Saturday, January 28, 2017


28 January 2017: Today, 28 January is the anniversary of a possibly the worst peacetime disaster in the annals of the United States Coast Guard: the collision between a merchant tanker and the USCGC Blackthorn in Tampa Bay, Florida. Yesterday the Coast Guard in Tampa held a memorial observance of the event.


Courtesy of gCaptain, here's the story: 


The USCGC Blackthorn, a 180-foot buoy tender, sank January 28, 1980 shortly after the collision with the tanker Capricorn near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The Blackthorn lost 23 of its 50 crew members in what is considered the Coast Guard’s worst peacetime disaster.

Here's the back story - (the collision):

 Having just completed her overhaul at the Gulf Tampa Drydock Company, which included overhaul of the main propulsion generators, Blackthorn was outward bound from Tampa Bay on the night of 28 January 1980. Meanwhile the tanker S.S. Capricorn, owned by Kingston Shipping Company and operated by Apex Marine Corporation of New York, was standing (traveling with right-of-way) into the bay. The Blackthorn's captain, Lieutenant Commander George Sepel had departed the bridge to investigate a problem with the newly installed propulsion shaft. Ensign John Ryan had the conn.

Earlier they had been overtaken by the Russian passenger ship Kazakhstan, Blackthorn pulled to the side to allow her to pass, when requested, and then continued almost in mid-channel. Some contend that the brightly lit passenger vessel obscured the ability of the crews of Blackthorn and Capricorn to see each other.
Capricorn began to turn left, but this would not allow the ships to pass port-to-port. Unable to make radio contact with the tender, Capricorn’s pilot blew two short whistle blasts to have the ships pass starboard-to-starboard. With the officer of the deck confused in regard to the standard operating procedure, Blackthorn’s Captain issued orders for evasive action.
Though collision was imminent, initial damage was not extensive. However, Capricorn’s anchor was ready to be let go. The anchor became embedded in the tender's hull and ripped open the port side, but above the water line. Then as the two ships backed away from each other, the chain became taut. The force of the much larger ship pulling on it, caused it to tip on its side until it suddenly capsized. Six off-duty personnel who had mustered when they heard the collision alarm, were trapped in the skin of the ship. Several crew members who had just reported aboard tried to escape and in the process trapped themselves in the engine room. Though 27 crewmen survived the collision, 23 perished. In the end the primary responsibility for the collision was placed with Commander Sepel as he had permitted an inexperienced junior officer to conn the ship in an unfamiliar waterway with heavy traffic.
22 days after the tragedy, Blackthorn was raised from her watery grave. Here's the news video of the recovery operation:
 click below:

Rest in peace, shipmates.

That's about it for now. See you next time.

                                           Fair Winds,
                                                Old Salt

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


24 January 2017: Not exactly new news, but kind of closes out a previous series on this amazing new US Navy destroyer which has now been successfully installed in her new home port of San Diego. She arrived on 8th December; sorry about the delay in reporting the news!

Here she is, in case you might have forgot what she looks like.....

Here's the Navy's press release on her arrival...... note that it kind of glosses over the issue she experienced in the Atlantic and the little problem she had in the Panama Canal. In case you missed it, she had an engine failure but it was repaired successfully and on she went. But now she's hopefully fully functional and well into her crew training. 

The US Navy's largest and most technologically advanced destroyer, the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), arrived at its new homeport of San Diego, California today. The first-in-class warship left the Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine on September 7 and made passage through the Panama canal, making goodwill visits to various ports along the way.

According to the Navy, the US$4 billion Zumwalt's advanced design meant the crew has been kept extremely busy at training exercises as they familiarized themselves with the ship's operations since the Navy took formal possession of it last May. In addition, the vessel suffered many teething incidents, including a propulsion malfunction en route to its commissioning ceremony in Baltimore and another breakdown in the Panama canal.

Named after Admiral Elmo R. "Bud" Zumwalt Jr., former chief of naval operations from 1970 to 1974, the Zumwalt is notable for its composite superstructure and wave-piercing tumblehome hull designed to make it 50 times stealthier than current ships, which will help it in its task as a multi-mission land attack and littoral dominance warship. In addition, it's the first US Navy ship with an integrated power system capable of both providing propulsion and powering the next generation of directed energy weapons.

We have not heard a definitive solution to the $800,000 per shot issue with her main armament, but one must suppose there is something in the works on that.

That's it for now....until next time, 

                                     Fair Winds,
                                         Old Salt