Thursday, May 16, 2019


16 May 2019: I am writing today from the seaport and historic whaling town of New Bedford Massachusetts. We are here attending the 45th annual conference of the North American Society for Oceanic History and the National Maritime Historical Society. We have two days of wonderful seminars, presentations of scholarly papers and talks, all on things maritime, both old and new. In speaking of new, here's an update on a piece we posted last Novemeber about the 71 year old French adventurer who attempted to cross the Atlantic in a barrel. and he celebrated his birthday at sea, so he was 72 when he bumped ashore in the Caribbean!

A Frenchman who set out on his solo journey across the Atlantic Ocean in a large, orange barrel, has completed his trip.

Jean-Jacques Savin, 72, departed from El Hierro, part of Spain’s Canary Islands, in December in a bright orange barrel. His vessel traveled by using just the ocean’s currents.
On April 27, Savin reached the Caribbean after being at sea for 122 days. He originally said he hoped to reach his destination in thrA few days later, Sevin was brought to Martinique where he is planning his return to months. A Dutch oil tanker transported Sevin and the barrel to Sint Eustatius. A few days later, Sevin was brought to Martinique where he is planning his return to France.
"It was an exhilarating voyage but also quite risky,” Savin said of his trip.
In an interview with The New York Times, the explorer said he was inspired by Frenchman Alain Bombard who wrote about his travels to the Canary Islands.
He told The Times he spent his days swimming, catching fish, replying to messages, cooking, reading and writing his book. He said his book is slated to be published in August.

Inside the 10-foot long barrel are a bed, kitchen and storage space. A porthole on the floor allows him to watch the ocean life.

Savin said there were two times he feared for his life: after an oil tanker and another ship got close to him.
The former military parachutist said the best thing about being out at sea is the freedom.
“It’s freedom. Complete freedom. It’s hard to convey. No one tells you what to do. There are no rules. It’s freedom.”

Clearly not for everyone, but the good news is he made it and history as well!

Until next time,
                                   Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt


Wednesday, May 8, 2019


8 May 2019: In view of the recent spate of further and, quite frankly, embarrassing  affronts to maritime history and indeed, to those who go down to the sea in ships, we are offering the following reprint from September 2014. Social media has been agonizing over this question - yet again - and Maritime Maunder would be remiss were we not to correct the overbearing politically correct wannabes who have little connection the the sea or ships. Ships, boats, and even dinghies have always been and will continue to be female, referred to as "she." Read on:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


2 September 2014:
The header poses the question: are boats and ships properly called a “she?“  There are a host of reasons why this tradition has been extant for hundreds – thousands, even – of years. But before we get into the explanation for this tradition, let me hasten to point out, especially in this age of overbearing and over done “political correctness,” that there in NOTHING misogynistic involved nor is it “sexist” or in any way demeaning to the fairer among us!
English is one of the only languages in which inanimate objects done not carry a gender identifier. All the Romance languages and, I believe, most of the other popular languages of the world do. “La, le, el” and etc. However, linguists who study history have suggested the English used to have these gender identifiers, but they, like so many other things, fell by the wayside over the years. So, since our mother tongue has its roots in the languages that predate it, it would seem logical to accept this premise. And in every language (possibly except Russian and its derivatives) boats and ships are “LA” denoting them as female.

Yesterday, while sitting on my boat (and not writing my blog!) a couple came by wanting to see my pride and joy, a request I was only too happy to fulfill. Here she is (note gender!):
In any case, they came aboard, were suitably impressed, and the lady kind of smirked when I referred to the boat as “she,” suggesting kind of “oh isn’t that cute.” I offered that ALL boats are “SHE” and went on to give an explanation of why (different from above!)
Boats are female because: 1. Like their human counterparts, they carry a cargo safely and protect it until delivery, 2. it takes lots of paint and bunting to keep them happy and looking their best, 3. they never show their bottom in public, 4. (and this one goes back to the old days – no angry emails, please) it take a strong man to control one, and finally, 5. it’s not always the initial investment that is high, but the upkeep, time investment, and maintenance is!
My visitor accepted the explanation and agreed it was most likely correct! I later remembered that in the olden days, boats/ships were most often owned by men who, experiencing long absences from their loving wives, named the boat/ship after them to “keep them closer to their hearts” when away.
So that’s it, folks. And while my little boat is not named for a female person, she is most definitely female in her disposition!
“There is nothing -absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as messing about in boats!”
The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
Fair winds.

Old Salt

Thursday, May 2, 2019


2 May 2019: From America's Cup challenges (and disappointments) to undersea archeology in one week! Kinda takes one's breath away! We don't want you to think we get stuck on one topic here at Maritime Maunder. Just trying to keep it interesting for everyone! So this week's post comes from the Guardian, a well respected British journal.

The Spanish culture ministry has begun an inventory of shipwrecks in the Americas, identifying 681 vessels that sank between 1492 and 1898

Over the following four centuries, as Spain’s maritime empire swelled, peaked and collapsed, the waves on which it was built devoured hundreds of ships and thousands of people, swallowing gold, silver and emeralds and scattering spices, mercury and cochineal to the currents.
Today, three researchers working for the Spanish culture ministry have finished the initial phase of a project to catalogue the wrecks of the ships that forged and maintained the empire.
Led by an archaeologist, Carlos León, the team has logged 681 shipwrecks off Cuba, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bermuda, the Bahamas and the US Atlantic coast.
Its inventory runs from the sinking of the Santa María to July 1898, when the Spanish destroyer Plutón was hit by a US boat off Cuba, heralding the end of the Spanish-American war and the twilight of Spain’s imperial age.
After spending five years scouring archives in Seville and Madrid, León, his fellow archaeologist Beatriz Domingo and the naval historian Genoveva Enríquez have put together a list aimed at safeguarding the future and shedding light on the past.
“We had two fundamental objectives,” says León. “One was to come up with a tool that can be used for identifying and protecting
The treacherous waters of the Americas had their first taste of Spanish timber on Christmas Day 1492, when Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa María, sank off the coast of what is now Haiti.

  Carlos León, archaeologist
“The other was to recover a bit of history that’s been very much forgotten. The most famous ships have been investigated, but there’s a huge number about which we know absolutely nothing. We don’t know how they sank, or how deep.”
The information gathered would help the team to find out what navigation was like at the time, he said.
The team’s research will thrill historians and cartographers, but is unlikely to delight those who harbour romantic notions about doubloons, parrots and Jolly Rogers.
It found that 91.2% of ships were sunk by severe weather – mainly tropical storms and hurricanes – 4.3% ran on to reefs or had other navigational problems, and 1.4% were lost to naval engagements with British, Dutch or US ships. A mere 0.8% were sunk in pirate attacks.
Archaeologists have located the remains of fewer than a quarter of the 681 vessels on the inventory to date.

León, Domingo and Enríquez were surprised to come across 12 areas with particularly high concentrations of wrecks in Panama, the Dominican Republic and the Florida Keys. Instead of the expected two or three wrecks per bay, they discovered as many as 18.
“Some of these areas, like Damas bay in Panama, are very open,” says León. “There were huge annual trade festivals there from the 16th century to the mid-17th and that attracted a massive amount of maritime traffic. It’s not a very protected area and so when a storm came in, the ships sank.”
Or, to put it in more modern terms: “It was like a motorway. It’s not very deep there, either. And ships are a bit like aeroplanes. They usually go down on take-off or landing.”
Treasure hunters tend to be more interested in ships that came to grief on their way back from the Americas, but León and his colleagues say the ill-fated outward-bound vessels are just as compelling.
“The cargo they carried speaks of a massive amount of trade,” says the archaeologist. “But it’s not just about products and trade. These ships were also carrying ideas. We were surprised to find a lot of boats loaded with religious objects – relics, decorations and even stones to build churches.”
Their findings, however, go beyond cutlasses and crucifixes, and help to explain how Spain succeeded in enriching itself for centuries.

As well as the “tonnes and tonnes” of mercury sent to the new world to be used in extracting gold and silver from the mines that fed the empire, “we found boats that were carrying clothes for slaves”. Others carried weapons to be used in putting down local rebellions.
The researchers now plan to transfer the paper inventory to a database that the Spanish government can share with countries with colonial shipwrecks in their waters. León hopes the information his team has gathered will give those countries what they need to safeguard their maritime heritage against unscrupulous treasure hunters who all too often use salvage permits as a cover for more profitable explorations.

“We have to be very careful about the details and positions of some of the ships,” he says. “But the ministry works with countries that have ratified the 2001 Unesco convention [on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage], so they should be countries that aren’t going to use this information to make deals with treasure-hunting firms.”
Anyway, he adds, the big treasure-hunting outfits will not be interested in most of the wrecks on the inventory. “It’s true that the big treasure-hunting firms have spent years doing what we’ve been doing, but only when it comes to the ships that carried huge treasure loads. I don’t think we’d be helping them out much, to be honest.”
The three researchers are now preparing for another deep dive, into the archives and libraries. The Spanish empire was, after all, a very, very large one. “We’ve still got many more areas to go,” says León. “Next year, I’d like to work on Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica so as to kind of finish up the Caribbean area. After that’s it’s on to the Pacific.”

Should information surface (pun intended!) about their finds - without, of course, locations - we will make it available to our readers..

Until next time, 
                                      Fair Winds,
                                          Old Salt