Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rope Fenders

If I were to evaluate the thousands of applications of the art of marlinespike seamanship I would place the sea chest becket at the top of the list, and way down at the bottom would be the lowly rope fender. The chest becket deserves the honor because it is the highest form of the sailor's art, but all we ask of a fender is that it suffer violent shocks and protect a boat's hull from dam­age. Beauty is something not generally associated with fenders. Canvas wrapped auto tires do not rank as works of art no matter how practical they may be.

But in spite of its lowly origin, made as it is of sal­vaged material, I can still see beauty in a well made rope fender. That is the amazing thing about rope, its inher­ent, dormant, potential beauty. The minute you unlay a piece of rope and rearrange the strands it begins to acquire character and design, the degree of art attained being limited only by your skill and ingenuity.

The simple fender shown here requires only an ele­mentary knowledge of rope work and very little skill to make. On second thought I suppose I should qualify that statement before someone makes an issue of the degree of skill required. To be candid, shortly after you start the fender you imagine yourself wrestling with an octopus, and before you are finished you sort of wish you were an octopus.

Middle a 20 foot length of 3/4 or 1 inch rope and form an eye with a stout seizing of marline as. Unlay the strands of both parts to the seizing. Now hold the eye between your knees and form a wall knot with the six strands. On top of this form two or three more walls. Do not draw the strands up tight, but just enough for the wall to hold its shape. Cut a 12 inch length of com­mon garden hose and insert it in the walls you have formed. This acts as a waterproof core for the fender, gives it resilience and keeps it from losing its shape. With the hose in place, continue walling the strands until you reach the top.

Now go back to the first wall and with your marline­spike proceed to draw up the strands tightly. Do not try to follow one strand the full length of the fender, but rather tighten each wall in turn. When the last wall is reached you will find the strands have snugged down, leaving some of the hose protruding. Add more walls and tighten up until the hose is completely hidden.

To finish off the fender crown the strands over the end of the hose, tuck the ends through the last wall and cut them off. Splice a 5 or 6 foot length of 74 inch cotton rope to the eye of the fender and it is ready for use.

Most fenders of this type have a core composed of rope which has been unlaid, chopped up and crammed in. This soaks up water and never dries out, therefore I use rubber hose. Another variation is to crown the strands instead of walling them. But whether you wall or crown, the result is a good looking practical fender that will last for years and cost you nothing.

I have seen boats moored at a bulkhead, or dock their topsides protected by what was once a good anchor cable, but converted on a rainy Sunday afternoon to rope fenders. They squeak as she surges slowly back and forth on her spring lines, a mighty comforting sound it is, for I know they are doing their job. By the time they are worn out I'll have accumulated the makings for some new ones, old rope that is too poor to use and too good to throw away.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wooden Cleats for Small Boats


To the yachtsman who likes to make his own fittings, nothing gives more satisfaction than wooden cleats. When properly designed, they are easier on line than their metal counter parts. Having more surface area, resting in more friction, the line is less liable to slip. They have a rugged honest appear­ance that appeals to all sailors. Most of the cleats that I have seen are made af locust, well seasoned and close grained, and were soaked in hot linseed oil when finished.

The first is an all purpose cleat designed to handle 3/8 or 1/2 inch line. The blank was roughed out on the bandsaw to the dimensions given. The horns were rounded off with a wood rasp, and the neck or throat was hollowed with a rat-tail file. Sandpaper removed all the high spots and gave it the final shape. It was bored to take two 1/4 inch carriage bolts, the heads being slightly countersunk. The second cleat is a jam cleat for 3/8 inch rope, and was designed to handle jibsheets on a small center boarder where speed in handling was of prime importance. The sheet can be led around the wide after end and held in the hand, the cleat acting as a deck block or fairleader. To belay, the hauling part is pulled across under the long horn where it is jammed securely between the horn and the deck. To release, give it a jerk and it is free to run. It is secured to the deck by carriage bolts.

The last item is a shroud cleat to belay flag halyards. In days gone by it would probably have been made of whalebone, but lignum vitae, if obtainable, is the best substitute. It was designed for 3/16 inch wire rigging, which is parceled with friction tape and served with marline for a length of 4 inches, to which the cleat is seized. After the blank is roughed out it is finished with a file, shallow grooves are cut to receive the seizings, and the base is hollowed out with a rat-tail file to fit the served shroud. The cleat is mounted breast high on the after side of the shroud and secured by three seizings of tarred yacht marline, drawn up as tightly as possible and then given three coats of spar varnish.
Regardless of whether you varnish or paint them, wooden cleats should first be soaked a long time in hot linseed oil until the wood is saturated. This prevents any tendency to check, and seems to harden the wood con­siderably. You should allow at least three days for the oil to harden before
varnishing.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Wooden Bilge Pump

After two days and nights of easterly gales and torrential rains, the morning dawned with clearing skies and the meadows sparkled in the welcome sunshine as I walked down the path to the creek to see how the boat had fared. It was the sort of morning that made a boy glad to be alive and anxious to be up and doing. I found my row­boat half full of rainwater, and then it dawned on me that I had didn't have a bailer. As I debated the question of whether to go back to the house for a bailer I heard a familiar homely sound. In the doorway of his shanty, his ancient straw hat cocked over one eye, sat "Uncle" Bob, as I called him.

I asked if I might borrow a bailer. He reached inside and handed out a battered old wooden affair, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was made of half inch cedar, about 4 feet long and 4 inches square. As I pulled out the plunger to see how it was con­structed Bob said, "Never seen one of them before, did you? Lots of them around when I was a boy. They don't make no noise, 'n they don't chew up the plankin' like them tin ones do." As an after thought he added, "Don't cost nothin' neither."

The construction of the pump was simplicity itself. The plunger con­sisted of a 3 inch square of sole leather tacked to a 2 inch square block of wood, with a 1 inch oak handle. The valve was a plug of wood in the bottom of the pump, with a 2 inch hole in it covered by a leather flap tacked over it.
The pump raised an enormous stream of water, and after a life­time familiarity with all sorts of metal pumps I was struck by its quietness. There was none of the screeching, scraping, rusty clatter I had always known, and for the first time in my life I enjoyed pumping. All the while there was a faint stir­ring in the dark corners of my mind, something clamoring for remem­brance. Ah yes, Standing on a dock long long years ago, looking down on a big oyster sloop, just docked after dumping a load of "seed". An old man in a derby hat working a pump just aft of the hatches a square, wooden, built-in well from which there gushed a flood of foamy water, fanning across the deck and streaming through the scuppers in the rails.

It was probably the same kind of pump I had borrowed, and a type known to man for hundreds of years, but to me it was an exciting discovery. In the belief that there are others who take a curious inter­est in such simple things, I have felt justified in devoting this space to its story.

Last summer I met up with a sec­ond wooden bilge pump, a different type and rather unique. My good friend of mine had invited me aboard his venerable catboat. He is inordinately proud of his boat, and well might he be, for it falls to the lot of very few boats to have the loving care of a sailor such as he. During the my visit he proudly pointed out that she had two built-in wooden bilge pumps, one on either side of her centerboard trunk, discharging onto the floor of her self bailing cockpit.


The plunger is a very curious affair. A piece of oak, 1 by 3, has a shoulder cut in its lower end on which is tacked a pure gum rubber flapper 1/4 inch thick. To prevent its collapsing on the up­stroke two bronze dowels or pins are fixed in the oak immediately beneath the rubber flapper. The wood is reduced to a round section above to form a han­dle. A pretty neat affair, I say. On reflection I will have to admit that wooden pumps are about as elementary and rude as man could devise, but like many other simple handmade tools of ancient origin they work beautifully. And as Uncle Bob said, "They don't cost nothin' neither." What more could one ask?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shipping News Briefs


A woman was reported to have jumped from the Costa Mediterranea off Florida, apparently after an argu­ment with her boyfriend. Her family disbelieved his story, saying she was scared of heights and afraid of water. Passengers on the Princess of the Caribbean filed a class-action suit, claiming their Mediterranean voyage was spoiled by many toilets that never worked, a stench such that some slept on deck, and an explosion on the third day that caused the ship to list. Many passengers returned home with stom­ach aches, diarrhea, and headaches. At Durban, the 3,000-grt Madagascarwill be auctioned off. The beloved yacht like ex -Stella Maris II was arrested in 2005 after successive failures of two cruise companies, one of which was named Razzmatazz Ocean cruising.

The busy oil industry lacks ac­commodations spaces near offshore rigs and so the small, elderly (1967) Danish cruise ship Sikker Havn will go the Middle East to act as an offshore floating hotel. The Sky Wonder, a cruise ship with an unhappy past as the Pacific Sky, ran aground in strong winds in Turkey and most of its 1,000 passengers decided to go ashore. Several previous trips had been cancelled due to gearbox problems, the ship had to anchor in the Malacca Strait for several hours in 2006 due to mechanical problems, it ran aground in Argentina in January, and an Australian woman died on her in 2002, a death that triggered much discussion into what actually went on during its cruises.
The cruise industry spent $765 million in British Columbia last year and $1.1 billion in all of Canada. That works out to $237 per passenger and $55 per crewmember, at least in Vancouver.

The final report on the sinking of the Canadian ferry Queen of the North in March 2006 failed to reveal what happened during the sinking, merely stating, "Essentially, the system failed that night." Bridge management was in­adequate and there was no third qualified person present. The report also quietly noted that the male officer on duty and a female crewmember at the helm had recently broken up a relationship. The ferry failed to make a course change after exiting the Grenville Channel, sailed on for nearly 15 minutes before hitting Gil Island, and then drifted for 1 hour and 17 minutes before sinking. Two people died. And residents of the nearby Indian village of Hartley Bay have sued, claiming that the ferry company has left the sunken ship in its territory without their permission and traditional fishing grounds were polluted. Hartley Bay residents were the first to arrive at the scene.

Continued bad weather and hurri­cane force winds rolled the grounded Irish Sea ferry Riverdance farther on its side, to 110 degrees, and did so much damage that the 6,000-ton vessel was declared a total constructive loss and will be cut up in place, Until gone it will be a major attraction at the UK's favorite family resort, Blackpool. However, unrecognized by most spectators was the historical significance of timber ends sticking out ofthe beach a few hundred feet from the Riverdance. They were the remains ofthe 1798-built, 80-gun ship ofthe line HMS Foudroyant, once Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship in the Mediterranean.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maritime Odd Bits and Head Shakers


When the Panamanian- flagged cargo ship Voyager II entered a Dutch port, a Dutch court fined the master 5,000 euros for an oil discharge in Estonian waters.
Pilots boarded the bulker Ocean Victory to take it from Baltimore to sea but they finally anchored the ship because too many of the crew were drunk and, at one point, no crew member was in the wheelhouse. Arrested were the master, the second officer, two ABs, and an oiler.
Back in October 2006, the master of the German excursion boat Adler Dania, while sailing in Polish waters towards a Polish port, learned that Polish customs agents in plain clothes were aboard to investigate illegal sales of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes and were about to confiscate the stocks. In spite of warning shots from Polish patrol boat, he took the vessel into German waters, thus "kidnapping" the customs agents. Recently, he was fined 4,000 euros by a German court.

The smallish multipurpose carrier Beluga Skysails completed a successful l2,000-mile calibration and observa­tion voyage from Germany to the US, Venezuela, and Norway using a giant parasail to supplement its engine. The crew deployed the device for periods lasting minutes to several hours. The parasail produced five tons of pull in Force 5-6 winds and will be replaced with one twice as large for the next voyage. It may save between 10% and 35% of fuel costs.
Temperature differences at different levels in the sea power a robotic un­derwaterresearch glider. Warm surface waters melt wax stored in tubes. The molten wax expands and exchanges oil between a bladder inside the ves­sel and one outside. The change in glider volume changes its buoyancy and it sinks. When the wax cools, the glider surfaces and accesses two satellites for positional information and further instructions. One thermal glider has been yo-yoing its sawtooth way back and forth across the 4,000­meter-deep Virgin Island Basin since last December.
The State of Alaska conceded that cruise ships have advanced systems (far better than shore based systems) for cleaning wastewaters but will insist that cruise ships must meet water quality standards for ammonia, copper, nickel, and zinc by the 2010 season.

What do bananas, ceramic floor tiles, and kitty litter have in common? All are among products bugging inspectors of cargo containers because all emit detectable amounts of radiation. (Since cats usually don't spend much time in the litter box, the low-level radiation from bentonite, a common litter mate­rial, probably doesn't pose much of a risk to cats or their owners.)
You can now buy a high-speed, long-range motorboat that is also a submarine. The 34-foot-longcraftcar­ries five people, 525 gallons of fuel, and more than two tons of cargo and uses two 440 hp diesel engines for 40 knots when on the surface.
Mega-yachts and warships are alike in that many are about the same size and all need exceptionally well-trained crews. Which is why the financially stricken Royal Navy is gladly using its training facilities at Portsmouth to train stewards, skippers, and pursers for the mega-rich.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Maritime Mishaps


In the Antarctic, the master of the Sea Shepherd's environ­mental pirate ship Steve Irwin claimed he was shot at by Japanese whalers and produced a bullet he said had lodged in his bullet-proof vest, but Japan dismissed his claim as a lie. The alleged incident happened while the Irwin's crews was throwing stink bombs at the factory ship Nis­shin Maru and Japanese Coast Guard personnel threw back flash grenades. In the Arctic, two officers of the same group's Farley Mowat were arrested for taking the ship far too close to a sealing vessel. " we had a guy on the ice and she broke the ice up under his feet," claimed one sealer.

The Panama Canal Authority post­poned critical maintenance work on several locks when ships started pil­ing up. At one point, 110 vessels were awaiting passage, with waiting times running from five to eight days.
The offshore energy industry is feeling the pinch of too few skilled personnel but the next big problem may be rust, more than half the structures in the North Sea are in poor condition.

The French trawler Marie Louise Bart sank 41 miles from Guernsey in winds up to 110 km, its crew of five were saved by nearby vessels. The Chinese cargo ship New Hangzhou sank off East China, a passing fishing vessel plucked all 23 crewmembers from a liferaft. Off Alaska, rudder problems caused the 185 foot fishing vessel Alaskan Ranger to sink. Most of the crew of 47 was saved. It was the larg­est such rescue in the US Coast Guard memory. In Vietnam, a timber laden cargo ship managed to sink in the Dai Giang River all by itself and six of its crew of sixteen died. The tug Frigga was towing the crane barge Pontus, the dredge Elvira, and a barge off the Swedish east coast when strong winds capsized and sank the dredge and the crane barge. In East Java, thePerdana, carrying sand, cement, and forty people, capsized and five died.

The bulker Darya Bhakti bumped the container ship OOCL China off Shanghai, some damage to ships and containers. At Malta, Force 6 winds caused the cargo ship Akin to hit the Aggeklicki berthed at the fuel wharf. A South Korean tanker collided with a small boat off that country's south coast and 200 tons of diesel fuel spilled. A watchstander on the Japanese fishing vessel Kosho Maru No. 7 fell asleep and the craft ran into the side of the anchored Japanese Coast Guard vessel Was aka. The fishing vessel 801 Chang Nyeongand the 4,050-ton tanker Heung Yang collided off South Korea, caus­ing a 52,000-gallon spill of refined oil. The deep-sea tug Neftegaz 67 collided with the cargo ship Yao Mai near Hong Kong and sank, carrying with it most of its crew of 18. Rescuers saved eight and tried to drag the upside down tug into shallower waters for more rescue attempts. The pull failed because the tug's upper works were deep in the mud. At Rotterdam, the departing Beluga Innovation lost power, rammed the Vendette, and then ran its nose up on the shore.

On the Hooghly River, the smallish container ship CS Signe had steering problems, hit ajetty, and went aground, At the Brazilian port of Sal­vador, the MBTE-carrying tanker NCC Jupal ran into a pier and opened up its hull; some spill of engine oil. In eastern China, near Ninbo, the 1,400-dwt cargo ship Qinfeng 128 collided with a high concrete bridge under constructi on and one 3,000-ton span tumbled down onto the ship. Four went missing.
The container ship MSC Sabina ran aground in the St Lawrence River a hundred miles from Montreal and stayed there despite repeated pulls by up to five tugs plus waves created by a Canadian icebreaker steaming back and forth. Cargo will have to be moved to a sister ship before the next pull. Back in 2000, the MSC Sabrina ran into a Dutch fishing boat and then, 15 minutes later, hit a British freighter.) On the Basque coast of Spain, the cargo ship Maro went aground, its stern firmly amid rocks. High winds battered the UK and the 11,000-ton Astral began to drag its anchor. Tugs saved it but across the Channel in France, the 289-foot coaster Artemis did go aground on the Atlantic coast and next day people were walking around the stranded vessel. (It was pulled free by two large tugs.) The Sophia was similarly high and dry on a beach in Algeria.
The Tanzanian tanker Taurus, chartered by the Cormoran army as part of an offensive to recapture the archipelago's renegade island of An­jouan, caught fire and sank in the port of Grande Comore.

Three shipyard workers in the Philippines were pinned down by a crane when a shackle snapped and all three died. The night before Easter Sunday a seafarer fell off the Linda off Sweden and was not found. At Saldhana Bay in South Africa, the Panama arrived with two injured seamen. One died shortly after.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pirates on the High Seas

Capture of the three-masted French yacht/luxury cruise ship (32 staterooms) Le Ponant by Somali pirates triggered quick responses by France even though the pirates only wanted ransom money and were operating in accordance with a "good conduct" guide. The pirates were local militia­men who borrowed two speedboats from local fishermen to defend the coast and do some fishing. First they captured a Yemeni trawler and made it their base ship. Then they captured the luxury sailing vessel. A ransom of two million dollars was agreed-upon ($50 for each villager and $11 to ­20,000 per pirate) but French Special Forces swooped in and captured six men as they tried to escape in a 4x4. They soon appeared in Paris.

The British Foreign Office advised the Royal Navy not to detain any pirates: breaches of their human rights might be involved because, if sent back to Somalia, beheadings might await them. Besides, detained pirates might claim asylum in Great Britain. The Foreign Office's advice? "The main thing is to ensure that any incident is resolved peacefully."
The Spanish tuna boat Playa de Bakio was seized by four Somali pirates while fishing 250 miles offthe Somalia coast. The captain was telling folks at home that they were all right when the handset was snatched from his hand by a pirate who then told listeners that he was a member of the Somalia militia and they wanted "money."

Again off Somalia, the food-carrying Dubai-flagged Al-Knaleet was taken by pirates. Somali troops stormed the ship and arrested seven pirates. (They faced the death penalty but got life sentences.) Next on the military's list of objectives was the Playa de Bakio.
A vessel from the United Arab Emirates unloaded at least forty Toyota sport utilities, a vehicle often equipped with heavy weapons and converted into "technicals," the Somalia version of a tank. Rumors had it that the vehicles may have been funded by the CIA and mining exploration rights may somehow be involved.

Elsewhere, pirates attacked the Thai tanker Batravarin 2 in Malaysian waters and managed to steal seafarers' money before escaping. And a South Korean fishing boat and a South Korean bulker were attacked in the Gulf of Aden; two of 13 attacks there so far this year. The bulker was pep­pered by machine gun fire and rocket propelled grenades for about forty minutes. Also attacked in the Gulf was the large Japanese tanker Takayam, which survived a rocket attack by a single small boat. The tanker's master suffered an injury during the attack.

A New Zealand-designed system using suction devices is being used to hold large merchant ships in place under container cranes at the Southern Omani port of Salalah. The system reduces the vertical movements of all ships due to monsoon surges from three meters to between so­100 millimeters and this expedites loading and unloading of containers as well as easing passage of personnel from ship to shore and back.

The master of the cruise ship Mona Lisa wanted to give his passengers, mostly elderly Germans, the opportunity to take close up photos of the Irben lighthouse boldly sticking up in the Baltic 11 miles off the Latvian coast. He succeeded but ran the ship aground on a sand bar with the light conveniently only a ship length away.
At Port Stephens in Australia, people who cut down or poison their neighbor's trees in order to improve a view may find that local authorities respond by piling empty containers so as to block their improved sea view.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Maritime Happenings

The 11-man crew of the cargo ves­sel Tel Tale II took to liferafts after cargo shifted on their ship, causing it to list and then capsize about 300 miles south of Puerto Rico. Thanks to their EPIRB, they were rescued by the tanker Aegean Angel.
The bulker Sibulk Innovation col­lided with another vessel in a Singapore anchorage and took on water. No sink­ing, though. In misty weather off Hong Kong, the container ship Hubstella and the chemical tanker World Dynasty collided. It was that port's second col­lision in two weeks.
About 1,200 miles off the US East Coast, the Belgium bound empty car carrier Sea Venus had an engineroom fire. The automatic C02 fire extin­guishing system worked the way it was designed and the dead vessel was towed to Halifax by a harbor tug (reportedly short of both food and fuel) after the Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto took off most of the big ship's crew.
At Rotterdam, different cargoes got into a tank on the tanker Stolt In­novation and started to disagree. The ship was towed to a position four miles off Rotterdam. There, the chemicals were allowed to react for two days. Temperatures and pressures declined to safe levels so the tanker was towed back into the harbor.

The crew of the Greek cruise ship Aquamarine heard a loud noise and discovered a three foot crack that had just appeared in the topsides. The ship docked safely at the Aegean island of Milos and 1,200 passengers got off.
Up the Columbia River at the John Day Dam, the sternwheeler Queen of the West had an engineroom fire and lost power but the tug Challenger took charge and nobody was harmed. The Navigator of the Seas cancelled calls at Cadiz and Malaga so divers could remove a failed stabilizer at Lisbon. While the Brilliance of the Sea was docking at Miami and unloading its passengers, federal agents were un­covering 16 kilos of cocaine hidden behind ceiling panels in a passenger's cabin. After the Aurora ended a world cruise several hundred passengers were tested for Hepatitis E. Seven passen­gers had contacted the disease on the 11 week voyage.

On the Amazon, the ferry Com­mandante Sales sank in a pre dawn rain when strong currents caused it to capsize and then dragged it down river about 12 miles. At least 29 of an estimated 110 on board died. The ship had failed an inspection several months earlier. An hour into a voyage to Hirtshals, the Norwegian ferry Superspeed 3 turned back to off load about a dozen young people who were excessively drunk and rowdy. The Kristsiansand Police met the ship. In Hawaii, the high-speed pax-vehicle ferry Alakai went back into service after a spell in a drydock. Some of the repairs done there were scheduled routine maintenance but others were caused by (1) an engine failure of the tugboat inserting the big ferry into the drydock that caused a hull puncture and (2) misplaced blocking on the drydock floor that damaged the bottom of the ferry.

An Iraqi ship and a Korean vessel accidentally broke Red Seas submarine cables last February and that triggered widespread Internet outages in the Middle East and India. The Korean ship's owner has paid $60,000 for damages to Flag Telecom and the Iraqi ship is expected to shell out $350,000 in damages to another company.
PACCSHIP, a US company with about ten ships, was sentenced to pay $1.7 million for crimes associated with improper transfers of oily water. Several engineers have already pleaded guilty. Another US court ruled that Egyptian firm National Navigation Company, must pay $7.25 million for falsification of ships logs about oily water transfers. Finally, a three-judge panel of an ap­peals court (the ultra -liberal 9th circuit Court of Appeals) upheld the sentence imposed on a Chinese cook who seized a Taiwanese fishing boat and killed the captain and first mate in international waters south of the Big Island. The panel ruled it was "piracy" and that ruling may set a precedent that could allow the US to go after pirates off Somalia, Indonesia, and elsewhere.

Was it going to unload arms for the Zimbabwe's armed forces or not? That was the international question as the Chinese freighter An Yue Jiang carried six containers of arms at sea off Africa in spite of intense pressure from Great Britain and the US. Refused at South Africa's Durban and Namibia's Walvis Bay, it headed for Luanda, capital of Angola, a Zimbabwe ally. There, the dockers union refused to touch the arms. So the ship sailed on there was even a report that it or another ship with the same name had sunk. Later reports stated that it docked at Lobito inAngola but off loaded only building materials and then that the ship was heading for Congo Brazzaville. Apparently, reports that the COSCO container ship was heading home were incorrect. At least five survivors claimed that Moroccan military personnel twice deliberately punctured their inflatable boat, saying, "Now go to Spain if you want." Between 29 and 33 migrants, four of them children, drowned only two hours out of Morocco.


Harassment by Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace vessels may have kept the Antarctic whale kill to about half the planned numbers. The goal was 850 minkes and fifty fin backs but Japanese whalers killed only 551 minkes and no fins. Sea Shepherd next turned its at­tention to the seal kill in the Canadian Maritimes where its Farley Mowat was arrested for various violations. The group aired its conditions for the Canadian Government to release its "yacht," using words like "high seas piracy" and "excessive force" and Sea Shep­herd said it would bill the Canadian government $1,000 a day for each day the ship remains seized. Nevertheless the Mounties proceeded with its cases against the master and first officer.
Greenpeace's Esperanza went after fishing boats from South Korea, Taiwan, and the US that it claimed were "plundering" tuna in the Pacific. The on site Greenpeace leader said that the fishing "is technically not illegal but is unregulated" and "Greenpeace is not a violent campaign­ing organization" but "actiyists were prepared to "interfere with their physical fishing activities on order for us to save the last tuna stocks."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Taking Soundings with a Lead Line


Soundings (measuring the depth of water) are taken when going into or out of port or approaching an anchorage, shoal, or rock. The usual method of taking soundings is by the depth sounder, although the hand lead must always be available. The hand lead consists of a narrow block of lead, weighing from 7 to 14 pounds, which is attached to a marked line. With the ship making 12 knots, a good leadsman can get reliable soundings down to 7 fathoms. At slower speeds, of course, the lead has time to sink even deeper before the ship moves up to it. The leadline may also be used for determining the direction in which a ship practically dead in the water is moving. Direction of movement is found by placing the lead on the bottom, directly below the leadsman, and noting the direction of the motion of the ship as shown by the change of direction of the leadline from the up and down.
Before heaving, the leadsman takes station in the chains, which usually are platforms projecting over each side at the after end of the forecastle. The lead is then lowered over the side and is supported in the heaving hand by a wooden toggle, inserted in the leadline about 2 fathoms from the lead. The spare line is coiled in the other hand, free for running. To make the heave, start by swinging the lead in a fore-and-aft direction outboard of the chains, in order to gain momentum, then swing the lead in a complete circle. When the force is great enough, let go the lead as it swings forward and at a point about level with the deck. This action makes it fly forward on a line a little above and practically parallel to the deck.
As the ship moves ahead, heave in the spare line rapidly. The marker should be read when the lead is on the bottom and the line hauled just taut, up and down. Ability to heave the lead can be acquired only by practice. It is necessary to practice in both chains, because the right hand is used for heaving from the starboard chain, the left hand for heaving from the port chain.
A good heave has no value unless the depth can be read correctly and quickly. Learn the markings of the line, which are as follows:
1. At 2 fathoms, 2 strips of leather.
2. AU fathoms, 3 strips of leather.
3. At 5 fathoms, a white rag.
4. At 7 fathoms, a red rag.
5. At 10 fathoms, a piece of leather with a hole in it.
6. At 13 fathoms, the same as at 3 fathoms.
7. At 15 fathoms, the same as at 5 fathoms.
8. At 17 fathoms, the same as at 7 fathoms.
9. At 20 fathoms, 2 knots.
10. At 25 fathoms, 1 knot.
Leadlines often are marked also at each half fathom over the range of depth used most, and may even have foot markings around the more important depths. Some leadlines are so fixed that the depth may be read at the level of the chains instead of at less than 3 fathoms of water, 1/4 fathom more than 4, and 1/2 fathom more than 4. If bottom is not reached, report "No bottom at."

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TWIC Delayed

The long delayed Transportation Workers Identification Credential (TWIC) has been delayed again, this time from September 25, 2008 to April 15th, 2009. On May 2nd, the Department of Homeland Security "realigned" the compliance date stating, "The seven month extension is a direct result of collaboration with port officials and industry and realigns the enrollment period with the original intent of the TWIC final rule."
Originally mandated by the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 and then given a mandatory compliance deadline of September 25, 2008 by the SAFE Port Act of 2006, the first TWIC enrollments did not even begin until October 2007.

While the final compliance date of April 15, 2009 is for all facilities and vessels nationwide, the compliance date for the Captain of the Port Zones Boston, Northern New England and Southeastern New England is October 15th, 2008. These three ports were selected because of their geographic proximity, size of their TWIC enrollment population and enrollment efforts to date. "Compliance date" means the date that a TWIC card is required for unes­corted entry to facilities and vessels.
According to DHS, "The TWIC program is progressing steadily and has opened more than 100 fixed and dozens of mobile sites nationwide. More than 250,000 have enrolled to date and thousands more are processed each week."

The Coast Guard will provide at least 90 days notice prior to enforce­ment in any particular Captain of the Port Zone. The first of those notices was published May 7th for Boston, Northern New England and Southeastern New England Zones. In light of the reported problems in the TWIC rollout thus far, I applaud the decision of DHS to extend the deadline for enrollment. When workers must pay to enroll in a program necessary for them to do their jobs and provide for their families, they have the right to expect reliable, efficient service with little to no interruption to their schedules."

May 8th statistics show 277,177 enrollments, 89,696 cards activated and 104 enrollment centers open. The estimate for the total number of workers requiring cards is 1 to 1.5 million. TSA also released a report of en­rollments by port and by occupation showing 55,140 facility employees, 31,666 merchant mariners, 27,893 truckers and 16,454 longshoremen have enrolled so far. Interestingly, the largest group, 38,339, showed "no occupation specified." For those interested in the details, or those having trouble sleeping at night, both the TWIC Dashboard and the Enrollments by Port by Occupa­tion are available through the Marine Exchange of Delaware River and Bay at www.maritimedelriv.com/index.htm.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Engine Room Fire

The Story:
Recently, late one afternoon, a fire broke out onboard a foreign flag passenger vessel. Vessel crewmembers were in the process of testing fuel oil transfer lines in accordance with 33 CFR 156.170. These regulations require that transfer pipe systems be tested under a static liquid pressure of at least one and one-half times the maximum allowable working pressure.
The line being tested at the time of the fire was the diesel oil aft port station fill line. The line runs athwartships in the aft boiler room and is connected to the starboard filling station. On the starboard side of the vessel in the boiler room, the line is branched and valved forming two pipe runs. One run services a storage tank while the other leads forward and exits the boiler room.

An air line was connected to the port filling station and the valves at the starboard station, storage tank and forward run were secured. Air pressure was applied at approximately 5 bar, (75 psig). A leak was indicated by the fact that the pressure within the line was not increasing. The engineer performing the test began tracing the line back to the boiler room where he discovered a fire in progress.

Apparently, a small amount of diesel fuel remained in the line and the asbestos type gasket between the flanged surfaces had weakened over time. When the air pressure was applied, the diesel oil escaped and sprayed upon steam piping and the boiler drum. Once in contact with the hot surface, the fuel particles vaporized and ignited. The fire further ignited some paint, electrical wires of the boiler's combustion control, other lighting circuitry, and some insulation material.

When the fire was discovered, a coded alarm was sounded throughout the vessel. This alarm summoned the professional fire team who then fought the fire from above while a team of engineroom personnel fought it from below. Using carbon dioxide and water, the fire was extinguished in less than twenty minutes.

At the time of the fire, there were only two boilers on line serving the two main propulsion engines. The fire damaged the combustion control circuitry of the burning boiler which then caused it to trip. For reasons unknown and shortly after the fire started, the second boiler tripped. The vessel was now dead in the water, but had electrical power supplied by diesel generators. In about ten minutes, the boiler that tripped last was back online providing a slow ahead speed to the vessel. About five hours later, another boiler was placed online and the vessel's shaft speed was increased to about 100 rpm on both main engines. The vessel proceeded safely to its next port of call without harm, injury or discomfort to passengers or crewmembers.

The investigation into this casualty indicates that the crew members of the vessel followed proper procedure in extinguishing the fire. The fact that the fire did not spread or reflash attests to the proficiency of the fire fighting teams. Furthermore, the team's ability to be quickly summoned to the site of the fire, through the use of the coded alarm indicates effective intervessel communication hardware in addition to appropriate interpersonal communication and instruction.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Mooring Line Accident

Not long ago, a cruise ship pulled into an Alaskan port at high tide on a windy day. With an ebbing tide and wind speeds of 25 knots gusting up to 35 knots, the Master was well aware of the potential dangers this situation could create, especially in a place like Alaska that is known for its extreme tidal ranges. As a result, he alerted his crew concerning the need to tend mooring lines on a regular basis.

About four hours after docking, the Third Mate relieved the watch and then went on deck to check the lines which had been tended about an hour before. Unfortunately for this ship's officer, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time when one of the lines parted. Within five short minutes of coming on watch, the Mate became another victim of what is sometimes called "synthetic line snap-back." Struck in the head and neck, he died several days later.

Investigators felt that slackened lines, caused by an outgoing tide and strong winds, resulted in powerful surges and heavy strains on the mooring lines which then caused them to part. The line that struck the Mate was made of nylon and had a rated breaking strength of 46.6 tons. When it finally parted, an incredible amount of energy was released causing the line to "snap-back" in a manner similar to what occurs when a very large rubber band breaks. Later, it was found that another line had also parted.

Chafing of the mooring lines as they passed out the roller chock may have also contributed significantly to the mooring line failure. The angle of the mooring line as it passed out the chock and down to the dock was very severe. Combined with the powerful surges that the vessel experienced and the fact that no chafing gear was being used at that time, the conditions were right for this accident to occur.

Safety on any ship, whether inport or underway, depends upon the vigilance of its personnel. Many situations outside of the ordinary can be easily corrected or overcome simply through heightened awareness. Personnel must also be constantly aware of the status and condition of the ship's equipment. This is especially true when certain variables work in concert to increase the potential for hazards. If equipment is missing or improperly used, quite simply, it will not function properly and could cause an accident.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

The Seasick Sailor

The deck was deserted, and he crawled to the extreme end of it. There he doubled up it limp agony, the surge and the screw combined to sieve out his soul. His head swelled his body seemed to lose weight, he was fainting from seasickness. The roll of the ship tilted him over the rail...a low, gray mother wave swung out of the fog, pulled him down and away. The great green sea closed over him, and he went quietly to sleep. From CAPTAIN'S COURAGEOUS By Rudyard Kipling.

For anyone who has been seasick, Kipling captures the essence of the experience. But the story below is not fiction. It is the brief story of a hapless passenger overcome by seasickness; however, unlike the young man in Kipling's novel, no other vessel was nearby to save him.
The weather had turned foul, but the seas did not seem too bad. The captain thought the water would be calm enough at the dive site by the next morning, so he decided to sail with the small party of sport divers. In the wallowing seas no one felt very good, and it wasn't long before most found their way to the bunks below. Perhaps each were struggling too much with their own misery to notice Mr. Smith, but Mr. Smith was ill as it turned out, deathly ill.

While the captain fought the sloppy seas, Mr. Smith gripped the gunwale in his own "limp agony." On several occasions the deckhands and the passengers offered warnings to be careful, but he didn't respond— he was alone in his misery. No one thought to get a Personal Flotation Device (PFD) for him or to rig a harness. Perhaps they hovered in the purgatory of loneliness between seasickness and normalcy and shared his need for solitude. Whatever the reason, it seemed little transpired between those aboard. One of the passengers recalls seeing Mr. Smith around midnight. At about 0230 a passenger notice the he was not in his bunk; nor was he at the rail or in the head. It was quickly evident that he was missing. The captain swung the vessel around and began to search along the track line. The Coast Guard was notified, but the day's search was fruitless.

The Coast Guard investigator pieced together the final day of Mr. Smith's life from statements of the passengers and crew. No one saw him fall overboard. He simply disappeared...unseen, like Kipling's young hero...fainting from seasickness...slipped over the side...and went silently to his final sleep.
Know the dangers of seasickness. Take care of your passengers even when they are sick. Don 't leave the seasick unattended without taking basic safety precautions.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Watertight Integrity

Ensure all watertight decks and bulkheads are inspected periodically to verify that there are no
unprotected openings or improper penetrations that will allow progressive flooding and that closure devices (watertight doors, duct closures) are in place and in working order.
Ensure all crewmembers are familiar with the locations of the watertight doors (WTDs) and weather tight closures throughout their vessels. Knowing the locations of such WTDs and weather tightclosures should be part of the crewmember vessel familiarization process.

Ensure WTDs and hatches are closed while at sea and as otherwise specified in the stability
guidance provided to the master or individual in charge. The importance of keeping WTDs and
hatches closed should be emphasized on a regular basis (at safety meetings). WTDs and
hatches should be opened only briefly to allow passage and labeled appropriately to remind
crewmembers to close them. If they must remain open to permit work, WTDs and hatches should be attended at all times so that they can immediately be closed. Any WTDs permitted to be open while the vessel is underway should be secured during drills to ensure they work properly.

Implement a WTD inspection program to ensure each WTD is regularly inspected and properly
maintained. As part of the inspection of each WTD, the following should be examined: straightness of the knife edge, the door assembly for twisting or warp-age, evidence of loose, missing seized or damaged components, permanent set in gasket material, cracks in the gasket, gaps at gasket joints, paint, rust, or other foreign material on gaskets, knife-edges and working parts, binding and difficult operations, and loose or excessively tight dogs. Rotating spindles of the dog, handles and hinges, and other points of friction should be lubricated to prevent seizing and allow proper closure. If fitted, the spindle packing should also be examined.

Ensure watertight hatches, dogged manholes, bolted manhole covers, and access plates are given
similar examinations, focusing on the sealing surfaces and the method by which the hatch is secured. Gasket materials should be replaced whenever they are found insufficient. Regardless of the type of hatch or access, every component that secures the device, such as dogs, wing nuts, or bolts should be inspected, lubricated and free, and repaired or replaced as necessary to ensure they operate properly. As with watertight doors, hatches and accesses should be labeled to indicate they remain closed while underway. Most importantly, all securing devices must be used when the hatch or access is closed. Improper closure of a hatch will not prevent flooding.
Ensure compartments and external hull structures fitted with ventilation ducts that have hinged covers with gaskets, hinges, sealing surfaces and securing mechanisms are regularly inspected and properly maintained.

Ensure electrical cables and conduits, piping runs, remote valve actuators, and other components
that penetrate watertight bulkheads, decks, and compartments are inspected frequently and properly maintained. Each may have a unique sealing method involving glands with packing assemblies, penetration seals, or other methods. Frequent inspection and proper maintenance of these various fittings and assemblies will assist in minimizing the possibility of progressive flooding.