. Damage was severe to her forefoot and forward keel. She was probably taking on water but didn't really drain much after her haulout.

The seiner below faired much worse. She came ashore on the rocks by the Marine Colloids plant. Heavy seas and surf battered her mercilessly well into the morning hours. Winds didn't abate until about 0300. Vessel appears to be a total loss.

The wooden double-cabin cruiser below didn't break loose from her mooring but she took on plenty of water, probably from a sprumg plank in her bottom. The Journey's End crew towed her into the slipway.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Show the Pirates the Business End of an M-107

It's hard to believe a few lightly armed outcasts in decrepit Boston Whalers and homemade fiberglass skiffs can take a super tanker and its crew hostage and get away with it. But that's exactly what happened, and it will continue to happen as long as the industry anchors itself in the lee of "reasonable force" and "insurance fears".

Every ship or large yacht transiting the east coast of Africa should have a pair of Barrett M-107 50 caliber sniper rifles and a trained crew willing and able to use them. A couple of speedboats with a dozen or more pirates wouldn't get within half a mile of a ship carrying these.


Friday, November 07, 2008

New Booklet Charts from NOAA

Click on the photo above if you want to try out the new NOAA Booklet Charts. These charts are designed to be printed on regular 8-1/2" x 11" paper. Print them out yourself and staple them together. For the most part, reviews have been very positive. You certainly can't beat the price: They're FREE!


Monday, November 03, 2008

Interesting Boats: Hussein's Yacht for Sale

Have you ever had an itch to buy a luxury super yacht with its own secret escape passage to a hidden submarine? If the answer is yes, then I've got a deal for you. The Iraqi government is selling Saddam Hussein's old boat, the Ocean Breeze. Never mind the ironic name, or the possibility the bilge might contain human bones. If money is no object, and the idea of cruising the seven seas in the former dictator's toy tickles your fancy, then all you have to do is cough up $35 to $70 million. The AP and BBC are running the story and quoting a price tag of $35 million, but I think that's understating its value. Sure, it might need some work, but think of the advantages to someone like Amadhenajad, or as we like to call him here, Imanutjob. A ruthless, cutthroat, racist, genocidal maniac of a leader can save themselves a lot of work accumulating bad karma by buying this boat and riding the perverted tail feather of a man like Hussein. Anyway, if you're interested, call 1-800-RAQNROL

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Video From the Ashecliffe Job

From top to bottom: 1. Stonington, Maine, shot from the boat as we headed through the harbor toward Merchant's Row; 2. Western Way, headed toward Northeast Harbor, MDI in the b.g.; 3. Key grip and best boy securing the camera crane to the stern deck.

Ashecliffe is the working title for one of Paramount's latest ventures, a Scorcese directed picture based on the Dennis Lehane novel, Shutter Island. Principle shooting wrapped late last summer in Massachusetts but there were some stunt and effects shots needed to complete the story. These were done under and around Otter Cliffs on Mt. Desert Island using a 160 Ton, 70' crane, a second unit team of about 45 professional film people, a cadre of local climbers from Acadia Mountain Guides in Bar Harbor, and my boat, Moonfish, from St. George.

The boat was originally tasked with getting low angle shots of the cliffs in shadow (the story has the main character climbing the cliff on the heels of a hurricane) and also getting shots of a stunt man swimming in the water at the foot of the cliffs. Apparently, after being satisfied with dailies of the climbing, Scorcese decided the swimming shots weren't needed.

We headed up to Northeast Harbor on Tuesday, October 14th and didn't get back home until Saturday the 18th. Most of the time we were on stand-by as the film crew got the more important shots on the cliffs. The Bangor Daily has a story here with a shot of the camera carrier system, known by its trade name, Spidercam, used to get these shots. It's the same system that was used in the Spiderman movies.

We finally got out on Friday for the actual shoot below the cliffs. We were ready by 0500. Camera crew showed up at about 0545. They mounted the camera on the crane, which had already been secured to the boat on Thursday, and we headed out at about 0730. Unfortunately, even though we maneuvered in close to the rocks, working back and forth in 8' to 25' of water, with winds gusting from the north to about 25 knots, the early morning sunshine lit the wall like a Christmas tree, ruining the shadows required for story continuity. At around 0930 Ron Ames turned to me and said something like, "The light's all wrong. It's not going to work." and we headed for the barn.

Unfortunately, both Robert Legato and Ron Ames, Second Unit Director and Visual Effects Producer -- both award winning film makers (Legato got an Oscar for Effects Supervisor on Cameron's Titanic) -- had to catch a plane. If we'd had more time, we might have gotten their much-needed shadows later in the day. In fact, only a day or so later, the weather turned to wind and rain and heavy cloud cover. Oh well. . . .


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ashecliffe - Shutter Island Camera Boat Job

This photo was taken by Moonfish crewman DL Maxcy on Friday, October 17th just before we got underway for a shoot off Mt. Desert Island's Otter Cliffs. Camera Crane is an Enlouva with a 15' extension. I had to lighten the image a little on account of the fact that the shot was taken in low light at about 6:00 AM. That's Ron Ames in the hat and Robert Legato to his left. I believe Bill Summers is the one with his back to the camera. The other people in the photo are all members of the film's Second Unit Team and/or Camera Dept.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Shoot to Kill: Russians to Take on Somali Pirates. . . .

I guess now we can finally expect some action, because as we all know, the Russians don't pussy foot around with outlaws, terrorists, or, for that matter, the occasional sovereign country.

I, for one, am glad. While the U.S. is supposedly leading a coalition of armed-to-the-teeth vessels off the Somali coast, their so-called "teeth" are apparently rounded-off and rotten. In other words, this force has no bite.

U.S. forces are completely hamstrung -- no wait, hamstrung isn't a strong enough word; neutered is a better word -- by a growing army of anti-social, subversive, militant, outlaw entities that know exactly how to manipulate an even faster growing army of misguided liberalists who rally to any cry of victimization, no matter how ludicrous or absurd.

The Russians, however, have a proud history of ignoring such cries. Generally speaking, they shoot first and ask questions later. Give them three months off the coast of Somalia and I can almost guarantee a cleaner area of trouble-free shipping.

If it were up to me, and if I had some say-so, I'd offer all friendly government special forces teams two week vacations on luxury yachts off the coast of East Africa. Different teams, different yachts, different times. Fully armed teams, of course. Standing orders: Have fun, soak up the sun -- and shoot to kill any and all pirates.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ike Uncovers Shipwreck: Identity in Dispute

Reproduction of an 1864 pen & ink drawing by George Waterman, Courtesy AmericanCivilWar.Com

Hurricane Ike has further uncovered a shipwreck of wood and iron fittngs on the beach at Fort Morgan, LA. Some say it's the Monticello, a schooner that tried to run the Union blockade of Fort Morgan, which was held by the Confederates.

On the other hand, The Army Corp of Engineers says the wreck is that of a 20th century schooner named, The Rachel.

Archaeologists will have to sort it out with a more detailed examination.

For a photo of the wreck and more info, do a search for Monticello AP.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Whidden Pond

Whidden Pond is a little over a mile up the Russell Pond Trail from Roaring Brook Campground. We usually see moose here but not this trip. In fact, we didn't see any moose this trip.

The R.P. trail leads 7.2 miles through the Wassataquoik Stream valley between Katahdin and Turner Mtn.; it goes up and down a bit, skirting the sides of N. Turner and the shoulder of Russell, and has many wet parts, including some relatively deep stream crossings. I'm a firm believer in crossing streams in hiking boots. We passed a woman on the trail who had ripped the nail off her big toe while crossing in an extra pair of sneakers she had brought just for stream crossings.

A lot of people bring extra shoes for the streams and then change before crossing. I prefer to bring the extra shoes and then wear them in camp while my boots are drying out. Sandra was more inclined to do the former until we met up with this woman.

Meanwhile, thirty years ago I wondered why people hiked the woods encumbered by walking sticks. Now, at 55 years of age, I'm figuring it out. Gandalf was no fool.

Wassataquoik Stream

We had to ford quite a few creeks, brooks, and streams. One of them was thigh deep -- high for this time of year. This is is the last ford of Wassataquoik Stream before reaching Russell Pond. It was the longest of all our crossings.

Russell Pond

More Photos of the Russell Pond Trip

1. Signing In 2. Early on the Trail 3. Mushroom 4. Down In the Valley 5. Dinosaur

More Photos of the Russell Pond Trip: Part Deux

6. N. Turner Mtn. from Russell Pond 7. Big Spider 8. Overhanging Rock. 9. Katahdin

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Rough Seas Photos

The following photos -- in this post and the next two posts -- are from a PowerPoint Presentation authored by a guy named, Antonio. I doubt he is the original photographer and I wish I could attribute the photos to their rightful owners. Unfortunately, I don't have enough information. Be that as it may, these photos are just too good to pass up. Maybe a reader can help identify the photographers and their subjects. [Note: At least one of the photos looks like it may have been doctored a little. It's the one with the offshore/service/utility vessel climbing a wave with its stern half sunk.]

Rough Seas Photos

Rough Seas Photos

Friday, July 25, 2008

New Hampshire's Killer Tornado

I was five minutes away from intersecting with this tornado. This is the slimmed-down video of its aftermath. The rain and thunder storm in the beginning is part of the cell that spawned the twister, which landed in Deerfield and carved a path down RT 107 in Epsom. The tornado turned east and tore through Northwood Meadows, then went on to Barnstead, where I heard it destroyed another home. I heard that a woman died and four others required hospitalization. Residents were bused out rapidly. The video shows the Northwood Meadows destruction, and later, rescue and service crews on South 107.

Rescue and emergency crews were amazing.


Monday, July 14, 2008

Interesting Boats: Freighted with Herring

Entering Rockland Harbor with 30 knot gusts during Blues festival Weekend.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Phillipine Ferry Capsizes with More Than 700 Passengers and Crew

Full Story from the New York Times here.


Monday, June 23, 2008


When the Coast Guard and the Marine Electronics Industry forced satellite EPIRB technology on the general seagoing public I was the first to cry foul. Inshore mariners, professional and recreational, had to give up their VHF beacons for the way more expensive Sat-devices. The new EPIRBS were ten times the cost of VHF EPIRBS, and they were geared more for deep sea rescues. They're still more appropriate for finding people who get in trouble way out there where the waters are deep and the traffic is thin. I've been saying it for years: Inshore mariners need a VHF EPIRB that will initiate a rescue response in seconds and minutes and not hours or longer. If you're trap fishing three miles from shore and you get wrapped up in a warp and yanked over the side, the 406 mHz EPIRB attached to your wheelhouse roof is about as much help to you right now as your anchor. Thank you Mobilarm for the V100 VPIRB.


Interesting Boats: Rockland Lobster Boat Races June 22, 2008

The 2008 Lobster Boat Races in Rockland started late due to heavy fog. That didn't stop spectators and racers from getting a leg up on the action. Boats rafted early, and racers were ready to go by the time the fog scaled at about 11:30. Here are the details from Village Soup complete story with photos and results. Click Here for Story!


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Young Killer Whale Dies at SeaWorld in San Antonio

The 2-1/2 year-old female Orca that died on Monday was the second killer whale to die at the San Antonio facility. The other one, a 14 year old male, died last October.

An necroscopy will take four to six weeks. In the meantime, we can speculate.

  • A disease or some other pathological cause, e.g. genetic defect.
  • Trauma -- from another whale or from a self-inflicted injury.
  • A toxicological cause, chemical or environmental. Toxic habitat.
  • Depression. She was rejected by her mother and was, after all, a captive animal.
  • Foul play.

Two dead whales in less than a year at the same location. I'd say that was something to look into.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Corrected AP Story on Sailor's Rescue in GoM

Here from TBO.

Abridged version:

Keel fell off racing sailboat. Vessel sank quickly. C0-captain died heroically. Five spent 26 hours clinging to each other in 84 degree waters of Gulf before being rescued by CG helicopter.


Cancun Catamaran Sinks

A Cancun catamaran, the Sea Star, sank with 126 passengers aboard leaving one young woman from Texas hospitalized in a vegetative state. Initial reports claim the vessel was overloaded but owners say the cat could carry 250 passengers. You can find a photo of the vessel here.

I can't comment on whether the vessel can carry 80, as some people are saying, or 250, as the owners say, not without more info. What I can say is that certificates are written specifically with designations for capacities on upper and lower decks. Could be the upper deck had a capacity of 80 and that there were 126 people up there at the time of the accident.

I mentioned once in another post of a ferry ride I took from Cancun to Isla de Mujeres. The ferry was a large wooden held together with coast of paint. If I had been a Mexican Transportation Safety Inspector I would have condemned the thing on the spot.

Pictures of the Sea Star suggest it was a more modern vessel and in much better condition than the ferry I was on.


Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone Increases

Researchers and scientists at LSU have confirmed a report that the size of the dead zone off the Texas and Louisiana coasts has increased to over 10,000 square miles. This is the largest it has been since these measurements were first taken some 23 years ago.

The dead zone -- now the size of Massachusetts -- is an area created by organic run off from the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. This run off has depleted oxygen levels to a state that is insufficient to support even the most basic of marine life.

Researchers blame the 17 to 21 percent increase from last year on added pressure from the industrialized farming of products used in the making of bio-fuels.

This is a clear case of environmental lobbying efforts gone horribly wrong. I'm all for reducing the need for foreign oil. I'm all for creating alternative fuels. But for years now the evidence has been piling up against a corn-based bio-fuel technology. Let's put a stop to it now before we turn the entire Gulf into a cesspool.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Indonesian Divers Missing

There's news this morning of another diver mishap. Five divers from Great Britain, Sweden and France disappeared Thursday in the waters off Komodo National Park east of Bali. I haven't been able to determine yet whether this was a shore-based dive or a boat charter dive. At the moment, there is little more to report, other than the divers have been missing for about a day, having been swept away by strong currents.

You may remember an incident back in May when two divers in Australia were swept away from their charter boat, the Pacific Star. The two were eventually rescued but not until they had spent 20 or so hours adrift together in the treacherous waters of The Great Barrier Reef. Investigators looking into the incident are concerned the captain of the Pacific Star waited too long to contact authorities. I would also be pretty concerned by the fact that according to recent reports he had left the scene and was already on his way back to port when he called in the alert. If true, that goes beyond stupid. For more on this particular incident, check my previous post here, and go to the story at CDNN here.

In my previous post on the Australian incident I discussed the time delay, saying it wasn't that strange. We were originally informed the two were in the water for 20 hours and that the rescue went on for 18 hours. Take out actually dive time, about an hour, and the fifteen or so minutes it takes to realize someone is missing, and you only have a 45 minute delay. But now we're told there was a 3-hour delay in contacting authorities and that the charter boat captain had actually left the scene and was on his way back to shore with the rest of his charter party. If true, I can't imagine what the hell was going on in his head. Was he thinking he had to get the others back? Or did he write the missing divers off as dead after only 3 hours? Something is not right with this story and I'm thinking there are a lot of divers speculating and wanting to place blame on the charter boat captain and the charter company. Let's just wait and see how this shakes out.

Either way, let me reiterate what I said in my previous post on the subject. If you have an emergency situation, an injury aboard, a lost diver, a fire, flooding, whatever -- Place the call to rescue authorities immediately! Get them mobilized and ready to sortie. You can always call them back if the situation resolves on its own or by your own hands.

Meanwhile, maybe someone will tell us whether these divers in Indonesia were shore diving or diving from a boat. There's a big difference.



Thursday, June 05, 2008

Oil Spill Threatens Uruguay, Argentina...

Two ships collided off the coast of Montevideo, Uruguay causing a 21 kilometer long fuel oil spill. No one was injured in the collision but one of the fuel tanks aboard the Greek vessel, Syros, was ruptured. The other ship is the Malta-flagged Sea Bird. Info on both ships from PSIX below:

Vessel Information: Vessel Particulars:

Vessel Name: SYROS
VIN: 7917953
Hull Number:
Vessel Flag: GREECE
Vessel Call Sign: SYBJ
Build Year: 1981
Service: Freight Ship
Length: 731.6 ft
Breadth: 105.6 ft
Depth: 58.4 ft
Alternate VINs:
IMO Number: 7917953

Service Information: Tonnage Information:

Service: In Service
Out Of Service Date: N/A
Last Removed From Service By: N/A
Deadweight: 60194
Gross Tonnage(GRT): 35038
Net Tonnage(NRT): 20808
Gross Tonnage(GT ITC): 35038
Cargo Authority:

Vessel Documents and Certifications
DocumentAgencyDate IssuedExpiration Date
ISM - Document Of ComplianceGR May 14, 2007May 14, 2012
International Oil Pollution Prevention CertificateLR February 13, 2007April 11, 2010
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Equipment CertificateLR January 24, 2007April 11, 2010
International Load Line CertificateLR April 20, 2005April 11, 2010
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Construction CertificateLR April 20, 2005April 11, 2010
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Radio CertificateLR April 20, 2005April 11, 2010
Classification DocumentLR April 20, 2005
ISM - Safety Management CertificateGOV August 21, 2003October 27, 2008
ISM - Document Of ComplianceGOV May 17, 2002May 14, 2007
International Oil Pollution Prevention CertificateLR July 25, 2000April 11, 2005
Load Line Certificate (Coastwise)LR July 25, 2000April 11, 2005
Classification DocumentLR July 25, 2000April 11, 2005
Tonnage Certificate, InternationalLR December 11, 1998

Vessel Information: Vessel Particulars:

Vessel Name: SEA BIRD
VIN: 8117328
Hull Number:
Vessel Flag: MALTA
Vessel Call Sign: 9HQZ5
Build Year: 1984
Service: Freight Ship
Length: 736.1 ft
Breadth: 105.6 ft
Depth: 59.1 ft
Alternate VINs: CG000581
IMO Number: 8117328

Service Information: Tonnage Information:

Service: In Service
Out Of Service Date: N/A
Last Removed From Service By: N/A
Deadweight: 63788
Gross Tonnage(GRT):
Net Tonnage(NRT):
Gross Tonnage(GT ITC): 35915
Cargo Authority:

Vessel Documents and Certifications
DocumentAgencyDate IssuedExpiration Date
International Load Line CertificateBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
International Oil Pollution Prevention CertificateBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
SOLAS Cargo Ship Safety Radio CertificateBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
Classification DocumentBV March 31, 2007April 8, 2012
ISM - Document Of ComplianceLR July 3, 2004March 27, 2008
ISM - Safety Management CertificateLR September 19, 2003June 30, 2008
Load Line Certificate (Coastwise) July 16, 2002April 8, 2007
Tonnage Certificate, InternationalBV January 7, 1998

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

French Fishermen Protest Fuel Prices

Click photo for story.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

So You Want To Be A Charter Boat Captain, Chapter 2

Having chosen to ignore perfectly good advice and become a charter boat skipper it's time now to make some hard and fast decisions about what kind of a boat business you want to own and run. Do you want to go the full Monty and buy or build a USCG Inspected Passenger Vessel, or will you be happy with a six-pack boat? For those who don't know, the difference is substantial. It's like the difference between running a barbecue in your back yard and opening a full-service restaurant.

A small USCG inspected passenger boat under 100 gross tons, known as a T-Boat or a K-boat (the latter for overnight passengers or boats with more than 150 passengers; H-boat for vessels over 100 GT) as designated in the Code of Federal Regulations, must meet certain regulatory standards. These are checked routinely on your boat by the U.S. Coast Guard. A safety inspection is every 12 months, while a hull and engineering inspection is every 18 months to two years; the latter depends on what type of vessel you own and of what material it was constructed. Wood vessels with plank on frame construction and marine fastenings are required to have more frequent inspections.

The Coast Guard doesn't conduct these inspections for free like they do for the recreational and commercial fishing sectors. You have to pay annually. The fee is based on the size of the vessel and/or the number of passengers you carry. Although the fee will increase like everything else does, I can tell you that at the moment the fee for a passenger vessel of less than 49 passengers is about $800. That includes the annual safety inspection as well.

Most skippers look on these inspections as a matter of course and appreciate the extra sets of eyes they get to look over their boats. Others, however, get a little adversarial during the inspections. Without question, a bad attitude during an inspection does little to expedite the process. I would no sooner get short with a Coast Guard Inspector than tell an IRS auditor what to do with their briefcase. Besides, these guys are just doing their job, and in fact, they're helping you out. If you comply with all the US Coast Guard guidelines and regulations for T-boats or K-boats, you're limiting your exposure to liability. The bottom line in this business is to make sure you run a boat that is in full compliance with the law. Any infraction, however small, will end up biting you in the ass if something like an accident ends up happening aboard the vessel.

Granted, you will have Coast Guard personnel on your boat who are cutting their inspection teeth on your nickel. Get over it. It's all part of the process. Some of these men and women are young and inexperienced and it behooves you to be patient and do you best to help them understand the systems and equipment you have aboard. If you have any problems, simply go to the guy in charge of the inspection (usually a Master Chief or Leutenant) and explain your logic. Not all boats are created equal and not all inspectors will require a strict adherence to the letter of the law. There is some wiggle room, and the logical, most appropriate way of doing things aboard your vessel will prevail.

As far as the six-pack or 6-passenger boat is concerned, my advice is to comply with the same guidelines and regulations set-up for T-boats. Other than the construction requirements (rail heights, bulkheads, watertight doors, seating, etc.), you're better off with a boat that's thoroughly CFR compliant. In fact, I would consider the standards as minimums for six-pack vessels. In many respects, six-pack boats find themselves in even more extreme situations than sub-chapter T boats.

So, whether you decide to go with a USCG Inspected passenger boat or a six-pack boat, my advice is to adhere to the standards set down by the USCG in the Code of Federal Regulations for Small Passengers Vessels. It might not be possible or necessary in a six-pack boat to do it in terms of design, construction, and stability, but from a safety, equipment and systems installation standpoint, you can't go wrong.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Coast Guard Rescues 7 from Lake Michigan Charter Boat

At the moment I don't have much more than the above headline on the Lake Michigan charter boat incident but here's a list of links of recent Coast Guard action for the month of May:

05/23/08 Coast Guard Rescues 3 Near Indian River Inlet, Delaware
05/22/08 Coast Guard Crew Medevacs 49-Year-Old Man
05/22/08 Coast Guard Responds To Barge Fire
05/22/08 Coast Guard Interdicts, Repatriates 40 Cuban Migrants
05/22/08 Coast Guard Rescues 104 Haitian Migrants
05/20/08 Coast Guard Rescues Man From Supply Vessel
05/20/08 Coast Guard Rescues Clammer Stuck in the Mud
05/20/08 Coast Guard Saves 6 Children
05/20/08 Massachusetts Native Rescued South of Fire Island, N.Y.
05/19/08 Coast Guard Crew Evacuates Kauai Man
05/18/08 Coast Guard Responds to Sunken Fishing Vessel in New Bedford Harbor
05/17/08 Air Station Humboldt Bay Responds to Four People in the Water
05/17/08 Coast Guard Medevacs Man From Shrimping Vessel
05/16/08 Coast Guard Saves Family From Sinking Boat
05/13/08 Passing Storm Prompts Coast Guard Rescue
05/12/08 Coast Guard Interdicts 12 Suspected Human Smugglers, At-Sea Biometrics Utilized
05/11/08 Routine Patrol Turns Into Medevac
05/10/08 Good Samaritan, Coast Guard Rescue 1 After Sailboat Capsizes
05/04/08 Coast Guard Medevacs Man From Cargo Ship
05/10/08 Coast Guard Rescues 15 From Boat Fire
05/10/08 Fishing Vessel Submerged at Pier
05/08/08 Coast Guard Medevacs South of Freeport
05/08/08 First National Security Cutter Delivered to Coast Guard
05/06/08 Coast Guard Medevacs Fisherman Suffering from Flu-like Symptoms
05/04/08 2 Injured in Boating Accident off Key Biscayne
05/04/08 Coast Guard Rescues 7 Lost in Fog
05/02/08 Coast Guard Helicopter Medevacs Stroke Patient Near Barataria Bay
05/02/08 Coast Guard Medevacs Injured Cargo Tanker Crewmember
05/02/08 Coast Guard Interdicts, Repatriates 9 Cuban Migrants
05/01/08 Oahu-Based Coast Guard Crews Transportport Injured Man


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Catching Zs on Deadliest Catch

The show continues to astound its fans, but I'm betting the two episodes of Captain Phil falling asleep at the helm of the Cornelia Marie, and the one with a greenhorn deck ape on the early Dawn falling asleep on his watch, won't do much to endear fishermen as a whole to the rest of the professional seafaring community, including the policy makers at the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, word is Phil almost died from an aneurysm. It's no wonder when you consider his obsessive work ethic and life style. You really can't survive on crab fishing, Red Bull and cigarettes.


Massacheusetts Ocean Billed Signed by Gov.

Click on the image above for the straight scoop from the Maine Ocean Campaign website. Anything less is just a game of "pass-it-on."


Monday, May 26, 2008

Should the Rescued Divers In Australia Pay for Their Rescue?

See the previous post for more on this story and click this BBC link for info on what's being suggested about renumeration.

Personally, as I may have intimated in my previous post, it all depends on the divers and what risks or liberties they took, if any, on their dive.

Perhaps the dive operators did not fully prepare the divers for what they would encounter in terms of current. Or, conversely, perhaps the divers ignored instructions and went beyond their permitted dive time and/or range.

I'm a firm believer thrill seekers who refuse to follow the boat's or operator's rules should be penalized in some way for their actions. In most cases, operators penalize irresponsible passengers by not allowing them to return.

I'm not saying these two missing divers fall into this category because I don't know. But I think it's something that should be looked into, especially since both divers are apparently monopolizing on their 15 minutes of fame.


Saturday, May 24, 2008

Australian Divers Found After Spending Night On Great Barrier Reef

Two divers that had surfaced 200 yards away from their chartered dive boat and had gotten lost on the Great Barrier Reef were found by a helicopter rescue team after spending twenty hours at sea together. The two are credited for making the smart choices necessary for their survival. They stuck together, remained calm and chose not to try to swim to shore.

The AP and other stories on the Web right now are not providing much in the way of details, but we can surmise the dive boat operator knew he (or she) was missing two divers because the search took 18 hours and according to reports the two were in the water for 20 hours. This doesn't seem unusual when you factor in initial dive time, the time it takes to figure out there are divers missing, the time it takes to conduct a quick search on-scene, the time it takes to notify rescue authorities and the time it takes for rescue teams to arrive and begin a search.

Time goes by pretty quickly when you suddenly say to yourself: "Hold on. We're missing two." Everybody aboard starts to search the area with binoculars. There's 15 minutes right there. Add this to the extra 10 or 15 minutes you might give to stragglers and the 45 minutes to an hour they were in the water for their dive, and you have a response time of only about a half hour to 45 minutes.

I can tell you from personal experience as a dive boat operator there's a hollow pain you feel in your chest the very second you realize a diver is missing. One rule of thumb is to contact authorities and report the missing diver immediately. The reason for this is that you'll never lose precious time calling off a search or a response -- but if you wait, that's time you never get back. In practice, though, as a dive boat operator, you know there are divers who don't follow the boat's or the captain's instructions. These are the guys who make it worse for everyone. When we say back at the boat in one hour, we freakin' mean it!

Personally, I make the call immediately. If you don't show when I tell you, and I can't see your bubbles or your buoy, I'm calling the Coast Guard and telling them I have a diver who has not reported topside at the appointed time. We haven't scrambled a MAYDAY yet but at least we're ready to roll and the process has been initiated. As a boat captain who's responsible for everyone aboard, you have to err on the side of caution.

The other interesting thing abut this story is that the two who went missing were really not that far away. Two hundred yards, two football fields -- all I can say is that there must have been a sea running with some white caps because two brightly colored BCs and snorkels would show up at 200 yards in calm or relatively calm seas.

For the record, it's very common for divers to come up late to the boat or come up far away from the boat. For captains, it's frustrating and stressful and we hate it.

It's very unusual, though, for dive boat operators to leave divers in the water and sail back to port without them. Unusual, but it has happened. The movie Open Water, based on the true story of two divers who were left behind on a Caribbean dive charter, is about just that sort of thing. Obviously, the movie spends a lot of time in "speculation mode" but it's still worth a watch if you don't mind movies with depressing endings.

At least this story from Australia ended happily.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Norwegian Cruise Lines Ltd Makes News Again

The Miami-based (formerly of the Bahamas) cruise company made news today when a judge in Miami found the company negligent and fined them $1 million for a boiler explosion that led to the deaths of 8 crew members. The judge also awarded $13 Million in preliminary restitution to the families of the crew members who died and were injured. And he left the door open for further restitution.

The explosion occured in May of 2003 on the SS Norway (formerly the France) when it was at its berth in Miami. As a result of the explosion NCL decommissioned the Norway and sent it to the scrap yard. It was later towed to India where it ended up in another court case because it hadn't been cleaned of toxic material. Eventually a judge in India gave the scrappers permission to tear down the Norway despite its high levels of asbestos.

NCL also made news in 2005 when several disabled Americans sued the company for not providing proper access for people in wheelchairs and scooters. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court where the final opinion came down in favor of the plaintiffs. Back then, the company claimed its Bahama-flagged ships were not under the jurisdiction of American law and therefore did not have to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The effect of this last lawsuit was pretty important for all charter and passenger carrying vessels in the US, which until this point had more leeway in terms of providing complete access to people with disabilities. As the law stands now, a passenger vessel must provide people with disabilities access to all public areas unless the vessels operation or design completely prohibits such access. For example, obviously, you can't have complete access on a 18' runabout.

As a side note, NCL built the Pride of America, the first large US-Flagged cruise ship built in 50 years.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fuel Costs . . . Whatever The Market Will Bear?

What are we to think in the wake of fishermen in Paris yesterday and today going on a rampage over the price of fuel? Can it happen here? Maybe. Paris has a history of violent protests over this sort of thing, while we tend to reserve our public rampages to student and other violence as a result of a sporting event or a canceled concert. At least the French rampage over the serious stuff.

I would be surprised if there's anyone who thinks the oil magnates don't know exactly what they're doing. They have the best research our money can buy, and it's our money they're researching. They know exactly what's going on with today's cash assets. They've figured out there's plenty of money out there to funnel into the economy and until people show them differently the price of oil will keep going up. The problem is, there's always a delay, just like the one we had recently with the sub-prime mess. And it's not over.

Fuel costs are prohibitive for commercial fishermen and others who earn a living at sea, but the effects of these costs haven't filtered downstream yet. Just give it time. When commercial lobstermen around here decide they can't fish because the price of fuel is too high, a huge infrastructure of support services will collapse.

Ross Perot Jr. was on the news the other night and he said the price of oil was overvalued by almost 100%. He predicts it will slide back to $70 a barrel. I'm not so sure but I have a feeling that when the collapse starts, the oil magnates will not be able to respond fast enough to protect their interests or ours.


So You Want To Be A Charter Boat Captain, Chapter 1

I've been at this business, the chartering business, for most of my adult life and even a good portion of my teenage foolish years, starting with a three year stint as the water skiing instructor at a summer camp when I was 16 and could carry a 55 hp outboard over my shoulder and swim the length of a cold mountain lake faster than an angry pickerel. That's nearly 40-years (stop doing the math in your head) of dealing with paying passengers on all sorts of different boats. Does it make me an expert? Hardly. But I think it gives me some measure of skipper-for-hire wisdom. At least in this one area -- chartering -- I feel I have a certain expertise from which I can speak comfortably. Readers beware. What follows is not necessarily the stuff of dreams.

The first thing you have to ask yourself is: Do I really want to own and run my own charter boat?

Back when I got into this business, my very smart father gave me some great advice I totally ignored. He said: If you really love being on the water, why make it a job? Won't that take all the fun out of it? In fact, at least half the time you're doing it for profit, it's not much fun. The other half of the time, it is fun, and rewarding as hell. And some days you just can't believe your getting paid to do what you're doing. However, unless you're paying a mechanic, boat yard, maintenance crew, etc., you better take into consideration the time you need to put in to keep the boat in tip top shape. Oil and filter changes and emergency repairs at midnight to early morning are no fun at all. Neither are the times you get home from the engine room, shower, and head back out to meet an early morning charter party. You'll probably be in something of a foul mood, but don't let your passengers see it. Being successful with a charter boat depends entirely on repeat business. Nobody wants to come back to a boat run by a surly captain with bloodshot eyes and a nasty attitude.

This, of course, brings up the question of people skills. Are you a people person? You really have to love people to do this kind of work, even the people who may not be worth loving, for example; passengers who spend the entire trip puking over the rail and then ask for their money back at the end of the day, drunks who get confrontational when you shut them off and then ask for their money back at the end of the day, fishermen who complain they didn't catch enough fish, and ask for their money back at the end of the day. The list goes on.

To be honest, I have not really experienced many bad eggs on my boats. But it was a different story when I was the hired captain on other boats. You have a lot of control when you're the sole owner and operator. You have the ability to say to someone: Get the hell off my boat. Or . . . Don't ever come back here. When you're working for someone else, you don't always have that luxury. On my own party fishing boat, I didn't allow hard liqueur, and I kept the beer restricted to three bottles per person. Bit other boats I worked on had a different, more lax policy, and it caused some problems. I had to tie one passenger to a bunk. Another time I had to knock a guy out with a bluefish billy. Both of these guys gave me no choice because they became dangerous to my other passengers and the safety of the boat. You're probably thinking these incidents were in the 50% no fun column but actually I have to admit a certain satisfaction in taking out a passenger who's been warned repeatedly.

So, are you a people person? Do you even like people? And here I mean people as in "The Public," 'cause that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish, so to speak.

If you can't answer yes to the question above, you will not be happy as a charter boat captain. In fact, you will probably develop a bad case of marine curmudgeon syndrome and spend the rest of your life whining and bitching about everything you do.

But let's say you are a people person. If this is the case, the next question you have to ask yourself is: Do I want to make a living doing this? If the answer to this question is no, then all you're really trying to do is finance a hobby. The IRS takes a dim view of this type of business, and you should, too, because if you don't make a profit three out of five years (or whatever the formula is now), the IRS is going to crawl up your behind with a Rototiller. Well, maybe not a Rototiller, but when they finish with you, you're going to wish it was a Rototiller.

The thing is, if you don't have an interest in making a living with this kind of work, why bother? Get your captain's license, take out your friends, ask for donations to help pay expenses. No expectations. No worries. No extra expenses, like charter insurance, Coast Guard Certification, etc.

There's no law prohibiting you from asking people for donations if in fact you are a fully licensed USCG Captain. And nobody says you have to make a profit, either.


Another Ship Seized by Somali Pirates

The fate of the Jordanian-flagged freighter carrying donated sugar to the region -- with twelve crew members hailing from East Asia and Africa -- is still unknown. In fact, the seizure by pirates has not actually been confirmed. It was presumed a pirate act when communications between owners and crew could not be established on Saturday. Perhaps by today more will be known.


Monday, May 19, 2008

Global Warming and Hurricanes . . . Are they connected or not?

Apparently not . . . according to one of the world's authorities on the subject, NOAA's Tom Knutson, a meteorologist who had previously been very vocal about the link between Global Warming and increases in both numbers and strengths of hurricanes.

Knutson, who has also in the past been very critical of the Bush Administration for its lack of action on the Greenhouse Gas front, is doing an about face on this one issue, and he has the support of other climate and weather specialists, mostly hurricane specialists, who believe the science backs this shift in thinking about Global Warming and hurricances. In fact, if anything, a warming trend should decrease the number of hurricanes making landfall, according to his computer model.

An abstract of his article, which appears in Nature Geoscience, can be found here.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Maine Sky Over Moonfish

Hartley Tug "Narragansett" in the Shipping Lane

Hartley Tug and Tow Outside of Shipping Lane

Sea Lion Deaths on Columbia River

When 4 California sea lions and 2 endangered stellar sea lions were found dead on the Columbia River National Marine Fisheries Service officials reported that the animals had been shot. However, it's clear now they died from heat exhaustion and panic after being trapped by a state fisheries program designed to protect the salmon. An autopsy concluded the animals had been in the cages for too long a time; a combination of the sixty-degree weather and their heightened agitation and stress due to the confined space and captivity caused their deaths.

National media attention focused on the initial report of a shooting with high hopes of finding the responsible party. It was assumed the perpetrator was an angry commercial fisherman and by all accounts authorities were anxious to make an example of him. The noose was tied; the rope strung over a limb. Turns out it wasn't an angry, vicious act at all. It was more a matter of passive conservation management; maybe it was even a negligence issue.

Meanwhile, a Southern California fisherman (not sure if he was commercial or recreational) was given 3 years probation and 200 hundred hours of community service following his trial for stabbing a sea lion through the heart. The animal had stolen his bait and his response was to jump it a stab it repeatedly with a large steak knife. People in the area witnessed the attack and called the police. He was facing a $20,000 fine and 1 year in jail. Lucky for him his sentencing came a day after the coroner's report in Oregon determined that state officials and not some mad fisherman with a rifle had inadvertently killed the 6 sea lions on the Columbia River.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Exceeding a Vessel's Capacity

A ferry like the one pictured above capsized and sank yesterday in the Ghorautra River in Bangladesh killing at least 41. I doubt seriously anyone wonders why something like this happens so often in Bangladesh. The question is, if you were visiting a country like Bangladesh and you had to get from Point A to Point B, would you get on a ferry like this one?

I once got on a ferry in Mexico to Isla Mujeres. It was a wood ferry that nobody had ever taken a paint scraper to. They obviously just kept applying new paint over the old paint. Maybe the thinking was the layers of paint would hold the boat together.

Underway, you could feel a very substantial vibration coming from under the stern, as if the propeller should have had another blade on it -- or maybe the ferry was towing a giant wood chipper behind it that was trying to choke down a rotten log.

I got on a less than seaworthy boat in Jamaica once, and there was this vessel in Egypt . . . both had their bilge pumps running continuously.

I've been on some less than airworthy aircraft, too. But that's another post for another blog.

I obviously survived my indiscretions but I'd like to think I now have more sense. It's not like we can carry our own life rafts aboard these things. And even if we could, we'd have to fight everyone else aboard for the right to use them.

Rotten life jackets, rusty fire extinguishers, outdated licenses and certificates, and overcrowding, are obvious giveaways the ferry you're boarding is not up to the job. Less obvious are the little things: Bad dents in the hull and rails, foul smelling or excessive smoke from the exhaust, rusting or rotten plating, inexperienced or drunken crew members. For the most part, you can tell which boat you want to get on by looking at it tied to the dock. Of course, that doesn't tell you much about the crew's capability.

Meanwhile, given the above, in some countries, if you absolutely must get from Point A to Point B, you don't have much choice but to step aboard a substandard vessel.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Pelican Dives on Woman's Face

Last Saturday it was reported that a woman in the water off Treasure Island, Florida got hit in the face with a pelican as it dove on some fish. The pelican died and the woman had to get 20 stitches. We tend to worry about what's under the water, sharks, rays, jellyfish, sea urchins, etc. Now we have to start thinking about what's over the water.

I don't know about you, but I've seen brown pelicans and gannets dive and I would not want to be hit in the face with one. Gannets, a related species to the pelican, have been known to reach speeds of 60 mph while diving. They have reinforced skulls to better survive the impacts. Pelicans are in the same order, and not all pelican species plunge dive. Still, they have even bigger bills than gannets and can attain larger sizes. Some pelicans, according to Wikipedia, can weigh as much as 33 lbs and have a wing span of over 11'.

I think the bird that hit the woman was probably a brown pelican (avg. size 6 lbs; wing span of 6') and not the pink-backed pictured above.


A Week of Easterlies

With a low tracking south and east of us and causing all sorts of havoc on the Delaware Coast (flooding, evacuations, etc.), Maine is set for a week or more of winds from the north and east, mostly from the east. This is a pattern many pre-season yachtsman tend to ignore. Everyone knows a week of wind can build a pretty destructive sea. But what a lot people don't know is that it doesn't have to be a lot of wind or a big sea to be destructive. Up here, in the mid-coast area, when we get a week or more of northeast wind, it sets up these perfectly spaced seas of equal height that have a harmonic quality to them. Harmonic, repetitive motion can do more damage than random motion. So keep an eye on moorings, docks, etc. this week. We might be in for a hell of a ride.

PS. After looking at an updated forecast, I have to add that the winds aren't looking as interesting as originally predicted, in strength and direction. It flunked-out today at about noon, which gave the sea a chance to calm down. Maybe this one isn't the northeast ride I was looking for.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Suicide Divers - It was Only a Matter of Time!

Sri Lankan Rebels (Tamil Tigers) have sunk a 213' ship using a suicide diver, according to this report from BBC News. The rebels claim it was a munitions ship. Sri Lankan authorities haven't said what the ship was carrying.

I can't recall any suicide dive attacks prior to this one but that doesn't mean there haven't been any or that people aren't looking for them.

The embedded video shows a Sri Lankan patrol boat machine gunning and blowing up what they say was a LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) terrorist gun ship delivering weapons and explosives.

The incident took place 185 nautical miles off 'Dondra Point'-Matara, on Feb. 28, 2007. The Navy fired warnings shots in the air to halt the terrorist gun ship and then fired for effect when the terrorosts retaliated by firing mortars at the patrol boat.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Right Whales, Fishermen, Ship Collisions. . .

Fishermen in Maine and elsewhere are under fire from environmental legislation aimed at protecting the endangered right whale. Biologists say ground lines connecting strings of lobster traps are responsible for fatal whale entanglements. Authorities have the power to institute changes to correct this situation and what they've come up with is a ban on float rope and floating gear (toggles) on ground lines. Instead, lobster fishermen are now required to use a special rope that sinks and is designed to fall apart or break if encountered by a whale.

As you can imagine, this is not a happy development for lobstermen, who have been struggling with lower prices for their catch amidst higher prices for bait, fuel, and supplies. The price of diesel fuel has more than doubled in less than a year. And now they're looking at spending thousands, if not tens of thousands, for the new rope, in which they have little faith; plus they have to temporarily suspend their source of revenue in order to re-rig everything.

While I applaud man's efforts to protect the earth and all its creatures, in this case, as it pertains to right whales, there's clearly a disproportionate level of responsibility and sacrifice being apportioned to lobstermen in Maine. Let me explain:

According to statistics, ship traffic accounts for the majority of deaths of right whales (32 that we know of since 1986), and yet the majority of merchantmen are being 'asked" to slow down in known right whale habitats. Only LNG carriers, as part of their federal license, are required by law to slow down to 10 knots in known right whale areas. Why is the brunt of the sacrifice being levied on the commercial fishing industry and in particular the lobster fishery?

[Note#: Even though entanglements haven't caused as many right whale mortalities, statistics between 1997 and 2003 indicate entanglements in lobster and other fish gear have caused 36 total whale deaths in Maine waters.]

To add insult to injury, the news today (AP Story here) reports an effort by marine biologists to help merchant shipping negotiate whale grounds in a faster, more cost-efficient manner. Instead of telling them to slow down all the time in areas suspected of hosting right whales, biologists will tell ships to slow down 'only' when right whale communications are heard in the area. How will they accomplish this? By using sophisticated, computer listening devices attached to buoys. The listening devices will be programmed to pick-up right whale communications.

One has to wonder why the biologists, environmentalists and legislators are willing to step outside of the box for the merchant fleet but not the commercial fishing industry. I think I have an answer.

1. When whale entanglement and whale protection became an issue a few years ago, Maine fishermen circled their wagons/boats and assumed a collective sumo stance. They were unwilling to talk of compromise. Now it's too late.

2. The perception is that merchant shipping benefits everyone while the lobster fishing industry benefits only people who can afford to eat lobster.

3. Shows like Deadliest Catch don't help matters by depicting not-so-fuzzy fishermen making huge amounts of money while throwing garbage, refuse and an old F-150 Pickup into the ocean.

4. Although I don't know for sure, I'm betting the merchant shipping industry spent a lot of money on research to reduce whale mortalities and improve methods of locating whales during breeding and feeding cycles. I'm also betting the fishing industry spent a total of 'zero' dollars on same.


PS. Check out Joe's Blog Freaks of the Lobster and Crab World, Life on the Gloucester, MA Docks.