Thursday, March 30, 2017


30 March 2017: Last weeks post was fun, uplifting, and glorious to watch such a magnificent vessel, Endeavour, under sail. This week, sadly, we offer the other end of the spectrum, the story of Hero, a ship with a wonderful tale left to rot in Washington state. Courtesy of NPR news, herewith the tragedy of Hero: 

Driving up the coast toward Bay Center, Wash., it's obvious when you start to approach Willapa Bay. Fifteen-foot high piles of empty shells begin to appear on the side of the road. This is an oyster town.

But it's also home to a sinking piece of history.

Scott McDougall, director of the Pacific County Emergency Management Agency, points out what remains of the Hero, an Antarctic research vessel from the 1960s. The ship, which had been docked near Willapa Bay for a decade, sank on March 4 — McDougall was the first person to file a report. While walking across the street to the Palix River, he points out one of many inlets and waterways that feed into the bay.

"That's one of the beauties of Willapa Bay," McDougall explains. "There's all sorts of streams and tributaries that feed into it, and there's a good strong tidal inflow and outflow. This is one of the most pristine bays on the West Coast. And we have a lot of pride in that."

That sense of pride has been jolted by an oil sheen floating on the water's surface.
The Hero's faded green wooden bow, now covered in rust, peeks out of the water. By high tide, most of it will be underwater. That oil flowing from the wreckage is a huge concern for people that live and work here. Willapa Bay is where more than half of the state's oysters are grown.

"It has an adverse effect on the bay, it has an adverse effect potentially on their pocketbooks," McDougall says of the ship. "It has some fairly significant ramifications."

In its prime, the Hero sailed through frigid temperatures and ice-strewn waters in the South Pole. According to a 1968 article in the Antarctic Journal, the ship was named after the sloop of 20-year-old Nathaniel Palmer, a seal hunter who became the first person to sight Antarctica. Throughout the late 1960s and '70s, the boat carried scientists to and from Palmer Station, a research center on Antarctica's Anvers Island.

After the National Science Foundation retired the floating laboratory in 1984, a group of maritime enthusiasts purchased the Hero and created a foundation with hopes of restoring the vessel. But they failed to raise enough money and the Hero was sold to a private owner, who docked it in a river near Willapa Bay. For 10 years the Hero sat there, with little or no maintenance, before finally sinking earlier this month.

"This is a vessel with an amazing amount of history," McDougall says. "Just on a personal note, it makes me really sad to see what was once a beautiful vessel that was dedicated to promoting good ecology and good stewardship of the environment, to see it resting on the bottom and dying the death that it's dying."

Global Diving and Salvage, a Seattle-based company contracted by the state of Washington, has been helping with daily cleanup. Workers are using booms in the water and absorbent pads to soak up the materials. So far, they've removed about 1,000 gallons of oily water and more than 60 gallons of diesel fuel and petroleum.

"We're taking water samples and pictures every day and we're changing out the absorbents as we see fit," says Shawn Zaniewski, a spill responder with the Washington state Department of Ecology. "This is a very old vessel. There could be small containers of oil on board. As the tide goes up and down, it's going to continue to sheen like that until that stuff washes out."

"When you have a vessel this old and made of wood, all of the surfaces of the area are impregnated with oil," adds McDougall. "So, as long as the vessel is in the water, there's going to be a sheen that comes off of it."

Nobody knows that more than Dick Wilson, one of Bay Center's 276 residents. He moved to the area from Oregon in 1971 and has been farming oysters for more than 40 years. His business, Bay Center Mariculture, owns about 1,000 acres in the bay. His processing plant and storefront are just down the road, about 800 feet from the sinking Hero.

"It's something that shouldn't have happened," says Wilson, who drove down the hill from his house to check on the progress on the cleanup. "An incident like this is probably rather typical in a lot of places. But for here, it's abhorrent. We don't want it and it's something we just don't need in the bay."

Wilson and other local residents have been warning the state about the poor conditions of the Hero since it first arrived nearly a decade ago. The Department of Ecology is still investigating who owns the wreck — and who is liable for the environmental damage it's causing.
"You can't have a wooden boat and have it sit here for 10 years and not have it go to pot and leak," says Wilson. "That's just what they do."
For now, the future of how to remove the boat lies with the Washington state Department of Natural Resources.

"The department is researching ways to remove and dispose of the vessel, but every avenue we go down, there seems to be roadblocks," says Troy Wood, manager of the state's Department of Natural Resource's Derelict Vessel Removal Program.

According to Wood, the Hero's situation is unique. The 125-foot vessel is too large to carry down the river. He estimates lifting it out of the water would require the construction of two large land cranes on site. The cost of those cranes would greatly exceed the DNR's current budget.

With only $130,000 left in the biennium budget, a full-scale removal seems unlikely and unaffordable. Estimates on the cost of that project range from $750,000 to $1,000,000.

A sad story for anyone who appreciates our waters and the bounty we get from them.

Until next time, 
                              Fair Winds,
                                   Old Salt

Wednesday, March 22, 2017


22 March 2017: Good morning and happy Spring, readers! A bit pressed today but I wanted to share a video, courtesy of Yachting World Magazine, of probably the most beautiful sailing craft ever to put to sea..... and I have seen her live some years ago. Here she is, still: 


For fabulous video click below:

Endeavour on the wind

Isn't she just gorgeous! And built in 1934!

Until next time, friends, 
                                      Fair Winds,
                                             Old Salt   

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

PT BOAT GOES TO SEA (Well, the lake)

15 March 2017: Back on 29 November, we posted about the WWII PT (Patrol Torpedo) boat from WWII that had been lovingly restored by volunteers at WWII museum in New Orleans (A fantastic museum, by the way) and taken through city streets to the water for final touches. Well, according to FOXNEWS, she's wet and running. Herewith, the successful conclusion:

Heading for the water in New Orleans

Senior Captain George Benedetto pushes the throttle forward, and PT-305 – the only combat-hardened World War II boat of its kind to be sailing today – rumbles even faster through the waters of Louisiana’s Lake Ponchartrain, bobbing up and down as wind hits the captain’s helm with an intensity enough to make one’s eyes squint.
“We’re setting a speed record for this millennium!” gushes Mark Masor, a naval architect, holding up a phone app indicating that the 73-year-old boat is pushing 30 knots (around 34 mph), the fastest it has gone since the completion of its restoration.

Finished and ready to go

 The exhilarating moment onboard the Higgins Industries Patrol-Torpedo boat was just one of many as Fox News got an early ride on the finished product of a multi-year project at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

“It’s going to be a fabulous ambassador for the museum. It’s going to give kids and people a chance to actually feel and be on a World War II vessel and feel in a sense what the servicemen felt at that time riding on the same type of boat,” Jerry Strahan, a volunteer and author, told Fox News. “Seldom do you get a chance to really ride or take a vessel like this.”

The boat operated in the Mediterranean along the coasts of southern France and Northern Italy during World War II, conducting more than 77 offensive patrols and operations. PT-305 fought in 11 separate actions and sank three German ships during its 14-month deployment.
After WWII, PT-305 acted as a civilian tour boat in New York Harbor and a fishing charter, while falling into disrepair.  The New Orleans museum purchased the boat in 2007 and since then, a volunteer team of 202 people worked 105,000 hours at its restoration pavilion to get PT-305 back up and running.
“I’m real anxious to get aboard and hear those engines start up and feel the vibrations under my feet again,” James Nerison, a U.S. Navy Torpedoman 1st Class on PT-305, told Fox News.
Nerison, now 92, said he plans to travel from his home in California to New Orleans at the end of March to take a ride on the boat with his son.
 “I’m tickled pink. I’ve been following the progress of the restoration since it started,” he said. “It’s been quite a long time.”
Sadly, none of the guns are functional

Using 300 gallons of paint, volunteers back then coated the boat with its “Measure 32 modified” camouflage, which gave it a tactical advantage when making torpedo attacks in the cover of darkness, according to the museum.
A “Thayer blue” layer was applied to the front of the boat, which made it difficult to see at night from a distance when it was approaching an enemy ship head-on. In the back, PT-305 was painted with a “deck blue” color that reduces shadows from light sources and made it harder for ships to spot as it retreated from an attack, according to the museum.

The deck of the boat also has red and yellow colorations in the bow and stern, along with a large red and yellow star intended to make it identifiable to Allied aircraft. Researchers combed over photographs and written reports from the ship’s original crew to get the markings right, said Tom Czekanski, a senior museum curator and restoration manager.

If you get a chance, head down to New Orleans and take the tour and the ride. Should be a real thrill! Those looking to get a 90-minute ride on the boat will be able to do so starting April 1. Tickets already being sold on the museum’s website cost $350, with a $45 discount for members, seniors, children or veterans.
Deck tours that last 45 minutes also are available for $12 to $15.

Until next time, 
                                Fair Winds,
                               Old Salt