Friday, October 31, 2014


31 October 2014: OK, I admit it: I am flying tomorrow and sometimes things like the "Bermuda Triangle," Malaysia Air, and yes, Amelia Earhart pop unbidden into my head. Perhaps it's that there have been a couple of news pieces lately focusing on Amelia Earhart (and not that I am flying!) that causes me to offer some insight - well, maybe not insight, but surely some information - on the aviatrix who vanished in 1937!
Ms. Earhart was a driven lady; she was consumed with flight and planes in those early days of air pioneers - and she was determined to "top" "Lucky Lindy's" transatlantic feat with a round the world flight in her 2 motor Lockheed Electra plane. 

She disappeared in the Pacific Ocean on 2 July, 1937 and, almost since then, people form various organizations have been looking for her, the plane wreckage, or some sign of her presence. Well, recently, a piece of aluminum found in 1991 on Nikumaroro Island (between Hawaii and Australia) has been confirmed with a "high degree of certainty" to be from her aircraft.

This bit of metal was applied to her plane in Miami, early in her trip, to replace a window in the rear section of the aircraft. She had stopped in Miami for 8 days - it was the fourth stop in her trip - and while there, had the piece of aluminum installed to replace the navigator's window. A photo of the plane taking off on 1 June, 1937 for the next leg of her trip clearly shows the patch and after studying the rivet holes and other material, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recover (TIGHAR) has offered their confirmation of its authenticity.

In conjunction with sidescan sonar searches and a couple of other artifacts found in water and the jungle of the uninhabited island, it is possible that by this time next year, the mystery  - at least the part about where she crashed - could be solved.  So what?

The bottle on the left was a popular ointment of the time which Amelia was known to have had in her possession and on the plane. The shards are what were found on the island. To the right, we have a sidescan sonar image purporting to show at least some portion of the wreck of the Lockheed Electra. (I know, doesn't look like much to us, but to the experts, it apparently does!) Further, analytical study of a photograph of the lagoon at Nikumaroro taken some 3 months after her disappearance has shown that an anomaly sticking out of the water might be a landing gear from an aircraft.

OK - now for the 'so what' portion of our program. Should the artifacts and plane wreckage prove to be Amelia Earhart's, then the popular notion that she and her navigator, Fred Noonan, crashed in the ocean after running out of gas near their destination of Howland Island, some 350 miles to the northwest, falls apart. What the discovery will show is that they made a forced landing on the smooth, flat reef of Nikumaroro Island and became castaways in the jungle. In fact, ten earlier archeological expeditions have uncovered some pretty strong circumstantial evidence attesting to that hypothesis. There is also some proof that Earhart sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the plane was washed off the reef by rising tides and waves, settling on the bottom some 600 feet below the surface.

In June of next year, TIGHAR will return to Nikumaroro Island with sufficient underwater apparati, including a deep submersible ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to investigate what might be in the sonar image.

For further information on Earhart and the search for her plane, check out

                  "Not all who wander are lost." JRR Tolkien

                       Fair Winds,
                                  Old Salt

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


29 October 2014:  Today is an anniversary of several bad, really bad, events. Of course, everyone remembers the Crash of 1929 - Black Tuesday - October 29th. It contributed significantly to the world-wide depression which lasted right into the late 30's. But that's not what I want to talk about today. The other event was only two years ago and is still painfully fresh in the minds of many people, especially those living at the New Jersey Shore and the south coast of Long Island. "Super storm Sandy" will long be remember by those who lived through it - one way or another. There are still many sites where houses and buildings used to stand, and a few where the wreckage has yet to be cleared completely away. And I know of many who lost their boats in the storm and have just quit boating entirely. But that's not what I want to talk about today either . . . but it does lead us into today's subject: fake distress calls to the Coast Guard.

I can recall, not that long ago, seeing cutters and helos scrambling from the Coast Guard station at Sandy Hook NJ and charging 'hell for leather' out into the Atlantic. The weather was nor terribly bad - the sea was a bit rough and the wind was up a bit, but I have been out in worse on smaller vessels. Lots of people headed to the beach at Sandy Hook to watch a rescue operation - there are many sand bars and rocky places off the shore there which can, and do, prove troubling for passing vessels. The cutters steamed in an obvious search pattern while the helo - I think there were two of them - flew racecourse searches in what turned out to be a vain effort to find several people in a rubber raft which had been deployed (according to the distress call) from a burning and sinking yacht. Very quickly the media got wind of it and the TV vans and reporters showed up, broadcasting live reports of the search. Ambulances lined up on Sandy Hook waiting for the victims to be brought ashore and local hospitals were alerted.

The search continued into the night, the helos's lights making eerie patterns on the water, as the cutters continued to churn the waves to froth in their frantic efforts to locate the victims.

Victims, as it turned out, that did not exist! Some misguided soul in Staten Island, who had a hand held VFH radio, was trying for his 15 minutes of fame...... it took a while (over a year I think) but he got his fame and wound up cooling his heels in the slammer for quite some time, and he got to reimburse the Coast Guard for the cost of the search (which I am sure he paid quickly and in full! Right!) It turns out that the technology is now available to track those calls to their origin, much to the chagrin of the warped idiots who think it's a kick to watch the maritime community spin their wheels in a fruitless effort to rescue a non-existent ship/boat/individual.

So what triggered this now, several years after the fact? Well, it's happened again, this time in North Carolina where some jackass has made SEVEN fake distress calls over the past 2 years! They've been in the New Bern area beginning in September of 2012 with the most recent just two weeks ago. And the hell of it is, the Coasties can not ignore the call, even if they suspect it's a hoax on the chance that it's not. The Coast Guard is, like many of our service branches, sadly under-funded, the $150,000 each of these efforts cost takes funds away from the serious rescues and coastal patrols they do. And that expense does not include the military planes and helos that also respond.

When the Coast Guard was called out to rescue the sailing ship Bounty whose captain made the fatally wrong decision to sail into Super Storm Sandy off the coast of Cape Hatteras two years ago, they did not hesitate, providing aircraft, ships, and personnel who flew into the most horrible weather we can imagine to rescue the survivors of the tragedy. (The captain was never found) 

So these brave men and women are there, they perform, and they really don't need the jerks who think it's funny to fake a radio distress call. This is a criminal activity and, if caught, the perpetrator(s) will go to jail and face serious punitive financial expenses.

"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value."
                                                                                      Thomas Paine

                                              Fair winds,
                                                  old Salt 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


 27 October 2014: It lives! My computer lives! And it has returned to its proper place on my desk, eager to go to work, so here I am again - for better or worse - and playing some catch up with a post I really wanted to write over the weekend, but could not. And of course, it deals with the War of 1812; in fact, one of  the more famous battles of that war and a milestone in American history!
On 8th October, 1812, several American squadrons sailed from Boston in search of British ships, merchants or men of war, to fight. One of the squadrons which included the frigate USS Constitution and USS Hornet (James Lawrence of "Don't give up the ship" fame in command) headed south and ultimately had success off the coast of South America. Commodore John Rodgers in USS President, sailed to the north in company with USS Congress, and Commodore Stephen Decatur in USS United States sailed east with USS Argus in company.
USS United States

 Decatur ordered Argus to sail independently shortly after the ships were out of sight of land and continued on, toward the Canary Islands, in United States. His ship was a heavy frigate and sister ship to Constitution . Rated at 44 guns, 24 pounders, she carried over 50 for this cruise. The rating of 24 pounder refers to the weight of the iron ball the cannon fired.

At dawn on 25th October, lookouts in United States spotted a sail some 12 miles distant, and Decatur order his ship to close. He quickly recognized HMS Macedonian - in fact, shortly before war was declared, Decatur had been aboard Macedonian to visit her captain, John Carden. He knew all British frigates mounted 18 pounder guns and did not have as great a range as his own 24 pounders. He maneuvered to gain an advantage and at 9 AM, opened fired at a long range with a full, but inaccurate, broadside. Macedonian closed some while the American ship reloaded and fired her guns, doing minor damage to Decatur's ship. Further broadsides from each continued and the heavy weight of shot and longer range advantage of the 24 pounders in the American ship told; by noon, Macedonian was a dismasted hulk wallowing in the long swells of the South Atlantic. Carden had little choice but to surrender. He had lost over 1/3 of his crew, half his armament, and all his rig. United States, on the other hand, had eight casualties and only minor damage.

 Now comes the amazing part: Decatur decided, in his continual quest for personal glory, to bring the conquered British ship back to America as a prize! For the record, a foreign warship has been "brought in" by an American ship only twice before or since! (the second, in WWII, was U 505, now at the Chicago Museum). So, the two ships drifted in the Atlantic while Macedonian was jury rigged sufficiently to sail the 1000+ miles to the American coast. Talk about luck: during the crossing, the two vessels encountered not a single British ship (the prize would most likely have been pretty easy pickings for a "healthy" British warship) nor any bad weather! The prize crew sailed triumphantly into Newport RI on 4 December while Decatur took United States New London CT and then to New York. The crew and of course, Stephen Decatur, were the heroes of the day, bringing such a ringing success to the American side in what had been a somewhat lopsided conflict. Macedonian subsequently sailed to New York for the major repairs necessary and became a unit of the American Navy, where she served until laid up "in ordinary" (mothballs, in today's parlance). Interestingly, the ship, through a widely divergent career, lived in one form or another, until 1922 when the hotel built from her timbers on City Island New York burned down!

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph!" Thomas Paine

                                            Fair Winds,
                                               Old Salt

Friday, October 24, 2014


25 October 2014 My computer is totally cooked so I am trying to write this on my Kindle Fire and struggling a bit! Until I get my computer fixed the blog will suffer - like I am!
Please bear with me and hopefully we will get back to some interesting posts next week.

Thank you in advance for your patience! 

                         Fair winds
                                   Old Salt

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


22 October 2014: Yesterday we mentioned that the 21st held TWO great anniversaries. 217th anniversary of the launch of USS Constitution and another which we would deal with separately. So, here's "the other" - the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October, 1805, England's greatest naval engagement and victory, led by the brilliant and often controversial Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson.

A veteran of an amazing number of historic engagements, Nelson had lost his right arm and his eye in two different battles; those handicaps slowed him not a whit! Sadly, in the victory at Trafalgar, he lost his life and England's sea forces were never again to see his equal. But let's talk about the battle for a moment now.
Britain had been engaged in long running war with France and her sometimes-ally, Spain, fighting at sea as well as on land (Duke of Wellington - the "Iron Duke" - ran the land side of things). Sporadic sea battles had occurred with England coming out on top most of the time but it was, in Nelson's mind, time for something decisive, something that would bring this long war with Napoleon to a close. His "watchers" of the coast of France were keeping the French fleet bottled up and a similar blockade of Cadiz kept the Spaniards likewise trapped in their ports. Through a series of fortunate missteps, both fleets managed to make it to sea and, after a long chase through the South Atlantic and the Caribbean, the English fleet found the fleets of France and Spain combined off the coast of Spain, perhaps hoping to make a run for the Mediterranean. Nelson was in command of the Royal Navy fleet consisting of some 57 ships including HMS Victory, his flag ship, two other 100 gun line of battle ships and 4 98-gun "second rates" and various others vessels all the way down to a 12-gun schooner and a 10-gun cutter.
The Combined fleet of France and Spain, under command of Vice Admiral Villeneuve, brought 68 ships, consisting of 33 ships of the line including several of the largest battleships in the world (at the time) one of which was the 136 gun Santisima Trinidad, and two rated at 112 guns! There were six 80-gun ships (4 from France and 2 from Spain) along with 22 smaller 74-gun ships from both nations. As with the British fleet, the Combined fleet also included a handful of smaller ships, brigs (2 masted) and schooners.

Accepted tactics of the age involved the two fleets sailing parallel within cannon range and pounding each other  until one side either lost too  many ships to continue or surrendered. Nelson changed all that then and for the future. He split his ships into two lines and cut the enemy line into 3 parts with his fleet, thus precluding the enemy from firing broadsides once his ships got between them (there are only a couple of guns mounted in the bow and stern of a ship - most are set along the sides). See the diagram here:

His "go straight at them and board them in the smoke" philosophy played an important role in this battle. The tactic effectively isolated parts of the line, separating them from their flagship's signals and forcing them to leave the battle while they reformed a line. It also allowed the British fleet to close with the enemy more quickly and induced any number of individual ship battles in which Nelson felt confident (perhaps with a bit of well-placed national chauvinism!) the Royal Navy would prevail. Previous tactics also included reducing sail to slow the ship, allowing more time alongside, but it also slowed the rate of approach, leaving Nelson's ships vulnerable to broadsides while getting in position. To ensure his ships got into the fight quickly, he order full sail in each, to be reduced once engaged. His initial signal to the fleet became immortalized - today it would be said it "went viral." The signal, flown in flags from HMS Victory read: "England expects every man will do his duty" and remains today one of the greatest flag hoists ever!

I don't want to give the impression this battle was a "slamdunk" for England! It was brutal, devastating to both fleets in ships and men, and costly. The Combined Fleet lost 22 ships, while the British lost none! 

Above is a more modern interpretation of the battle, while a contemporary image is here, to the right.

It should be noted that Admiral Nelson remained on his quarterdeck, commanding and being visible to the men who virtually worshiped him. A French marine, firing from aloft in a nearby ship fired the fatal bullet and Nelson was taken below to die, surrounded by his officers and his doctor. His remains were sealed in a cask of rum (giving rise to several rum based drinks) and returned to England for one of the greatest funerals in English history. Victory, of course, also made it back and today rests in her concrete dock, the "oldest commissioned warship in the world" and open to tourists to marvel at.

There is so much more to this story - books have been written on it - but we will end here. Suffice it to say, the Battle of Trafalgar ranks right up there with the Battle of Jutland, the Battle of the Capes, and the Battle of Midway!

"No captain can do wrong if he places his ship alongside the enemy." Adm Horatio Nelson

                                         Fair Winds, 
                                                 Old Salt 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


21 October 2014: Big day today! Two major anniversaries to celebrate, but we're going to look at them separately since they each deserve the spotlight! So, first up: USS Constitution was launched today in 1797. Happy birthday, old girl . . . or should I say, "Old Ironsides." Yes, the Hartt Shipyard in east Boston slid our Ship of State into the waters of Boston Harbor 217 years ago!

She was built as a result of the Naval Act of 1794 signed by George Washington in recognition of the fact that our newly independent country needed a navy to deal with foreign enemies, most notably (at that time) the Barbary Pirates of North Africa. Six frigates were authorized and built in varying locations including Boston (Constitution), Philadelphia (United States), Baltimore (Constellation), and others. Three of the six were designated as "heavy" frigates, meaning that they would carry at least 44 guns which would fire a 24 pound iron ball; and three as lighter frigates of 36 to 38 guns. As a matter of practicality, none ever carried their rated allotment; it was always more, sometimes by as many as ten!

Constitution fought at Tripoli, the third flagship sent over to deal with the pirates - Edward Preble was the commodore in charge of that fleet and acted most aggressively against the Barbary corsairs. But it was in the War of 1812 that Constitution really earned her stripes . . . and her nickname, Old Ironsides.

USS Constitution finishing off HMS Guerierre
 After a very bad two months of war against England, the ship, under Isaac Hull, encountered and defeated HMS Guerierre in single ship combat. This was the battle in which she won her famous nickname. It was a glorious and most welcome victory for the Navy and more generally, the United States following lots of bad news from the Western frontier. Shortly thereafter, under William Bainbridge, Constitution headed south and found HMS Java off South America. A sharp battle ensued and Old Ironsides once again was victorious.

Constitution (foreground) vs Java
Perhaps one of her most famous fights occurred in February of 1815, technically after the war was over, against two Royal Navy frigates, HMS Cyanne and HMS Levant. She took them both but Levant was recaptured by the British before she got back to a U.S. port as a prize.
After serving as a training ship, barracks, and very nearly being scrapped, she assumed her role as good will ambassador, a role she has performed brilliantly for many years from her berth in historic Charlestown Navy Yard. She was named "Ship of State" a couple of years ago and continues to shine! She sailed under her own sails for the first time in over 100 years in October of 1997, in celebration of her 200th birthday. I was there! Here's a couple of pictures of that amazing event!
in the image to the left, you might notice the Blue Angels over top!
It was an awe inspiring event and then, in recognition of the 200th anniversary of her victory over HMS Guerierre, she sailed again in 2012, albeit in a very light breeze and remained in Boston Harbor. USS Constitution Museum, in the Navy Yard, acts as the "voice" of Constitution and is privately funded, not being an agency of the federal government. the museum is marvelous, and not to be missed if you find yourself in Boston!

USS Constitution is the OLDEST SHIP AFLOAT IN THE WORLD. What about HMS Victory, I heard someone mumble? Well, Victory is indeed older, but she is also resting comfortably in concrete in Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in England. Constitution is afloat and indeed, was underway just about 1 month ago, albeit with a tug alongside. She will be going into drydock for a refit next March and is expected to remain dry for a couple of years. Then she will be back in the water to carry on. 

Incidentally, Constitution is carried on the rolls of commissioned U.S. Navy and is manned by active duty Navy sailors and officers! 

"I feel a strong predelection [sic] for the Constitution. I think  . . . she will be a most fortunate ship; and I am sometimes good in my predictions . . ." Tobias Lear, consul general to the Barbary Regencies in a letter to Capt. John Rodgers, 16 October 1804.

                                       Fair Winds,
                                                Old Salt

Monday, October 20, 2014


20 October 2014: First off, let me apologize for the lag in posting to Maritime Maunder. my computer got sick - no, REALLY sick - Ebola sick! - and it was not given the antidote until today. It had ingested some nasty stuff in the course of being on the WWW, and while I was relying on Norton to keep me safe - Norton actually said I was safe - some ugly things were taking over my machine. I learned from the tech who fixed things for me that the bad guys often reverse engineer Norton and McAfee to find out what they WON'T see and build their malware around that. Never quite understood what pleasure they derive from it, but then I most likely don't think like they do! But here we are, back again.
Now, if you recall from the last post, we were talking about the birthplace of the U.S. Navy, and I told you that the town of Whitehall, NY claimed the title. Don't remember that? OK, go and have a look back at that post and I will wait right here. Go ahead, it's ok!

So, ready now? I am sure some of you wondered why a little town at the foot of Lake Champlain could get away with that, Benedict Arnold's fleet of gunboats notwithstanding. And then, at the end,  I mentioned that Marblehead MA also laid claim to the title.

Well, let's find out, and then you can make up your own mind which you prefer! 

Whitehall's claim dates to summer, 1776, when General Arnold was ordered by the federal government to build a fleet of gunboats for use on Lake Champlain. He did build the first fleet of vessels as instructed. He fought the British (the outcome of that is not important to the argument), and Whitehall went into the history books as the site of the first American fleet. But, here's the rub: in September of 1775, the first ship outfitted with funds from the Continental Congress was in Marblehead. General  John Glover (army, again! What's with that? More on that in a moment!) took command of Hannah, and was commissioned to find and capture British supply ships. On 6 September, he captured the provisions sloop Unity and in November, another Marblehead ship, Lee, captured the British brig Nancy, filled to the gun'ls with munitions. So that should do it, right? Not so fast, my friend.

 General John Glover and his schooner,  
Hannah - they actually sailed from Beverly, just across the harbor. So does that give Beverly right to claim the title too?

Further, to add to the confusion, most of the prizes sent in went to Beverly, not Marblehead. So maybe Beverly does have a legitimate claim. But wait a moment! We're talking about the birthplace of the U.S. NAVY, right? Remember, I mentioned that John Glover was an Army general? And who did he report to? General George Washington! General in the ARMY. It should be noted also that Benedict Arnold was also a general in the ARMY. In fact, there was NO Navy yet and at this point, all the ships came under the control of the army. And Machias, ME would like a nod of participation here because in June of 1775, a small sloop manned by woodsmen, captured a British Warship in their waters. That vessel didn't fall under the aegis of the Army or anyone else! And let us not forget Providence, RI from whence originated the first calls to the Continental Congress to establish a Navy! Everyone wants a piece of the action! But back for a moment to Marblehead.

It's is a wonderful town, with a fabulous harbor and, during the War of 1812, provided a safe refuge for USS Constitution when she was being chased by the British. Look at this chart: 
                         OK, so Marblehead, right? Well, let's see what the Navy says: according to the Navy Department, the act authorizing the creation of the U.S. Navy was approved in Philadelphia on 13 October 1775 and that the first four ships outfitted under that act were outfitted in Philadelphia. It also notes that 13 October is the official birthday of the Navy. BUT . . . it carefully avoids naming any town as the birthplace, saying with true politically correct spin, that many towns contributed to the effort of creating the Navy.

So there you have it, friends. I will leave it at that and you can pick whichever one suits you. And thanks to HGG for starting this whole imbroglio! It was fun to write these posts and I hope you enjoyed reading them!

PS - I almost forgot: I promised a bit more on General Glover. It was he and his "Marblehead boatmen" who manned the boats that took George Washington and his army across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, 1776, en route to attack the Hessians in Trenton, NJ. (And no, Trenton does not have a claim to birthplace fame!)                      

 "It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." G. Washington in letter to Lafayette

                                                     Fair winds,
                                                               Old Salt

Thursday, October 16, 2014


6 October 2014: After several articles regarding the Navy - ships and birthdays - a reader suggested I offer some insight into the "birthplace" of the Navy: Whitehall, New York. Some years ago, I was giving a lecture in Salem, Massachusetts and at the conclusion of the prepared remarks, as is my habit, I took questions from the audience. In an effort to claim some local "bragging rights" one of the audience asked which was the birthplace of the Navy - Marblehead (booo!) or Salem (yea!). I actually surprised myself when I answered "Neither; it was Whitehall, New York." Silence from the audience. And then some began to laugh, chiding the questioner with something like, "he got you there, bud!" 
I had seen the sign at Whitehall laying claim to being the birthplace of the Navy in many trips to Vermont for skiing and naturally felt they had a justifiable case.

 As the sign points out, Benedict Arnold (before he sold out to the British at West Point) received orders to have built in Skenesborough New York (later Whitehall) a fleet of gunboats to defend Lake Champlain, specifically Valcour Island, from British invasion. He did and met the British fleet off Valcour. While he did not beat them, he did effectively delay them from getting down to New York long enough to give Washington time to more fully fortify the city and Manhattan.
With most of his boats destroyed by the British fleet, and realizing he was defeated, Arnold scuttled the remain boats and got away with his men.
So, with the federal mandate to build a fleet, albeit a small one composed of small craft, Whitehall has a justifiable claim to the title of "Birthplace of the US Navy."

As a matter interest, Arnold's gunboats sank almost intact, upright, with masts standing up. His "flagship" Philadelphia was discovered in 1935, virtually intact, by Lorenzo Haggulund, who raised it and displayed it as a tourist attraction with minimal conservation and no rules about touching, climbing on, or anything one might expect today. In 1964 it went to the Museum of American History. There are others on the lake bed, found and mapped with ROV's (remote underwater vehicles) but not yet raised. The cold water, lack of organisms to eat the wood, and depth, have protected the wrecks from too much deterioration.

  This is the restored Philadelphia

                                                     A sketch of how one of the other gunboats rests on the bottom.
A photo of how the boat was originally displayed! Can you imagine! 

Here is a photo of a reproduction of the Philadelphia:
So, that's why Whitehall New York claims the title, Birthplace of the U.S. Navy . . . . but, wait a minute! Look here:

                                                    Hmmm. Success has many fathers!

". . .this first time when a sail truly filled and the boat took life and knifed across the lake under perfect control, this was so beautiful it stopped my breath." Gary Paulsen  Caught By the Sea

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


14 October 2014: Actually, yesterday was the big day - but we were busy writing about the recovery of USS Cole (DDG67) - so here we are today. Better late than never! 239 years ago yesterday, the Continental Congress voted to procure and fit out two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions and troop ships supplying the British Army in America. They were armed with "carriage guns" and a "suitable number of swivel guns" and crewed by 80 men and officers. With the Continental Army sadly lacking in almost every area of supply, these ships and whatever they might capture became crucial to the successful revolution.

During the course of the conflict - six long, frustrating years - the navy acquired, either through buying or building, some fifty ships of varying sizes and strengths. The maximum number at any one point was about twenty. The problem was that we kept getting them sunk or captured by the more experienced and skilled Royal Navy. But we prevailed!

At the end of the war, Congress sold the remaining ships, released the sailors and officers, and figured we didn't need to worry about that any more. The Framers of the Constitution, however, felt differently, and empowered Congress to provide and maintain a Navy. This resulted in the order, in 1794, to "construct and man six frigates" which would be administered by the War Department. You may have heard of some of them: USS Constitution, United States, President, Congress, Chesapeake, and Constellation. (They all have figured in one or more of my books.) The first three were listed as heavy frigates, each carrying 44 guns in their main battery (but often carried more) and the second group of three were lighter, carrying 36 or 38 guns.
USS Constitution sailing on her 200th birthday - the oldest and the newest (at that time) frigates in the US Navy

Then Congress, in 1798, established the Department of the Navy. This date is also celebrated as the Navy's Birthday, just to add to the confusion! And then, to further confound, there is Navy Day which was designed to give recognition to the Naval service and was established in 1922. The date chosen by the Navy League for that day was 27 October, Theodore Roosevelt's birthday, in recognition of all he did for the modern navy. And internally, within the ranks of active duty and retired Navy personnel, the Navy celebrates its own birthday on 13 October as mandated in 1972 by CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) Elmo Zumwalt.

So take your pick and celebrate one or all of them! And be grateful for what has evolved into the most powerful maritime force in the world!

"To our ship: never has she failed us!" Captain William Bainbridge, in a toast to USS Constitution

Monday, October 13, 2014


13 October 2014: In our last post, we told you about the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) and what followed in the immediate aftermath. Now we will focus on the recovery and rehabilitation of the ship, and her restoration to active duty. Not a small feat!

After the attack and once the crew got the flooding stabilized, and the wounded and dead off the ship, she was towed out to deeper water off Aden, where the heavy-lift vessel, MS Blue Marlin, awaited her arrival. Blue Marlin is owned by Offshore Heavy Transport of Oslo, Norway and would carry Cole to Mississippi.

To load the destroyer, the heavy lift vessel is sunk down to allow the cargo, in this case, Cole, to float on, and then pumped out to raise her up.

Blue Marlin then steamed with her cargo to Pascagoula, Mississippi and the shipyard of Northrop-Gruman Ship Systems there. On 13 December, Cole was off-loaded by reversing the process used to put her on the heavy lift vessel in a specially dug channel and put in a floating dry dock there. A month later, after being stabilized, the ship was transported overland to the land facility at Litton Ingalls Shipbuilding to begin the restoration. She was now placed in a work bay close by to where she had been built just five years previously.

On 14 September, 2001, Cole was re-launched, secretly at night to avoid a large media event which had been scheduled prior to the September 11 attack, the Navy deeming it ill-advised to draw attention to the launch. Perhaps, on further thought, a big media event might have been just what the country needed in those dark days following 9/11. Show the world we can take a punch, but keep fighting.

In any case, Cole completed her restoration and on 19 April 2002, returned to her homeport of Norfolk, Virginia.

"Here today, up and off to somewhere else tomorrow! Travel, change, interest, excitement! The whole world before you and a horizon that always changing!" Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

                                               Fair Winds,
                                                         Old Salt

Sunday, October 12, 2014


12 OCTOBER 2014:  Besides being Columbus Day, it is the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the USS Cole (DDG 67) in the port of Aden, Yemen. The ship is (I didn't say "was" because she is still on active duty, having been repaired - more on that shortly) an Arleigh Burke class destroyer - the 17th in her class. Here's what she looks like:

One of the better designed and functional destroyers of the "modern" navy!

It was a the morning of 12 October and Cole had moored out in the harbor at Aden to take on fuel. A small craft - it was a hard-bottom inflatable - manned by two men and carrying over 500 pounds of explosives - approached the port side of the ship. Alongside, the shaped charge in the boat detonated and blew a hole 40' X 60' in the side of the destroyer. The explosion blew through the galley where the crew had just lined up for the midday meal and also opened the engineering spaces to the sea.

 17 sailors were killed outright and 39 were wounded in the blast. The crew fought the fires and flooding for three days before it was brought under control. After an inspection by divers, it was found that the keel was not damaged.

The injured men were removed to the Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Germany and from there to the United States. 

This was the deadliest attack on a US warship since the Iraqi attack on the USS Stark in May 1987.

Al-Qaeda took credit for the attack (they had failed in an attempt on the USS The Sullivans in Aden in January of the same year due to an overloaded attack boat which sank during the run-in) and the so-called master-mind, Khalid al_Mihdhar was not caught (in spite of presidential promises to the contrary!)  and would return to the United States to help fly American Airlines Flight 77 which crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11/2001.

The British Type 23 frigate, HMS Marlborough first on the scene to help the stricken Cole and provided both medical and damage control assistance. 

A monument/memorial was erected in Norfolk to commemorate those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

"Distilled of all impurities, these days (Autumn) are the true sparklers of the year." Mary Jane Hayes
                                                                                                                                Eye of the Sea

                               Fair Winds,               
                                              Old Salt

Thursday, October 9, 2014


9 October 2014: Yesterday's post gave some highlights and overview - along with some pictures and a neat video - of the French replica frigate L'Hermione. With renewed interest, sparked by Tall Ships America, Operation Sail and the bicentennial of the War of 1812 gathering of these magnificent vessels, I expect we will see more of tall ships appearing on the horizon with the passage of time. There is currently building in Rhode Island a modern version of a full rigged ship named the Oliver Hazard Perry. Full rigged means three masts fitted with square sails and a mizzen mast with a gaff rigged fore- and aft sail. Here's a rendering of what she will look like:

The hull was begun in Canada where a failed project to build a replica of the British ship HMS Detroit, a 20 gun vessel which was captured by Oliver Hazard Perry on Lake Erie became available at the right price. The 138' hull had cost $3 million but the Rhode Island Trust procured it for $325,000, had it towed to Rhode Island where work commenced to create a modern (below deck only) full rigged ship of 207'. Topside she is all traditional and has recently been "masted" (her masts were stepped). She is the largest privately owned tall ship and the largest civilian sail training vessel in the United States. She will sail as Rhode Island's official tall ship - a good will ambassador - and school ship, a floating classroom.

With almost 7 miles of rope rigging - both running and standing controlling 20 sails of 14,000 square feet, she is the first full sized tall ship to be built in the United States in over 100 years!

She will carry no passengers; everyone aboard will be functioning as crew and will take an active role in her management and sailing the ship. She meets and exceeds all USCG and ABS mandates for a ship of her size, and will accommodate 49 people overnight and 100 for day sailing.

While she is not ready to sail yet, she will be soon and will undergo sea trials once she is complete.

                                                    Fair Winds,
                                                            Old Salt
Thanks to the Rhode Island Trust for this information and the images.  OS

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


8 OCTOBER 2014: A long awaited project in France has finally seen success! The reproduction French frigate of 1780 fame (more about that in a moment) has been launched and sailed! This is the first wooden tall ship built from scratch in recent times by the old methods. A remarkable task no matter how you cut it!
The project began life as a concept in 1993. "Let's build a replica of L'Hermione, the frigate that carried Lafayette to America in 1780 (near the end of the American Revolution) and sail her to America in 2015 in commemoration of that event." Plans began and teams researched British archives for drawings of the lines of the ship. They ultimately used the lines of Concorde, an exact sister ship of L'Hermione captured by the British during the Napoleonic wars. The original L'Hermione had wrecked in 1793 and her plans were never archived, apparently. But the British had a habit of taking the lines off any ship they captured and those archives have proved a real treasure-trove for modern day researchers. As a matter of interest, the organizers decided to build their replica in Rochfort on the Bay of Biscay, the same town where the original was built (the original only took 11 months, though!).
The original 1780 L'Hermione

Construction began in 1997 as funds were raised and by 2000, the hull had taken shape. In 2011, the hull was complete. Construction was done by volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, who worked as they were able on the project. (Thus, 11 years as opposed to 11 months!) She was launched in 2012 and in 2013, her masts were in place.

 The ship headed to sea in September of 2014 for sea trials and the timeline held for sailing her to America in 2015. When she arrived originally at Boston, she carried the Marquis de LaFayette who brought the news that France would help the Patriots with their revolution. And indeed, in 1781, Admiral deGrasse' s fleet arrived at the Virginia Capes in time to preclude British assistance to General Cornwallis in his fight with Washington at Yorktown. (The Battle of the Virginia Capes) The fighting ended with the Patriot victory in that battle.

                                            Here's L'Hermione in September under sail.   
And clicking on the link below will hopefully show you a time lapse video of her creation!

Not to be outdone, the American's have constructed a tall ship - differently built - in Rhode Island and we'll have a look at that project in a future edition.

                                                     Fair winds,
                                                          Old Salt