Tuesday, June 25, 2019


25 June 2019: Generally speaking, when a wooden ship and a steel one collide, the wooden one will come out second best. If it's a wooden sailing ship colliding with a steel merchant ship, it gets even worse (for the wooden sailing ship). This occurred about a week ago in Germany. (Gcaptain for pictures, CNN for article.)

The 121-foot Elbe No. 5 collided with the 466-foot Astrosprinter, a Cyprus-flagged cargo ship, on the Elbe river near Hamburg, Germany on Saturday afternoon, according to Wilfried Sprekels, a fire department official.

Built in 1883, the Elbe No. 5 is Hamburg’s oldest wooden ship still in operation, according to Hamburg Maritime Foundation, which has owned the ship since 2002. The Elbe No. 5 originally operated as a pilot vessel for more than 30 years, but later used as a private yacht, credited with making 13 transatlantic crossings, according to Hamburg Maritime Foundation’s website.

To make matters worse, the schooner had only recently completed a major renovation, returning to its home port on May 29th.
Hamburg Maritime Foundation released a statement reading, in part:
“With great sadness we regret the collision and feel very much with the passengers and members of the ship’s crew who have come to harm. We hope the injuries can be cured quickly.”

As of Monday [10 June] the Elbe No. 5 was awaiting salvage. The Astrosprinter was moored near its destination of the Immingham, England.
The cause of the collision is under investigation.
Eight passengers on board the Elbe No. 5 were injured in the collision at Stadersand, Sprekels told CNN. They were rescued from the boat and taken to different local hospitals.
The Elbe No. 5 is the oldest fully wooden ship in Hamburg.

Emergency services secured the ship because of fears of oil leaks and a rescue company will investigate the possibility of recovering the wreck, he added.

There were 43 people on board at the time, including 14 crew members, according to a statement from Hamburg police.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but an investigation continues, police said.

After decades as a pilot boat used to guide larger ships into Hamburg's port, the Elbe No. 5 was sold to American journalist Warwick Tompkins, who used it as a houseboat.
In 2002, it was bought by the Hamburg Maritime Foundation and brought home to be used as a pleasure boat for tourists.

The renovation project was announced in September 2018 and on May 29 the Elbe No. 5 returned to its home port, according to a tweet from the maritime foundation.

Just over a week later, the collision wrecked the historic vessel.
Wolfgang Bentz, who was involved in the restoration, told German radio station NDR that he had watched over the wreck after the accident.
"I couldn't sleep all night," he said.

However, Bentz believes the Elbe No. 5 could sail again.
"It's made of wood and had some damage before," he told NDR. "Let's see what further damage is added in the rescue effort."

Ugly business, for certain! 

Until next time, 
                                          Fair Winds,
                                                 Old Salt


Sunday, June 16, 2019


16 June 2019: Happy Fathers' Day to those of you to whom it applies... We at Maritime Maunder almost took the day off, but found a few moments to bring you this interesting piece on what is top candidate for the scariest water in the world - and any who have sailed in the Southern Ocean will likely agree with me. And while we don't generally offer book reviews, this one might be worth your while:

‘Below the Forties there is no law, and below the Fifties there is no God.’ Most sailors know some version of this saying, referring to the dangerous waters more than 40º south of the equator.
In Wild Sea, Joy McCann focuses on these waters with a history of the Southern Ocean. The ocean surrounds Antarctica, its northern bound still open to dispute. In the 1928 first edition of Limits of Oceans and Seas, the Southern Ocean was delineated by land-based limits: Antarctica to the south, and South America, Africa, Australia and Broughton Island, New Zealand to the north.

More recently, cartographers have tried to limit its scope. UK officials take the position that the Southern Ocean starts at 55º S, while their Australian counterparts still measure the limits of the ocean by its contact with land masses, meaning that it reaches up to the southern coasts of Australia and South America.

When even defining the ocean is difficult, it proves an elusive subject of study. The Southern Ocean is one we don’t often think about: it has no famous ports and its cultural influence is diffuse. Some don’t even realise it has an identity. (I mentioned it to one friend and he thought immediately of Tahiti. That would be the South Seas.)

But as an ocean it certainly has its characteristics. As the nautical saying suggests, much of this is rough water. For a vessel heading south, rogue icebergs start appearing at 60º S. 

The cold gales and ocean currents can make even the most experienced sailor wary. But the risk carries a payoff in speed.

This is thanks to the world’s longest ocean current: the Antarctic circum-polar current, which speeds along from west to east with no land masses in the way to slow or divert it. In the 19th century it was discovered that for ships travelling from Europe to Australasia the quickest route was to head south after passing the Cape of Good Hope and be carried along by the current and high winds of the Southern Ocean.

It’s a strategy still used by round-the-world yacht racers. But heading so far from any land or hope of rescue is extremely risky. The Southern Ocean is littered with wrecks. It contains the oceanic pole of inaccessbility (at 48°52.6 S 123°23.6 W), the point on the globe farthest from any land — more than 1,400 nautical miles. That means days of sailing for any rescue vessel, although now that few of us travel by ship it’s easy to forget the scale involved. Readers may remember Tony Bullimore’s miraculous rescue from his capsized yacht, at 52°S 100°E: the remoteness of the Southern Ocean is real, even given today’s satellite mapping and communications.

McCann is an environmental historian and her focus is our growing knowledge of the ocean and its incorporation into our understanding of the world. The first tentative European explorations of the Southern Ocean were made in the hope of finding another great continent (not Antarctica). Circumnavigators dipped into it while working their way round Tierra del Fuego. It was the furthest ocean from Europe, and the last to be charted.   

While I have not personally sailed in those latitudes, I have been there (and around Cape Horn) on a small ship and recall quite clearly the captain's explanation for the constant wind and huge rolling seas: there is simply nothing to stop either. No land exists in those latitudes, only the sea. An interesting and thought provoking statement.

Until next time, 
                                Fair Winds (not those of the Roaring Forties!)
                                    Old Salt