Monday, December 21, 2009

Stellar Sea Lions

Also known as, the Northern sea lion, the Stellar sea lion is the largest member of the Otariidae family. Its eastern Pacific population is listed as threatened.

Size: Males weigh up to 2,400 pounds and measure up to 11 feet in length; are much larger than females, especially in head, neck and shoulders. Females weigh up to 770 pounds and are seven to nine feet in length.

Description: Mature animals are light buff to reddish brown with furless flippers that appear brown or black. Males have manes resembling lion manes of long hairs extending from the back of their heads over their necks and shoulders.

Habitat: Range restricted to North Pacific Ocean and Southern Bering Sea. 2,000 estimated to live along Oregon coast. Found in coastal waters when foraging and migrating, but rarely in bays or rivers.

Behavior: Usually haul out on rocky reefs, gravel beaches; in some areas, may haul out on sandy beaches and onto sea ice in Bering Sea. For fear of losing harem of females, dominant mature males go hungry rather than leave territories during May-July breeding season to eat. Make roaring, lion-like noises.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sportfishing (Rockfish)

Rockfish are a diversere and important group of marine fishes. Of 115 species of rockfish known world wide 97 of those can be found in the North Eastern Pacific. (In a range from Mexico to the Bering Sea). Their habitats vary in depth from very shallow tidal waters to thousands of feet deep. For that reason only about a dozen are within reach of hook and line fishers.

These fish are characterized by bony plates or spines on the head and body, a large mouth and pelvic fins attached forward near the pectoral fins. The spines are venomous and although not extremely toxic can still cause pain and infection. Some species are brightly colored and many others are difficult to distinguish from each other. Rockfishes are some what perch or bass-like in appearance and are often called seabass. All species have white flesh that is delicious to eat.

Also, rockfish have a type of swim bladder that uses a special gas-producing and absorbing gland to change the volume of gas in the swim bladder, which is used to maintain buoyancy at different depths in the water. This type of swim bladder is easily damaged when a fish is subjected to sudden changes in water pressure, such as when it is brought to the surface. The gas gland does not have enough time to absorb the gas in the swim bladder as the gas expands with a decrease in water pressure. Consequently, the swim bladder gets so large that it is too large for the fish's body cavity and it literally explodes out through the mouth of the rockfish. Countless rockfish are wasted when they are caught incidentally by fishers seeking other fish and are thrown back in the water.

Rockfish in our area can be divided into three ecological groups: shelf demersal, or those species that live in the nearshore, shallower waters, in rocky bottom areas shelf pelagic, or those species that also live mostly in the nearshore, shallower continental shelf waters, but that spend much of their time up in the water column and off the bottom, and slope, or those species that live in deeper waters, on the edge of the continental shelf.

Rockfish are extremely slow growing Rockfishes are slow-growing and extremely long-lived. Black rockfishes (Sebastes melanops), a common pelagic species, become sexually mature at about 10 years of age and have been aged to 40 years. Yelloweye rockfish( Sebastes ruberrimus), a shelf demersal rockfish, are a longer-lived species, becoming sexually mature around 15 years of age and living in excess of 100 years. There have been unconfirmed ages of fish at 114 years.

All rockfish, or species of the genus Sebastes, are ovoviviparous. This means that these fish give birth to live young after internal fertilization.

Food habits: Rockfish feed on a variety of food items. Juveniles eat primarily plankton, such as small crustaceans and copepods, as well as fish eggs. Larger rockfish eat fish such as sand lance, herring, and small rockfish, as well as crustaceans.

Species common to our area: Black, Blue, Quillback, Copper, Tiger Stripe, Vermilion, Canary, Yelloweye, Widow, Olive (or Yellowtail).

Yelloweye and Canary Rockfish are endangered and are not allowed to be retained.

More information to come on the other fisheries, Ling Cod, Halibut, Salmon, Tuna etc.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Gray Whale

Coloration: Gray whales are so because of their mottled gray coloration. The natual pigmentation can range from almost black to almost white and can have spots that range from the size a marble to a basketball. This mottled appearance is enhanced by barnacles. barnacle scars, and whale lice.

Rostrum (Head): The rostrum extends from the tip of the snout to the blowholes a length of about 6 feet. The head area is covered with barnacles and whale lice. Gray whales that feed on the bottom rub off barnacles and leave barnacle scars. Young gray whales have a dimped rostrum with one hair in each dimple.

The most conspicuous identifying characteristics of gray whales are their size, distinctive mottled gray coloring, dorsal hump (no dorsal fin) and the knuckles along the back of the dorsal hump.
Gray whales range in size from 35-45 feet long and 30-40 tons, about the length of a school bus and the weight of ten elephants. Females weigh more and are longer than adult males.

Blow: The gray whales blow is about 6-10 feet high and is heart shaped if seen from behind on a calm day. About 100 gallons of air is expelled from the blow at speeds of 150-200 miles per hour.

Blowholes: Gray whales have two blowholes like all baleen whales.

Baleen Plates: There are 300 blonde colored baleen plates about one foot long that hang from the top jaw. Bristles on the inside edges of these plates trap food.

Throat Grooves: Two to five throat grooves on the bottom of the throat expand when the whales are feeding.
Flippers: Behind the throat grooves are pointed paddle shaped flippers.

Eyes: The eyes of the gray whale are brown in color and the size of an orange. The eyes are located at the end of the mouth line, 7-8 feet from the rostrum tip, gray whales have very good eyesight.

Dorsal Hump: Gray whales don't have a dorsal fin, instead they have a dorsal hump on the back.
Knuckles: 6-12 bumps called knuckles are seen behind the gray whales dorsal hump. In some whales these are very distinct and in others they are not. Sometimes the distance between each knuckle can help you identify individual gray whales.

Tail Fluke: An adults tail fluke is about 9 feet wide. Each fluke has a pattern which can help you identify individual whales.

Flukeprint: A large circle of smooth water formed by the tail fluke when the tail fluke goes under the surface for a dive.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Saturn is a ball of hydrogen and helium gas wrapped around a dense, rocky core. Saturn spins so fast that it bulges outward at the equator, so the planet is much thicker at the equator than through the poles.

Saturn’s clouds are colored in subtle shades of yellow and tan. Saturn's rapid rotation and its layered structure produce a magnetic field. Observations by the Cassini spacecraft suggest that the field may be changing, which could mean that Saturn's interior is changing as well. Cassini monitored radio waves produced by the magnetic field as a way to measure Saturn's rotation rate. (Because Saturn has no solid surface, it's impossible to measure its rotation by tracking surface features like mountains or canyons.) But the craft found that the rotation rate appeared to have slowed by about six minutes since the Voyager missions two decades earlier. Scientists believe that Saturn is not actually slowing down. Instead, one possible explanation says that changes in the planet's core are creating changes in the magnetic field.

Saturn's clouds contain ammonia, methane, and other toxic compounds. They are buffeted by winds of up to 1,000 miles (1,600 km) per hour, and they contain violent storm systems that produce lightning blasts a million times more powerful than those on Earth.
Saturn's most prominent feature, though, is its extensive ring system.
Galileo Galilei discovered the rings in the early 17th century.

In his small, crude telescope, though, they looked like "bumps" on the side of the planet. Five decades later, Dutch astronomer Christaan Huygens, who had recently discovered Saturn's largest moon, Titan, detected a bit of space between Saturn and the bumps. He deduced that the bumps were really planet-circling rings.

Today, astronomers know that thousands of individual rings make up Saturn's ring system. Some rings are made of small bits of frozen water, others contain tiny grains of dust, and still others are a mixture of the two. In all, the rings are only a few hundred feet thick. Several small moons orbit inside or just outside the ring system. These "shepherd" satellites help keep the ring particles in place, but they also sculpt some rings into odd shapes, with twists and kinks.
Saturn's rings probably formed when a small moon or a comet passed close to Saturn and was pulled apart by the planet's gravity.

Although Saturn has no solid surface to stand on, humans may someday view its rings from close range. They may walk on some of its icy moons or even float above Saturn's clouds in big balloons. From such a lofty vantage point, the rings would form wide, sparkling bands across the sky. Sometimes, icy particles from the inner edge of Saturn's rings may fall into the planet's atmosphere, creating bright "shooting stars" as they streak through the sky of this delicate giant.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Astronomy (Sept. 15th and 16th 2009)

Venus, the “morning star,” is to the lower left of the Moon at first light on the 15th, with Mars above the Moon. Venus is close to the left of the Moon on the 16th. Regulus is to their lower left.

Leo, the Lion
The zodiacal constellation Leo, the lion, is one of a handful of constellations that really does look like its namesake. Look for Leo high in south in April and May.

Leo's brightest star is blue-white Regulus, one of the brightest stars in the night sky. Regulus rises almost due east, with the body of the lion following it into the sky over the next couple of hours. Once Regulus climbs into the sky, look to its left toward the north for a group of stars forming a backward question mark. These stars outline Leo's head and mane.

About two hours later, look low in the east for Leo's tail a white star named Denebola an Arabic name that, means "tail of the lion."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Astronomy (Sept. 13th and 14th 2009)

September 13-14, 2009
Mars rises just below the Moon on the morning of the 13th (around 1-2 a.m.), and a little farther above it on the 14th. Pollux and Castor, the twin stars of Gemini, align to the left of the Moon on the 14th.

Gemini, the Twins
Gemini is easy to find as it glides high overhead in mid-winter, above and to the left of Orion. It's two brightest stars Castor and Pollux represent the mythological twins brothers of Helen of Troy.

Many cultures have seen two humans in this star pattern marked by two roughly parallel lines of stars capped by two of the brightest stars in our night sky. But the legend that endures is that of Castor and Pollux. Gemini's two brightest stars bear the names of the twins.

Pollux is the brighter of the twins. It's an orange giant star that's about 35 light-years from Earth. Castor consists of six stars, a cosmic sextet locked in a gravitational ballet. This crowded system lies about 50 light-years from Earth.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Constellations, Sagittarius and Scorpius

Sagittarius, the Archer Sagittarius, the archer, whose brightest stars form the shape of a teapot slides low across the southern sky of summer. Sagittarius has drawn his bow, and his arrow is pointing at Antares, the bright red heart of Scorpius, the scorpion. The archer is avenging Orion, who was slain by the scorpion's sting.

The constellation Sagittarius is one of the most interesting regions of the sky. The center of our Milky Way galaxy lies inside Sagittarius, about 26,000 light years away. The constellation also contains several globular clusters tightly packed collections of hundreds of thousands of stars.

Antares is a yellow-orange supergiant star 600 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius.
The star Antares marks the "heart" of Scorpius, the scorpion. It is the brightest star in Scorpius. It's the most difficult to see in the early twilight, but as the sky gets darker, it stands out more. Antares also stands out because of its color. While most of the stars show little or no color, Antares is a vivid orange. That's the result of its surface temperature, which is thousands of degrees cooler than the Sun.

But Antares is a supergiant star, one of the biggest and most massive in our part of the galaxy, so its interior is millions of degrees hotter than the Sun's interior. Like most supergiants, Antares is likely to end its life with a bang, it'll explode as a supernova. That could happen anytime within the next few million years, or as early as tonight.

Scorpius, the Scorpion Three bright stars form the "head" of Scorpius, the celestial scorpion, while its tail curves away below it in the southern sky of summer.

The brightest star in Scorpius is Antares, which is in the middle of the scorpion's curving body. This brilliant red star is one of the behemoths of our stellar neighborhood. If you placed it at the center of our own solar system, it would swallow Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, and almost reach Jupiter.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Aquila, the Eagle

There are 88 constellations covering the entire northern and southern sky.
Aquila, the Eagle: Aquila glides on outstretched wings through the glowing band of the Milky Way. Look for it high in the south in late summer.

The brightest star in Aquila is a white star about 16 light-years from Earth called Altair, the Arabic word for eagle. Altair is the southern point of a pattern of three bright stars called the Summer Triangle. Deneb, in the constellation Cygnus, forms the triangle's northeastern point. Vega, in Lyra, the harp, is in the northwest. Altair is nice and bright and easy to find right up to the beginning of winter.

Cygnus, the Swan: The brightest stars of Cygnus form a cross, so the swan is also known as the Northern Cross. Find it soaring high overhead during late summer evenings.

The constellation's brightest star is Deneb, an Arabic word that means "the tail." Deneb the tail of the swan, marks the top of the cross. The swan's outstretched wings form the horizontal bar of the cross, while the head of the swan, a double star called Albireo is the bottom of the cross.

Although it lies about 1,500 light years from Earth, Deneb shines brightly in our night sky because it's a white supergiant, a star that's much larger, hotter, and brighter than the Sun. Deneb is the northeastern point of a star pattern called the Summer Triangle.

If you use binoculars to scan the area between the two bright stars that define the swan's eastern wing, you'll see the remnant of a supernova a faint, incomplete ring of light called the Cygnus Loop.

Lyra, the Harp: It's easy to find Lyra, the harp, by first finding Vega one of the brightest stars in Earth's night sky. Look for Vega high overhead in mid-summer. Lyra looks like a small, lopsided square, with Vega just beside one of the corners of the square.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Astronomy (August 15th and 16th 2009)

On August 15th and 16th Mars is to the lower left of the Moon at first light on the 15th, and closer to the upper right of the Moon on the 16th. The star Aldebaran, which looks like Mars, is to their upper right.

Aldebaran outshines all the other stars that outline the bull's face. But Aldebaran isn't a member of the Hyades cluster, it just lies in the same direction. It's about 70 light-years away, half as far as the stars of the Hyades. Aldebaran is a red-giant, an old bloated star that's used up most of its nuclear fuel. It's much larger and much brighter than our own middle aged Sun.

On August 16 the crescent Moon and the planet Venus highlight the pre-dawn sky tomorrow. Venus is the dazzling "morning star" just below the Moon. Venus, the dazzling morning or evening star, outshines all the other stars and planets in the night sky. It begins the year in the evening sky, well up in the west as darkness begins to fall. It will disappear from view in late March as it passes between Earth and the Sun. It will return to view as a “morning star” by early April, and remain in the morning sky until December.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meteor Shower August 12, 2009

The next meteor shower is the Perseids on August 12, 2009. The shower peaks early afternoon on the 12th, so the morning of the 12th (midnight to dawn) and late evening are the best times to watch from the U.S.

Here are some tips on viewing meteor showers

An increase in the number of meteors at a particular time of year is called a meteor shower. Comets shed the debris that becomes most meteor showers. As comets orbit the Sun, they shed an icy, dusty debris stream along the comet's orbit. If Earth travels through this stream, you will see a meteor shower. Depending on where Earth and the stream meet, meteors appear to fall from a particular place in the sky, maybe within the neighborhood of a constellation.

Meteor showers are named by the constellation from which meteors appear to fall. For instance, The Perseid meteor shower is named because meteors appear to fall from a point in the constellation Perseus.

Shooting stars are name that people have used for many years to describe meteors. Streaks of light across the night sky caused by small bits of interplanetary rock and debris called meteoroids crashing and burning high in Earth's upper atmosphere. Traveling at thousands of miles an hour. Almost all are destroyed, the rare few that survive and hit the ground are known as meteorites.When a meteor appears, it seems to shoot across the sky, and its small size and intense brightness might make you think it is a star.

If you live near a city, drive away from the city lights and toward the constellation from which the meteors will appear to radiate. Find a dark spot where oncoming lights will not ruin your night vision. When you are at your observing spot, position yourself so the horizon appears at the edge of your peripheral vision, with the stars and sky filling your field of view. Meteors will get your attention as they streak by.

If you can see each star of the Little Dipper, your eyes have "dark adapted," and your chosen site is probably dark enough. Under these conditions, you should see plenty of meteors.
What should I pack for meteor watching?

If you can bring red-filtered flashlight for reading star maps and charts without ruining your night vision. Binoculars are not necessary. Its better with just your eyes.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stargazing (Equipment Tips)

Though the best instrument for stargazing is your own two eyes, there's nothing like bringing lunar craters, star clusters, or nebulae into focus with a quality pair of binoculars or a small starter telescope.

Around $250 will buy a refractor scope with a 60 to 90 millimeter lense (about two and half to three inches), a tripod mount and a couple of eyepieces. Look for one with a filter , not for solar viewing, which should never be done directly, but for observing the Moon. Seen unfiltered, the glare of the full Moon can be as painful as a car's headlights. Also, steer clear of the generic models sold at discount department store chains.

A pair of 7x50 binoculars offers a comparable field of view and magnification of an entry-level telescope for a bit less money. Planetary conjunctions, lunar occultations, even the next great comet, will look just as sharp through good binoculars. The view suffers only with the lack of a tripod mount. You may want to brace yourself against a tree for steady observing. On the otherhand, binoculars are much more portable than a telescope, a handy feature if you have to drive beyond the glare of city lights to do your stargazing.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

What to Look for when Buying a Inflatable Boat

As you may know, specialization of today's inflatable boats is now in the of the minds of the designers. Each distinct group is specifically designed for a different set of applications and is built and equipped with different components and equipment. Most inflatable boats today fall within one these specific categories.

If all you need is a small boat to get you from ship to shore, then a typical inflatable tender is the best answer. If you're after a medium sized boat for diving or watersports there are many choices. If a large rigid-hulled inflatable (Rigid Inflatable Boat or RIB) for recreation, rescue or work is what you need, there are again many designs available with a wide variety of standard and optional components. The choice is quite wide through the entire spectrum, ranging from very compact models with simple slatted or inflatable floors, to larger tenders with inflatable or wooden keels and solid wooden or aluminum floors, up to the fiberglass or aluminum rigid-hulled inflatables. To avoid confusion, before buying, or even shopping for an inflatable, discuss and decide on exactly what the uses or requirements will be for your new inflatable boat. This will minimize the models to choose from, which in turn will minimize confusion.

Dealer Location and Reputation
The location of the dealer is important because you don't want to have to travel too far for you inflatable boat needs. Whether it's parts, repairs or just technical support and friendly customer service tips, a close dealer can be a close friend. In particular, as a new boat owner and perhaps new to inflatable boats, you may have questions, need to claim warranty, or need regular servicing to maintain a warranty. Any way you look at it, closer is better.

Years ago, inflatable boats where the most expensive boats on the market and only a few people could afford them. This was due to the use of exotic materials and the hours of meticulous hand labor which went into their construction. Now, the boats still use the best materials, but in the late seventies, the companies started investing millions of dollars in computer-driven assembly equipment. This enabled prices to be dramatically reduced as economies of scale rose, enabling more and more consumers to enjoy affordable inflatable boating. Zodiac and its sister company, Sevylor, are now the leading low-cost producer thanks to these technological investments. So be wary of inflatable prices substantially below the Zodiac/Sevylor line. They may be either produced in developing countries by unskilled labor, or marketed by companies who are unaware of the importance of profit margins. They will be glad to see your dollar today but may be unwilling or unable to fix a problem later, or supply that much needed spare part.

You may be enamored with competitor's claims, all of whom will promise they have the best or longest warranty. There was even a lifetime warranty offered some years ago by an inflatable boat company that soon enough disappeared. A lot of manufacturers use attractive warranties as a substitute for quality or proper boat design, or simply to shore up a lack of product features. You should also be sure in your own mind that the company will be around long enough to deliver.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Small Boats and Diesel Engines

The question of whether gas or diesel is a better power choice, some other factors that come into play such as hull efficiency and windage in superstructures.

Diesel becomes the better choice in direct proportion to the amount of weight being propelled. Horse power and torque are two different measures of power. Torque is a measure of the kinetic energy that builds up in a rotating engine. The higher the torque, the more power it takes to slow the engine down and it takes more power to make it work harder or, the engine will carry a heavier load with less strain. Diesel engines develop more torque for several reasons. One is because of their greater mass. But they also have compression ratios three times that of a gas engine, which also develops more torque. Gas engines develop most of their horse power at the top end of their RPM curve, diesels develop more power lower on the speed curve because of their greater torque, which can be thought of as the reserve power behind the rotating shaft.

Diesel's great advantage is carrying more load with less strain on the engine due to higher torque generated. Small, lightweight diesels, such as those made for small trucks, have a much lower advantage simply because the torque is lower. When dealing with lighter loads, that advantage disappears. There is also an issue of kinetic energy, which is energy that builds up in rotating parts such as flywheels, which helps sustain the load. Another advantage is that the diesel will develop that power with less fuel. But that advantage is nullified by the much higher initial cost of the machine itself. The only real advantage is in the amount of fuel tank space savings since you can have smaller tanks with a diesel. Otherwise, few boaters run enough fuel through diesel engines for fuel savings to make up for the high cost.

By the time a boat reaches 16, 000 lbs. or around 36 feet, it is approaching the limit where a gas engine can power it efficiently. Not only is there the issue of weight, but the water resistance on a larger hull. Gas engines begin to build up too much internal heat and the strain begins to result in lower service life in larger boats.

Internal displacement is the best measure of an engine's ability to deliver power efficiently. The rule for service life is that the more power is squeezed from an engine block, the shorter it's life span. A ratio of 1:2 is about ideal for a marine engine, but at 80% to 90% at least yield reasonable service life. At 1:1 and above it should be considered a high performance engine with a very short service life indeed.

Speed / Weight: Other factors come into play, engine speed and weight. There is no escape from the fact that fast turning diesels have shorter life spans. Slow speed diesels can be longer lived precisely because they do turn much slower.

A pair of medium weight diesels can easily weigh 2,000 lbs. more than a pair of gas engines. In a 30' boat, an extra ton is going to result in a considerable speed loss because of that extra weight. In terms of speed, this gives a considerable edge to the gas engine. While everyone knows that gas power is faster, few people consider this point. The light weight diesel at least gains the advantage over the heavier counterpart in terms of speed potential, but looses out in the long run on longevity.

Diesel Advantage: If one is willing to travel at slower speeds, the one great advantage that diesel holds over its gas counterpart is lower fuel consumption, lower fuel cost and greater range. If fuel range is a consideration, then diesel wins hands down. Of course this is entirely dependent on how fast you want to travel, if you want to run at the same speeds as gas power is capable of, then even that advantage fades.

Yet many people make the mistake of thinking that because fuel costs are less, the overall operating cost is less. This is simply not true when you figure how much lower cost diesel fuel you have to burn to make up for the added cost of the engines themselves. The average boater running his boat at 150 hrs a year. will never see any advantage from lower fuel costs or consumption.

The argument for gas engines is that they're cheap, efficient, and far less costly to maintain. And they are certainly just as reliable as diesels, all things considered.
If you still want diesels in that 28 or 32 footer, just remember that you're paying a very substantial premium for them without much in the way of benefits.

And since we're talking about small boats, if maintenance costs are a concern to you, think twice about buying a boat with large engines crammed into small spaces. If its going to cause you pain to write a check for $1500 or $2000 for what should seem to be normal maintenance work, you had better consider whether a repairman has to dismantle part of the boat in order to change a water pump.

There's always a trade off for the boat that seemingly has everything, because the extra space was obtained at the expense of engine room or compartment space. When the engines are put in with a shoe horn, rest assured that every aspect of maintenance is going to cost you more, and sometimes a lot more. This is particularly true when considering a used boat. If the front and outboard sides of the engines can't be seen, yet alone reached, problems develop that aren't observed, and therefore not maintained or repaired. There's not much chance of discovering a serious problem and correcting it before serious damage is done. When surveyed, boats with tight engine compartments almost invariably are found to have more engine problems than boats with engines that can be reached on all sides. Its a small thing that usually adds up to big dollars. Small boats with big diesels are usually the worst offenders.

New EPA rules are going to have a major impact on diesel engines. The mandate to make them lighter, more fuel efficient and cleaner is going to translate into engines that are vastly less reliable. Why? Because they're going to start cutting out all that necessary extra cast iron, and in many areas start replacing it with cast aluminum. The marine engine industry tried cast aluminum once before back in the late 60's, it didn't work then and won't work now, never mind all the smoke they'll put out about "technological advances

Monday, June 29, 2009

Whale Watching in Depoe Bay, Oregon

Take a walk to the sea wall, look for the geysers that have a habit of blowing water 60 feet in the air and watch the local whales breach. Depoe Bay has resident gray whales that actually make their home there 10 months out of the year. There are various observation spots to watch them play or you can charter a boat right there in town for a ride out to take a closer look. One of the better places is Dockside Charters located in the harbor, go aboard the "Whales Tail" for a great ride.
Spotting a breaching Gray or Orca while whale watching is an absolute rush and is something you'll never forget. I remember one time Gray Whales breached on our port side and swam under the boat and came up and breached on the other side, then skyhopped right next to the boat, what an experience.
Depoe Bay, the closest port along the path of the migrating Gray Whales and the summer feeding grounds for numerous whales. Gray whales feed in and around the near shore kelp beds from late April through October, providing the best whale watching on the entire coast. The Gray Whales are also visible from the middle of December through February on their southerly and northerly migration. Orcas as well as Humpback whales are often seen. Our Zodiac "Whales Tail" carries up to 6 people, very enjoyable trip for the family.
We run daily trips weather permitting out for ocean sightseeing and to see the whales. Departure times change daily so call in the morning for that days departure times.
I'm always telling people the very best time of the year for whale watching is July, August and September, but this year it is early. Whale Watching is great. Today Kit, on the "Whales Tail", touched and petted her first whale. Obviously one of the Lagoon whales, (I'll call them) used to coming up to the boats has shown up and Kit was there to greet her. She spent about 15 minutes at the boat, all got to touch her before she wandered off. A fantastic experience for enyone who has never had that oppurtunity. There were also at least five other whales in the area this as well.
The "Whales Tail" is available 7 days a week, Gary or Kit prefer to start in the mornings around 8 AM and will run all day and into the evening. Call for reservations and prices on our Whale Tours.
DOCKSIDE CHARTERS Depoe Bay PO Box 1308, Depoe Bay, Oregon 97341 (541) 765-2545 or (800) 733-8915
For more information on whale watching:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boating Accidents and What to Do

When you go boating, you will encounter hazards and risks. The outcome of these encounters will be determined by your knowledge, skill, and attitude toward safety. It's important to make a boating emergency less likely to happen by taking the proper precautions, but, it's equally important to be prepared and know what to do if an emergency occurs.

Risk Management
Because most accidents are the result of a simple mistake, nearly all accidents are easily preventable. The best way to avoid having a serious accident is to take a few simple steps toward accident prevention. The water can be an unfriendly environment if you don't recognize risks and are not properly prepared for them. Risk management is the process of recognizing and acting upon accident warning signs or minimizing the effects of an accident if it does occur. If you know the "rules of the road" and how important they are to you and other boats and potential hazards and to maintain a safe speed. By practicing these rules, you greatly reduce the chance that you'll be involved in an accident.

Get in the habit of wearing your life jacket also reduces the chance that you will drown should you find yourself in the water unexpectedly. Below is additional information to help you understand and minimize the risks associated with boating and make your time on the water safe .

Increased Risk Due To Boating Stressors
The glare and heat of the sun, along with the motion of the vessel caused by the wind and the waves and the noise and vibration of the engine, have a large impact on your body that you may not even realize. These natural stressors make you tire more rapidly when on the water regardless of your age or level of fitness. Many boaters greatly underestimate the effect these stressors have on fatigue. While perhaps not fatal themselves, stressors may weaken your body and mind enough to make the risk of an accident much greater.

Increased Risk Due to Dehydration
A typical boating day in the summer causes your body to generate a large amount of heat. Sitting exposed in the sun increases your body heat. As you ride in a boat, your body automatically adjusts to the changing position of the boat. The exertion of this constant adjustment increases body heat.

The way the body rids itself of increased heat is by sweating. Increased sweating will cause dehydration if fluids are not replaced. Dehydration will make you more fatigued and more at risk for a boating accident.
The best way to minimize the risk of dehydration is to drink plenty of water before, during, and after any water activities. A good rule of thumb while you are boating in warm weather is to drink some water every 15-20 minutes.

Besides thirst, other signs of dehydration are a dry mouth, sleepiness, irritability, weakness, dizziness, and a headache. The first thing you should do if you experience any of these symptoms is to drink plenty of water. If possible, get out of the sun and rest. Serious dehydration may require medical attention. Most accidents are preventable. Even accidents attributed to the environment most likely could have been prevented if the operator had not overlooked the warning signals, had not made poor decisions, or had the proper boating skills. Many accidents attributed to equipment also could have been prevented if proper maintenance and defect detection had taken place.

A Typical U.S. Boating Fatality
Someone not wearing a PFD falls overboard and drowns or
A vessel capsizes and someone drowns or
A vessel strikes another vessel or fixed object, and the occupants are fatally injured or drown due to injuries.
Collisions can occur because boat operators are not staying alert and keeping a lookout for other boats or objects, or are going a little faster than they should. Although some collisions happen at night when it is difficult to see, many occur in daylight hours on calm, clear days. About one-third of the time, alcohol is involved.

You also might be surprised to learn that:
Typically, victims drown even though there are enough life jackets on the boat. (Remember, you probably won't have time to put on your life jacket during an emergency. Get in the habit of wearing it.) The vessel is most often a small boat of open design, such as a jon boat, canoe, or other type of boat with low sides. The victims are usually men 26 to 50 years old, who have been boating for years and likely know how to swim.

Remember, it only takes one mistake to ruin your day of boating. Pay attention, slow down a little, and wear a life jacket.

Minimize Risk of Boating Accidents, Avoid Alcohol
The effect of alcohol is increased by the natural stressors placed on your body while boating. Also, alcohol causes dehydration of your body. It takes less alcohol, combined with stressors, to impair an operator's ability to operate safely. Research has proven that one-third of the amount of alcohol that it takes to make a person legally intoxicated on land can make a boater equally intoxicated on the water.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system, affects judgment, and slows physical reaction time. Most people become impaired after only one drink. Alcohol makes it difficult for you to pay attention and perform multiple tasks. For example, it will be more difficult for you to keep track of two or more vessels operating in your area. This could become critical if you are placed in an emergency situation and must make a sudden decision.

Alcohol can reduce your ability to distinguish colors, especially red and green. Alcohol impairment increases the likelihood of accidents—for both passengers and vessel operators. Always designate non-drinking boaters to operate the vessel and to act as an observer if your group plans to consume alcohol. Do not allow your skipper to operate if he or she is drinking. Alcohol is a major contributor to boating accidents and fatalities. Drinking while boating is a choice. The best way to minimize the risk of an accident is to make the wise choice—Don't drink and boat!

Minimize Risk of Drownings, Wear PFDs (Life Jackets)
Approximately 70% of all boating fatalities are drownings, and most of those fatalities could have been avoided. Ninety percent of drowning victims are not wearing a life jacket, drownings are rare when boaters are wearing an appropriate PFD. One of the most important things you can do to make boating safe and enjoyable is not only to carry enough life jackets for everyone on board but also to have everyone wear them.

These requirements for PFDs are both important and the law.
PFDs must be readily accessible. Better yet, each person should wear a PFD because PFDs are difficult to put on once you are in the water. In most fatal accidents, PFDs were on board but were not in use or were not within easy reach. If you are in the water without a PFD, retrieve a floating PFD and hold it to your chest by wrapping your arms around it.

PFDs must be of the proper size for the intended wearer. Always read the label of the PFD to make sure it is the right size based on the person's weight and chest size. It's especially important to check that a child's PFD fits snugly. Test the fit by picking the child up by the shoulders of the PFD and checking that his or her chin and ears do not slip through the PFD. PFDs must be in good and serviceable condition.

Regularly test a PFD's buoyancy in shallow water or a swimming pool. Over time, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun will break down the synthetic materials of your PFD. Frequently inspect PFDs for rips or tears, discolored or weakened material, insecure straps or zippers, or labels that are no longer readable. Discard and replace any PFD that has a problem. If using an inflatable PFD, before each outing check the status of the inflator and that the CO2 cylinder has not been used, has no leaks, and is screwed in tightly.

Also check that the PFD itself has no leaks by removing the CO2 cylinder and orally inflating the PFD. The PFD should still be firm after several hours. After an inflatable PFD has been inflated using a cylinder, replace the spent cylinder and re-arm it. Because an inflatable PFD is a mechanical device, it requires regular maintenance. Maintain the inflatable portion of the PFD as instructed in the owner's manual.

Inflatable Life Jackets
Some people say they don’t wear their PFDs because they’re too hot or too bulky. But that’s not an excuse anymore. Inflatable PFDs offer a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket that is small and lightweight. Inflatable life jackets come in two styles: a PFD that looks like a pair of suspenders or a belt pack that looks like a small fanny pack.

Some of these PFDs are designed to inflate if the wearer falls into the water; others require the wearer to pull a cord. Inflatable PFDs are approved only for people 16 and older, and they are not to be worn on PWCs or while water-skiing. Read the operating instructions and the approval label before you choose an inflatable PFD. Then be sure to wear it.

Rescue Technique
If you are on a dock when someone falls in, you should try to "talk" the victim to safety. If he or she is unable to get to the dock, you should:

Extend a fishing rod, branch, oar, towel, or other object that can be used to REACH out to the victim and pull him or her to safety. If nothing is available, lay flat on the dock and grab the victim's hand or wrist, and pull him or her to safety.

If the victim is too far away to reach and a boat isn't handy, throw the victim a PFD or anything else that will float.

If a rowboat is available, ROW to the victim and then use an oar or paddle to pull the victim to the stern. Let the victim hold onto the stern as you paddle to shore. If the victim is too weak, hold onto him or her until help arrives. If using a powerboat, stop the engine and glide to the victim from the downwind side.

Swimmers without lifesaving training should not swim to a victim. Instead, GO for help. If you must swim, take along anything that floats to keep between you and the victim.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ocean Charter Equipment List

Magnetic Compass : An installed, marine-style magnetic compass shall be located at the vessel’s primary steering station. Uninspected vessels less than 26 feet of open construction can use a portable or hand-held compass as an alternative means of compliance.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) : A satellite 406 MHz EPIRB is required for all charter vessels operating at any distance offshore.

Running Lights : Vessels shall be equipped with lighting configurations as specified in a Navigation Rules for International and Inland waters.

Power / Hand Operated Bilge Pump/Bailing Bucket :

All vessels must comply with U.S.C.G. requirements as listed:
Vessels less than 7.9m (26ft) up to 19.8m (65ft) not carrying more than 49 pass:
A bilge high water warning system shall not be required on dory style
1 – fixed power pump and one – portable hand pump, or, 1 – fixed hand pump and one – portable hand pump

Vessels not more than 19.8m (65ft), carrying more than 49 passengers:
1 – fixed power pump and 1 – portable hand pump

Vessels more than 19.8 m (65ft): 2 – fixed power pumps. Additionally, each must have, 1 – five gallon bucket

Depth Finder : An installed (not portable), functioning depth finding unit shall be at or near the vessel’s primary steering station. The equipment shall provide an adequate range of depth scales allowing the operator to select scales that provide ample safety warning of abrupt ocean bottom contour changes.

Light / Smoke Flares : Vessels operating in ocean or coastal waters and bays/rivers, with an opening to the seas of 2 miles or more, are required to carry light and or smoke flares as follows:
Coastal, less than 3 miles from the coastline - One electronic distress light, or 3 approved flares, and one distress flag or 3 approved flares or 3 approved smoke signals

Ocean, more than 3 miles from the coastline - 3 parachute flares, 6 hand flares, and 3 smoke flares.

Life Jackets / Life Ring : Each vessel shall carry (as a minimum) the following:
One U.S.C.G. approved life jacket (readily accessible, Type I, II, III or V of suitable size for the intended wearer) for each person on board. On U.S.C.G approved life ring, Type IV, (immediately available)

First Aid Kit : Each vessel shall carry on board a first aid kit containing at least the items specified in this section. The first aid kit shall be plainly marked and shall consist of a weatherproof container with individual sealed packages for each type of item. Contents of such kit shall contain a sufficient quantity of at least the following types of items:
Bandage compress, 4 inch, (1 pkg)
Bandage compress, 2 inch (4 pkgs)
Waterproof adhesive compress, 1 inch, (16 pkgs)
Eye dressing, 1/8th oz. ophthalmic ointment, adhesive strips, cotton pads, (1 pkg)
Bandage, gauze, compressed, 1 inches X 6 yards, (2 pkgs)
Tourniquet (1), forceps (1), scissors (1), safety pins (12)
Wire splint, (1 ea)
Ammonia inhalants, (10 ea)
Iodine applicators, (10 ea)
Aspirin, phenacetin & caffeine compound, 1-1/2 Gr. Tablets, vials of 20, (2 pkgs)
Sterile petrolatum gauze, 3 inches X 18 inches, (4 pkgs)
Contents of the first aid kit shall be checked before each trip and at least weekly to ensure the expended or expired items are replaced.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Extinguishing Systems

Carbon dioxide (C02) extinguishing systems have, for a long time, been approved for ship installation as well as for industrial occupancies ashore. Aboard ship, carbon dioxide has been approved for cargo and tank compartments, spaces containing internal combustion or gas-turbine main propulsion machinery and other spaces.

Properties of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is normally a gas, but it may be liquefied or solidified under pressure. At -43°C (-110°F), carbon dioxide exists as a solid, called "dry ice." The critical temperature of carbon dioxide is 31°C (87.8°F). Above that temperature, it is always a gas, regardless of pressure. Carbon dioxide does not support combustion in ordinary materials. However, there are some exceptions, as when C02 reacts with magnesium and other metals. Carbon dioxide is about 1.5 times heavier than air. This adds to its suitability as an extinguishing agent, because CO2 tends to fall through air and blanket a fire. Its weight makes it less prone to dissipate quickly. In addition, carbon dioxide is not an electrical conductor; it is approved for extinguishing fires in energized electrical equipment.

Extinguishing Properties of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide extinguishes fire mainly by smothering. It dilutes the air surrounding the fire until the oxygen content is too low to support combustion. For this reason it is effective on class B fires, where the main consideration is to keep the flammable vapors separated from oxygen in the air. C02 has a very limited cooling effect. It can be used on class A fires in confined spaces, where the atmosphere may be diluted sufficiently to stop combustion. However, C02 extinguishment takes time. The concentration of carbon dioxide must be maintained until all the fire is out. Constraint and patience are needed.

Carbon dioxide is sometimes used to protect areas containing valuable articles. Unlike water and some other agents, carbon dioxide dissipates without leaving a residue. As mentioned above, it does not conduct electricity and can be used on live electrical equipment. However, fire parties must maintain a reasonable distance when using a portable C02 extinguisher or hoseline from a semiportable system on high voltage gear.

Uses of Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is used primarily for class Band C fires. It may also be used to knock down a class A fire. It is particularly effective on fires involving flammable oils and greases.

Electrical and electronic equipment, such as motors, generators and navigational devices.

Hazardous and semihazardous solid materials, such as some plastics, except those that contain their own oxygen (like nitrocellulose) machinery spaces, engine rooms and paint and tool lockers.

Cargo spaces where total flooding with carbon dioxide may be accomplished.

Galleys and other cooking areas.

Compartments containing high value cargo, such as works of art, delicate machinery and other material that would be ruined or damaged by water or water-based extinguishing agents.

Spaces where after-fire cleanup would be a problem.

Limitations on the Use of Carbon Dioxide

Effectiveness. C02 is not effective on substances that contain their own oxygen (oxidizing agents). It is not effective on combustible metals such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and zirconium. In fact, when C02 is used on burning magnesium, it reacts with the magnesium to form carbon, oxygen and magnesium oxide. The fire is intensified by the addition of oxygen and carbon, a fuel.

Outside Use

To be fully effective, the gas must be confined. For this reason, C02 is not as effective outside as it is in a confined space. This does not mean that it cannot be used outside. Portable CO2 extinguishers and hoselines have extinguished many fires in the open. An outside fire should be attacked from the windward side; the CO2 should be directed low with a sweeping motion for a spill fire, or down at the center of a confined fire. The effective range for a portable C02 fire extinguisher is about 1.5 m (5 ft).

Possibility of Reignition

Compared with water carbon dioxide has a very limited cooling capacity. It may not cool the fuel below its ignition temperature, and it is more likely than other extinguishing agents to allow reflash. (Its main extinguishing action, as noted above, is oxygen dilution.) When portable C02 extinguishers or hose lines from semiportable extinguishers are used, additional backup water hoselines should be brought to the scene. In case of live electrical equipment, an additional nonconducting agent must be brought to the scene.

When a space is flooded with CO2 the concentration must be kept up to a certain level After the initial application of a set number of C02 cylinders, additional cylinders must be discharged into the space periodically. These backup applications maintain the concentration of C02 for periods varying from hours to days. C02 works well in confined spaces, but it works slowly; patience is the watchword.

If a flooded space is opened before the fire is completely extinguished, air entering the space may cause reignition. Carbon dioxide cannot be purchased at sea. Reignition requires a second attack, at a time when less C02 is available.

Hazards. Although carbon dioxide is not poisonous to the human system, it is suffocating in the concentration necessary for extinguishment. A person exposed to this concentration would suffer dizziness and unconsciousness. Unless removed quickly to fresh air, the victim could die.

Carbon Dioxide Systems

Carbon dioxide extinguishing systems aboard vessels are usually not automatic. However automatic systems may be installed in certain ships and towing vessels with Coast Guard approvaL In the manual system, a fire detector senses fire and actuates an alarm. The engine room is alerted, and the bridge and CO2 room are notified as to the location of the fire (see Chapter 6). After it is verified that a fire actually exists, the amount of carbon dioxide required for the involved space is released from the C02 room.

Coast Guard regulations require that an evacuation alarm be sounded when CO2 is introduced into a space that is normally accessible to persons on board, other than paint and lamp lockers and similar small spaces. However on systems installed since July 1, 1957, an alarm is required only if delayed discharge is used. Delayed discharge is required where large amounts of C02 are released into large spaces. Delayed discharge may also be required for smaller spaces from which there are no horizontal escape routes.

The alarm sounds during a 20-second delay period prior to the discharge of carbon dioxide into the space. It uses no source of power other than the carbon dioxide itself. Every carbon dioxide alarm must be conspicuously identified with the warning "WHEN THE ALARM SOUNDS VACATE AT ONCE. CARBON DIOXIDE IS BEING RELEASED."

Portable and semiportable C02 extinguishers may be located in certain spaces. Small systems, consisting of one to four C02 cylinders, a hose and a nozzle, are often provided to protect against specific hazards. Those who work in the areas protected by these appliances should be familiar with their operation.

Friday, May 22, 2009


A pyrometer is an instrument for measuring temperatures too great for an ordinary thermometer. It is used to find the temperature of a fire. An important use of pyrometers is in checking the progress of a fire that cannot be seen, such as a fire that has been confined in a closed compartment or hold.

By taking readings at the same location at various times, one can tell if the fire is gaining or lessening in intensity. By moving the pyrometer to different locations along a bulkhead or deck, you can determine if the fire is extending laterally.

Pyrometers are attached to, or embedded in either of two types of bases. The usual type base may be placed on the deck over the fire space. The magnetic type can be "slapped" onto the outside of a bulkhead of a burning space. A chain should be attached to the base of the pyrometer. It can be used to pull the instrument across a deck that is too hot for personnel. It is also useful in lowering the pyrometer into a hot area.

A pyrometer can be useful in evaluating the success or lack of success when flooding a burning compartment with carbon dioxide. You should keep in mind that great patience is needed to successfully extinguish cargo hold fires with carbon dioxide. One cannot "take a peek" to see how things are going. Opening up would significantly dilute the extinguishing gas within the cargo compartment, which would destroying its effectiveness. Using a pyrometer and checking the variations in temperature should give you your information. A rising temperature after carbon dioxide has been introduced would indicate two possibilities:

1) the amount of carbon dioxide introduced is insufficient and more is required, or

2) the carbon dioxide is not reaching the fire (directed to the wrong fire zone, a control valve is closed or malfunction of the system). A steady lowering of the temperature would indicate that the carbon dioxide has either extinguished the fire or has it under control. However, though a steady lowering of the temperature is
observed or even if the temperature reading is down to 66°C (150°F) or less, these encouraging readings should not be interpreted as a signal to open the compartment. There should be no need to open a cargo hatch until port is reached. After all, the damage to the cargo has already been done by the fire.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Captain Cook and Life at Sea

The crew of the first voyage was very experienced, and they were young, there weren’t many over the age of 30 years old. One man, Lieutenant Gore, had already circumnavigated the globe twice, under other captains. Five crewmen had been on an expedition that circumnavigated the globe once. Five other crewmen had sailed with Captain Cook before. On the second voyage, Lieutenant Tobias Furneaux, who had sailed around the world before, commanded a second ship, the Adventure. On the third voyage, Charles Clerke commanded the secondary vessel, the Discovery. Many who participated in the first voyage went along for the second, or the third, or both. An astronomer named Charles Green was aboard for the first voyage, to help Cook with his astronomical observations.
Captain Cook, dressed in the standard gentleman’s clothing of the day. He wore tight, fitted breeches with stockings and buckled shoes. On top, they wore white shirts with a vest called a waistcoat, and a long-sleeved jacket. Common sailors had the freedom to dress a little more casually. They wore slops, loose, short pants and shirts, and were not required to wear waistcoats or jackets. Many sailors did not even wear shoes on board the ship, becuase it was easier to climb in the rigging of the ship with bare feet.
The high-ranking members of the expedition, such as Captain Cook and Joseph Banks, had their own private cabins. They were not large, but they did offer the men a little bit of privacy. Much of the scientific work done on board the ship was also done in these private cabins. The sailors slept on the mess deck in hammocks. The mess deck is also where the sailors ate and relaxed.
One of Cook’s most important discoveries during his voyages was about food. Cook realized that there were certain foods that, if eaten, prevented the disease called scurvy. Scurvy, we know today, is caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. Scurvy was common among sailors, because most vitamin C comes from fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables were very difficult to keep fresh during long sea voyages in the days before refrigeration. So, sailors before Cook’s time ate a diet that was mostly dried, hard bread known as hard tack, and dried, salted meat.
Cook took two major steps to change the diet of his crew. First, every time the ships stopped anywhere that grew fresh fruit and vegetables, he bought some to feed to the crew.
But, because there were sometimes weeks between stops, and fruit and vegetables would rot in that time, he had to have another plan. He knew that sauerkraut, which is pickled cabbage, had been shown to prevent scurvy. Sauerkraut, because it is pickled, can be kept in jars, and will not go bad. Cook brought a lot of sauerkraut on his voyage, but the crew didn’t want to eat it at first.
Captain Cook played a very interesting trick on his crew. When he realized that the men were refusing to eat the sauerkraut, he took it away from them. He said only the officers could eat it, and only put it out on the officers tables. Telling the crew they couldn’t have it made them want it more, so they started eating it.
Cook’s crew was out to sea for a longer period of time than any sailors before them. And yet, not one of Cook’s sailors died of scurvy. This means that Cook proved that certain foods could prevent scurvy, and sea captains after him followed his example and took sauerkraut, fruit, and vegetables on their voyages.
The captain had to make all the difficult decisions. He decided what course to follow, how punishments would be dealt amongst the crew, and, in Captain Cook’s case, he had the freedom to choose members of his crew as well as his ships. Captain Cook’s talents also led him to personally make maps of places he visited. Lieutenants ranked below the captain, but could be in command of their own ship. Furneaux was only a lieutenant when he commanded the Adventure. A lieutenant is someone who steps in “in lieu” of the captain. If the captain is incapacitated, on another ship, or busy with something else, a lieutenant can also make decisions on board, punish the men, etc.
Navigators used equipment that could determine the ship’s position in the world. They could take that information and, after knowing where the captain wanted the ship to go, plot the course. A navigator had to be an expert at using navigational instruments, and very good at math. Marines were on board Cook’s ship as well. While people in the navy could fight using the ship’s guns, marines were called upon for fighting that might happen on land. The boatswain was in charge of the rigging, he and his crew made sure the sails were set properly.
The carpenter was responsible for keeping the wooden parts of the ship in good shape. He worked on the masts and the hull. The carpenter on the Endeavour had a very important role, when the Endeavour wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, if they had not had a good ship’s carpenter on board, they might not have been able to repair the ship and get safely home.
The quartermaster made sure the supplies on board the ship were distributed. If the ship ran low on supplies, he would decide whether or not to change the size of the men’s rations.
The cook had the job of feeding all the men on board. The cook on board the Endeavour had only one hand, which probably made his job very difficult. However, many sailors who had serious injuries would find themselves as cooks on board ships. It was a job they could still do, even if they had only one hand or one leg. The surgeon was a very important member of the crew. He kept the crew healthy while they were on board the ship. If a crewman was injured, he cared for him.
The following pay scale was for the Royal Navy. The exact pay of Captain Cook’s crew might have been a little bit different than this, when sailors would go on a voyage, their pay would be raised, because they were on such a risky mission. Able-bodied seamen, men who had two or more years experience at sea made about 14 pounds a year. Ordinary seamen, men who had between one and two years experience at sea, made 11 pounds, and landsmen, men who had less than one year of experience at sea, made 10 pounds. This was the pay scale for the British Navy from 1653-1797, when Royal Navy seamen got their first pay raise. Officers were paid much better, depending on what sort of vessels they were serving on.
Captains of first-rate ships made about 30 pounds a month, twice what able-bodied seamen made a year, captains of third-rate ships made about 20 pounds a month, and captains of sixth-rate ships made 16 pounds. A lieutenant made the same rate no matter what, 8 pounds a month.
What type of punishments did they have? On Cook’s voyages, not many crewmen required punishment. When they did, they were flogged, beaten with a cat o’ nine tails. There are no examples on board Cook’s ships of some of the more serious punishments, such as keel-hauling. The natives Cook encountered were dealt with differently, however. Cook was especially well known for being kinder than most European explorers to the natives. That did not mean he let them get away with doing mischief to his crew. When natives of various islands stole from his crew, he often had to fight them to get back the stolen property. During some of these skirmishes, Cook’s men shot native Pacific islanders for theft. Even this, though, was often an accident. The shots were made to warn and frighten, not to kill. But, sometimes the shots missed and people did die.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ka-Mal Navigation

Europeans did most of their sea trading along coasts that were near them, and mostly in an east-west direction. If they were out of sight of land, it was usually not for more than a few days. There was no need, and therefore no interest, in measuring distances north and south.

The Arabs, however, traded along the dangerous shoals (shallow waters) and strong currents off the coast of East Africa which ran from north to south, and as far off as India, out of sight of land most of the time. It was important for them to know how far north or south they traveled along an unseen coast before it was safe to turn toward that coast and make their landfall. The device they developed was called the Ka-Mal, which means “guide” in Arabic. Though very simple and “low-tech,” it was used by the Arabs of East Africa and the Red Sea as recently as the 20th century. We don’t know when it was developed, but sometime after 900 CE, a time we know the Arabs had the Astrolabe. It also seems the Arabs developed the Ka-Mal from a similar Chinese invention.

The Ka-Mal in its simplest form was a piece of wood; the navigator sighted the horizon at the bottom of the wood and Polaris at the top. When everything lined up, the ship was at the right Latitude to turn toward the city of their arrival. There would be a different piece of wood for each port. In time, the multiple pieces of wood were replaced by a single piece with a hole in the middle through which a string was fixed. A knot in the string, placed between the navigator’s teeth, would then set up the correct proportion of distance from the eye, and an alignment of the horizon and Polaris.

Each knot in the string represented the latitude of a port they wished to make, but they did not use that term or use a latitude-longitude system. Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese explorer, was introduced to the Ka- Mal when he visited India in 1498. This concept was taken up by the Europeans in the 1500s and led to their developing the Cross-Staff.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Chinese Navigation

The main tool used by navigators and pilots on board a Chinese ship was the water compass. For keeping time, incense, which was graded to burn a certain amount in a certain time, was used. As on later western vessels, a day was broken into watches. Unlike those western vessels, the day was broken into ten watches of 2.4 hours each.

During the time of Zheng He and the Treasure Fleet, the average ship could travel about twenty miles per watch, at a speed of about eight knots. Speed was determined by throwing an object over the bow of the ship, walking the length of the ship while watching the object, and measuring, by chanting a rhyme, how long it took for the vessel to pass the object.

Latitude was found using a similar theory, though slightly different method, than the European crossstaff. Navigators measured the altitude of Polaris or the Southern Cross above the horizon with an instrument called a qianxingban. The qianxingban was a board consisting of twelve pieces of square wood, the board would be aligned with the horizon, and navigators used the lengths of their arms to calculate the position of the stars. Another, simpler instrument used for this purpose was the liangtianchi, a vertical ruler.

Captains also used sailing charts, which were much larger than their western counterparts. It was unrolled in sections, depending on where the ship was. The charts used by the Treasure Fleet were a series of sailing directions in the form of compass bearings and lengths of watches from port to port, across the Indian Ocean. It also showed any landmarks that might help the captains recognize their location. In addition to the sailing chart, star maps were used.

To find depth and to determine what was on the bottom of the body of water traveled, pilots used a lead line. These were very similar to the lead lines used by western sailors.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Whats the Difference Between Dolphins and Porpoises

How do you tell the difference between dolphins and porpoises ?

For years many people have used the word dolphin and porpoise interchangeably. Many people believe that a dolphin is a porpoise and vice versa. They are very similar and have many common characteristics. But, there are some differences between the two.

Both dolphins and porpoises are mammals. Even though they both live in the ocean, they are not fish. They do not have breathing gills. They have lungs and breathe air. Both also give birth to live young and nurse those young. A mammal is also characterized by having the presence of hair: when dolphins and porpoises are small, there are small hair follicles.

Dolphins and porpoises belong to the same scientific order, Cetacea. This order includes all whales, even the great whales, to which both dolphins and porpoises are related. All cetaceans are completely aquatic mammals, have a streamlined body, a tail fluke, and a blowhole (which is what these air-breathing animals use to breathe). The dolphins and porpoises are also classified in the scientific suborder, Odontoceti, which are the toothed whales. All odontocetes also have the ability to echolocate, the ability to detect objects in their underwater environment using the echoes of a sound, much like sonar.

Porpoises and dolphins are classified into two different families. The porpoises are in the family Phocoenidae and the dolphins are in the family Delphinidae. When separated at the family level, dolphins and porpoises are as physically different as cats and dogs.

In comparison to dolphins, porpoises are very small. Porpoises seldom exceed 7 feet in length, whereas many dolphins can exceed 10 feet in length. Porpoises are also more robust than dolphins. Dolphins have a lean sleek body, whereas porpoises often appear chubby. The dorsal fin (the fin on the back of the animal) in porpoises is also triangular, looking more like a shark. The dorsal fin of the dolphin is shaped in a wave. Porpoises lack a rostrum or a beak. This rostrum is very prominent in dolphins. The teeth of the porpoise are spade-shaped, whereas the teeth of the dolphin are conical or cone-shaped.

Many porpoises do not live past their mid-teens. Porpoises have an intensive reproduction schedule that may play a role in their lack of longevity. A porpoise can become pregnant each year, give birth, and then it can become pregnant again five or six weeks later, so it can be nursing and pregnant at the same time. This can also happen in dolphins, but dolphins are larger in size and it seems their body is suited for handling such occurrences, and anyhow it is less common. Dolphins can live in an upwards of fifty years.

There are many behavior differences as well as physical differences. For the most part, porpoises are shy animals. They do not approach people or boats. The dolphin, on the other hand, if often seen riding the bow wave of fishing boats. You rarely see porpoises at the surface unless they are coming up for a breath.

The dolphin, rather than the porpoise, is often seen in marine animal shows. This comes back to the idea that dolphins tend to show a lesser fear of man than porpoises. This is why dolphins, not porpoises, get stuck in tuna nets. For this reason dolphins are widely studied whereas porpoises are not.

Both dolphins and porpoises have an unique social order. While both use their teeth as a form of tactile communication within the social group, scientists believe that unlike dolphins, porpoises do not use underwater whistles to communicate. Dolphins actually use their blowholes to create a whistling noise, which is used particularly often to communicate between mother and calf.

Dolphins and porpoises have a lot in common. There are some differences, but the similarities among their behavior and looks outweigh the differences. You are more likely to see a dolphin, both in the wild and captivity. Consider yourself lucky if you encounter a porpoise in either situation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fire Aboard The SS African Star

On the morning of March 16, 1968, at about 0340, the dry-cargo vessel SS African Star col­lided in a meeting situation with the tank barge Intercity no. 11 in the lower Mississippi River, in the vicinity of mile 46 Above Head of Passes (AHP). The African Star's bow penetrated the Intercity no. 11 on the after port side, at an angle of 45°. The motor towing vessel Midwest Cities was pushing two tank barges, Intercity no. 11 and Intercity no. 14 (the forward barge). The two tank barges were identical. A few minutes before the collision, the African Star was making about 16 knots on a 140° true course, the Midwest Cities was making 6 knots on a 320° true course with a relative closing speed of 22 knots. Visibility was good and each vessel had been advised of the other vessel's movements on its own radio frequency. Because of the lack of a common radiotelephone frequency, direct communication between the vessels was not possible.

Both vessels were equipped with marine radar units. Both units were in operation prior to and at the time of the casualty, but neither unit was being continuously observed by watch personnel. The pilot of each vessel sighted the navigation lights of the other vessel 1 1/2 miles, and later sighted the other vessel on radar. Witnesses in passing vessels reported that they could easily see the navigation lights on the Mid­west Cities, Intercity no. 14 and African Star. The movements of the vessels were not materially affected by wind or current. The steering gear and machinery of both vessels were in good op­erating order. The African Star had a licensed pilot, but the Midwest Cities had an unlicensed pilot, however, both pilots had extensive experience on the Mis­sissippi River. There was a lookout on the bow of the African Star, but none on the Midwest Cities. The master, third mate and helmsman were also on the bridge of the African Star.

The Collision
Different versions of the maneuvers were given by personnel on each of the two vessels.
Midwest Cities Version - The Midwest Cities was running parallel to the side of the river, about 250 feet from the east bank. The pilot considered it to be a head-and-head meeting situation, and the pilot sounded the appropriate one-blast whistle signal for a port-to-port passing. The African Star responded with one blast. He assumed a safe passage until the African Star sounded two blast when her bow was abeam the lead barge. He saw the African Star's green side­light and responded with one blast. He then blew four blasts on the whistle, backed full astern from full ahead and put the rudder hard right. How­ever, it was too late to avert a collision between the African Star and barge Intercity no. 11.

African Star Version - The pilot of the African Star stated that his vessel was slightly west of mid ­river when he sighted the Midwest Cities two white tow lights and green sidelights on his star­board bow. The tow appeared to be favoring the west bank and running parallel to it. It appeared to him to be a normal starboard-to-starboard meeting situation, not a head-and-head meeting. When the Midwest Cities tow was 1/2 to 3/4 mile ahead, he sounded two short blasts on the whistle, but no reply was heard. As the pilot headed for the radar, the third mate called his attention to the tow crossing his starboard bow showing red sidelights. This was about 2 minutes after the two-blast signal was sounded. Hard right rudder, one blast and then emergency full astern were ordered and executed. By this time, the situation was beyond the point of corrective action a col­lision was unavoidable. Full astern was in effect a minute before the collision.

In his analysis of the incident, the commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard concluded that the wit­nesses gave such conflicting testimony that it was impossible to reconstruct the events leading up to the collision.

The Fire
Intercity no. 11 was loaded to a draft of about 9 feet 6 inches, corresponding to approximately 19,000 barrels of crude oil. An analysis of the Louisiana "sweet" crude it carried revealed a 30.6° API a flash point (Pensky Martens) of 80.0°F, and a Reid vapor pressure of 3.2 psia, which categorized the product as a grade C flam­mable liquid. When the collision occurred, the general alarm was sounded on the order of the master of the African Star. At this time, the oncoming watch personnel were in varying degrees of readiness and, except for those on watch, all crew members and passengers were asleep or resting in their quarters.

In less than a minute, fire broke out and sev­eral explosions occurred. The most likely source of ignition was high heat due to metal-to-metal friction or sparks, produced when the barge was sheared by the bow of the African Star. Another possible source of ignition was sparks generated by the severing of the electrical cable leading to the navigation lights on Intercity no. 14. When fire broke out on the barge and in the surrounding water, the pilot of the Midwest Cities backed full to break the port wire and to clear the intense fire. He estimated it took about a min­ute to get free; his vessel was backing toward the west bank. Intercity no. 11 grounded and sank near the west bank at mile 45.7 (AHP). The Mid­west Cities was downwind of the point of collision and escaped with only minor damage.

The southeasterly wind carried flammable vapors over the African Star from bow to stem (because of the vessel's position relative to the wind direction). The flammable vapors ignited, engulfing the vessel in flames. The pilot backed clear and intentionally grounded the vessel on the west bank at mile 45.8 (AHP). The tarpaulins had been ignited, and there were fires in holds 2, 4 and 5. Containers and other deck cargo were burning, as was the paint on the ship. Dense smoke filled the engine room and accommoda­tion spaces.

Firefighting and Rescue
Problems were encountered in lowering the life­boat and launching the inflatable life raft; the boat cover and man ropes had burned, and the plastic cover of the life raft had ignited. The in­tense fire, heat and smoke in the quarters gutted the passageways, and a number of passengers and crew members were trapped. Several people tried to escape through portholes when they found that the passageways outside their quarters were im­passable. Others were burned when their life preservers and clothing ignited. For a while the fire and heat on the port side were too intense to endure. There was some minor confusion during the first few minutes after the alarm was sounded. However, this was quickly dispelled under the leadership of the master and his officers. After the African Star was grounded, the master went to the cabin deck to see to the safety of the passengers and crew.

During this time, he became seriously burned about the feet, face and hands. As a result, he was immobilized and had to be carried back to the bridge by the crew. At first, burning oil on the water surrounding the vessel prevented personnel from jumping overboard to get away from the burning vessel. The second mate gathered a number of passen­gers and crew into a small room on the African Star for refuge until the fire subsided. He then supervised the extinguishment of small fires in and around no. 1 lifeboat. By this time, the cur­rent and the movement of the African Star had separated the vessel from the oil burning on the water, the lifeboat was lowered to the edge of the deck and the injured crew members and pas­sengers were assisted into the boat and lowered to the water's edge.

Other crewmen and passen­gers were able to climb or jump into the water and swim ashore. The second mate observed large fires burning aft on the main deck. He organized a firefighting team that advanced hoselines to the area. They were successful in confining the deck fires and cooling the flammable-liquid cargo. An oiler in the engine room was forced to leave because of difficulty breathing in the smoke. How­ever, the chief engineer, third assistant engineer, and fireman / watertender continued to maintain the engine room plant in full operation. Power was maintained to keep the vessel aground, the lights on and the fire and bilge pumps in opera­tion.

Rescue operations had commenced fol­lowing the Midwest Cities request for immediate assistance via the marine operator in New Or­leans. Badly burned victims were quickly evacu­ated by U.S. Coast Guard helicopters. This operation is credited with saving the lives of a number of people injured on the African Star. The Midwest Cities, a New Orleans fireboat and a local ferry with fire apparatus on board assisted Coast Guard boats in fighting the fire. Firefighting was complicated by inaccessibility to the cargo manifest of hazardous materials lo­cated in the chief mate's room. In addition, a number of deck fire hoses had been burned. The combustibles on deck and in the holds continued to burn after the vapor and oil spray fires had subsided.

Firefighting by the African Star crew controlled the fire until the U.S. Coast Guard vessels and other help arrived. The fire in hold no. 5 was con­tained by use of the ship's C02 extinguishing system. At about 0530, the fires on board the African Star had been brought under control, and the Midwest Cities departed to retrieve Intercity no. 14, adrift in the river. Intercity no. 14 was un­damaged. The many fatalities and injuries sustained on board the African Star were due to the rapid spread of fire, the heat and smoke in living spaces and the burning oil on the water surrounding the vessel, which kept most personnel from imme­diately jumping overboard. A total of 11 passager and 52 crewmen on the freighter, 2 pas­sengers were killed and 9 were injured, 15 crew members were killed, 4 were missing and pre­sumed dead, 31 were injured, and 2 escaped in­jury. Many more lives would have been lost, but for the gallant efforts and bravery of African Star crewmen and others involved in the rescue and firefighting operations. A collision and fire of this magnitude must point up both weaknesses (areas where sea­men can learn from the mistakes of others) and strengths (examples of leadership, teamwork and heroism). Some of the more important les­sons to be learned include the following:

Whistle signals are not of themselves a re­liable means of communicating a vessel's passing or turning intentions. Bridge-to­ bridge radiotelephone communication on a single frequency would probably have prevented this tragedy. It is now required by law. Uncertainties and difficulties are experi­enced in applying the inland rules of the road to arrange a safe passing. Passing requires the use of visual and verbal com­munication in both directions, plus good judgment. A properly equipped vessel can with stand a serious collision and fire. A disciplined and well-trained crew can keep the vessel afloat, maintain control of the wheelhouse and engine room and successfully combat the lire. Leadership, courage and discipline are essential traits for officers and crewmen in the merchant marine. The value of these traits becomes most evident in an emer­gency situation such as a serious fire.