Friday, January 20, 2017


20 January 2017: Well, it's official - no, not that the United States has a new president (we do, but that's not what we're writing about today!); this is a continuation of the Vendee Globe post from last time. When we posted about the potential close finish of the Vendee Globe race around the world (16 Jan) we indicated we would announce the finish if possible. Well, it is possible and here we are (courtesy of Sail Magazine):

Armel Le Cléac’h, 39, from Brittany, France, crossed the finish line of the Vendée Globe Race in Les Sables d’Olonne, France, earlier today (19 Jan: ed.) at 1537hrs UTC after 74 days, 3 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds at sea aboard his 60ft racing yacht Banque Populaire VIII.

Le Cléac’h’s time sets a new record for the race, beating the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor Francois Gabart in the 2012-13 edition by 3 days, 22 hours and 41 minutes.

Le Cléac’h, the runner-up in the 2008-09 and 2012-13 editions of the Vendée Globe, completed the 24,499-nautical-mile course at an average speed of 13.77 knots, which began on November 6 last year when 29 boats set out from Les Sables d’Olonne on a sunny day with a perfect sailing breeze.

Second-placed Alex Thomson, who has been dogging Le Cléac’h since around the Cape of Good Hope despite having lost one of his two daggerboard following a collision with an unidentified floating object, is expected to cross the finish line on his boat Hugo Boss around 12 hours behind Le Cléac’h.

“My feeling is that this is a dream come true,” Le Cleac’h said after crossing the finish line. “I hoped to win this race 10 years ago but I finished second. Today is a perfect day. My team has been amazing they’re the dream team, and this is their day too. I’m very happy for Alex, it’s a great second place. It has been very difficult with him behind me, he gave me a really hard time in this Vendee Globe.”

The following is from the official Vendee Globe site: 

"This morning (20 Jan: ed.) it was Alex Thomson’s turn for celebration as the British sailor closed the loop on his epic Vendée Globe performance. Despite pushing himself and his boat almost to the limits of breaking he was unable to catch the overall winner Armel Le Cléac’h, but you can’t say that he didn’t try. In the last few days he closed the gap from more than a 700 mile deficit, to just over 30 miles setting a new 24-hour, single-handed distance record along the way. He should be beyond proud of his accomplishment in becoming the second non-French person to occupy second place since Ellen MacArthur in 2001."

 Since the race began on 6 November, these intrepid sailors have put over 24,000 miles under their keels and it is astonishing - at least to me - that they should finish this close together.... well done, lads! A personal observation, if I may: it must have been heart-breaking for England's Alex Thompson to be kept from the top spot by broken equipment and fickle winds.

And there you have it. The other vessels are far enough behind that their finishes will likely be of little interest except to them and their supporters...

That's all for now. See you next time.
                                  Fair Winds,
                                      Old Salt

Monday, January 16, 2017


16 January 2017: As this epic race around the world draws to a conclusion, the top spot is still undetermined. And interestingly, the top two contenders for top honors are English and French. And records are falling; Alex Thompson (British) sailing his slightly damaged HUGO BOSS, smashed the world record for the greatest distance sailed in a 24 hour period: 536.8 nautical miles at an average speed of 22.4 knots! And by the way, these boats are NOT catamarans. I am sure Captain Thompson was thrilled that the record he topped had been held by a Frenchman! 

The Frenchman Thompson is currently battling for the win is Armel Le Cleac'h aboard Banco Populaire VIII, and he has led the race since 2 December. 

Hugo Boss flying through Southern Ocean

Thompson is catching up despite losing his starboard daggerboard when he hit an unknown submerged object. And he is only 78 miles behind! The finish is expected on or about 19 January in the Vendee port of Les Sables d'Olonne. To put all of this in perspective, 9,000 nm separate the leader from the "tail end Charlie" in a race of some 24,000 miles non stop from Les Sables d'Oloone, south around Cape of Good Hope (Africa) then east around past Australia, through the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn. Then up the Atlantic back to the starting point. Did I mention these 60' vessels are single handed?!

Here's a glimpse of what these amazing sailors and their vessels are capable of:  click here:Vendee Globe in the Southern Ocean.

When the race ends, we will try to remember to post the winner! 

Until next time, 
                                   Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt

PS Maritime Maunder has now surpassed 40,000 readers! Stunned, I am! 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


10 January 2017: This story just won't go away.....  and in case you might think you are experiencing deja vu, we did post about this a couple of years ago. This is a recap with a bit of new info.... So, remember this ship?

 Yep, SS Central America. And here's what made her famous and started this whole story which has dragged on since about 1988...

Right; she sank off the coast of the United States. And nobody got to her until 130 years +/- later. Here's the story:

As a mail steamer called the S.S. Central America chugged along the Atlantic coast In 1857, bound for New York, it was hit by a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina. More than 400 people died, 38,000 pieces of mail were lost, and an estimated 21 tons of gold — a huge portion of the national wealth recently prospected in the California Gold Rush — plunged to the bottom of the Atlantic after a sinking that took upwards of 40 hours. The shipwreck took with it so much commercial gold, and so many newly-rich gold prospectors, that the incident triggered a downturn in the U.S. economy that wasn't righted until after the Civil War.

And you'd better believe people tried to find and retrieve the "Ship of Gold," as it became known. For 130 years, treasure hunters scoured shallow waters of the Atlantic off the coast of the Carolinas for signs of it, but nobody had any luck even estimating the location of the wrecked ship. Nobody, that is, until 1988, when an Ohio engineer named Tommy Thompson found the shipwreck — with relative ease, apparently. 

Convincing 160 investors (mostly from his home state of Ohio) to give him almost $13 million to invent a robotic device to find and retrieve the loot from beneath 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) of open ocean, Thompson became a hero. 

Thompson - then

 The ship was located by the use of Bayesian search theory and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) operated by the Columbus-America Discovery Group of Ohio, that was sent down on 11 September 1988.[3] Significant amounts of gold and artifacts were recovered and brought to the surface by another ROV built specifically for the recovery. Tommy Gregory Thompson led the group. Thirty-nine insurance companies filed suit, claiming that because they paid damages in the 19th century for the lost gold, they had the right to it. The team that found it argued that the gold had been abandoned. After a legal battle, 92% of the gold was awarded to the discovery team in 1996.[4]


The total value of the recovered gold was estimated at $100–150 million. A recovered gold ingot weighing 80 lb (36 kg) sold for a record $8 million and was recognized as the most valuable piece of currency in the world at that time.[5] Thompson was sued in 2005 by several of the investors who had provided $12.5 million in financing, and in 2006 by several members of his crew, over a lack of returns for their respective investments. Thompson went into hiding in 2012, and was located in January 2015, along with assistant Alison Antekeier, by US Marshals, and was extradited to Ohio, to provide an accounting of the expedition profits.[4][6][7][8]

A receiver was appointed to take over Thompson's companies and, if possible, salvage more gold from the wreck,[6] in order to recover money for Thompson's various creditors.[4] In 2014, Odyssey Marine Exploration was selected to undertake the salvage.[9] The original expedition only excavated "5 percent" of the ship.[4]
More Recent image of Tommy

Then, in 2012, when Thompson was called into court yet again, he didn't show up. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but when the police tried to find him, they found instead that he had disappeared completely. And catching him and his girlfriend Alison Antekeier was difficult; not only is Thompson smart, he had "almost limitless resources and approximately a 10-year head start," Peter Tobin, U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Ohio, told the Chicago Tribune.
When it came to disappearing, Thompson and Antekeier did everything by the book, literally. Specifically it's a book called "How to Be Invisible," which was found in Thompson's rented Florida mansion (paid for with damp cash, according to the landlord) that they fled in 2012, leaving behind nothing but some boxes of papers, several disposable cell phones, and money straps marked for amounts of $10,000. After a manhunt spanning two years, police found Thompson and Antekeier living in a $200-per-night hotel near West Palm Beach. Although the police celebrated the capture, it turns out they weren't much closer to finding the treasure.

Fast forward 28 years, and Tommy Thompson, once celebrated as the genius who recovered a significant national treasure, sits in an Ohio jail cell, refusing (or unable) to tell the authorities where he hid the gold.

In case you're interested, when an enormous treasure is discovered, it's no simple matter parsing out who it belongs to. When Thompson and his crew first discovered the wreckage of the Central America, legal troubles arose almost immediately. Insurance companies claiming to have insured the ship in the 1800's, for instance, immediately sued for a cut of the profits. In 2000, when Thompson sold a portion of the first 3-ton haul for an estimated $50 million, the investors who had funded the expedition sued him for their share of the gold (they haven't seen an ingot of it yet). 

Thompson is currently sitting in an Ohio jail cell, incurring a $1,000-per-day fine. That's on top of the $250,000 stemming from a criminal contempt charge and 208 hours of community service he was slapped with for not showing up in court in 2012. And while Thompson sits in jail, the wreckage of the S.S. Central America remains at the bottom of the ocean. Subsequent expeditions have turned up even more treasure, like on a 2014 foray by the recovery outfit Odyssey Marine Exploration.

But although he remembers a lot about his discovery, Thompson says he can't remember where he hid the remaining gold he didn't sell. He's even been given back his papers confiscated in 2012 so that he can try to put together the story, but he's not budging. An Ohio court has ruled he is faking his memory problems, but the fact remains: for now, most of the treasure from the SS Central America is lost — again.

Sounds like a Mexican stand-off to me! But who knows? Maybe he'll have a "come to Jesus" moment and suddenly recall where the loot is hidden. It sure ain't doing him any good in jail!

Until next time, 
                                              Fair Winds,
                                                    Old Salt