True story (as all stories on this blog are):
Crew change: a captain and his crew had gotten off their boat after a two-week hitch and were taken by van to the nearest airport, in Wilmington, NC.
At check-in, the mate was stopped, taken off to the side and ordered to open his case. A big security mama stared and pointed into his case, “What is that?” she demanded.
Mate: “It’s a sextant.”
BigSecurityMama: “I don’t wanna know about your sex toys–WHAT IS THAT?”
THAT is the titilating sextant, a delight to perform with, and part of a ceremony utterly maddening to fathom.
It’s got two glass pieces: point one to the horizon, the mirror to some celestial body. Slide the arc to tilt the mirror to bring the star or planet down, or hold upside down to bring the horizon up so the two touch. Gently rock to and fro to be sure it’s true while chanting, “ready…ready…ready…MARK!” at which point an assistant makes note of the time while you read the angle off the sextant. Repeat, using different reference points unless your original celestial body was the Sun at noon sharp.
To do it the way it used to be done, take the angle of the celestial body to the horizon, go through a few mathematical calculations, and then with the numbers, you consult the Oracle, the Thick Book, or Nautical Almanac, with positions predicted thousands of years from now–with corrections–of the major celestial bodies’s paths charted mostly by the ancient Egyptians, who observed and recorded for eons, appended with over 20 years of work by Tycho Brahe, and mixed with laws of motion by Johannes Kepler.
It ain’t perfect: it is dependant upon your equipment, 22+ mathematical calculations, a moving boat, the time piece, visibility, weather, wind, currents, air temperature, time zones, atmospheric refraction, fatigue, etc etc. But if you know how to use the tools: a sextant, a timepiece and the Thick Book, you can find out where on this blue marble you are located.
Coastal merchant mariners are required by the Coast Guard to demonstrate the ability to take readings with noon sun, sunrises, sunsets, three star fixes, and running fixes (I think.) The US Naval Academy discontinued teaching it in 1998, feeling that celestial navigation did not give an accurate enough result to warrant the labor required in what was considered the most challenging course in its curriculum, preferring to rely upon computers.
Global Positioning System (owned and operated by the United States Government and stewarded by the Department of Defense), or equipment that reads and translates satellites’ signals, can go down; it’s happened.
I tried to learn it out of curiosity, for the GPS on the schooner was just that, the Grey Plastic Sextant.
Taking the readings from the Food Court terrace on Pier 17 was fun, but then I was deposited into the Abyss: the numbers took me into the Labyrinth, and I was left to wander through a mad world of numbers-sorcerery, azimuths hanging overhead, thedas lurking on the horizon, angles flopping, calculations thrashing and clashing, I was hopelessly lost…
Capt Don Chesley was my teacher, who, in college, was so enthusiastic about celestial nav that he would take readings from his dorm window using his frisbee, filled with water to reflect and reveal the horizon. He teaches it well, I have been lucky to hear him at the Seaport Museum and at Stevens Institute, and it is not a reflection on him that I do not get it.
“The scale of a sextant has a length of 1/6 turn (60°); hence the sextant’s name… An octant is a similar device with a shorter scale (⅛ turn, or 45°), whereas a quintant (1/5 turn, or 72°) and a quadrant (¼ turn, or 90°) have longer scales.” —wiki.
Lacking the ThickBookOracle, you can put your numbers taken off your sextant here.
–thank you, Capt Benjamin Dutton, J. and BigSecurityMama
sextant illustration is a simplified version from the amazing Lore of Ships by Tre Tryckare
Lightship Ambrose LV 87 / WAL 512
Built: 1907 by New York Shipbuilding Co., Camden, NJ
Length: 136ft. (41.5m)
Beam: 29ft. (8.8m)
Draft: 13ft. (3.9m)
Original Illumination Apparatus: three oil lens lanterns
This lightship was stationed in the Ambrose Channel since 1906, guiding vessel traffic through the main shipping channel just below the Verazzano Narrows bridge, into New York and New Jersey Harbor until 1967. She was given to South Street Seaport Museum by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1968. A light tower replaced it, was hit by ships a few times too many, and, now, the channel is marked by lighted buoys.
Now at the new! improved! South Street Seaport Museum under the fertile wing—nurturing wing?— of the City of the Museum of New York this lightship was painted in March, and is now being restored and is open for visiting at Pier 16.
The wings of the seaport museum are alive: a new exhibit is up, nautical pieces from another museum I love, the American Folk Art Museum.
And true to the harbor’s spirit, the active gem of the museum, Pioneer, is sailing. Go onboard to sail in the harbor or go and volunteer and learn how to handle lines and many other things that may always serve you well…!
“How we loved the captain! We would have done anything for him. He and the officers were Norwegian. We were a crew of 40, many of us boarded in Shanghai. We carried oil and went all around the world. I loved the ship, too. I made a model of the ship out of paper and the captain wanted it. He bought it for $20, purchased a glass case for it when we were in New York, and he displayed it in the officer’s mess.
“When my 2-yr contract ended, I boarded the Liberty Ship Benjamin H. Hill. We carried cargo. I was on board for only 8 months.
“Why are you asking all these questions? Why do you want to know this?”
Built: 1945 at The Kaiser Company, Swan Island Yard, Portland, OR
Length: 159 ft 6 in (48.6 m)
Beam: 20 ft 7 in (6.3m)
Liberty Ship Benjamin H. Hill
General Cargo Vessel Type EC2-S-C1 (E = emergency, C = cargo, 2 = waterline length between 400 – 500ft, S = steam power, C1 = this design)
Built: 1943 at J.A. Jones Construction Company, Brunwsick, GA
Length: 441 ft 6 in (134.6 m)
Beam: 57 ft (17.4 m)
Depth: 37 ft 4 in (11.4 m)
Speed: 11 kts
For more information on Liberty Ships: see
Ships for Victory,
Project Liberty Ship - cruise on the restored John W. Brown!
They also maintain the incredible resource, Armed-Guard.com with all their photos
Click on this link to see a wonderfully illustrated 1943 brochure on the capacity of a Liberty Ship.
Amazing site if you are into tankers: Auke Visser’s Historical Tankers Site
Happy Fathers Day!
“Growler is the sole survivor of the Navy’s fleet of pioneering strategic missile diesel powered submarines.”
- Historic Naval Ships Association
U.S.S. GROWLER SSG-577
Class: Grayback/Regulus II Submarine
Launched: April 5, 1958
At: Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Commissioned: August 30, 1958
Length: 317′ 7″ / 96.8 m
Beam: 27′ 2″ / 8.3 m
Draft: 19′ (surface trim) / 5.8 m
Displacement: 2,768 tons (surfaced)
Armament: Regulus I and II missiles
Speed: maximum surfaced – 20 knots
maximum submerged – 12 knots
Complement: 9 officers, 11 chief petty officers, 68 crewmen
Decommissioned: May 25, 1964
Pier 86 is the location of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum (West 46th Street & 12th Avenue).
We were surveying some piers located north of the museum, and would have to take tide readings regularly off a tide board posted up just east of this submarine, so these workers would watch us go back and forth, and wave:
And they know what many of us know: any day on the water is better than a good day at the office.
However, if you are in the office, check out Maritime Monday’s submarine edition and order a sub for lunch.
In a recent lecture, Norman Brouwer said it is easy to tell the difference between the Olympic and the Titanic: the 1st class passenger promenade is open in Olympic, in the Titanic, it was closed off.
Also, fewer lifeboats (namely, twenty for 1,178 people) were on the Titanic as “the seagoing public unquestionably thoroughly appreciates the advantage presented by clear deck space as well as unrestricted view.” This quote was found by Conrad Milster in an 1910 engineering journal.
|Length:||882 ft 6 in (269.0 m)|
|Beam:||92 ft 6 in (28.2 m)|
|Draught:||34 ft 7 in (10.5 m)|
Longest running ship of the line, nicknamed Old Reliable. In 1917, she was beDazzled! and carried Canadian and American troops. During thick fog in May 1934, she rammed and sank LV-117 Lightship Nantucket in the Ambrose Channel with loss of seven lives from a crew of eleven.
painting by Arthur Lismer, 1919
RMS Titanic 1910-1912
|Length:||882 ft 6 in (269.0 m)|
|Beam:||92 ft 0 in (28.0 m)|
|Height:||175 ft (53.3 m) (keel to top of funnels)|
|Draught:||34 ft 7 in (10.5 m)|
|Depth:||64 ft 6 in (19.7 m)|
|Capacity:||Passengers: 2,435, crew: 892|
For a visual orgy and offbeat links of that sinking feeling, pls click there. Forwarded from Old Salt Blog, a Gothamist article on people who were shocked, shocked to learn Titanic was not just a movie, but a real ship.
|Length:||882 ft 9 in (269.06 m)|
|Beam:||94 ft (29 m)|
|Draught:||34 ft 7 in (10.54 m)|
|Capacity:||675 as hospital ship (300 wounded, 489 medical staff)|
|Notes:||Carried no civilian passengers|
The third ship was to be named Gigantic, but after the loss of the Titanic, White Star Lines changed it to the Britannic. She became a hospital ship and was transporting 1,066 people through the Aegean Sea when she was struck by what is believed to be a naval mine. The ship went down, but 1,036 people were saved.
One crew member, a nurse named Violet Jessop, survived disasters with every single ship of the Olympic Class: the 1911 collision on the Olympic with the British warship, HMS Hawke, the sinking of Titanic, and the 1916 sinking of the Britannic! She continued working with White Star Line, survived them, and seems to have worked on ships until she retired.
In New York, the ships docked here at pier 54:
Today, pier 54 is a long concrete field atop crumbling pilings at the end of 13th street west side. The skyline of Hoboken NJ (not shown) lies across North River.
The big business for the transatlantic shipping was immigration: over 30 million came here to the New World by ship; 12 million of them passed through Ellis Island.
Luckily for ships, business started going the other direction, and emigrant bunks were converted into tourist berths. The Depression killed off a few lines, two World Wars sunk more than a few ships, but nothing could finish off the ocean liners like the Jet Age, starting with the Comet in 1949.
However, during its heyday, from 1925 to 1935, competition was international and fierce. Most lines competed for speed, the unofficial prize being the Blue Riband of which the last winner is sitting rusting away at Pier 82 on the Delaware River in Philadelphia. The Olympic class was less interested in speed, and went lavish in luxury instead.
Thank you, Norman Brouwer, Conrad Milster for much information.
I love books. I love my copy of Frederick Emmons’s The Atlantic Liners.
The digester eggs and the walkway/observation deck are a sci-fi aluminum grey, but I was in an aubergine mood today.
The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant has been in operation since 1967. Eight eggs sit on top of 54 acres of sewage plant area through which flow 200 to 310 million gallons of wastewater per day.
What artists these eggs are in the company of!
Etched in granite are the Native American names for these places. Carved into the steps of the kayak launch are the archaeological periods we have somehow survived (with little barnacles and mussels wedged into the steps. Probably zebra mussels, so don’t feel bad for ‘em.) And there is a fragrance garden that is wheelchair accessible, but sorry, nothing for the olfactory-challenged.
A relief of the Newtown Creek, pre-European days, is etched deeply into tilted granite so rainwater can fill it and flow. Two metal engraved maps of the areas set into another granite table. One depicts the industrial history from 1887 – 1951 (their source is Sanborn Maps.) Lime, tin, barrelmaking, oil, gas, petroleum, shipyard, rope and line storage, grinding, dyeing, asphalt, paving, bricks, lumber, stones, iron and bronze works, welding, chemical, box factory, hat and tie company, steam laundry: these are labels on the first map. The dark line delineates the bulkhead. In the second map, courtesy of the DEP 2008, the dark lines are shrubs. (Who are the artists, please?)
And this artist–No Pots, Just Paintings–got it. The combination of the eggs and the onion top of the Russian Orthodox churches in the neighborhood are perfect. Alas, s/he is so terse, there’s no information on the artist.
New Orleans! I love the sultry breezes, the smells, the birds. I love tugspot hopping down 308, pulling over every few miles to look at the shrimpers, sponge harvesters, and to wave at the friendly tug men on Bayou Lafourche. It is amazing to see what places look like, places that were only names before this trip: Lockport, where Thoma-Sea’s shipyard is, Des Allemands where Candies is, Larose where Edison Chouest is. Got to peek at the tops of three CG cutters at Bollinger’s at Lockport and the grey trapezoids of three big vessels at Avondale. This is where the ships are built!
I love the swirly, mocha chocolata river — man! is it cold! love the names of the boxy, wedding-cake tugboats, love the nonstop parade of cargo ships, freighters, and LONG tows of coal, grain, and what looked like scows and scows of oyster shells.
Oh, and I love beignets! first time for all of this wonder! see here for some of the adventures on the Mississippi!
what? I cannot stalk on AIS without being stalked by googleAds?
just curious: does anyone else who uses marinetraffic (brought to you FREE by the University of the Aegean! Ευχαριστώ! Ευχαριστώ!) get ads making you wonder if your male chief mate or male bosun is cheating on you? do any of you get ‘is SHE cheating on you’ ads? two weeks crammed together on a noisy boat, and do we need THIS to add to the tension that dishes in the sink and the annoying TV shows already create? have these adRobots no heart???
one black ball:
two black balls:
“Not under command. Underway, but no way on. Adrift.”
Unable to follow any rules.
three black balls:
“Aground. Displayed aloft.”
two black balls, two diamonds:
“Vessel engaged in underwater work. Pass on diamond side; avoid ball side.”
Another beauty tip from Capt JJ: “You know how I remember it? girls love diamonds, so go for the diamonds. Or, you have to have balls to pass on the side with the balls. But the girls and diamonds one is easier, for me.”
ball diamond ball:
“Restricted in ability to maneuver. Working vessel.”
And, Capt JJ had to go there—“This is no good, either:”
— thanks, Capt JJ. I think.
If hungry for more, the COLREGS International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, published by the IMO, spells out in exhaustive detail the rules for lights, shapes (dayshapes like these), and sound signals.
Note: *No vessel ever has absolute ‘right of way’ over other vessels.* You can be the ’give way’ (burdened) or the ‘stand on’ (privileged) vessel.
Hanging the shingle! Off to starboard are two buttons that will take you to the Bowsprite stores: one is Etsy, for finished goods, and the other is for Spoonflower where you can order fabrics. (I’m an Etsyian. Eek.)
Custom orders are accepted and appreciated. If you work on a ship I’ve drawn, you get a major discount.
“Tradition states that the first entry of the new year in the official log in CG and Navy must be in verse and rhyme.”
So, here’s to tradition…
Zero one January two thousand one two.
Eight glasses for the old year and eight for the new.
Clear, windless day; low tide at o8h14,
The river has that beautiful blue-brown, cold sheen.
Hair making good knots, rolled out of my berth,
Dismayed by the thickening of the girth
After bubbly and beer and something chateau,
Feeling like sierra hotel india tango
It’s already into the forenoon watch
When I go to the galley to assess the debauch
Staring at all of the bottles in front of me
Feeling a bit post-frontal lobotomy
Semper ready for the challenge!
It’s not too bad, rank it code orange.
Monitoring 13 while the kettle does boil…
So, where are my friends moving cargo, people and oil?
Clearing the nav station of sketches and cat,
I scan AIS to see where everyone’s at.
There’s xx at the anchorage and xx on the KV
And look at the ships coming in from sea!
Can’t wait to tell Tuggie who’s going by now!
Containerships, tankers, tugs and their scows,
Ferries and fishingboats and tour boats galore,
A honeyboat, and the boats of the Army Corps
Icebreakers and buoy tenders, and medium response
A sailboat, some kayaks, and hopefully, clearance.
A cruiseship. No ro-ro’s. The dredgers are at bay.
Do harbor charlie and fireboat get overtime pay?
Are the survey boats working? are the line boats out?
They’re not on AIS so I can’t see their routes.
I could do this all day, but muster midmess
To wish all of you for 2012: the best!
Thank you, CaptJJ for telling me about this tradition!
what is your log entry for today?
¡wow! thank you, west38! it looks so beautifully zen! click on her lovely blog to see the art of needle and thread in perfection: that corner is art.
Written and researched by Owen Burke, Brian Lam of The Scuttlefish:
Hold written on one set of knuckles and Fast written on the other was meant to give a sailor good grip in the rigging.
A Rope tattooed around the wrist meant that a seaman is a deckhand.
A Nautical Star or Compass Rose was given so that a sailor could always find her way home.
A Harpoon marked a member of the fishing fleet.
A Dragon signified that a sailor has served in China. A Golden Dragon was given when a sailor crossed the International Date Line.
A Shellback Turtle or King Neptune was earned when a sailor made it across the Equator.
Print your own fabrics! re-upholster your bunk, make cool pillows, and frame your porthole with your own designs! Spoonflower, is a site based in Durham, North Carolina that prints your designs at their ‘mill’. Read more about them here.
In honor of Veterans Day (today: 11.11.11) they just held their military fabrics contest which I missed, but inspired me to make a tribute fabric anyway. (I never knew the symbolism of poppies until this contest.)
The Ships Ahoy Tea Towel calendar is now available! The fabric measures 21″ long by 18″ wide, but the edges are raw and will need to be finished:
All ships are denizens or frequent visitors of NYHarbor, and run on their own power. I love our historic vessels, but will save those for the Dead Ships Dinner Napkins series.
In addition to maintaining the light, they had bells or horns which sounded to warn passing vessels of shoals. One CG chief petty officer told of his days of making deliveries to several lightships, before they were replaced by the large “monster buoys:”
“We would bring food and new crew about every 10 days. They often lived on the fish they caught. Most of those horns were 4 second every 2 minutes—24 hours a day, 7 days a week!
“You know what was funny? when we picked up the guys at crew change, they’d stop while they were talking every few minutes. They were so used to stopping for the horn that the pause ended up in their speech. It would take them awhile to adjust.”
thank you, again, Capt J.J.!
The yacht Nantucket is in town, in the Morris Canal, across from the full-time, office WinterQuarter. Also, see Brian LaFloca’s children’s book, “Lightship,” which has beautiful illustrations of life aboard a lightship.
“You remember radiotelephones? very expensive.”
One captain tells of being on a boat with his crew in Cape May when the following dialogue was overheard on a channel that a radiotelephone was using. The call was from a commercial fishing boat that often stays out for weeks at a time, from a man on the boat to a woman onshore.
Husband: ”Hon, there’s fish. I think we’re going to be a few more days out here.”
Wife: “Well…I’m having sex on friday. If you want to be there for it. Your call.”
thank you, Capt. JJ!
Pick a new recruit.
“Ok, kid. We have to tune the radar. We’re going to wrap you in this, 360° so we can monitor your movements. Try not to wrinkle it.”
“Don’t wrinkle it! God!”
“No. No good. I think the whole range has to be covered. Come back here on the boat, let’s get the arms too.”
“Yeah, and cover the neckline. We need a higher range here.”
“So, how is it?–Keep walking, but go slower.” “No, no. This is not good. I’m missing the top. Maybe we have to go higher.”
“Ok. Come back on the boat.”
“You can’t do that. He can’t see! How’s he supposed to stay on the dock?”
“Ok. Here. Eyeholes. And I’ll throw in nostril holes too. Boy, kid, this is your lucky day.”
“Ok, go back out there, please. This is taking too long.”
“Good! good! stay there! got it?” (camera taking photos)
“Ok! now move a bit more to the west. Just a few steps—stop! good!… ok! go back, move away from the boat… good!”
Thank you, Capt JJ.
and, this is great (“we need a wheelwash sample…”)
Will, what’s a guy to do? I guess if we want fresh ink we ought to squeeze a squid.
The Puffin made me do it! the Puffin–and many of you, thank you!–made me open boxes to look for my ink.
I have moved. But, where to put the stuff? You don’t own things, I’ve learned; possessions possess YOU.
George Carlin’s got the lowdown on stuff.
Thank you for your patience while we continue to work to bring back our regularly scheduled program…
coming up next: shipspotting with Tugster! stay tuned!
I love how the sailboats are so unpredictable, making loops, turns and spins. When the wind picks up, they get frenetic.
In contrast, the tugs and barges, plow through, steady and true to their course. It is like that in real time, but speeded up, it is very dramatic.
The tugmen sometimes call the sailboats “mosquitos” or “fleas,” but everything looks like waterbugs to me.
This video was shot on saturday when the high number of commuter ferries do not run. The gay pride sailboats go by at the end.
We are bedazzled by Razzle Dazzle! I am very fond of warship grey. And I like Canadian warship grey, too, the “grey to match Halifax fog.” However, nothing is quite like Dazzle on a warship…
Invented by the artist Norman Wilkinson while he was serving on patrol in the English Channel in May 1917, dazzle camouflage’s purpose was confuse rather than conceal; the paint job made it difficult for the enemy to estimate the type, size, speed and heading of the painted vessel, rendering visual rangefinders ineffective for naval artillery.
Initially meant for merchant ships during WWI, the Navy quickly made use of the dazzle camouflage for “warships employed in convoy escort duty, blockade patrol, and those such as seaplane tenders, which often had to proceed at very slow speeds, and in the case of blockade ships, to remain stopped for long periods. These last were sitting targets for U-boats.
“By early 1918 dazzle pattern was being worn by over four thousand British merchant ships and approximately four hundred Royal Navy vessels of various types. It was worn by ships of other countries also, and was officially adopted by the American Navy in 1918.” – A. Raven
“Dazzle’s effectiveness is not certain. The British Admiralty concluded it had no effect on submarine attacks, but boosted crew morale. It also increased the morale of people not involved in fighting; hundreds of wonderfully colored ships in dock was nothing ever seen before or since.” - wiki
The Development of Naval Camouflage, by Alan Raven, is a very thorough piece in six chapters, complete with the result of years of research in documenting colors used by merchant ships, and the navies of Britain and the United States. He even includes excerpts from the logs of befuddled enemy ships. However, it is hard to read, being white type on blue, and is chopped up into many pages. I have collated it into one file and formatted it into something easier to read, if anyone is interested. (Courtesy of Plastic Ship Modeler Magazine issue #96/3.)
I am currently working on a little ferry in NYHarbor, and my shifts are afternoons and evenings, saturdays and sundays: just when the cruise ships and party yachts come out. Some of them have been featured on UglyShips, and they are eyesores. Tugster recommended that they be Dazzled! Here, then, not to confuse, nor conceal, but to liven up their dreary silhouettes—and to boost our morales, those of us on bowwatch—are the new! improved! versions of five of the ugliest vessels in NYHarbor:
“Where’s the cleat? where’s the line? WHERE’S the deckhand?”
My favorite artist: Sister Mary Corita! She’s done tanks, she should do tankers.
So many passengers vessels are lemons. Uglyships, that bastion of good taste, highlighted a few of our harbor’s tugs. I say there is no such thing as an ugly NYHarbor tug. We have eccentric ones, but fugly? Nah, fuggedaboutit.
Elizabeth, of Green My Bodega, loves the Hudson River: “I thought of getting a tattoo of the Hudson River that ran along the length of my leg. But then I realized it would look like a giant varicose vein.”
Join her and many others at the Festival of Ideas for the New City, May 4 – 8, at happenings around the city. Green My Bodega and Foodshed Market‘s Mapping Present and Imagined Food Systems will be at the StreetFest on Saturday, May 7th from 11:00am – 7:00pm. It is “A presentation of posters, maps, and illustrations visualizing aspects of our present and imagining the potential regional food system.” Here are two designs that were submitted: