Category Archives: Maritime History

That time a fighter jet landed on a merchant vessel

Running low on fuel, an emergency landing on the Cargo Ship Alraigo by British Navy Sea Harrier ZA176 and Sub-Lt Ian Watson, June 1983.
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In 2007, Britain’s National Archives released a number of Royal Navy files, and the second inquiry report was finally made public. Noting that Watson had completed only 75 percent of his training before he had been sent to sea, the board blamed Watson’s inexperience, and his commanders for assigning him an airplane “not fully prepared for the sortie,” a reference to radio problems. Nonetheless, Watson was reprimanded and given a desk job.

The total paid salvage claim was £570,000.  The crew of the 2,300-ton Spanish container ship Alraigo won a salvage claim and shared £340,000, with the remaining £230,000 going to the owners of the vessel.

Sub-Lt. Ian Watson eventually acquired 2,000 hours in Sea Harriers and another 900 in F/A-18s before resigning his commission in 1996. Today, he says that media attention embarrassed Royal Navy brass and caused the punishment, but refuses to point fingers. “It was me,” he says. “I was there and that’s where it should stop.”

Paul Harvey and the story of an old Buckinghamshire Barn – Amazing Nautical History

The great Paul Harvey tells the story of an old barn in Buckinghamshire, England.  This old barn may have an incredible past:

 

To all of the sailors at sea and military personal on duty around the world: Merry Christmas!

 

Seattle to SF Bay; Spirit of Sacremento Salvage

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A couple days after arriving home from Alaska, my phone rang and the office called and wanted me on a tug Southbound to SF Bay two days later.  I was home just long enough to mow the grass, clean out the gutters, do a few honey do’s and repack my bag.

Our job consisted of towing the gigantic derrick crane barge, D.B. General, to SF Bay where it would be used to salvage the derelict sternwheeler “Spirit of Sacramento”.   She had seen better days and has quite the storied past including being previously owned and used in a film by John Wayne.  Read more of her history here: Spirit of Sacramento.

So we crewed up at 2300, loaded and stowed all of the stores and supplies for a midnight departure from the yard.  The chief engineer was struggling with one of the Caterpillar engines running for around 20 seconds and then shutting down.  It was determined that a sensor had gone bad and he went about changing it out.  Once the repair was completed the same problem persisted and the port engineer (now onboard) and the chief decided the issue was more complex and in the effort to remain on schedule we would take another tug instead.  We spent the next couple hours shifting all of our personal equipment and clothes, groceries that had already been put into the freezers / reefers and boxes thrown away, ships supplies etc to the new tug.  It was a huge undertaking for a quick departure and everyone was spent.  Then we got underway for the 2 hour run to Seattle to get fuel.  We arrived about the time I should be getting off watch and we fueled for about 4 – 5 hours.  Then we met our barge as it was brought out of the river to us.  We made up and got underway and I managed about a 60 minute nap before my next watch.

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Transferring all of our stuff to the Polar Ranger.

I crashed after watch and skipped dinner to get caught up on some sleep.  On my next Midnight watch from 12-0400 we were just approaching the western end of the Straights of Juan De Fuca and the forecasts offshore really weren’t looking good.  As my watch ended and I racked out, we turned the corner into the Pacific and proceeded to get our asses kicked.  Forget about sleeping as all effort was spent just holding on.  During the next watch at noon I shot al little video.  The seas and winds had come down quite a bit at this point but we were still getting worked.  

After the storm of the first night, the weather was awesome!  We put out the hand lines hoping to catch some fresh albacore on the steam south, but didn’t get a nibble.  

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We had several encounters with massive swarms of porpoises swimming with us and playing in our bow wake.  It is a fairly common thing to see these guys while underway in the ocean.  

It took us three days to get to SF Bay and we pulled in under the Golden Gate in perfect conditions.  It’s always cool passing under the bridge, Alcatraz and the skyline of SF.  We towed the barge up the Sacramento River to Vallejo, which is where Cal Maritime is located.  We dropped our barge off to the contractor so they could complete rigging the crane for the salvage job.  The next morning two Westar tugs came and got the barge and took her upriver to the job site.  We were bummed that we wouldn’t be able to be involved with the operation or even see it.  The contractor said they would be back in three days so we laid at a deep water site across the river from where we delivered the barge.  It was another contractor who offered to let us tie up at their facility as it has sufficient water depth.  They also gave us keys to one of their yard trucks!  That was totally cool of them and allowed us to get out around Vallejo a little bit.  A note about Vallejo…….it’s a pretty run down rough area.  Don’t plan a family vacation there…ever.

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So what’s an AB supposed to do while tied to a dock and the sun is shining?  Break out the painting shit and get to work.  We also serviced all of the on board safety equipment and ran the emergency dewatering pump.  

On our last day of waiting, myself and the second mate, took the truck over to Cal Maritime for a tour.  The mate is a graduate of the Maine Maritime workboat program and I probably looked like his father.  The people at Cal Maritime were very gracious and gave us a full tour even though I made it clear that we weren’t going to be enrolling.  I think the most fun I had was wearing my new “Hawespipin Ain’t Easy” shirt around the campus.  The shirt was a gift from a fellow maritime blogger when I passed by mate exams earlier this summer.  Please go check out his selection of shirts and get one for yourself from Workboatwear.  The campus of Cal Maritime is really nice and the facility is really nice.  It’s too bad the town doesn’t match.  We toured the engineering labs, simulators (weren’t in operation), the classrooms, the training ship “Golden Bear”, the bookstore and had a nice lunch in the cafeteria.  When I was getting out of high school I had no idea an option like this existed.  For a young person wishing to go to sea, I would suggest this type of route.  It will give you a huge head start over hawespiping along with a degree.  

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Three days later our barge returned and the contractor crew spent some time stowing all of their gear and lashing everything for us to tow her back to Seattle.  The trip north was uneventful and the weather was superb.

All in all a great trip with a great crew and it ended up being a total of 14 days.

 

Rounding Cape Horn on the tall ship Peking

Irving Johnson made this video that has been adapted into the film “Around Cape Horn.  In this short clip he really details the vessel and the dangers encountered by the crew as she rounded Cape Horn.  I find this stuff fascinating and thought you may enjoy it.

Alaska!

Sorry for the lack of recent updates.  We’ve been super busy and when there was a chance to update Blue Ocean Mariner either we didn’t have sufficient bandwidth or I wanted to get off the ship for a bike ride, beer, whatever.

The last update was a fishing update from our trip to the equator and was made while we were in San Diego.  I still have a full report to post on that trip once I get a full connection and time ( like when I get home). 

We left SD and transitioned North to the Columbia River where we went upriver to Portland, OR for a 5 day shipyard period.  A repair was made to our bow thruster and we had our 5 year ABS hull inspection as well as a USCG inspection.

We actually loaded for a science trip while in the drydock.  The trip was to placd a mooring off of the Washington coast and all of the group’s equipment and personel were brought onboard in the yard.  We were at full capacity as the trip, while actually providing some actual science (deploying a science buoy and instruments), was also filled with students and several other people who had no reason to be onboard other than to take up space, eat food and watch movies.  Fine and dandy until it was time to leave the dry dock and the shore power connection was disconnected and we had a four hour period before the ships power could be used.  That means no running water and no heads.  The poor little darlings have never expirienced such horror.

We left Portland and dropped our buoy off the coast on the way to Seattle.   We offloaded in Seattle then took on fuel and returned to our home dock inside Lake Union, which means locking through the Ballard Locks.  This lock through was a first for me as I was the helmsman for the trip.  Believe me when I tell you it is a Fucking Tight fit.  Add to it, that it was the day after Memorial Day and several clueless yacht owners were seriously close to being weeded out of the gene pool.  Words can’t explain some of the shit they are capable of.  If I only had a go pro for moments like these.

We reloaded for a trip to Station Papa in the Gulf of Alaska and that is where I’m currently updating from.   We end this trip in Dutch Harbor in a couple weeks and then go out to deploy around 70 sensors around an active volcano  / fault line in the Aleutian Islands.   I’ll get lots of pics and update when the stars align.

Until then, be good!

TT

Seattle’s Ballard Locks & Ship Canal: Entering from sea

We came through through the Ballard Locks and ship canal to the University Of Washington today. I decided to take photos along the way and show some of the sights and ships along the way.

To enter the channel you aim just to the right of Shilshoe Bay Marina. There are a lot of sailboats in this marina. When the wind blows, there is one hell of a lot of clanking going on:
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Just inside the entrance of the channel on the left side is Ray’s Boathouse Restaurant and to the left of that is Anthony’s Restaurant, both very good seafood joints.

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You will then pass many waterfront homes and soon see the Burlington Northern Rail Bridge in the distance. The Ballard Locks are just on the other side of the bridge around the corner to the left:
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If you are in a large vessel, you will have to get the bridge open. Today we didn’t need an opening on the Clifford A. Barnes Research Vessel. The bridge was already open for a tug and barge ahead of us that went into the large locks:
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Just as you turn to go under the rail bridge, you will see the locks up ahead. The large locks is on the left and the small locks are on the right. Just before entering, there is a waiting wall on the right. Being that we were in a government vessel, we went in first:
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Often they will pack several vessels at a time in the lock. Once everyone is tied off, the gates will shut and the level will rise or fall depending which way you are going:
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The fish ladder is over in the corner by the yellow pipes, just below the condos:
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The small locks couldn’t be more easy. You loop your dock line over the button and make it fast. The buttons are on large floats that stay the same level as your vessel when the levels change. In the large locks, you heave your lines over to the attendants and then you manage your lines and you rise or fall.
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Once the water has risen and the lock opens, you are now in fresh water of the ship canal / Lake Union / Lake Washington. This is the home to many tug companies, commercial fishing vessels (many of them are based in Seattle but fish in Alaska), tour boats, private boats, houseboats, yachts, etc.
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Here is the Army Corps of Engineers “Puget” that collects logs and sunken vessels from the locks and nearby channels that would otherwise restrict vessel traffic:
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A tug waiting to enter the large locks outbound:
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Looking back into the locks where we just came from (looking West):
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The emergency lock gates and crane. If the lock gates were to fail, the Army Corps would place these emergency gates to keep all of the fresh lake water from flowing through the locks until repairs could be made.
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The Highland Blight, officially named the Highland Light, has been stinking up the place for a long time. It’s probably good for scrap now, but someone is living the dream of one day sailing this tub back to sea.
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Kirby Tugs (formerly K-Sea):
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This is Ballard. Ballard was once a working man’s town but is almost completely yuppified now. Other than a little industrial area and some working waterfront it’s all shops, condos, coffee, bars and thick black frames glasses.

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The Stabbert’s built a marina for yachts with condos above:
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Starting to see the Ballard Bridge in the distance:
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Just before going under the Ballard Bridge, Fisherman’s Terminal is on the right:
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Just after the Ballard Bridge on the right hand side of the channel is Coastal Transportation:
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On the left side is the Bold. Another ship that rarely moves. If it does, it’s just to a new berth.
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Then you come to Trident Seafood’s yard on the left and Ocean Beauty Seafood’s on the right:
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Redden Marine Supply is next on the right:
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Foss Shipyard is next on the right:
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A few more fish boats on the left and then….
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Western Towboat’s Yard is on the left. Their tugs always stand out in yellow and blue!
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Just after Western Towboat is Kvichack (pronounced V-Jack). Builders of aluminum vessels:
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Then some more small boats on the right and Lakeside (Sand & Gravel) on the left:
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Turn around and look where we just came through:
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Then you enter the Fremont Cut. The area is lined with trees and bike / walking paths on both sides. Many large tech firms are on the left side and Seattle Pacific University is on the right. At the end of the cut is the Fremont Bridge (short) followed by the Aurora Bridge (tall):
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After going under the Aurora Bridge, you start to enter Lake Union. Once in Lake Union you will see the big grassy hill on the left called Gasworks Park. This is where Seattle’s 4th of July Fireworks are launched each year. It just was redone and new grass seeded. On the right as you enter into Lake Union you will see downtown Seattle.
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There is Fremont Tug on the left:
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As you round the end of Gasworks Park at the North end of Lake Union you start to see the Interstate 5 bridge:
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A dry rack for ski boats. This isn’t all that old. It is soon to be torn down so that new condos can be built. The working waterfront is disappearing.
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Just before going under I-5 there is an Ivar’s Salmon House on the left. Keep Clam!
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Just as you go under the I-5 bridge (tall) you make a sharp right and pass under the University Bridge (short) and enter Portage Bay. On the left side of Portage Bay is the University Of Washington (where my other ship, the Thomas G. Thompson is berthed) on the right are a bunch of houseboats. At the SE end is the Seattle yacht Club:
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This transit ended for me at the U of W dock. If you were continue just around a slight left turn and go through one more cut, you’d pop out into Lake Washington right near the Husky Stadium. The transit from the Locks to the U of W takes about 45 minutes.

High resolution seafloor mapping

Yesterday the local NBC news channel rode along on the Clifford A. Barnes ( the boat I sailed as mate this summer) to see a demonstration of a Konsberg multi-beam.  The scans provide 1cm of accuracy.  They took students out for some mapping of a sunken minesweeper and old barge on the bottom of Lake Union.

http://www.king5.com/story/tech/2014/11/03/high-definition-sonar/18443291/