Tuesday, October 31, 2017


31 October 2017: Well, it's Halloween and the ghosts and goblins are out pestering people for goodies and handouts... (no politics, here friends!). So since we did a "real" post just a few days ago, we thought it would be acceptable - and fun - to run a straight video in this post in honor of Halloween...and it is maritime in nature.... so enjoy! 

Click the link below and be sure your sound is on!

Ghost Ships - are they real?

And happy Halloween!

Until next time, 
                                Fair Winds,
                                 Old Salt

Saturday, October 28, 2017


28 October 2017: After World War I ended, the German Navy surrendered and many of its ships were interned at the Royal Navy's chief naval base at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands north of the Scottish mainland. The German submarine U-118, however, was destined for France to be broken up for scrap. While she was being towed, a fierce gale snapped the cable and she ended up like a gigantic beached whale washed ashore on Hasting's Beach, in front of Hasting's finest hotels. 

SM U-118 was one of nine huge ocean-going mine laying submarines. Launched on February 23, 1918, she was 267 feet long, displaced 1,200 tons and was armed with a 150mm deck gun, 14 torpedoes and 42 mines. SM U-118 had a lackluster career, sinking only two ships, one just off Ireland's north coast and the other northwest of Spain. She was surrendered to the Allies on February 23, 1919, exactly one year after she was launched. While being towed to France through the English Channel in rough seas, U-118 broke free. Despite attempts by a French destroyer to break her up, she ended up aground on the beach in the middle of the city of Hastings on the Sussex coast in southern England on April 15, just in time for the Easter Holiday. 

The stranding caused a sensation. Thousands of people flocked to see this monster that had washed ashore, it's true size evident from the aerial view taken shortly after the beaching. 

 Three tractors tried to drag it back to the sea, but failed. At that point, the city fathers decided to make the best of this instant tourist attraction. The Admiralty put the local coast guard in charge and allowed the town clerk to charge sixpence apiece to visitors wishing to climb onto the deck of U-118. After two weeks, nearly £300 (UK£ 13,200 in 2017) had been raised for the Mayor's Fund for the welcome home of troops planned for later that year.

Two members of the coast guard, chief boatman William Heard and chief officer W. Moore, showed important visitors around the interior of the submarine. The visits were curtailed in late April, when both coast guard men became severely ill. Rotting food on board was thought to be the cause, however, the men's condition continued and got worse. Moore died in December 1919, followed by Heard in February 1920. An inquest decided that a noxious gas, possibly chlorine released from the submarine's damaged batteries, had caused abscesses on the men's lungs and brain. 

Although visits inside the submarine had stopped, tourists still came to take be photographed alongside or on the U-boat's deck. Finally, between October and December 1919, U-118 was broken up and sold for scrap. The deck gun was left behind, but was removed in 1921. Some of the ship's keel may yet remain buried in the beach sand.

 So the city fathers turned a potential disaster and problem to their advantage, making a few quid in the process! That's taking an opportunity and turning it to a winner! Well done, Hastings!

Until next time,
                                     Fair Winds,
                                          Old Salt

Saturday, October 21, 2017


21 October 2017: In the interest of time and also - why reinvent the wheel - we are reposting A 2014 edition of Maritime Maunder. The day is auspicious and should not go unobserved by this blog..... so, without further ado, (drum roll please) here is a brilliant compendium of USS Constitution's career with an update at the end.

21 October 2014: Big day today! Two major anniversaries to celebrate, but we're going to look at them separately since they each deserve the spotlight! So, first up: USS Constitution was launched today in 1797. Happy birthday, old girl . . . or should I say, "Old Ironsides." Yes, the Hartt Shipyard in east Boston slid our Ship of State into the waters of Boston Harbor 217 years ago!

Oil on Canvas by Paul Garnett, on display in USS Constitution Museum

She was built as a result of the Naval Act of 1794 signed by George Washington in recognition of the fact that our newly independent country needed a navy to deal with foreign enemies, most notably (at that time) the Barbary Pirates of North Africa. Six frigates were authorized and built in varying locations including Boston (Constitution), Philadelphia (United States), Baltimore (Constellation), and others. Three of the six were designated as "heavy" frigates, meaning that they would carry at least 44 guns which would fire a 24 pound iron ball; and three as lighter frigates of 36 to 38 guns. As a matter of practicality, none ever carried their rated allotment; it was always more, sometimes by as many as ten!
Constitution fought at Tripoli, the third flagship sent over to deal with the pirates - Edward Preble was the commodore in charge of that fleet and acted most aggressively against the Barbary corsairs. But it was in the War of 1812 that Constitution really earned her stripes . . . and her nickname, Old Ironsides.
Constitution defeats HMS Guerierre

After a very bad two months of war against England, the ship, under Isaac Hull, encountered and defeated HMS Guerierre in single ship combat. This was the battle in which she won her famous nickname. It was a glorious and most welcome victory for the Navy and more generally, the United States following lots of bad news from the Western frontier. Shortly thereafter, under William Bainbridge, Constitution headed south and found HMS Java off South America. A sharp battle ensued and Old Ironsides once again was victorious.

Perhaps one of her most famous fights occurred in February of 1815, technically after the war was over, against two Royal Navy frigates, HMS Cyanne and HMS Levant. She took them both but Levant was recaptured by the British before she got back to a U.S. port as a prize.

After serving as a training ship, barracks, and very nearly being scrapped, she assumed her role as good will ambassador, a role she has performed brilliantly for many years from her berth in historic Charlestown Navy Yard. She was named "Ship of State" a couple of years ago and continues to shine! She sailed under her own sails for the first time in over 100 years in October of 1997, in celebration of her 200th birthday. I was there!

It was an awe inspiring event and then, in recognition of the 200th anniversary of her victory over HMS Guerierre, she sailed again in 2012, albeit in a very light breeze and remained in Boston Harbor. 

USS Constitution Museum, in the Navy Yard, acts as the "voice" of Constitution and is privately funded, not being an agency of the federal government. the museum is marvelous, and not to be missed if you find yourself in Boston!

USS Constitution is the OLDEST SHIP AFLOAT IN THE WORLD. What about HMS Victory, I heard someone mumble? Well, Victory is indeed older, but she is also resting comfortably in concrete in Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in England. Constitution is afloat and indeed, was underway just about 1 month ago, albeit with a tug alongside. She will be going into drydock for a refit next March and is expected to remain dry for a couple of years. Then she will be back in the water to carry on. 

coming into drydock

Incidentally, Constitution is carried on the rolls of commissioned U.S. Navy and is manned by active duty Navy sailors and officers! 

"I feel a strong predelection [sic] for the Constitution. I think  . . . she will be a most fortunate ship; and I am sometimes good in my predictions . . ." Tobias Lear, consul general to the Barbary Regencies in a letter to Capt. John Rodgers, 16 October 1804.
Here is an image of America's Ship of State as she celebrated the bi-centennial of the War of 1812:


Now of course, any of you quick at figures will recognize that the ship is now 220 years young and, for a lady of those accumulated years, looks amazingly great! And she just finished a 26 month overhaul in the Charlestown Navy Yard, returning to the water just about a month ago, In fact, she made a celebratory birthday cruise (turnaround) yesterday (20 October) to great fanfare. 

So big party in Boston today with cake and music! Happy Birthday, Old Ironsides; you look mahvelous!

Until next time, 
                                  Fair Winds,
                                     Old Salt

Sunday, October 15, 2017


15 October 2017: Once again, an apology is in order; I have been remiss in posting and while I did promise no more on the Franklin ships for a while, I did not mean to stop posting anything! So, here is something totally different from undersea archeology: trees! And yes, as this is a maritime blog, the subject deals directly with things maritime, and a ship near and dear to your scribe's heart. With thanks to Trent Osmon, forestry program manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) Midwest’s Public Works Department (PWD) Crane environmental division, for an interesting article on a subect I reckon only a few of our 68,000 readers knew of!


The predawn light reflects an eerie blood-red from the underbellies of the incoming clouds.  As the light penetrates the canopy, the last of the nocturnal creatures have returned to their refuge to wait out the coming light.  High in the crown of a mighty oak, pacing with anticipation of the coming daylight, a roosted tom turkey shakes the forest awake with his gobble.  The incoming weather begins to sway the uppermost branches of the tallest trees, delicately blending with the last calls of the whippoorwill.

Splaying at the feet of a seemingly endless sea of tree trunks are an array of wildflowers, too numerous to count, filling the morning air with the sweet smell of spring.  The babbling creek, meandering through the valley, flows as a reminder of the water that formed this landscape over millions of years from an ancient seabed.  As the distant thunder rolls, the forest community continues inexorably on, a resilient yet delicate system on which the entire world depends for so much.
Is it any wonder why the stewardship of these natural treasures is a very delicate issue? Forests were often seen as an obstacle to taming the wild lands.  Others have seen the forests as a resource meant solely to serve the desires of mankind.  Still others have seen the forests as a sacred place, harboring delicate systems that should not be disturbed.  Wherever the truth resides, the foresters charged with managing such lands have a difficult task keeping the balance between maintaining a viable ecosystem, providing resources, and balancing public perception.

Naval Support Activity Crane’s more than 50,000 acres of forest have been sustainably managed for more than six decades. This forest provides some of the richest biodiversity in all of Indiana while also providing valuable resources to the local economy. Trees in the Midwest are typically regenerated naturally rather than planted. The forest regenerates much more efficiently than many realize. After all, it wasn’t long after the industrial revolution that most of the forests of the eastern U.S. were cleared to provide material for a growing country and they still made a triumphant return. Railroads, homes, tools, fuel-wood, charcoal, and countless other uses . . .

These seemingly endless forest resources built this young country and took it from a few wayward colonies that declared their independence just a few decades earlier to the most powerful nation the world has ever known. A nation with the most powerful Navy the world has ever known. And even it owes its beginnings to this same wood.

Knowing the young country couldn’t compete with the sheer number of vessels of countries like France or England, Joshua Humphries wanted the most advanced Navy ships on the seas. Capable of battling against the Barbary pirates of North Africa to protect this fledgling nation’s merchant ships while also defending against a possible invasion. Live oak for the internal frame of the ship to ensure strength and longevity. White oak to form the hull planks for the sturdy water-tight seal that would keep the ships afloat. And of these original six wooden frigates that started our great Navy, which even today remains most advanced in the world, one wooden frigate still floats. A commissioned warship that still hosts a crew of approximately 70 Sailors, the USS Constitution still floats in the Charlestown Navy yard across the bay from Boston Massachusetts. Old Ironsides. Gaining the nickname during the war of 1812 while defending the new nation from just such an invasion as the early Navy pioneers had feared.

H. Robert Freneau, Secretary of the Navy Special Assistant [left], and CDR Tyrone G. Martin of USS Constitution dedicate the ceremonial “Constitution Grove” at NAVFAC Crane, IN on May 8, 1976. [Courtesy U.S. Navy]

And while the landscape and available forests surrounding the Boston area has diminished, the Navy is still able to provide much of the material for this world’s-oldest commissioned warship still afloat. The forests of NSA Crane host century-old white oak trees throughout the hills and valleys, providing the logs that are formed into planks for the sturdy hull. Even stands of middle-aged white oak, 70 to 80 years old, are set aside for future restoration efforts of this mighty ship.  The management goals of this forest fit perfectly with the ability to provide large white oak trees for this great, heritage rich, cause. Every tree that is harvested from Crane’s forests, whatever the reason, is carefully selected by one of the three foresters on station to ensure the forest is able to maintain its legacy of beauty and productivity.  Large areas are set aside to ensure old-growth forests still remain.  Wildlife is protected to ensure a healthy, intact, and diverse ecosystem will always remain.


With Constitution having just completed a two year overhaul, it is appropriate that we offer the above piece at this time, as many of her timbers were replaced with Live Oak harvested from both Crane's forests as well as some in the South. It is also interesting to note that White Oak windfalls from storms are preserved and protected for our Ship of State. 

Until next time (and it won't be as long!),

                                     Fair Winds,
                                          Old Salt