Tuesday, November 24, 2020


 24 November 2020: Just realized that December starts next week which means only 38 days left in this dumpster fire of a year. Let's hope the next one is better!

In the WWII Museum in New Orleans, LA USA, amidst all the paraphernalia, trucks, jeeps, tanks, planes and boats sits a restored LCVP - Landing Craft, Vehicle, Persona l- or as perhaps more commonly known, a HIGGINS BOAT. The follow piece is from an on line magazine called National Interest and was written by Caleb Larson. We thought it was quite interesting and surely, non-controversial! 



The Higgins Boat: A Forgotten World War II Hero of wood

A mostly-wood construction lowered the boat’s weight and allowed it to have a relatively shallow draft, the distance from the bottom of the hull to the waterline.

The boat's crucial innovation was the ramp. With previous boats, men had to jump over the sides, exposing them to enemy fire. The ramp allowed for a more orderly landing - although it was certainly still risky. (A faithful replica of a Higgins Boat is used in the landing scene in Saving Private Ryan.)

It just might be the most recognized boat of the Second World War. The Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel, called the LCVP, or the Higgins Boat as it is more commonly known, is familiar from photographs and film shot during the war, particularly the Normandy Beach landings.

WWII Museum New Orleans  


 Most famously, a brave Coast Guard photographer took the iconic photograph Into the Jaws of Death [ed: see below] from the back of a Higgins Boat. The haunting image depicts U.S. Army soldiers jumping off the boat into the water and towards the Omaha Beach. The story of the Higgins boat begins earlier though, before the war.

  Rumor has it that the early Higgins boat was designed for bootleggers and smugglers who small sturdy boats capable of beaching quickly from shallow water. With the end of Prohibition in the early 1930s, the boat’s designer and namesake Andrew Higgins needed a new market for his nimble boat.

Dissatisfied with the landing boats designed by the Navy, The United States Marine Corps tested several commercial designs in the late 1930s, eventually settling on the former bootlegger boat designed by the Higgins boatbuilding company.

Although the design was indeed capable of beach landings, offloading men and supplies was rather slow as the design lacked a ramp. To disembark, Sailors and Marines had to jump off the sides or bow, badly exposed to fire from the shore. Still, the boat could perform better than other landing boats the Navy designed and it was rushed into service as a stop-gap measure.

Higgins Boat

Though Higgins’ early design was accepted, he was tasked with building a better landing craft, specifically a boat that would allow troops to more quickly disembark—via a bow mounted ramp.

The Higgins boat itself was rather small and simple. Its cargo space, located at the forward three quarters of the boat, could carry 8,000 pounds, or a little over 3,600 kilograms. This translated to thirty-six fully-armed soldiers, or an Army Jeep and a smaller, twelve-man squad.

Although the front ramp was made of steel, the Higgins’ sides were made of laminated plywood to save that precious wartime commodity. A mostly-wood construction also lowered the boat’s weight and allowed it to have a relatively shallow draft, the distance from the bottom of the hull to the waterline. A low draft allowed the boat to unload men and supplies quite close to the shoreline—of crucial importance for ship-to-shore operations. 

Into the Jaws of Death

Two gunners fired .30 caliber Browning machine guns over the heads of the troops onboard from firing cockpits in the rear. The driver sat on the port side next to the engine in the boat’s center. An extremely accurate recreation of what riding to shore in a Higgins was like can be seen in the opening sequence of the 1998 hit Saving Private Ryan.


During the war, the Higgins boat ferried troops onto the beaches of North Africa, in France for the Normandy landings, and throughout the Pacific. Without Higgins, the Marine Corps’ island hopping campaign would not have been possible.

The boat’s usefulness could not be overstated. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander sang Higgins’ praises, stating that “Andrew Higgins is the man who won the war for us.” He went on to explain, “If Higgins had not designed and built those LCVPs, we never could have landed over an open beach. The whole strategy of the war would have been different.” A resounding endorsement from the one of the greatest generals of one of the greatest wars. 


We would like to wish all our US readers a most happy (under the circumstances) Thanksgiving. We can be thankful that 2020 is drawing to a close!

Until next time, 

                                         Fair Winds, 

                                                Old Salt 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


 17 November 2020: Today we're heading way up north to Ontario Canada for a visit to a pretty unique sight/site. It's not often one finds a real shipwreck parked alongside a public road, but here's the story, short and sweet, from the Ontario blog. The pictures really are the story here.


 You’ve probably spotted the gigantic abandoned ship that impressively rises out of the water while you've been driving along the QEW from Toronto to Niagara Falls. 

The rusting shipwreck, which closely resembles a pirate ship and floats [ed: well, "floats" is a figure of speech in this case] only a few metres off the shoreline at the Jordan Harbour off Lake Ontario, is named La Grande Hermine or The Big Weasel. [ed:love the name in English. I think I know the guy it was named for!]

Tilting strongly to one side and measuring in at 140 feet (40 metres) in length, it’s a life-sized replica of the three-masted sailing vessel that famous explorer Jacques Cartier traveled on in the 1500s.

While the original didn’t survive, a replica was featured at Montreal’s 1967 Expo event as a gimmicky floating restaurant. It was later destroyed after sitting on display in a park in Quebec City for nearly three decades.

 The third version of the vessel that sits off the highway in the town of Jordan today was purchased by a businessman and was intended also to be a floating eatery or gambling casino. 


Despite the unique drifting venue, the business failed to get off the ground and the ship was abandoned. [ed: not sure I want to eat in a restaurant named "The Big Weasel"!]

An arson fire destroyed much of the ship in 2003 and what’s left of it remains burnt, rusted and run down, on the side of the road making for an interesting sight. 

You can visit this fascinating roadside attraction and piece of history for free. Just follow Exit 55 to the parking lot on Beacon Boulevard.

Make sure to respect the rules of the area during your visit. Adhere to social distancing measures by visiting with a small group and pick up your trash to leave the area just as beautiful as you found it. [ed: good advice]


Makes us wonder how many auto accidents occurred when a driver saw this sight!

Until next time, 

                                  Fair Winds, 

                                        Old Salt

PS: MARITIME MAUNDER has now surpassed 115,000 viewers! Thank you, all!

Tuesday, November 10, 2020


 10 November 2020: At precisely 1100 hours on the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, a cease fire armistice was signed which ended the hostilities that had ravaged Europe for four and half years (since July 1914). While the Treaty (of Versailles) was not signed until July of 1919 (exactly 5 years following the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand), the armistice was the event celebrated with what was first called Armistice Day. Originally designated to honor the veterans of WWI, in 1954, President Eisenhower had the name changed to Veterans Day and declared it would honor all vets. However, prior to that change, in 1921, it was decided that there should be a suitable memorial to those who fell in the war. An unidentified soldier was brought home to the US from a battlefield cemetery in France and became the symbol for all the fallen in America's wars. From the American Military News, the following:



On Nov. 9, 1921, the body of the U.S. soldier that now rests in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier returned to the U.S. from France, where he died in the fighting of World War I.

According to Arlington National Cemetery, the Unknown Soldier’s remains were brought to Washington D.C. and were brought to the Washington Naval Yard aboard the U.S. Navy’s USS Olympia.

USS Olympia 

According to the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command, the USS Olympia set sail on Oct. 3 and arrived in France on Oct. 24 of 1921. That day, U.S. Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger was tasked with selecting one of four unidentified American servicemen, in four identical caskets, to become America’s Unknown Soldier, meant to represent all of America’s unidentified war dead. Younger, himself a twice-wounded veteran of World War I, chose the third casket from the left of the row of four caskets, laying a bouquet of white roses on that soldier’s casket and designating them the Unknown Soldier.

On Oct. 25, the remains of the Unknown Soldier was brought to Pier d’Escale in Le Havre, where people from across France had gathered to pay their respects to the soldier. The crew of the USS Olympia had meticulously cleaned the ship from top to bottom, in preparation for the arrival of the Unknown Soldier.

As the soldier was brought aboard the USS Olympia, a ship’s band played a rendition of the French National anthem “La Marseillaise,” which segued into the “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After the Unknown Soldier’s casket was secured to the deck of the ship, crowds of clergy, school children, war widows, and French civic organizations came aboard the ship and showered the flag-draped casket with flowers. The Unknown Soldier had also been awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest French order for military and civil merit.

Following his arrival in the U.S., the Unknown Soldier was brought to lay in state in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where he was kept from Nov. 9 to Nov. 11, according to the Architect of Congress.

According to Arlington National Cemetery, around 90,000 visitors lined up to pay their respects to the Unknown Soldier as his body was kept in the Capitol Rotunda.

The Unknown Soldier was interred in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921. During the Armistice Day ceremony, the Unknown Soldier was awarded the Victoria Cross, the United Kingdom’s highest military honor, by Admiral of the Fleet Lord Beatty, on behalf of King George V, according to U.K. government records.

Armistice Day would later come to be celebrated in the U.S. as Veterans Day.

The tradition of honoring subsequent Unknown Soldiers has continued, with the U.S. honoring selecting two Unknown Soldiers of World War II, one from the European and one from Pacific theater of war, and another U.S. service member from the Korean War. An Unknown Soldier was designated for the Vietnam War, but was later exhumed and positively identified as 1st Lt. Michael Blassie, according to U.S. government records. Blassie’s remains were returned to his family. [ED: Blassie's body was subsequently replaced by another to rest in the Tomb of the Unknown]


So, with tomorrow being the day we honor our vets, remember also those who fell, both known and unknown. It is their sacrifice that kept the rest of the world safe. Almost every free country in the world celebrates a "rememberance" day or similar, in the United States it's called Veterans Day and it is tomorrow, 11/11.

Until next time,

                                    Fair Winds,      

                                          Old Salt