Wednesday, February 22, 2017


22 February 2017: Back on 20th January, we posted that the first boat had crossed the finish line of the Vendee Globe Around the World single-handed race. Of course, others have finished in the interim, but yesterday, 21 February, the oldest contestant, an American sailor, finished in 13th place. Here is the coverage from Sail Magazine.

"American sailor Rich Wilson has not only completed his second Vendée Globe but finished in 13th place out of 29 starters—a great feat for the oldest competitor in this solo race around the world.
In completing the event, the 66-year-old mariner and native of Marblehead, Massachusetts, also became the fastest American to race solo and non-stop around the globe.
Wilson, sailing aboard the IMOCA 60 Great American IV finished the race in 107 days 48 minutes, improving on his previous finish time of 121 days 41 in the 2008-9 race by nearly two weeks.
Over the course of this most recent circumnavigation, he covered a total of 27,480 miles at an average speed of 10.70 knots. Along the way, the veteran skipper had to deal with a range of small technical problems, notably gripes with his autopilot system, his hydro-generator system and some modest sail repairs.

Throughout the race, Wilson also told the story of his adventure with clarity and passion through his website,
“It’s great to be back. To see France and all the French people here. In this race I think there was a lot more communication between the skippers than in 2008-2009,” Wilson said afterward, although he added, “It was a little bit harder because I’m older.”"

As a somewhat older sailor myself, I am well impressed with Mr. Wilson's accomplishment. Well done, sir!

Until next time, 

                               Fair Winds.
                                      Old Salt 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017


15 February 2017: Remember the film Raiders of the Lost Ark? Harrison Ford & co, after transport the Ark in a merchant ship but are found by a German sub carrying the bad guys..... here's a little refresher (it helped jog my memory!):

From Raiders of the Lost Ark
 OK, now hopefully we're on the same page. Here's the AP article about the discovery..... And don't worry about sport divers scavenging the's at a depth of 3,000 feet!

German researchers have discovered the wreck of U-581, a Nazi sub that sank near the Azores in February 1942. The 220-foot-long VIIC U-boat—the same type of sub featured in the classic films Das Boot and Raiders of the Lost Ark—was found broken in two, and at a depth of nearly 3,000 feet. 

Researchers with the German Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation found the wreck last September, but chose to withhold the finding until the precise identity of the sub could be confirmed, and because they wanted to make the announcement public on the 75th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. Working aboard the dive boat LULA 1000, the researchers were able to take hi-resolution pictures of the sunken submarine, revealing its condition and the many corals now clinging to its outer shell. 

The German submarine U-581 was the sister ship to the famous U-96 sub, which was featured in the 1981 war film Das Boot. An exterior mock-up of this sub was also used in Raiders of the Lost Ark (Spielberg rented the replica used in Das Boot). Over 560 VIIC-class U-boats were commissioned from 1940 to 1945, appearing in virtually all areas where German subs operated. Known as the “workhorse” of the German Kriegsmarine, these subs featured active sonar, and were powered by six-cylinder, four-stroke diesel engines. VIICs weighed 770 tons, had a range of 9,800 miles (15,700 km) and could cruise above water at speeds reaching 20 mph (39 km/h). 

During World War II, the Germans lost nearly 800 submarines of all types, and over 28,000 U-boat sailers. Around one or two subs are found by marine archaeologists each year, but an estimated 100 U-boats are still unaccounted for. 

Over a tenure that lasted less than a year, the U-581 carried out two missions, and managed to sink one auxiliary warship (likely the armed British trawler HMS Rosemond). On the evening of February 1, 1942, U-581, working in tandem with another German sub, was tasked with sinking the British squad carrier Llangibby Castle. The Allied ship was scheduled to leave the port of Horta on the Azores island of Faial. But before it could carry out its orders, the U-581 was spotted by the British destroyer Westcott and hit by a depth charge near the island of Pico. Defeated and unwilling to hand over the damaged sub to the British, the commander of the U-581 ordered the crew to skidaddle, and deliberately sank the sub.

Of the 46-man crew, four were killed when a water bomb was thrown at them while they were still in the water (apparently the result of a communication breakdown), 41 were taken prisoner, and one—quite incredibly—was able to escape. Officer Walter Sitek managed to swim 4 miles (6 km) to land. The Spanish officials who found Sitek repatriated him to Germany, where he survived the war (as did the German POWs). 

Researchers with the Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, with the approval of Portuguese authorities (the Azores belongs to Portugal), began the hunt for U-581 in the spring of 2016. Using sonar, they created a high-resolution, 3D picture of the seafloor in the areas where the sub likely sank. The sub was found on September 13, 2016 by a crew working aboard the LULA 1000. Images of the sub—found broken into two pieces—were used to confirm its identity.
Work around the sub is still incomplete. The Rebikoff-Niggeler Foundation, in addition to studying the unique marine wildlife in the cold, deep waters, is hoping to create a documentary about the discovery. 

Sounds like something worth seeing! 

Until next time, 
                              Fair Winds,
                                    Old Salt

Wednesday, February 8, 2017


8 February 2017: It was in 1794. A convoy of 58 merchant ships of a variety of rigs, sailing ability, and managerial skill left Port Royal - yes, that den of piratical iniquity of which we were all made aware by Johnny Depp (Cap't Jack Sparrow) - under the escort of a single Royal Navy (British) frigate, HMS Convert. Their destination ultimately was the United Kingdom, but a few, bound for ports in the United States, had planned on leaving the convoy before it started to cross the Atlantic.
To collect all the ships, Convert made a couple of stops while still in Jamaican waters - some had come round the island from the north side - but finally, about the 6th of February, 1794, they were underway, having actually left Port Royal on 28th January.
The weather was not great, the convoy was spread out over literally miles of ocean, and delays were rife. Captain Lawford of Convert was frustrated with his charges but, nonetheless, shepherded them onwards, giving them strict instructions that no one was get ahead of Convert. Yep, you guessed it; several did during the night of 7-8 February and with the help of an underestimated current running to the north, hit the reef off the East End of Grand Cayman Island. A very unforgiving bit of coral.
East End today does not look very different than in 1794
 One after the other, including the escorting frigate, HMS Convert, they fetched up "on the hard" at around 2 AM 8th February. When the sun rose that morning, it lit a truly melancholy sight: 7 ship rigged vessels (3 masts, square sails), 2 brigs (2 masts, mostly square sails) and Convert (ship rigged). None were salvageable. The spot they went on the hard was off one of the only sandy beaches at that end of the island; most of the shoreline is what is called "ironshore" -fosilized coral which is as unforgiving as the reef and really tough on one's feet, shod or otherwise. 

Of course, boats, both from the stricken ships and the island, carried the crews and passengers ashore and the ships, in the worsening weather, pounded themselves to matchwood, ultimately sinking. Part of Convert  washed over the reef where the water is only about 15 ft deep (the outside of the reef drops off to 8,000 ft). Islanders were as helpful as they could be to the folks ashore and helped in salvaging what could be salvaged from the wrecks. Amazingly, only a few people - less than ten - were lost.

The lagoon has been dived by archeologists who picked up some artifacts, now displayed in the Cayman Heritage Museum in George Town locals grabbed what they could, mostly cannon for display. (That was over 100 years ago.) 

 The cannon shown here is marked as a 
1781 because that was when Convert was built. She was French and had been captured by the British only a few months before the convoy left Jamaica for England.

Now I am sure you are all dying to learn more about this hallmark event in the history of the Cayman Islands, and I am pleased to tell you: you are in luck! There is a book out, available on Amazon in both physical form and digital form which tells the story of this tragedy in novel form. 
 Yep, that's it, right there to the left. And while I am being commercial, here's the link to Amazon where you can actually buy this fine piece of sea-faring literature:

     GUN BAY

OK, that's enough of the commercial. 

In any case, today, 8th February, is the anniversary - the 223nd anniversary - of the Wreck of the Ten Sail, as it is still called today.

                             Fair Winds,
                                 Old Salt

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