Saturday, March 28, 2015


28 March 2015: On this date, in 1814, Captain David Porter surrendered his severely damaged ship, USS Essex, in Valparaiso Harbor, Chile. His antagonists, the British ships HMS Cherub and Phoebe, had chased his ship to sea from the main harbor in neutral Chile but a lost topmast forced Porter to seek shelter in a bay right next door and the Brits followed him in, taking him under fire after he had anchored. More on that in a moment, but first, a bit about Essex.

She was built in Salem MA in 1799 and paid for by the citizens of Salem and Essex Counties. Several ships had been built around the country in those turbulent times in the same manner and donated to the government; they became known as "subscription frigates" and included among others USS Philadelphia which went on to fame for being captured in the Barbary Wars. Essex was armed with shorter range carronades that fired a 32 pound iron shot. She protected US shipping (it was the merchants mostly, who paid for her) and during the Barbary Wars (1800-1805) saw action in the Med.

When the War of 1812 began, she was assigned to a squadron including Constitution and Hornet. They sailed in late 1812 for the southern reaches of the Atlantic, cruising for merchant or navy ships to attack. Essex was delayed in sailing (from Boston) and the plan was they would rendezvous in one of a series of locales to the south. That was the plan, but reality got in the way and Porter never hooked up with Bainbridge (in Constitution) or Lawrence in Hornet. On 31 December 1812, Porter took his ship around Cape Horn and into the Pacific and in so doing, became the first American naval vessel to do so.
He decided the British whaling fleet working the whale-rich Pacific would be plum targets, especially since most of them had no idea their country was at war with America! Essex did well: in just over a year, they captured 20 British whalers, helped resolve a native dispute in Indonesia, and put a major hurt on the economics of the British interests there. But he had to reprovision and where better than neutral Chile. He arrived in January of 1814.
As with all good things, they come to an end and in February of 1814, 2 British frigates showed up in response to messages sent back to England of the depredations Porter was causing. Since he was in a neutral port, they could do little and since there were two of them, Porter wasn't eager to head out and take them both on.
Valparaiso Chile before the battle (Essex on right)

So, during some bad weather and after six weeks of being trapped, he tried to slip out, but a broken main topsmast forced him into a bay just outside the harbor. Where he was quickly joined by Phoebe and Cherub.
With the short range guns (he had tried to convince the Navy department to give him long guns to no avail) he stood little chance but for 2 1/2 hours he managed to resist.

Finally, he had little choice but to strike and Essex became a British prize. Porter was sent home on his parole and reached Baltimore in time to help Commodore John Rodgers set up the defense of that city  (remember, Ft. McHenry, Star Spangled Banner!) in September.

So, that's the sad tale of USS Essex and her unfortunate meeting with two British warships ... in a neutral country. On this date, 201 years ago!

 Until next time,      
                                 Fair Winds,
                                  Old Salt


28 March 2015: Since we began this blog last August, I have watched the number of our viewers grow - and I want to thank all of you who have read, hopefully enjoyed, and taken the time to comment, either through the blog or by email, text, or twitter.

As of this morning, we passed 3200 readers! I am stunned! They come, in order of numbers of readers, from: United States, India, Ukraine, Cayman Islands, France, Germany, Brazil, Italy, Romania, and even, Australia! I have no idea how some of the folks in distant lands got wind of Maritime Maunder, but I am glad they did. And perhaps they will share the address with their friends of similar interests.

So again thank you all very much. It is encouraging and I will endeavor to continue putting up interesting and possibly even informative items. But they will continue to be in English - my command of the other languages leaves a great deal to be desired!

Following are  few of my favorite images from past postings for your viewing pleasure!

Charles W. Morgan summer of 2014

Billy, Navy Mascot

USS Constitution on her 200th birthday

To the right is the Revolutionary War monument to a party of British sailors who perished ashore in 1783. It stands on Sandy Hook NJ

So until I come up with something interesting, I again offer all of you my thanks for the success of Maritime Maunder, and wish you

                                Fair Winds.

                                     Old Salt

PS should any of you be moved to, you can follow me on twitter: @1812war

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


24 March 2015: We received a fair amount of comment on the post a few days ago about the Volvo Ocean racers on the leg from New Zealand to Brazil and since there is some new exciting (to some of us, anyway!) stuff out there, I thought I would give a short update and a rather amazing bit of film sent in by the Russian boat.

So the lad and gals (there is one boat crewed just by women! God bless 'em!) have had a really rough  - and scary - 12 hours down there where the wind howls and the seas are mountainous. Three of the boats actually tipped over - not all the way (see the video at the end) but still, pretty scary - but no one was hurt. And finally, the women's crew suffered a knock down in the early morning. And of course, most of the drama was at night! Flying gybes, broken gear, and major delays - this is a race remember. Here are a few pictures of what it's like on board when it gets wet and a video of the Russian boat doing what they call a "Chinese gybe". (The Chinese boat experienced on too! - wonder if they call it a Chinese gybe also!) We used to call it a "goosewing" gybe.

And finally, the promised video: (click on the link!) You will also get a pretty fair idea of the speed these boats attain when the wind is up!

Volvo Ocean Race gybe

May all your personal gybes be controlled! Wishing you calm seas and

                                  Fair Winds
                                           Old Salt

Sunday, March 22, 2015


22 March 2015: Following a drawn out and testy correspondence that spanned over two years, two senior naval officers, one disgraced and one a hero, fought a duel at the Bladensburg Dueling Grounds on this date in 1820. Only one - as is frequently the case, the wrong one - died.


In June 1807, USS Chesapeake departing the Chesapeake Bay, was fired on and boarded by HMS Leopard. 4 American sailors, said to be deserters, from the Royal Navy, were taken off the American ship. (As it later developed, only one was a Royal Navy deserter.) In the process of stopping Chesapeake, 4 men were killed by British shot and 20, including the senior officer, were wounded. Chesapeake carried James Barron as commodore and was headed for the Med where he would take over command of the U.S. Mediterranean Fleet. Chesapeake returned to Hampton Roads VA, her condition and casualty list horrifying the citizenry. Note that at the time, America and Britain were at peace! The incident took 4 years to resolve politically, and has been determined to be one of the major causes of the War of 1812.

With the American ship just underway from Hampton Roads, she had not yet prepared for sea and her guns were not ready to fire in her own defense. In fact, only one American shot was fired.

James Barron

Commodore Barron ordered the ship surrendered and allowed the British officers and Marines to muster his crew and remove the four. A very serious problem. Along with being unprepared for sea and any contingency, Barron allowed a foreign power to come aboard, muster his crew, and remove several men. James Barron, along with the American captain, Gunner, and captain of Marines, was , found guilty and sentenced.

On the court martial board sat some of the most distinguished senior officers of the time, including Stephen Decatur, a man who put honor and country above all. He had tried to be excused, citing his bias against Barron, but was refused, possibly because the Secretary of the Navy felt the same way!

Stephen Decatur

Barron was "released" from the navy for 5 years during which time he lived in Europe to avoid the embarrassment of remaining in his own country. When it was time for his sentence to expire, he requested reinstatement in the navy which ultimately was granted - in 1821, after he had killed Stephen Decatur.

The animosity between Barron and Decatur arose from both Decatur's position on the court marital board and his subsequent refusal to agree to Barron's reinstatement. A lengthy chain of correspondence ensued, after the War of 1812, which culminated in the duel, a duel to which Decatur agreed only reluctantly. There were many inconsistencies in the duel itself, but the end result was that Decatur was mortally wounded, dying later in the day. The navy and the country lost the man who was likely the most heroic figure since John Paul Jones. His funeral, in Washington DC, was as large scale as for a president.

Decatur had won immeasurable fame during the Barbary Wars mainly with his expedition to burn the captured U.S. frigate, Philadelphia, which, while under the command of William Bainbridge, had been captured by the Tripolitian corsairs. Decatur led a small party to board, kill the pirates, and burn the ship in February of 1804 and, for his efforts, was promoted from lieutenant to captain!

During the War of 1812, he not only took on and beat in single ship combat the British frigate Macedonian, but sent the enemy ship into Newport, RI as a prize of war. Only one of two times that has been done! The man's sense of honor was famous, his crews loved him, and he was a brilliant strategist.

So as we noted at the begging of this post, it was a sad day for the country when we lost this hero!

                             Fair Winds,
                                  Old Salt


Friday, March 20, 2015


20 March 2015: I am sure that the sailors among you were not the slightest bit confused by the subject line. For the rest of you, be patient and you will learn and possibly enjoy some neat stuff. Sailors, you know what the Volvo Round the World Race is - used to be the Whitbread years ago. This iteration has not been without its problems - not the least of which was one of the boats running onto a mid-ocean reef at 19 knots. Needless to say, it did not end well, though no one, miraculously was hurt! Well, not quite true: the boat really took it badly! But today's post is about the Southern Ocean - that's the latitudes between the bottom of Cape Horn (tip of South America) and Antarctica. The weather is always crappy with big winds and frightening seas. Down there, there is no land to interfere with the wind as it blows west to east right around the globe. And blow it does.

So the story today is that the boats have left New Zealand (it's not a non-stop race; they go to specific ports, fix the boats, reprovision, and have a restart for each leg.) and are on the way to Itajai Brasil.

The race committee had to move this part of the course (called the "ice gate") a bit to the north due to a significant number or really big icebergs in the path of the racers - you can probably imagine what whacking one of those might do to a boat a good deal smaller than the Titanic!

They have been sailing at 20+ kts and, by the way, these are NOT catamarans, but single hulled and quite light boats of about 70'.

Did I mention big seas and high winds? Seas have been 5+ meters tall (for those of you playing along in the U.S. that's about 17+  ft.) and the winds have been the remnants of cyclone Pam, running in the high 30-40 kts. It is probably exhilarating for a while, but I suspect it gets old after a few days of it!

So for those thrill seekers among you, here's a video of what it's like on one of these amazing boats.....

Racing in the Southern Ocean (click)

 So, keep your safety harness on, wear your life jacket, and don your foulies!

Until next time,  
                                  Fair Winds,

                                           Old Salt

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


17 March 2015: OK - It's St. Patrick's Day and I would be remiss not to acknowledge it even though I have nary a drop of Irish blood in me veins! So we'll offer a few facts about the Emerald Isle that perhaps you might not have known.

First off, Let's talk a bit about St. Patrick's Day itself. The first parade was, you guessed it, in New York City. In 1762, Irish soldiers (conscripted into the British Army) marched through the city in a show of solidarity. The tradition continued in the United States, sponsored, of course, by the Irish immigrants and wannabe Irish. It was not until 1995 that Ireland began to promote the tradition on a world-wide basis in an effort to inspire tourism to the Emerald Isle. Now, of course, St. Patrick's Day is a tradition celebrated around the world - well, mostly. Perhaps not so much in the Middle East.

 So, who was St. Patrick, anyway? As a young man, Patrick, born in England, was carried off to Ireland as a slave in 433 AD by Irish marauders. He was 16. He spent 6 years as a herder in Ireland and finally, guided by a dream, escaped back to England. Continually guided by dreams, he studied for the priesthood, was ordained and went back to Ireland. He spent 40 years there, converting thousands to Catholicism, living in poverty, and building churches.
He died in 461, on March 17th. (Of course, the calendar was different then and the date is likely inaccurate.) While the four leaf clover has kind of become a symbol of things Irish, Patrick used a three leaf clover to describe the Trinity to his followers.
The 17th been celebrated in Ireland as a quiet religious holiday, with church in the morning and food and drink in the afternoon. Leave it to the Americans to turn it into what it is today!

A bit now on Ireland's history: there have been, over the years, five countries that have attempted to conquer Ireland; none have succeeded!
Rome tried between 78 and 84 AD, fighting against "barbarians" but failed to bring them under the aegis of Rome!
Following the disastrous Spanish Armada in 1588, several dozen Spanish ships sought refuge on the coast of Ireland. Most were beaten to kindling on the rocks surrounding the coastline and those that escaped ashore were summarily rounded up and killed. End of story!
During the years of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, France (yes, France!) attempted to use Ireland as a base for capturing England. Obviously, no success there! And as recently as 1902, France toyed with and invasion of Eire while the British troops were all off fighting the Boers in Africa, and actually sent spies there to meet with rebel forces. But nothing came of it.
Of course, Germany tried both in 1914 and 1940. Obviously, nothing came of those ill-fated attempts either. And in connection with the 1940 plan, Churchill directed the English army to storm the Republic of Ireland with the intention of repelling a German invasion, should it materialize.

A final note on the influence of Ireland in America. Interestingly, the concept of hyphenated identity i.e. "something-American" came from the early Irish immigrants whose pride in their old country gave rise to calling themselves "Irish-Americans." Everybody else jumped on the band wagon a bit later.

So enjoy your green beer, "green eggs and ham" and for a day, be Irish! Until the next time,
                                Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt

Friday, March 13, 2015


13 March 2015 ... a Friday: Cue the music, something scary maybe from "Friday the 13th"! (Never saw it myself - does it have music?) Anyway, we have two subjects today, one a bit frivolous and one just interesting (to me, in any case!). Let's go with them in the order of the title: so 16 first.

I read an article in the local paper (NJ) about taking a 16" gun barrel from the USS New Jersey, currently a museum ship docked in Camden NJ, to set it in Battery Lewis in the Highlands of New Jersey. 
This is a 16" turret on USS Wisconsin. Note scale of musicians to guns!

When an Iowa Class battleship (the only ones with the 16" guns) fired a broadside, I am told the ship moved sideways about 100 feet! So these guns are pretty awesome!
USS Iowa firing her 16" guns

There have been fortifications along the New Jersey coast since WWI - Sandy Hook's Fort Hancock is likely the most well known due to its National Park status, but there also is a fort with two batteries, on the hill opposite Sandy Hook, the Highlands,
which happens to be the highest point of the American coast line between Maine and Florida! How about that, all you New Jersey knockers! The site in is Hartshorne Woods and was built during WWII as the major defense for New York Harbor. The emplacement was built for 2 16" naval guns and is the ONLY 16" gun emplacement in the state. The casement is a 600' steel and reinforced concrete "bunker" covered with earth and designed to withstand the assault of both naval guns and aerial attacks.

Not NJ but the same idea

The original guns were mounted on Army carriages and set in place in May 1943. For those of you familiar with the NJ coast, the range of these guns was from Point Pleasant to the south to Long Beach NY in the north and they fired a 16" (diameter) projectile weighing more than 2 tons! As a matter of interest, during one of my deployments to Viet Nam, my ship, a destroyer, was firing targets from about 5 miles offshore and hitting them some 1-2 miles inland; the USS New Jersey was firing from about 15 miles offshore (over our heads, which was interesting) and hitting targets some 10 miles inland!

So, the Park System is bringing the gun barrel, first by train to Red Bank sometime between 11 and 13 March (hey! that's today - so it's already there!) and then by truck to Hartshorne Woods to set it into Battery Lewis.

Interiors will be renovated and eventually, the site will again be open to the public. Worth the trip, I'd suggest. I am told the project is being funded through a private foundation, Friends of the Park.

So that the serious part - the "16" in the title. Now to the lighter side - the "13" part:

Some people have a "thing" about Friday the 13th being bad luck - it's called triskaidekaphobia in case you want to impress people with your brilliance! - (I was discharged from active duty in the US Navy on Friday the 13th, so I guess, it's not too bad for me!). Anyway, there has been a story making the rounds for years about a Royal Navy attempt to dispel the stigma attached to Friday the 13th as well as another old chestnut, "never get underway on a Friday!" So here it is:

"Sometime in the 19th century, the Royal Navy attempted to finally dispel the old superstition among sailors that beginning a voyage on a Friday was certain to bring bad luck. To demonstrate the falseness of this belief, they decided to commission a ship named HMS Friday.

NOT HMS Friday!

Her keel was laid on a Friday, she was launched on a Friday, and she set sail on her maiden voyage on Friday the 13th, under the command of a Captain James Friday. She was never seen or heard from again."

In fact, there has never been any Royal Navy ship of that name. It is unclear where the story originated; I am sure that some writer, bored, ginned it up to entertain his readers and it subsequently gained some traction.

So, with the hope that this Friday the 13th is not unlucky for you, I wish you

                                    Fair Winds,
                                       Old Salt


Monday, March 9, 2015


9 March 2015: Today in 1862, the era of wooden ships passed into history. The Battle of Hampton Roads - often called the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack - proved that survival of a warship depended on it being constructed of iron (later steel). When the Yankees abandoned Hampton Roads, VA early in the Civil War, they burned and sank a frigate, USS Merrimack. Steam propulsion was already in use (USS Constellation - the one in Baltimore - was the last all sail propelled ship built for the U.S. Navy - 1854) and after failing to find a shop that could build an engine suitable to propel the weight of an iron clad ship the South leadership thought that raising the hulk of the Merrimack and taking out the engine would answer nicely. Once they got it up, they determined to use the whole ship, cladding it in iron. They also made it a ram, meaning it was designed to  ... yes, ram another ship and sink it. So they towed the hulk to a graving dock (think Drydock) and began the process. They armed the ship with 10 guns: 6 9" smooth bore Dalhgrens, 2 6.4" and 2 7" Brooke rifles. Initially, she was only given one "shell" of iron; had that remained the case, the Battle of Hampton Roads might have gone somewhat differently! In the end, she wore plates of 2" thick iron backed by 24" thick laminate of iron and pine. She was commissioned on 17 February as CSS Virginia.

The North learned through their intelligence network what was cooking in Virginia and Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, requested of Congress the funding to develop and build an ironclad ship themselves. In August of 1861 the money was approved and a board appointed to consider designs. John Ericsson's design of a monitor was selected and USS Monitor  was born.  
  She was built in Brooklyn NY and was a highly radical design, often  dubbed the "cheesebox on a raft."
 Ericsson armed her with a only two guns, each an  11" Dahlgreen mounted in a cylindrical turret. There was one flaw, a major one, as it turned out: the pilot house was mounted directly in front of the turret which meant that the guns could not fire dead ahead.

CSS Virginia steamed into the Chesapeake Bay on the morning of 8 March with the intent of laying waste to the wooden Union warships anchored off Hampton Roads. While the Yankee ships fired on the ironclad behemoth approaching them, their shot had little effect. USS Cumberland was chosen by Capt Buchanan of  the Virginia as his first target and he rammed her, holing her below the waterline.

She sank quickly, continuing to fire her guns as long as they remained above the water. With 121 of her men dead and another 30 wounded, it was a bad loss for the Union. The Confederate ironclad then turned to the other Union ships and while was unable to sink them, did do considerable damage. The toll was the worst Navy defeat until WWII! But Monitor was on the way!

The two met the morning of 9 March and lasted for hours.

Virginia dwarfs the Monitor
It ended when a shell from Virginia hit the little pilot house on Monitor and  temporarily blinded Capt. Worden with debris that flew into the viewing slits. Monitor had to withdraw, and the exec, Dana Greene took over. But Virginia, seeing their foe pull back, assumed it was over and withdrew themselves to repair the substantial damage she received.

So essentially, it was a draw, but the important thing here is the success of the ironclad ships.

Through a series of events I will not go into here, the Monitor later sank off Cape Hatteras and her sunken hulk was found and partially salvaged in the 1990's. The turret and one of her guns are currently undergoing conservation at the wonderful Newport News Mariner's Museum. 

In a marvelous exhibit devoted entirely to these historic ships, they have recreated the turret of Monitor as it looked just out of the water, full of mud and human remains, as well as a full sized mock up of Virginia loading aboard one of her guns. 

 Maybe we'll do a piece on that in another post.

For now,      

                      Fair Winds,
                         Old Salt

Friday, March 6, 2015


6 March 2015: Today happens to the anniversary of when a Committee of the New York Provincial Congress instructed Major William Malcolm to dismantle the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. The tower stood in the then disputed territory of Sandy Hook and the good folks in New York were afraid the light would guide British ships around the treacherous waters of the "Hook" and into New York Harbor. Now, a glance at the light house would suggest that "dismantling" it might be challenging at best, impossible at worst.

Realizing the impossibility of the assignment they gave the major, the committee subsequently told him to "use your best discretion to render the lighthouse entirely useless." Which he did by removing the lens and oil lamps from the tower. Of course, it only delayed the British for a short while; they soon put new lamps and reflectors in place. And then invaded New York, which they still held at the conclusion of the Revolution in 1781! They did not pack up and leave until the Treaty was signed in 1783! The Patriots tried again to put out the light but using cannon mounted on small boats in Sandy Hook Bay and shooting at it. While they did manage some damage, they were chased away and the mission failed.
The light house was first turned on the night of 11 June 1764 after the Provincial Congress of New York had raised the funding for it by conducting two lotteries. This after 43 New York merchants requested it, having lost over 20,000 pounds sterling in shipwrecks at the Hook. Of course, then, the land was part of the colony of New York, not New Jersey. The two states bickered over who owned the land and the light house for many years, until, in 1787, the Federal Government assumed control of ALL lighthouses. IN 1996, Sandy Hook Light fell into the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, now part of Gateway National Recreation Area

What many people who visit the lighthouse don't realize is that when it was built, it was at the tip of Sandy Hook. In the subsequent 250 years, littoral drift has piled sand up beyond the light and adding nearly two miles of land beyond it! See the map, here:
And while the very top of the map is cut off, you can easily place the light house well inside the tip of the Hook!
During the Spanish American War, WWI and WWII the light was dimmed to preclude the enemy from finding New York Harbor. Unlike the British during the Revolution, the Germans did not turn it back on! And during the Cold War, the Army still controlled Sandy Hook and kept it closed to tourists, making the light "off limits." The Army maintained a Nike missile base there, and one can still see artifacts from those days. But now it's back on the tourist "hit parade" and daily visited by zillions of school children and families alike.
See you soon.
                                 Fair Winds,
                                    Old Salt

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


4 March 2015: After yesterday's post on the frightening thought of falling overboard from a cruise ship and my comment that most of the cruise lines have been reluctant to spend the money for the available and mandated technology that would help mitigate the problem, I received several notes back asking about the technology. A "thank you" to reader Hank Gulick and a couple of others. So, without further ado, here is the answer.

The ship on the left, above, is a Carnival Cruise Line vessel. As noted in yesterday's post, Carnival does NOT have the man overboard (MOB) technology in their ships. In fairness, the law only requires that ships built after 2010 have it; earlier ships would have to retrofit the equipment. The ship on the right, above, is a Disney ship; they ALL have the MOB detection equipment. So what is it?
The equipment involves a series of sensors scattered about the ship as well as a wide-angle sensor on the bridge which can detect motion along the sides of the ship - either the motion of someone leaving...or someone coming aboard (unauthorized). My friends at gCaptain provided the following diagram:
Sensors would detect a body going over the side, and, while the sensors and display on the bridge (see below) could not prevent it, they would at least alert the watch on the bridge that there was a problem in time for them to do something about it. Additionally, CCTV cameras around the ship can "see" someone getting ready to jump, or being pushed, etc. Of course, in most cases, these would only be valuable in after the fact investigation.
There are several companies who manufacture this equipment, and the following is a clickable link to one of the websites called MOBtronic:
Obviously, I am not soliciting for them, just offering it as an informational service.
So, there you have it, friends. A final word of advice if you're planning a cruise:
"Don't go too close to the edge.!"
See you soon,
                                Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


3 March 2015: Hi friends! Here I am again. Have you even gone to sea - I mean, really gone out - way out, like hundreds of miles from land? I have. One of the more unsettling mind games that can beset people who go off shore is what happens if you fall overboard.... I mean, you surface from your fall (or being pushed - geeze! - and see the stern of your vessel steaming/sailing/drifting (your choice) away, out of reach and going faster than you can swim to catch up. I think we can all agree that this is a really scary proposition! Mercifully, it has not happened to me. That said, I did experience from the "on board side" the tragedy of a man overboard when I was in the Pacific in the Navy.... All I could think of was what it must have felt like for the poor bastard who went in the drink. We did not recover him and we were in a place where the nearest land was about 8 miles away ... straight down!

So, moving along now ...

Some of you may be aware that in the winter months I live in the Caribbean. On an island. We get cruise ships visiting on a daily basis and these behemoths carry from 1,500 to 3,500 people, all out to have a good time, visit wonderful places (like my island!) and eat, drink, and make merry!

Carnival Cruise Lines - their distinctive "winged" funnel makes them easily identifiable from a long way away!

Mostly, these ships do their steaming at night so they can be in port during the day for their passengers to be able to get ashore and spend money in the local economies. And that's (at night) when the tragedies occur. Maybe a bit more to drink than necessary, a fight with a companion, a dare, a desire to end it all, or just plain bad luck, but someone goes overboard, and often leaving the ship a long distance from the ocean's surface. If they're still alive when they hit the water (I have heard than hitting the water from a really high place can be akin to hitting concrete!) they will surface in time to watch their ride steaming away ... One can only imagine the feelings that would generate! And were one drunk initially, I might suspect that the realization of one's situation might tend to instill some level of sobriety ... maybe not!

So here it is March and already, I have read reports of at least three people who have gone overboard from cruise ships! In one case, a man went in the drink from Oasis of the Seas, one of the largest cruise ships in the world. They were off the coast of Mexico (but well away from the coast) and no one noticed he was gone.

That's the view - chugging away at 20+ kts, except that it's dark!

Miraculously, Oasis was being followed by a Disney ship Magic and someone, the next morning, saw the man in the water and they picked him up!! It doesn't usually end that way, though.

Disney Cruise ship
Now, you should know there is technology that will alert the bridge if someone goes in the drink; it's called Man Overboard Detection Devices and their installation on ships was signed into law by Obama in 2010. So why didn't the alert sound? The law applies only to ships built after 2010. For any built before that, the installation is voluntary and to date, only Disney ships have it. For the record, there have been 243 cases of people falling overboard from cruise ships since 1995, the most from Carnival Cruise lines (to be fair, Carnival owns more brand names than any other line, so it seems logical that their numbers would be higher). But they also have only very limited use of Man Overboard Technology in their ships.
So, friends, if you're headed out on a cruise to escape the cold, stay alert and if you drink (to excess) stay away from the rails!
Until next time, I wish you all
                             Fair Winds.
                                Old Salt

Sunday, March 1, 2015


1 March 2015: Hi all! I can now devote more time to writing for Maritime Maunder as I have finished "IN HOSTILE WATERS" and sent it off to the editor - so it's kind of out of my hands. So for better or worse, you probably will be seeing more of me than in the most recent past.

A couple of weeks back, 16 February to be specific, there was an anniversary that few if any were even aware of: the burning, by Americans, of the American frigate USS Philadelphia, in Tripoli Harbor. USS Philadelphia was an American 36-gun frigate built in 1799. In 1803, she deployed to the Mediterranean to assist in dealing with the depredations of the Barbary Corsairs. For those of you not familiar with these nice folks, they were pirates, cut-throat and cruel, form the four countries of the coast of North Africa: Tripoli (now Libya), Algiers, Tunis, and Morocco. The pirates, for all intents and purposes, acted as the navies of the rulers of those countries and if a nation who wished to trade in the Med did not pay them "tribute" (read bribe), their ships were fair game for the pirates. They captured the innocent merchantmen, stole their cargoes, enslaved their crews, and kept the ships. Not friendly or even neutral. And after the U.S. was out from under the thumb of Great Britain, we were also out from under their protection and our ships were easy targets for the corsairs. President Jefferson finally sent some ships over, but after three commodores were unable to accomplish anything, the fourth, Edward Preble, had a sufficient number of ships to bring an end to the problem. One of them was USS Philadelphia.


She was commanded by William Bainbridge and on 31 October, 1803, due to a major error on his part, was captured by the corsairs in Tripoli harbor; she had run aground and essentially the Tripolitan gunboats took her without her firing a shot; actually, she couldn't as Bainbridge had ordered her guns heaved overboard to lighten the ship in hopes of refloating her. Not so much! He also ordered her foremast chopped down, obviously thinking that would do the trick. It did not.

Stranded and attacked by gunboats of Tripoli

Needless to say, Preble found nothing amusing about the situation and sent in a volunteer crew in a captured Tripolitan xebec (that's pronounced "zee-bek" in case you wondered). 
Stephen Decatur
On the night of 16 February, 1804, Stephen Decatur sailed the xebec into Tripoli Harbor with 75 men and officers and through a ruse, got themselves alongside the captured frigate. They boarded, killed the Tripolitan pirates guarding the ship, and set her aflame.
a contemporary image of the event

They made good escape in the xebec (renamed Intepid,) and put themselves, or rather their commander, Stephen Decatur, permanently into the record books as heroes. In fact, Decatur, a lieutenant at the time of his raid, was jump promoted to captain as a reward.
Marine Artist Paul Garnett's masterful rendition

Should any of you have an interest in learning more about this brilliant event in our Navy's history, check out The Greater the Honor by yours truly. It's on in digital and paper. (that's a "clickable" link) Some have even declared it a good read.

By the way, some of you astute readers out there may have heard the Admiral Nelson referred to the raid by Decatur as the "most daring act of the age." Not so. It was created out of the head of one of Decatur's biographers back in 1844. Of course, Nelson and Decatur were both dead, so it could not be refuted!

See you soon, and
                                     Fair Winds,
                                         old Salt