Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Note: This post originally appeared December 22, 2009.
British writer Robert Louis Stevenson not only invented the popular characters Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (in the novel bearing their names), and Long John Silver (in the novel Treasure Island), he was also an accomplished mariner. After a lifetime of ill health, he set out from San Francisco in 1888 on his yacht Casco, and spent the last six years of his life sailing and writing about the South Pacific, especially the Hawaiian Island and Samoa. Among his non-fiction works are In The South Seas (available here from Google Books). He also wrote this poem:
CHRISTMAS AT SEA
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.
They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.
All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.
We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.
The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.
The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.
O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.
And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.
They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.
She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.
And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
I saw three ships come sailing in
On Christmas Day in the morning...
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day, on Christmas Day;
O they sailed into Bethlehem,
On Christmas Day in the morning.
Monday, December 20, 2010
The impending ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention 2006 has implications for mariners around the world. MLC has been called the "fourth pillar" of international maritime law, joining SOLAS, MARPOL, and STCW. Like all these other pillars, compliance with MLC may be forced on all nations -- even those, like the United States, that haven't ratified the treaty -- if they wish to have their ships welcomed in the ports of nations that have ratified.
When the MLC, 2006, comes into force and is effectively
implemented in all countries with a maritime interest:
• all seafarers, whatever their nationality, serving on a ship
to which the Convention applies, whatever flag it flies, will
have decent working and living conditions and an ability
to have concerns addressed where conditions do not meet
the requirements of the Convention;
• various mechanisms in the Convention will serve to ensure,
to the greatest extent possible, that the Convention requirements
are respected, even on the ships that fly the flag of
countries that do not ratify the Convention;
• governments and shipowners committed to establishing decent
working and living conditions for seafarers will have
a level playing field with strong protection against unfair
competition from substandard ships.
The MLC has not come into force yet, but is on track to be in place by 2012. The treaty requires that 30 nations ratify in order for it to become effective and, while only ten have so far the European Union has encourage all its members to do so. The treaty's second condition requires that nations representing at least 33-percent of the world's tonnage ratify, which has already occurred.
Central to the MLC is the "Seafarer's Bill of Rights" which seeks to correct a perceived imbalance in working conditions and benefits between (civilian) mariners and workers ashore. Among the provisions of the "Seafarer's Bill of Rights":
- required statutory holidays
- 2-1/2 days leave per month worked, which must be taken every year (with the shipowner paying repatriation costs)
- mandatory grievance procedures, including crew representatives for crews larger than five people
- contributions to social security
- access to prompt medical care
- guaranteed repatriation for medical reasons, or if the vessel stops operating or is sold
- employment contracts
- working hours limited to 14 in any 24-hour period, 72 in any seven-day period.
MLC also puts forth new requirements for crew accommodations and facilities for vessels built after 2012, including requirements that crew quarters be built above the vessel's load line except in special circumstances. The MLC also defines certain minimum areas for each crew member, limits the number of crew the can share a single head, etc. On all except passenger vessels, it requires a separate sleeping room for each crew member. Eventually, every vessel will have to meet these requirements, no matter when it was built.
For the text of the Convention, available from the International Labour Organization website, click here.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
There is a tide in the affairs of men.Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;Omitted, all the voyage of their lifeIs bound in shallows and in miseries.On such a full sea are we now afloat,And we must take the current when it serves,Or lose our ventures.--William ShakespeareJulius Ceasar, Act 4, scene 3
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I earnestly entreat the right honorable Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government not to consign some thousands of living human beings to undeserved and miserable death. … Under the Board of Trade, since 1862, when unhappily the commercial marine of this country was committed to their care, matters have been getting worse and worse, with ... ship owners of murderous tendencies outside the House, and who are immediately and amply represented inside the House, and who have frustrated and talked to death every effort to procure a remedy for this state of things… The Secretary of Lloyd's tells a friend of mine that he does not know a single ship which has been broken up voluntarily by the owners in the course of 30 years on account of its being worn out. Ships gradually pass from hand to hand, until bought by some needy and reckless speculators, who send them to sea with precious human lives… And what is the consequence that ensues? It is that continually, every winter, hundreds and hundreds of brave men are sent to death, their wives are made widows and their children are made 1824 orphans, in order that a few speculative scoundrels, in whose hearts there is neither the love of God nor the fear of God, may make unhallowed gains. There are ship owners in this country of ours who have never either built a ship or bought a new one, but who are simply what are called "ship-knackers…"
TF Tropical Fresh Water
F Fresh Water
T Tropical Seawater
S Summer Temperate Seawater
W Winter Temperate Seawater
WNA Winter North Atlantic
The "L" next to the lines on the left above indicates "timber," whose effect on stability is measured slightly differently. The circle with the line through it is the maximum load line. The "LR" indicates the vessel's classification society, in this case "Lloyd's Register."
Monday, December 13, 2010
Just as the US Coast Guard was poised to fully implement the requirements of STCW '95 for American mariners, the International Maritime Organization has revised and expanded many of its requirements for mariners worldwide. The Coast Guard decided to hold off the full STCW implementation it first announced in November 2009 in light of these new requirements, but you can expect most them to be fully in place by the end of 2011, if not earlier.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
This country is already, in effect, an arsenal for the democratic Allies. Let it be proclaimed as such, as an expression of our national policy. Let us cooperate in the one way that we reasonably can.-- playwright Robert Emmet Sherwoodquoted in The New York Times, May 12, 1940
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
In his first book The Devil's Picnic, writer Taras Grescoe travelled the world researching and eating nine different foods that, for one reason or another, were forbidden. In Bottom Feeder: How To Eat Ethically In A World Of Vanishing Seafood, Grescoe looks at the state of ten different fish and their fisheries from around the world, how humans have become so good at fishing that we threaten to wipe out any species we find palatable, and ends with looking at ways we can save those fisheries from extinction.
"Fishermen are hunters," he said. "Some people would even say they are predators. I'd add that they are lords, and probably among the last adventurers of daily life. They belong to the economy of the hunt, which goes back millenia. Except that three thousand years ago there were no echo sounders and GPS systems; obviously with all this technological sophistication, the fish have a little trouble escaping. The difference between a fisherman and a farmer is that a fisherman has never sown a fish in the water. He's not responsible for the paternity of what he's caught. Fishermen are always subject to what I call the lottery-day syndrome, the hope that with the next set of the net they'll haul up the jackpot."
Whale was not what I expected. I had imagined myself chewing a hunk of gummy blubber, but the cut was lean, and the taste was closer to rare bloody beef than fish. Whale was dense meat, reminiscent of venison, but with a slight aftertaste of liver. Frankly, though, it was nothing special -- tuna tartare was tastier -- and mine was still a little frozen in the middle.As I chewed, I found I was already trying to rationalize my meal. After all, compared to ordering overfished bluefin, the caviar from sturgeon, or any of the endangered delicacies served in Michelin-starred restaurants of the West every night of the week, ordering minke whale from the vast stocks in Japan is no more than a minor transgression. Surely it is a venial rather than a mortal sin, the moral equivalent of buying a second-hand fur coat.But I failed to convince myself. Pushing the plate away, I wondered if hell has a special media room for the overly curious writer.
Monday, December 6, 2010
If you've been having trouble finding the latest version of the Inland Navigation Rules, you may be looking in the wrong book, on the wrong CD-ROM, or on the wrong website. Last May, Congress moved the Inland Rules from the United States Code (USC) to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). The move was billed as strictly an administrative matter, but there are some implications for working mariners.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Early centuries. The earliest accounts of Chinese seafaring go back to the eleventh century BC when, after the collapse of the Shang dynasty, some sources report that a quarter million troops under General You Houxi scattered to the South Pacific and the Americas. In the sixth century BC the monk Fa Xian travelled by sea to India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and upon his return to China published an account of his travels among the "Buddhistic Kingdoms." Meanwhile, various Chinese states were building their first navies. By the third century BC China was engaged in trade with Hellenistic Egypt on a sea route that would later become known as part of the Silk Road.