Tuesday, December 29, 2015


29 December 2015: I said I wouldn't bother you all again until after Christmas - and it is well after Christmas now. I hope each of you enjoyed a wonderful Christmas with family, friends and fun! So on to today's important subject: USS Constitution vs HMS Java on this date in the first year of the War of 1812.
USS Constitution on her 200th birthday

It was Constitution's 2nd victory (first was in August against HMS Guerriere when she won the sobriquet "Old Ironsides" and brought joy to the people of the United States after a string of devastating defeats) and caused the Admiralty of the Royal Navy to change its policy regarding American heavy frigates.
 The ship had left Boston in early August of 1812, William Bainbridge commanding. She headed south, in company with USS Peacock, James Lawrence (Yes, the "don't give up the ship" James Lawrence) and cruised off the coast of Brazil looking for targets of opportunity. On the morning of 29 December, a strange sail was sighted and Captain Bainbridge went to investigate. It proved to be HMS Java, a Royal Navy frigate similar to Guerriere. Both captains determined to engage.

A savage battle - and Constitution's most devastating - ensued. In the second salvo from the enemy, she lost her wheel - completely - and Bainbridge was forced to rig jury steering at the rudder head below and shout his orders to a crew hauling on tackles to turn the ship. Java tried unsuccessfully to rake (fire a full broadside down the length of the other ship., either from astern or from forward) and then the two ships fouled, Java's bowsprit caught in Constitution's mizzen rigging. Bainbridge cleared the foul by shooting away his enemy's bowsprit.

The battle raged on, each captain seeking an advantage, firing devastating broadsides, and trying to avoid the enemy's fire.

Three hours later, and after a thorough and horrendously devastating battle, Java struck her flag, but was so badly damaged that Bainbridge had no choice but to burn her to the waterline and sink her. Naturally, he removed the wounded and healthy from the ship before destroying her. Java lost nearly a third of her crew, while Constitution hardly escaped unscathed: ten killed outright, forty-six wounded (four later died of their wounds) and five officers also wounded, including Bainbridge. The ship suffered her worst damage of the war, losing her fore and mizzen masts, her main topmast, both main tops'l yards, spanker boom, gaff, and trysail mast. Additionally, her standing rigging was severely damaged, requiring substantial time to repair.
But Bainbridge sailed her home to accolades and honors, and a lengthy refit in Boston. The ship would not escape to sea again for some time, but did manage it before the war ended in early 1815.
                             Fair Winds,
                                      Old Salt

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


23 December 2015: As promised, here is the final post until after Christmas. It is something I find very appropriate and fitting for this blog at this time of year. Written by Robert Louis Stevenson, the poem is called "Christmas at Sea" and clearly is written by someone who has had the experience.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) 

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day’
But ‘twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the main tops’l, and stood by to go about. 

All day we tacked and tacked between the South head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day was cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head. 

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide race roared;
But every tack we made brought the North Head close aboard.
So’s we saw the cliff and houses and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with this glass against his eye. 

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every longshore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we smelled the victuals as the vessel went about. 

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all the days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born. 

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china plates that stand upon the shelves. 

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day. 

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
“All hands to loose t’gallant sails,” I heard the captain call.
“By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,” our first mate, Jackson, cried.
….”It’s one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,” he replied. 

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood;
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light. 

And they heaved a might breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old. 

Until next time,  a most joyous Christmas to you all!
                                        Fair Winds,
                                              Old Salt

Monday, December 21, 2015


21 December 2015: This will be the penultimate post until after Christmas but I thought it worthy, at this time of year, to share with my readers - kind of a reward for having to read all the stuff I have posted over the past couple of years! This one is a visual and aural feast!

HMS Dragon, RN destroyer

Make sure your sound is on, click below, and sit back and enjoy the Royal Marine's very creative concert, mostly filmed at the Royal Dockyards in Portsmouth, UK.

Christmas concert, Royal Navy

Until next time,
                         Fair Winds,
                             Old Salt

Thursday, December 17, 2015


17 December 2015: As if the last post about the success (NOT!) of the LCS - Littoral Combat Ship) was not enough, this star-crossed class makes yet another appearance in the official press again today. I could not resist sharing this piece from the US Naval Institute with my readers as it indicated that now on an official level, someone might be awakening to the fact that the whole class of ship is flawed.

Here are #'s 1 and 2 of the LCS class
As memo from SecDef Ash Carter released today has directed Ray Mabus, SecNav, to cut the planned number of LCS ships from the original 52 to just 40. Which, in your scribe's humble opinion is about 34 too many. None of the 6 currently launched are operating the way they are supposed to and some are not operating at all! (See the previous post).

As a sidebar to this LCS story, the most recently launched, USS Jackson, has stirred up a controversy over her name, Jackson. The navy claims she is named for the town of Jackson Mississippi, (which of course is named for Andrew Jackson, president of the United States and not such a nice guy to the Indians or, so it would appear, his slaves) rather than the person. But those individuals, who get louder and more strident with each imagined wrong, put the ship's name in the same pot with the "horror of the Confederate Battle flag." I guess we should just redact our history to make them happy!

Until next time,

                                      Fair Winds, 
                                          Old Salt

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


15 December 2015:  In the past several months we have written about a few things that continue to pop up in the world of maritime events. About a year ago, we wrote of the arrival (and later, the departure) of Mayflower II at Mystic Seaport for some badly needed restoration work, mentioning that the program would encompass several years. Plimouth Plantation, which owns the ship, is trying to have her sea worthy and looking Bristol by the 400 year anniversary of the site in 2020. So, our first follow-up Mayflower II.

Mayflower IIPlimoth Plantation’s 1957 replica of the ship that carried the Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620, departed her berth on the Plymouth waterfront on Tuesday, December 1 to head to Mystic, CT, for preservation work during the winter at the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport.

Mayflower II arrived at Mystic Seaport last week to complete her journey from Plymouth, MA. The ship began the day in New Bedford, MA, where she had paused for a couple of days to wait for favorable weather conditions.

In this second phase of a multi-year preservation initiative for the nearly 60-year-old ship, Mystic seaport shipwrights and Plimoth Plantation maritime artisans will be replacing the half-deck area as well as working on the tween deck and topmast rigging. While visitor access to the ship cannot be determined at this time, Plimoth Plantation and Mystic Seaport expect to make possible some opportunities for public engagement over the winter.

Mayflower II will return to Plymouth in the spring for the busy tourism season.

Next up - the ill-starred LCS program raises its ugly mug again, this time with the newest LCS (that means littoral combat ship, by the way), USS Milwaukee (LCS 5). 

The U.S. Navy’s newest littoral combat ship had to be towed into port last week after losing propulsion off the coast of Virginia.  

A statement from the U.S. Navy said the ship, USS Milwaukee (LCS 5), was en-route to a naval base in Little Creek when it lost propulsion Thursday night while approximately 40 nautical miles off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia.

The USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) was sent to retrieve the vessel and tow it to the Joint Expeditionary Base (JEB) at Little Creek-Fort Story, where they arrived at approximately 9 p.m. EST on Friday.

The USS Milwaukee will undergo full diagnostics and repair while at the JEB Little Creek-Fort Story. 

The Navy says the delay was caused “by the discovery of metallic debris in the port and starboard combining gear filter systems”.

“The Milwaukee crew initially took action Monday when they discovered very fine metallic debris in the port combining gear filter system,” the Navy said in a statement. “The crew cleaned the combining gear filters following established procedures, but locked the port shaft as a precautionary measure to prevent possible shaft damage. Thursday evening, while conducting routine steering checks, the ship lost pressure in the starboard combining gear lube oil system. The casualty was due to similar metallic debris contamination of the filter.”

USS Milwaukee was en-route to Little Creek following the ship’s commissioning in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on November 21.

Milwaukee is a Freedom-variant of the littoral combat ship and will be homported in San Diego.  The Freedom-variant LCSs are designed and built by a team led by Lockheed Martin Corp. and built at Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine shipyard in Marinette, Wisconsin. 

And last but not least, USS Zumwalt makes a return engagement to these pages - in a good way! We last wrote about the newest and most aggressive destroyer just last week in a piece about her beginning her sea-trials. She was still undergoing these necessary tests of her systems when the crew came to the rescue of an ailing fisherman off the coast of Maine on Saturday. 

The U.S. Coast Guard had received a distress call at approximately 3 a.m. Saturday from a 45-foot fishing boat named Danny Boy stating that the captain was experiencing chest pains and was in need of medical assistance while about 40 nautical miles southeast of Portland, Maine.

A Coast Guard helicopter was launched to medevac the patient, but once on scene the aircrew determined the hoist too dangerous due to the configuration of Danny Boy’s deck.

Coast Guard Sector Northern New England issued an urgent marine information broadcast requesting assistance from nearby vessels. It just so happens that the future USS Zumwalt was in the area and offered assistance.

Zumwalt launched a small boat crew and transferred the injured captain to the destroyer, where an air crew successfully hoisted the man and transported him to a hospital on land.

“Our main concern with this type of medical emergency is to recover the patient safely and transport them to a higher level care as quickly as possible,” said Lt. David Bourbeau, public affairs officer at Sector Northern New England. “Fortunately the Zumwalt was operating in the area and was able to provide valuable assistance to facilitate a safe hoist evolution for the rescue crew.”

Bravo Zulu Zumwalt!

Until next time,
                                           Fair Winds,
                                              Old Salt

Thursday, December 10, 2015


10 December 2015: We have written maybe a couple of posts about the new Zumwalt class of destroyers. Well, the first of three (originally planned to have 23 but, well, budget restraints and so forth....) has been launched and the Navy is touting the radical new design, propulsion, and armament she boasts. She headed to sea this week for initial sea trials from Bath Iron Works in Maine and the expectations for this radical ship are high. Here's what she looks like:

Her capabilities are quite extraordinary, and include self-guided projectiles (with a range of 60+ miles!) from her deck guns, missiles, helicopter capabilities and a turbo-electric power plant capable of pretty decent speeds.

In the video below of the ship underway, you might note that she make very little wake, in keeping with her stealth qualities - she supposedly presents a radar image about the size of a small fishing boat!
USS ZUMWALT underway (please pardon the opening advertisement - you know how that works!)
Now, is this design completely new? Something REALLY radical? Sure her capabilities, stealth, and weapons are - but what about the design? Maybe not so much!

Looks kinda familiar, doesn't it!
And as a final note, MARITIME MAUNDER has reached 10,000 readers! Thank you all who check the blog and I hope you get some pleasure from our posts!
Until next time,
                                Fair Winds,
                                   Old Salt

Monday, December 7, 2015


7 December 2015: Before we get to today's topic, it is appropriate, given the date, and the special anniversary it represents, to observe a moment of silence for our fallen comrades who were among the 2,400 who gave their lives in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
USS Arizona sinks following attack on Pearl Harbor

And now, on to our program for today! It has been in the news repeatedly over the past week that the government of Columbia has discovered the wreckage of the "San Jose" galleon, sunk by the British off Cartagena in June 1708.

While called the "holy grail of shipwrecks" no human eyes have seen it in over 300 years, but it is reported to be carrying a cargo worth in excess of $1 billion in gold, silver, gems, and jewelry taken in South America. The ship, part of the annual "treasure fleet" was en route to Spain to add to the King's coffers to finance his war against the British... some irony, there, I think!

The find has an interesting history - modern, that is - in that the Columbian Government, in 1982, hired a firm, Sea Search Armada, to find treasure wrecks off their coast. Interestingly, the company was owned by the late Michael Landon, John Ehrlichman, and other American investors. They found the wreck, more or less identified it, and that's when things got interesting. The Columbian government overturned the traditional 50-50 split rules and offered Sea Search a 5% "finder's fee". Of course, this precipitated a law suit in the US, which failed in 2011. And the Columbian Supreme Court ordered the wreck to be recovered before any international dispute over the prize can be settled. Of course, Sea Search did not offer the location of the find, so the government started over. In November, they claimed success. And Sea Search has basically said, "told you so!" but it would appear they are out of it now.

The government has indicated a long recovery process but has offered pictures and video of the site showing cannons, jewels, and containers on the ocean floor.

There is sure to be more on this amazing find as the recovery process gets underway, and we will try to keep you posted on new developments. It is exciting and the Columbian government is sure enough about the veracity of the discovery that they have announced the construction of a new museum to house the plunder from the wreck.

Until next time,
                              Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

Friday, December 4, 2015


4 December 2015: After over 20 years of trying, archeologists (students, actually) from University of Hawaii have found and studied the wreck of a U.S. Navy PBY - a Catalina flying boat - that was shot down during the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on 7 December 1941.

It was only in 30 ft of water, but water has been generally murky with greatly reduced visibility. Sport divers actually discovered the wreckage and turned the site over to the archeologists for examination. The site, because it contains the final resting place of the three crewmen, is protected and the actual location remains undisclosed.

At the time the plane was shot down, it was attempting to take off from the waters of Kane'ohe Bay, but barely got airborne when the enemy planes found them and shot them down. Here's what it looks like now:

The precise identity of the aircraft remains a mystery, but as the images indicate, it is clearly one of the PBY's shot down during the earliest moments of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

And the anniversary of that Day of Infamy is only a few short days hence....

Until next time,

                                   Fair Winds,
                                    Old Salt