Armel Le Cléac’h Wins the 8th Vendée Globe Singlehanded Round the World Race

French sailor, Armel Le Cléac’h, 39, won the 8th Vendée Globe singlehanded round the world race today at 15:37:46 UTC after 74 days 3 hours 35 minutes and 46 seconds at sea on his 60ft racing yacht Banque Populaire VIII.  He set a new record for the race, beating the previous record of 78 days 2 hours 16 minutes set by French sailor Francois Gabart in the 2012-13 edition by 3 days, 22 hours and 41 minutes.  This is Le Cléac’h’s third Vendee Globe Race, coming in second in both the 2008-09 and 2012-13 sailings of the race.  This time around, Le Cléac’h sailed 24,499.52 nm at an average speed of 13.77 knots in the race which began in Les Sables d’Olonne, France on November 6 and ended for Le Cléac’h today in the same harbor.

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Vendee Globe — A Two Boat Race for the Finish Line

After sailing over 24,000 nautical miles and just 300 nautical miles from the finish line of the Vendee Globe singlehanded round the world race, Armel Le Cleac’h sailing Banque Populaire VIII is holding a slim 30 nautical mile lead on Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss.  With contrary winds, it is unclear whether Thomson will have the time to close the remaining distance with Le Cleac’h.  The two boats have been racing neck and neck together for the last 73 days. They are expected to cross the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France sometime tomorrow.

The rest of the fleet of 18 boats still in the race is spread out. Jérémie Beyou sailing Maitre Coq in third place is about 1,000 nautical miles to the finish line while the last boat competing in 18th place, Sébastien Destremau on TechnoFirst – faceOcean  is 9,630 nautical miles from the finish. 

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Wilson & Roura — Oldest and Youngest Vendee Globe Racers Round Cape Horn

Swiss sailor, Alan Roura, 23, is the youngest competitor in the Vendee Globe single-handed ’round the world race. American, Rich Wilson, 66, is the oldest. Both recently rounded Cape Horn, with Roura roughly 12 hours ahead of Wilson. The two sailors are 13th and 14th in the current 18 boat fleet. Twenty nine competitors began the race but 11 have now dropped out.

This is not the first time that Rich Wilson can claim the honor of being the oldest sailor in the Vendee Globe. As we posted a year ago, in 2009, Wilson was the oldest sailor in the Vendee Globe at 58. He finished ninth of the thirty boats which began the race. Wilson was the only American in the eleven boats which finished. This year, Wilson and Roura are also the only American and Swiss competing in the current race.

Alan Roura, while the youngest in the fleet, is still highly experienced. He started sailing with his family as a child, spending twelve years traveling across the Atlantic and Pacific on their 43′ sailboat, Ludmilla. A veteran of four major Transatlantic races, this is his first round the world race.

By Thursday, Armel Le Cléac’h and Alex Thomson are expected to cross the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, France ending a tightly contested round the world race between the two leaders.

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On Martin Luther King Jr. Day

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a quote:

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

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NY Harbor Ferries & the Other “Miracle on the Hudson”

Eight years ago today, US Airways Flight 1549  made an emergency water landing in the Hudson River. If the plane’s pilots, Captain Chesley “Sulley” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles had not glided the plane in at just the right angle and airspeed, it is likely that the plane would have broken apart and that all the 155 passengers and crew aboard could have died. The landing is often called the “Miracle on the Hudson.” There was, however, a second miracle on the Hudson that day. Remarkably, New York harbor commuter ferries began arriving at the flooding plane less than four minutes after the crash.  Had it not been for the ferries’ rapid rescue of the passengers from the icy waters, the “miracle” might have ended as tragedy.

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A Week Aboard Oliver Hazard Perry

A video for a cold winter day. We recently posted about the exciting voyage plans for 2017 on the School Sailing Vessel (SSV) Oliver Hazard Perry. This year, the ship will be sailing to Florida, Bermuda, Cuba and the Arctic. Here is a video of a teen voyage in August of 2016.  

A Week Aboard Oliver Hazard Perry

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Antarctic’s Larsen Ice Shelf on the Verge of Collapse

In December of 1893, Captain Carl Anton Larsen, the master of the Norwegian whaling ship Jason, sailed along a vast Antarctic ice shelf in the northwest part of the Weddell Sea on the east coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. Now, just over 120 years later, the ice sheet that bears Larsen’s name is collapsing.

British scientists with Project Midas recently predicted that a widening crack in the ice shelf could cause a 2,000 square mile ice island the size of the State of Delaware to break off this winter.  Swansea University’s Adrian Luckman, who heads up Project MIDAS, told the BBC that “If it doesn’t go in the next few months, I’ll be amazed.”

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Hudson River Sloop Clearwater & the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant

It was announced this week that the Indian Point nuclear power facility will close by 2021. The Indian River plant is about 25 miles north of New York City. It sits on, not one, but two geological fault lines. A core breach caused by an earthquake would be disastrous. Standard procedure is to evacuate everyone within a 50 mile radius of a core breach, which, in this case, is close to 20 million people. Even without an earthquake, the facility has been called a “disaster waiting to happen.” The fifty-four year old facility has been the site of fires, automation failures and radiation leaks. The oldest of the three reactors, which did not meet earthquake standards, was shut down in 1974, while the other two reactors are each over 40 years old.

What does all this have to do with the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater? Continue reading

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SSV Oliver Hazard Perry Bound for Bermuda, Florida, Cuba and the Arctic

After a successful first season sailing New England waters, SSV Oliver Hazard Perry has an exciting 2017 ahead.  Toward the end of January, the sailing school ship will depart Newport, RI bound for Bermuda, then to Florida where the ship will be based through March. The ship will offer opportunities for explorers of all ages to participate in one of two round-trip voyages to Cuba (March 10-18 and March 18-26); a passage from Ft. Lauderdale to Bermuda (April 2-12); or a passage from Bermuda to Newport, R.I. (April 14-22). The voyages to Cuba are targeted towards high school and college students, with a limited number of berths available for adventurous adults as well. The Bermuda and Newport passages are hosted in partnership with Ocean Navigator magazine for any adults wanting to learn the skill of offshore celestial navigation and marine meteorology.

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Mystic Seaport Chantey Blast and Pub Sing

Next Saturday, January 14th, the Mystic Seaport Museum, in Mystic, CT, is  hosting its annual Chantey Blast and Pub Sing from 1-5 PM at Frohsinn Hall, 54 Greenmanville Ave., directly across the street from the museum. Everyone is invited to join in as Mystic Seaport chantey staff and many of the finest chantey singers in the Northeast sing chanties, maritime ballads, and songs of the sea. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. This fundraising event is co-sponsored by the Pinewoods Folk Music Club and is organized as part of the Friends of the Festival program that seeks to generate support for the Museum’s 38th annual Sea Music Festival, which will be held at Mystic Seaport June 8-11, 2017. 

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Manatee Monday, Part 2 — Snorkeling with Manatees at Crystal River

Last Friday, Crystal River did not live up to its name. It was murky and the crystal clear waters that I remembered had a visibility of only about six feet. In some respects, however, it added an element of mystery, when, as I lay floating flat on the surface, a manatee would appear from beneath me and rise up until it was looking me straight in the eyes, inches away from my mask.  Here is a short video I edited of footage shot by our captain and guide, Phil Eledge of our snorkeling with manatees.  

Snorkeling with Manatees, Crystal River Florida Continue reading

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Manatee Monday, Part 1 — A Hopeful but Still Uncertain Recovery

It wasn’t so long ago when the conversation regarding Florida manatees was not whether or not they would become extinct but rather how quickly their extinction would happen. Fortunately, efforts to save the manatee have paid off. In 1991, the Florida manatee population was down to 1,270. Current estimates by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now put the population at around 6,300, an increase of almost 500%. Regulations to limit boat speed in areas frequented by manatees have been largely successful as have efforts to preserve winter habitats.

Because of the rebound in the population, the Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed reclassifying the manatee from endangered to threatened status under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Many environmentalists consider the change to be premature. Even with the status change, manatees would still receive the same protection from the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.

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Seeking Captain/Educator for Schooner Amistad


Photo: Sean D. Elliot/The Day

Almost exactly a year ago, we posted, The Return of the Schooner Amistad, about the efforts of the non-profit, Discovering Amistad, to return the schooner to operation.  Discovering Amistad has recently announced that it is searching for a Captain/Educator for the  replica of the historic schooner. Tony Arrow posted the following on Facebook:  

Discovering Amistad is a new nonprofit educational organization that will provide full-year programming on its tall ship, the Amistad, in classrooms and at historic sites of partner organizations. It will enable children and adults in Connecticut and the region to discover the story of the Amistad and its impact on Connecticut and the nation. Importantly, the organization will provide learning opportunities for children and adults to discover the relevance of the Amistad to today’s world.

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Mark Knopfler — So Far from the Clyde

Not many lead singers from an 80’s rock and roll band could write a compelling song about ship scrapping, but then Mark Knopfler is not just any singer/songwriter. Knopfler was born in Glasgow, Scotland on the River Clyde, which was once a major shipbuilding center. In the early 1900s, a fifth of all ships in the world were built on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow.  There are not many Clyde-built ships left. Most ended up in scrap yards, so far from the Clyde. Mark Knopfler singing “So Far from the Clyde” in a video by Alec Beaton.

Mark Knopfler — So Far from the Clyde
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Navy Dolphins Training to Locate Threatened Vaquita

Vaquita Photo: Paula Olson, NOAA

Vaquita, a small porpoise found only in the Gulf of California, is the world’s rarest marine mammal, and is in imminent danger of extinction. Now, US Navy dolphins are being trained to locate vaquita in a last-ditch effort to catch and and protect the last few dozen of these critically endangered porpoises.

The vaquita weren’t discovered until 1958 and now are in danger of being wiped out by illegal gill-netting by fishermen in the Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez. The vaquita are being caught and drowned in gill-nets set by fishermen trying to catch totoaba, a fish whose swim bladder is a prized delicacy in China.

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USS Dwight D. Eisenhower — Three French Cops and a Unexpected Baby

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower is big. Like other Nimitz class carriers, it is over 1000′ long on the waterline, wit a beam of 244′ and is powered by nuclear steam plant which develops a quarter of a million horsepower. It has a crew of 3,200 with an additional air wing of 2,480. Recently, although briefly, it added a few additional temporary crew.

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The Virtual Mayflower and the Drone

The Telegraph in the UK is reporting on two notionally related projects associated with the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to North America. The first is a virtual reality project led by the Human Interface Technologies Team, at the University of Birmingham which is aiming to recreate the Mayflower of 1620, plank by plank and will allow modern visitors to walk around the old ship while wearing a virtual reality headset.  It sounds like great fun and could be a great way to learn about the ship and the history directly.

The second project, I am not so sure about. It is described as follows: “a new futuristic version of the Mayflower, which is fully autonomous, is being built and will become the first unmanned vessel to cross the Atlantic Ocean in 2020.” From the graphic, it appears to be a sail and solar powered trimaran drone.

Two immediate issues come to mind. Continue reading

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Thar’ She Blows — Identifying Whales by their Spouts

Right: NOAA photo of right whale spout, Left: NYPD photo of whale in East River

Yesterday we posted about a whale swimming in New York’s East River. It was originally identified by the police as a humpback, but their photograph of the whale’s spout now makes it highly likely that the whales was in fact an endangered right whale. Given that whales are almost entirely underwater while swimming, it can be hard to identify one species from the next.  One way to do so, is by their spouts.  Whales, of course, do not actually spout water from their blowholes. What we see as a whale’s spout is the hot moist air being expelled from the whale’s lungs condensing as it hits colder air.

The reason that many think that the whale sighted in the East River is an endangered right whale is because of the spout photographed by the New York Police Department. The photo to the right, above, shows a right whale spouting. The photo the left is of the whale in the East River taken by the NYPD on Saturday. Both have the same distinctive “V” shape.  Humpback whale spouts are usually a single vertical column as shown in the graphic below.

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New Year’s Eve Whale In NYC’s East River

A whale was seen swimming in New York’s East River on Saturday.  The whale was spotted at around 10AM along the shore of Manhattan’s upper East Side, close to Gracie Mansion, where the mayor lives.  The initial police report identified the whale as a humpback. Based on the shape of the whale’s spout it appears to be an endangered right whale. 

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Happy New Year! Go Jump in the Sea — Scheveningen New Year’s Dive

Happy New Year! Every year for more than the last fifty years, brave or foolhardy Dutch men, women, and children have been celebrating New Year’s Day by jumping into the sea. Called the ‘Nieuwjaarsduik‘ (New Year’s dive), an estimated 25,000 or so plunge into the icy water each January 1st, at some 60 locations across the Netherlands. The largest dive takes place yearly at the seaside resort of Scheveningen, where typically 10,000 or so hardy souls put on little red knot caps, run screaming into the ocean and then run screaming back. Here is a video of the bone-chilling festivities at Scheveningen last year.

2016 New Year’s Day Swim The Hague Scheveningen

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