Saturday, January 31, 2015


31 January 2015: Some years ago, maybe 15? - H.L Hunley a working submarine created by H.L Hunley for the Confederates was raised from the depths of Charleston SC harbor where it had lain for some 130 years (2000). Clive Cussler's exploration group NUMA found the wreck a few years before that (1995) but a lot of wrangling over who owned it and who would pay to raise this relic of the Civil War delayed its trip to daylight for years.

In April of 2005, I had the privilege of seeing the Hunley as she lay in the conservator's tank in North Charleston. I was indeed fortunate that the day I visited with Maria Jacobsen, Senior Conservator in Charge of the project,
Maria Jacobsen


the water had been drained from the tank for testing and replenishment. This allowed me to see the entire vessel without the distraction of the water. It was quite extraordinary.

Probably the one thing that struck me most forcefully was how advanced the sub was, considering it had been built in 1863; many of the features in it are still incorporated in modern subs, albeit with some variations. In Hunley's case, the sub carried a crew of eight, six of whom propelled the ship through the water using a long crank, not unlike a modern crankshaft.
The men sat on opposing benches and turned the crank which drove a single screw in the stern. The idea was to attach an explosive "mine" to the side of an enemy ship, back off, and "let 'er blow!" A 16' spar with a sharp point on the bow of the sub would accomplish the objective - and did! On a February night in 1864, Hunley went out into the harbor at Charleston, submerged, and stuck her explosive charge into the wooden hull of the USS Housatonic in concert with the Confederate effort to break the Union blockade of Charleston. It worked and the Housatonic did in fact sink. So did the Hunley, though at this point, scientists are uncertain as to why. Most believe the chop in the harbor flooded the boat when they surfaced some distance away with the hatch open.
While the vessel was in the tank to leach out the salt water, scientists were limited in what they might do.

opened sections of hull


But now with the ship dry, they are able to open spaces unavailable previously and will likely be able to determine how the ship sunk. First, the concretion surrounding the hull and everything within it had to be removed, a tedious job for sure, done with small pneumatic chisels and dental tools. Now more in depth investigation can proceed. The ship is managed by "Friends of the Hunley" who are dedicated to conserving and eventually exhibiting the ship.

                                                       Fair Winds,
                                             Old Salt

Thursday, January 29, 2015


29 January 2015: How about this, friends! Two in a row! Today's topic was sparked by a news article I noticed that tied to a wonderful book I had read some years ago.

The book tells the tale of the steam ship (Paddle wheeler) SS Central America which ran from Panama to New York, collecting passengers from San Francisco who took a train across the isthmus of Panama to avoid the often trying voyage around Cape Horn. She ran the route in the mid 1850's which might suggest to the casual observer that she was carrying gold recovered in the Great California Gold Rush, along with now wealthy prospectors, among others. And you, casual observer, would be correct!

On a trip from Panama to New York in September 1857 she carried 477 passengers and consignment of gold ingots and freshly minted $20 Double Eagle gold coins from the San Francisco Mint. On 12 September, 1857, she encountered a hurricane off Cape Hatteras and sank, killing all but about 50 of it's passengers, taking them and possibly 21 TONS of gold to a watery grave some 8,000 feet below.

Enter, some 130 years later, Tommy Thompson, a brilliant young inventor and innovator, who not only found the wreck, but designed and built a remotely operated undersea vehicle which could handle everything from a porcelain tea cup to a 1 ton lump of something.

He attracted investors and proceeded to scavenge the wreck, bringing up some $50 MILLION in gold, bars, coin, and dust.
Then he screwed his investors claiming the insurance companies (those that had originally insured the ship and the gold) were wrangling over who owned the gold (they were indeed!) and there would be a delay in a payout. Of course, Thompson had already got his! That was in 1987. He lived in obscurity in Florida until about 2006 when the insurance claims were settled and a warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear for a hearing in Columbus OH regarding a suit brought by his none-too-pleased investors. Then he disappeared.

Another undersea exploration/salvage company, Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida deep ocean exploration outfit, found the wreck and began diving it with their own ROV, having found some 45 gold bars and over 15,000 gold coins to
date. They claim the discovery is one of the greatest shipwreck/discoveries/stories of all time. 

And yesterday (28 January 2015), U.S. Marshalls caught the elusive Tommy Thompson in a Palm Beach County (FL) Hotel. As the warrant for his arrest was issued in Ohio, it is likely he will be extradited there to stand trial. I am sure will be an interesting one. Stay tuned.

"A happy man has no past, while an unhappy man has nothing else." Richard Flanagan: The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

                        Fair Winds
                                Old Salt

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


28 January 2015: Sorry for the gap in posting (for those of you who noticed there was a gap), but got too busy with my current book and it took me away from the blog.

I thought you might be interested to read a bit about the Australian school ship Young Endeavour which is on a 'round the world cruise with students. She left Sydney Australia 37 days ago and yesterday, was turning Cape Horn (bottom of South America and some of the most treacherous water in the world.)

Young Endeavour off Cape Horn
The ship was a gift to the government and people of Australia from the United Kingdom in 1988 to mark the Bicentenary of Australia's founding (as a penal colony at Botany Bay). She was built in England, laid down in 1986 and left there for Australia in August of 1987 with a crew of English and Australian young people. The government of Australia determined that the Royal Australian Navy should manage the ship and established a "Young Endeavour Youth Scheme" as a sail training program. The vessel has participated in many tall ship events around the world.

She is 144 ft overall (93 ft on the waterline) and has a draft of 13 ft. Rigged as a brigantine, she carries 5,500 square ft of sail. She also sports 2 Perkins diesel engines totaling 165 hp.

She is a fine looking ship and her world voyage is only one of several she has/will undertake. The current itinerary calls for a February run from Rio to Cadiz, March to Cannakale, April to Southampton, May to Amsterdam, June back to Rio, then on to Cape Town, and on to Fremantle by September. She is planning another similar voyage in 2016.


                           Fair Winds to you, and Young Endeavour

                              Old Salt

Friday, January 23, 2015


23 January 2015: OK - this is not exactly maritime but it does have to do with water, albeit fresh, but the saving grace is that what we're going to be talking about gets us to salt water. This is pretty amazing - at least to me - and I thought there might be some of you out there that would find it so also.
Here's the deal: there is a creek/river/stream that actually divides the United States in half and connects the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. And you thought the only way that happened was the Panama Canal... well, not so much, it would seem.

In the Teton Wilderness of the Bridger-Teton National Forest (Wyoming) is a creek, quite unremarkable, that has quite remarkable hydrological properties: on the Continental Divide, at Two Ocean Pass, the creek splits into two streams. One flows to the left and goes to the Pacific Ocean (eventually) and the other goes to the right, reaching ... yep, the Atlantic. Of course, each joins up with other streams or rivers to reach the final destination, but this it where it begins.

In theory, it is possible for a fish to make the roughly 7,500 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, and is believed (please don't ask me by whom - I have idea!) that it was by this route that the cut throat trout migrated from the Snake River (that's on the Pacific drainage side) to the Yellowstone River, and yes, that would be on the Atlantic side.
The site of the split in the streams was named a National Natural Landmark in 1965 and was given the official name of Two Ocean Pass National Natural Landmark. Parting of the Waters is just a quarter mile northwest of the Pass.
And now you can dazzle your friends with your brilliance, unless they read this in which case, your cover will be blown! And thanks to my good pal Hank Gulick for suggesting this as a worthy topic. If it's not, blame him!
                            Fair Winds,
                                Old Salt

Monday, January 19, 2015


19 January 2015: OK - Maybe the headline is a bit of a come-on, but it did get you at least to here! Might as well hang around and see what I am talking about.

In 1838, the United States launched a world-wide exploratory mission called, cleverly enough, the United States South Seas Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. Catchy, right? So most people just referred to it as the "Ex. Ex." Much easier for everyone. It was commanded by naval officer, Lieutenant Commander Charles Wilkes who had very little educational experience but was an established leader, though a tyrant.

Wilkes on his return made commander
He left Washington Navy Yard with a six vessel squadron, for the South Atlantic, his intention being to get to Cape Horn in the warm summer months of January-March and head south to Antarctica from  there. His other priority was the Pacific, most particularly the islands to the south, called Fiji, and the Pacific Northwest.

He carried a scientific team as well as surveyors - he was more focused on the surveying aspect which frustrated the scientific team no end. There was little to explore that would offer a new opportunity - that hadn't already been pretty well documented by English navigator, James Cook. After time in New Zealand and Australia, Wilkes turned his eye south, and headed for the frozen wasteland of Antarctica.

Twice he tried, finally succeeding in landing a party of surveyors and scientists on terra firma in those southern climes, and on January 19, 1840, claimed it for the United States. Of interest: the United States led the fight in 1959 for a treaty to preclude ANY national claim to any of Antarctica, naming it a scientific "international free zone" for all nations.

The Wilkes expedition, the Ex.Ex. brought back a huge collection of "stuff" which became the genesis of not only the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, but also the National Botanic Gardens there. There are still remaining a host of artifacts that have never been displayed. The artists he brought along created amazing drawings and paintings of scenes, flora and fauna, and indigent people.

scene from the Andes in Peru
 There is a vast wealth of information on this voyage of discovery as well as artifacts and images. I would commend to your attention a book by Nathaniel Philbrick called Sea of Glory which is quite good and gives some great insight to the problems the tyrannical Charles Wilkes created for himself during the course of the 4 year voyage.

      Fair Winds,
                                               Old Salt

Friday, January 16, 2015


16 January, 2015: Yesterday, 15th January, was the anniversary of a tragic event in Boston in 1919 which initially killed eleven and injured fifty people and dozens of horses. It is still referred to as the "Great Molasses Flood" and while not exactly celebrated in Boston, is still remembered.

Think about it: it's about lunch time on an unseasonably warm day. You are walking down the street, or riding in your carriage, or on a horse in the North End of Boston and just happened to be passing by the United States Industrial Alcohol Co. building when a tank, containing 2.5 million gallons of crude molasses, scalding hot, explodes and sends forth an eight foot tidal wave of the sticky stuff. The rupture was preceded by the rivets in the tank shooting out like bullets from a gun.
the number 1 is where the disaster occurred
It engulfed everything, sweeping away freight cars being loaded on a nearby siding and caving in the building's doors and windows. Workers in the building's basement had no chance of surviving as the burning, viscous liquid poured down on them.
After it blew out the side of the building, it flowed into the street with enough pressure to knock over the local firehouse and push over the beams supporting the elevated railroad nearby. All in all, 21 people ultimately died along with dozens of horses. What a way to go!

The cleanup involved hosing the still liquid molasses into the Charles River (God knows the ecological disaster that created!) and into sewer grates in the street.

As might be expected, the disaster brought forth an epic court battle, involving more than 100 lawsuits foiled against the United States Industrial Alcohol Co.. A six-month investigation, involving over 3,000 witnesses and 45,000 pages of testimony ultimately determined the fault was with the company as the tank had not been strong enough to hold the molasses (duh?). About $1 million changed hands in the settlement. Today? Probably closer to $100,000,000! (just me editorializing!)

So, that's the story of one of the worst disasters, and surely one of the weirdest, in Boston history.

                          Fair Winds,
                                   Old Salt

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


14 January 2015: Ok - maybe the title of this post is a trifle misleading. Everyone knows the American Revolution actually ended in 1781 when Lord Cornwallis surrendered his army to George Washington following the Battle of Yorktown (VA). So what happened? Why did the title of the post mention 1784? OK, you asked, so here it is.

The Revolution fighting ended at Yorktown, but there was no treaty, no agreement that America won, no understanding of what would be happening going forward until there was a formal treaty, ratified by our government and the British government. The combined French-American victory at Yorktown, fostered in part by the successful French fleet action at the Battle of the Capes (those would be Cape Charles and Cape Henry at the south end of the Chesapeake Bay) which precluded Cornwallis from being resupplied by the British fleet - or barring that, evacuated, precipitated the fall of the Tory Government in England run by Lord North, and the installation of Lord Rockingham's Whig government. Talks of the peace treaty and negotiations began in April of 1782.  

Actually, they were held in Paris because the French expected the Americans would coordinate their diplomatic plan/strategy with the French, but the distrust between the Americans and the French negotiators was such that the Americans went their own way, pursuing an independent course.

Negotiating for the Americans were John Adams, John Jay, Ben Franklin (yep, that Ben Franklin), and Henry Laurens. Interestingly, Britain had only one: Richard Oswald. The negotiations included very important issues of fishing rights (off the Grand Banks), and Britain ceding all land between the Allegheny Mountains in the east and the Mississippi River in the west which had the effect of doubling the land mass of the United States.

For their part, the Americans agreed to do what they might to end the persecution of the Loyalists remaining in the country and to restore any property confiscated in the war. Both countries agreed to not block creditors seeking to recover war debts.

The treaty was signed on 3 September 1783 and ratified by the Continental Congress on 14 January, 1784.

And that my friends, is why today is important and why we say the Revolution actually ended today, 1784! And the Treaty was called the Second Treaty of Paris, the first being at the end of the French Indian War, 10 February, 1763.

Of course, Britain would adhere to few, if any, of the provisions of the Treaty and that, among other issues, would lead us to fight them again in 1812.

                                      Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt

Saturday, January 10, 2015


10 January, 2015: The day before yesterday, 8 January, was the anniversary of the burial of Vice Admiral of the White, Horatio Lord Nelson at St. Paul's Cathedral in London.

That would have been in 1806. I am sure you all recall that Admiral Nelson fell at the hands of a French sharp shooter as he sailed HMS Victory into the fray at the Battle of Trafalgar and died shortly thereafter in the arms of his flagship's captain Hardy. That date - I know, you all know that date - was 21 October 1805.
Nelson falls on deck from sharpshooter's ball
So they bring him back to England, pickled, as it were, in a barrel of rum (and yes, there are countless anecdotes about that and more than a couple of drinks (rum, naturally) such as "Nelson's Blood" and the like. The Royals and the Parliament are so upset by the loss of their heroic Admiral Nelson that they organize a state funeral for him. Normally, one would have to be at least a duke to qualify for that. So, really a big deal! His body lay in state at the Royal Naval Hospital in Greenwich, and then his casket (which offered a silhouette reminiscent of a sailing ship) was placed on a barge. The barge had been built for the use of Charles II. (see what I mean about this being a big deal) The casket was under a black canopy surmounted by black ostrich feathers.

Nelson's funeral barge
60 ships escorted the barge on its melancholy voyage from Greenwich to Whitehall - it took all day.
The next day, the casket was placed on a funeral carriage and taken in procession to St. Paul's Cathedral. The "hearse" was pretty fancy, even for then!

People lined the streets along the route, which had been previously published as a memorial to Nelson. One chap, obviously in attendance, wrote to friend that "the sound of all the men removing their hats as the carriage went by sounded like a wave breaking on the shore." He also noted that the procession was so long, that when the head of it reached St. Paul's, the tail had yet to leave the palace of Whitehall!

At the cathedral, 12 of Nelson's sailors lifted the coffin from the carriage and carried it in, while 6 admirals held a canopy of black velvet over it. French and Spanish flags, captured at Trafalgar hung from the dome of the church.

The 4 hour service was lit by a huge lantern, specially constructed for the event which contained 130 individual lamps. Thousands of mourners, each having purchased a ticket, viewed the ceremony, which offered the music of some of the world's finest composers: Handel, Purcell, Arne, and Croft.

While Admiral Nelson's remains still lie in St, Paul's, but perhaps more visible to any who look, is the tower, Nelson's Column, in Trafalgar Square.

They really did it right, for their heroes, back then, didn't they!
                                 Fair Winds,
                                   Old Salt

Thursday, January 8, 2015


8 January 2015: Well, friends, it has finally come: the last major event of the War of 1812 and the celebration of the bicentennial. I am sure you all know I am talking about the Battle of New Orleans, right? Yeah, I am sure! OK so here's what you need to know. And I am not going to give you history of the War of 1812 - for that you will want to read my book, "...our flag was still there" available on Amazon and from the National Maritime Historical Society ( (Neat how I worked in that plug, eh?)

artist's fanciful rendition of the heroic Jackson
Battle of New Orleans

The actual "Battle of New Orleans" was fought 8 January 1815, but the fighting began on 23 December 1814 when the British began their final incursion into U.S. territory. They landed by boat through Lake Borgne, defeated Lt. Thomas Ap Catsby Jones in his gun boats, put there simply to observe and report. Unfortunately, when the British showed up in their ships and gunboats, the wind died and without oars or a breeze, Jones could not get away and so was forced to fight. He did, obviously lost, but delayed the British approach sufficiently for the defensive lines to be improved around the City. As a matter of interest, the "Ap" above is Welch for "son of" and is not a typo!

The British then moved up swamps (They call them "bayous" down there; it's a much nicer sounding name than "swamp") and set up their base on an abandoned plantation from which they would march onto the city. Andrew, Jackson, in attendance since November, had different ideas, of course.

He wanted to fight well south of the city, so he marched his troops to within 1 mile of the British camp and there established his lines. A bombardment commenced on 31 December and included both artillery and naval guns from 2 American ships. Skirmishers from Jackson's force added to the general mayhem. General Pakenham, the British general in charge and well known for his brilliance in battle, determined it might be prudent to await the arrival of his reinforcements from the fleet still in the Lake and off the mouth of the Mississippi River; he expected some 6,000 more troops would make his attack more meaningful! With that in mind, he ordered his men back to their camp. Jackson ordered his men to increase their defenses, build more earthen redoubts, and re-locate artillery. His line now stretched for 1 mile, held 8 artillery pieces, and was supported at one end by 2 naval guns removed from the American ship.

Some of his men fought from behind cotton bales, provided by the citizenry to aid Jackson's efforts. The soldiers were members of the Seventh Infantry Regimen, one of the 5 oldest regiments in the U.S. Army. Their insignia, which has seen more action than any other American Infantry unit, features a cotton bale and they are called the "cottonbalers."

Pakenham attacked at dawn 8 January; he had originally hoped to attack at night, but confusion in orders and bad weather delayed him and under a blanket of fog, he quietly moved his men into position within about 500 yards of Jackson's line. Then the fog lifted. The surprise on both sides was complete, but Jackson's men, especially his sharpshooters, opened fire on the 5,000 red coated British Regulars in front of them, cutting them to pieces. As the advance drew closer, and in rigid formation, the musket men opened up, further decimating the approaching Red Coats. Grape shot (Lead balls in a canvas bag fired from canon. The bag breaks open and the result is akin to a load of really heavy buckshot.) added to the carnage and the best that England had to offer was cut to ribbons, including General Pakenham, who was, according to eyewitness accounts, "cut asunder by a canon ball." The whole thing was over inside of 30 minutes, the British suffering some 1,500 dead and 500 taken prisoner. And Jackson was credited with saving New Orleans.

Of course, the irony was that the war was over; the Treaty of Ghent had been signed on Christmas Eve, but had yet to arrive in the America. So while the Battle was a huge win for the United States, if had absolutely NO effect on the outcome of the war.

But it did provide fodder for a tuneful rendition which we all knew from the late '50's sung by Johnny Horton, entitled "The Battle of New Orleans" " 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip..."

                     Fair Winds,           
                            Old Salt

PS: Andrew Jackson was the only U.S. President to serve in BOTH the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812! He was president 1829-1837.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


6 January 2015: Every once in a while, some creative soul decided to re-write history for some reason, often because it suits their own version of what happened. Rarely does this "revised history" have any bearing on reality or relevance to an actual event.

Back on 28 August 2014, I wrote a piece titled "Bad, no Really bad, history." It dealt with the writing of the Star Spangled Banner and  Francis Scott Key's involvement with the Battle of Baltimore. The mangled version of events had made its way through cyber space and included a beautifully narrated video that was so fictitious, so fabricated, and so egregiously wrong that it made me angry, hence the rant in Maritime Maunder. Well, folks, it's happened again!

There has been an email floating around the cyber world about a ship that's near and dear to my heart for many reasons, USS Constitution, America's Ship of State, and the oldest commissioned warship ship afloat in the world, though come March, she will enter drydock and thus, not be afloat for a few years while major work is accomplished on this 218 year old lady. Here is the story that continues to appear:


The U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) 
as a combat vessel, carried
48,600 gallons of fresh water
for her crew of 475 officers and men.
This was sufficient to last six months of
sustained operations at sea.
She carried no evaporators (i.e. fresh water distillers).
However, let it be noted that according to her ship's log,
"On July 27, 1798, the U.S.S. Constitution sailed from Boston with a
full complement of 475 officers and men, 48,600 gallons of fresh water,
7,400 cannon shot, 11,600 pounds of black powder and
79,400 gallons of rum."

Her mission: "To destroy and harass English shipping."
Making Jamaica on 6 October, she took on 826 pounds of flour and
68,300 gallons of rum.

Then she headed for the Azores , arriving there 12 November.
She provisioned with 550 pounds of beef and
64,300 gallons of Portuguese wine.
On  18 November, she set sail for England .
In the ensuing days she defeated five British men-of-war
and captured and scuttled 12 English merchant ships,
salvaging only the rum 
aboard each.
By 26 January, her powder and shot were exhausted.
Nevertheless, although unarmed she made a night raid
up the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. Her landing party captured a
whisky distillery and transferred
40,000 gallons of single malt Scotch 
aboard by dawn. Then she headed home.
The U. S. S.  Constitution arrived in Boston on 20 February 1799,
with no cannon shot, no food, no powder,
no rum, no wine, no whisky,
and 38,600 gallons of water.


To anyone even remotely familiar with American history, this whole story falls apart almost at once! Look at the date the fallacious piece offers (likely to add credibility to its nonsense!): "JULY 27, 1798." Well, folks, our country - that would be the United States of America - was NOT at war with England then. We had just begun the "Quasi-war" with France, and with England as the perennial enemy of France, they would have been at least tacitly on our side. And the article continues to add to the preposterousness (is that a real word?) as it goes on. "She defeated five British men of war..." Not so much; in point of fact, Constitution did defeat five British warships in her career, but not until the War of 1812 - which began some 14 years later! Then it says she captured and scuttled or burned 12 English merchants, salvaging only the rum from them. Hmm. Let's see about that: a ship, civilian or navy that attacks the vessels of a foreign country not in a time of war is called  .... a PIRATE! So does that make Old Ironsides a pirate? According to this, it does. I don't think so, friends!

And the bit about ravaging a whiskey distillery in Scotland doesn't even deserve to be debunked; it is so silly as to be totally unbelievable! Finally, at the end, our Ship of State (she wasn't then, but is now!) arrives in Boston with no shot or powder, no liquor but plenty of water! Stupid, silly, and again, totally unbelievable to any with a even the remotest knowledge of ships.

USS Constitution off New Jersey, July 1812
So, where did this come from? Which creative genius started this annoying - but funny -  bit of false history? We did some research and discovered what is probably the genesis of the tale. A couple of U.S. Navy sailors, during a dull news day on a ship during WWII, fabricated the story as a joke to fill some space and circulated it on the ship. From there, it eventually found its way ashore and into someone's archives. It has managed to show up every so often, first as a short "article" in the odd magazine (where there were no fact checkers!) and now, on email. While it does provide a laugh, it also provides fodder for our easily fooled populace who slept through high school history class!

Old Ironsides on her 200th birthday

If you are one of the people sending this email around cyber space, please either stop, or label it for what it is - an imaginative and funny story without a shred of basis in history. End of rant!

                     Fair Winds,
                         Old Salt


Sunday, January 4, 2015


4 January 2015: Well, here we are in January and another year is in the books. I hope it was good for all of you and my wish is that 2015 will be even better! I thought we mark the new year with an event that led to a whole industry and, indeed, a new class of ship. It all began on January 5th 1818.

In the autumn of 1817, four New York shipping men got together and founded what they called the American Black Ball Line. Their names were: Isaac Wright, Francis Thompson, Jeremiah Thompson, and Benjamin Marshall. They decided that what the world needed was fast regular cargo and passenger service between New York and England. While cargo vessels heretofore had been slow, heavy, and without a schedule (they sailed when they had a full cargo), these four chaps gambled that people would welcome a faster - much faster - service that ran on a regular schedule, carried valuable cargo, and some passengers in luxury and others in a lower fare accommodation called "steerage."

They found or built four ships; fast, hollow-bowed, tall rigged with limited space for luxury passengers and set two of them in  Liverpool England and two in New York. They advertised that these ships would leave on a specific date each month.

On 5th January, 1818, the first of these left New York in a raging blizzard; she was the James Monroe, and her overseas counterpart left Liverpool on the 1st of the same month. Monroe carried eight passengers and a full hold of cargo.
While there were, at the time, other ships sailing the same route that were more luxurious, larger, and equally fast, they did not offer a regular sailing date every month, irrespective of their loading. This quickly became a very desirable advantage, and the Black Ball Line soon became profitable and enjoyed excellent growth. Their distinguishing feature was the large black ball painted on their fore tops'l, and their flag, a crimson swallow tail featured a black ball in the center.

As the packet trade matured, races across the Atlantic between competing lines sprung up, sometimes encouraging some serious wagering. One of the first took place in 1837, New York to Liverpool, between the Black Baller Columbus and the Dramatic Line's Sheridan. A pot of $10,000 awaited the winner. Leaving New York on 2 February, Columbus handily won the race and, of course the money, in 16 days. Sheridan finished two days later.
The New York waterfront, especially along the East River quickly grew into a prime seaport, with competing lines owning their own docks and warehouses along the waterfront.

The packet ships soon gave way to the graceful, extreme clippers well known today as the subject of many maritime paintings, both contemporary and modern. Ships such as Flying Cloud, Sea Witch, Fair American, and Cutty Sark sailed the highly lucrative China Route, carrying tea from China to the western world. Some set records for speedy passages that stand today (for single hulled vessels). As a matter of interest, Cutty Sark, one of the last clippers built (she's also built of iron), remains afloat in Greenwich England, near the National Maritime Museum in that city.

See you soon.       Fair Winds,
                                   Old Salt