Sea-Fever blog

Rocking the Boat’s WhiteHall Award by Peter A. Mello

Rocking the Boat White Hall Awards 2008

Most Sea-Fever readers will know that I’m a big fan of the NYC based nonprofit Rocking the Boat. Here’s a link to some previous posts.

This Thursday they’ll be hosting their Annual Whitehall Award event which

recognize(s) leaders in the fields of experiential education, environmental activism, and youth development. The honor is named for the distinctively elegant and practical wooden boat design that forms the majority of Rocking the Boat’s hand-built fleet. The Whitehall represents a “golden period” of maritime design and craftsmanship, its reliable and beautiful form remaining largely consistent since 1690.

This year they’ll be honoring The Public Service Project at Stroock & Stroock  & Lavan LLP and here’s the good work that they do:

The Public Service Project is the cornerstone of Stroock’s longtime commitment to serving the public interest. Created in March 2001 after a century of pro bono service, the Public Service Project provides a broad array of legal assistance, with a special focus on underserved and under-resourced communities in New York City.

A principal goal of the Public Service Project has been to engage in more transactional pro bono work, advising non-profits engaged in serving and rebuilding communities in need.

Stroock’s representation of Rocking the Boat goes back to 2001, when RTB was first getting its oars in the water. Since that time, over two dozen different Stroock attorneys have worked on RTB’s behalf, contributing well over 400 hours of pro bono legal advice, valued at almost a quarter of a million dollars. Stroock has truly become full service general counsel to RTB, calling on lawyers from no fewer than ten departments, including: intellectual property, entertainment, insurance, non-profit, employment and tax. These lawyers have helped RTB with everything from commercial lease issues and environmental law to employment policies and general corporate law advice.

The event is being hosted at the beautiful New York Yacht Club thanks to the generous sponsorship of Stroock, Toyota, LexisNexis and Sims Metal Management. You can still purchase tickets to the event here.

Why am I such a fan of this organization? Read Steve Rappaport’s grat article Rocking the Boat – Old ways teach kids new life lessons in the current issue (Sept./Oct. 2008) of WoodenBoat magazine and you’ll see why.  (download via RTB website.)

If you really need more reason to get excited by this organization, then you better watch this. On second, thought, watch it anyway, you won’t be disappointed!

Building Kids: A short documentary about Rocking the Boat

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The Sad Story of the Bishop Museum and the Falls of Clyde by Peter A. Mello

Falls of Clyde by Christopher Pala for The NY Times The Sunday New York Times published a sad story written by Christopher Pala about the uncertain future of the Hawaiian Tall Ship, The Falls of Clyde, a National Historic Landmark since 1989. (Historic Ship Stays Afloat. for Now – October 19, 2008) 

What is particularly troubling about this story is the mismanagement and lack of leadership exercised by the Bishop Museum’s board in their stewardship of this historically significant asset and for which they collected considerable public funding and private donations over the years.  The ship has recently been “sold” for a symbolic $1 to a group of well meaning but grossly underfunded supporters. After years of neglect by the Bishop Museum, The Falls of Clyde now requires millions of dollars for rehabilitation and restoration work, a daunting task for a new nonprofit.

The Falls of Clyde story is not a simple one. Her history as represented in the Statement of significance in the National Historic Landmark Study on the National Park Services’ website:

The 1878 ship Falls of Clyde is the world’s only surviving four-masted full-rigged ship. Built in Great Britain in the last quarter of the 19th  century during a shipbuilding boom inspired in part by increased trade with the United States, Falls of Clyde made several voyages to American ports, notably San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, while under the British flag.

Sold to American owners in 1898, Falls of Clyde gained American registry by a special act of Congress in 1900. Henceforth she was involved in the nationally important Hawaiian transpacific sugar trade for Capt. William Matson’s Matson Navigation Co., a shipping firm of international scope and significance that continues in business. Falls of Clyde, ninth vessel acquired by Matson, is the oldest surviving member of the Matson fleet.

After 1907, Falls of Clyde entered another nationally significant maritime trade, transporting petroleum as a sailing oil tanker. Specifically modified for the petroleum trade as a bulk cargo carrier, Falls of Clyde retains integrity of design, materials, and workmanship, and is of exceptional national significance as the oldest surviving American tanker and as the only surviving sailing oil tanker left afloat not only in the United States but also in the world.

Pala writes in the NY Times article:

In 1963, as she was about to be sunk to serve as a breakwater, another group of enthusiasts in Hawaii had her towed back to Honolulu and, over the next two decades, almost fully restored.

In 1984, a new maritime museum, the Hawaii Maritime center, acquired the Falls, which was docked next door, but the center foundered financially. In 1994, the Bishop Museum reluctantly took over the center and the ship. One of the Falls’s chief supporters, Robert Pfeiffer, then the chief executive of the company that owns today’s Matson Navigation Company, set up a half-million-dollar endowment for the care of the Falls.

But over the next 14 years, the Bishop Museum spent little more than the endowment’s annual income of about $50,000 on the ship, according to a former museum official who would not be identified because he did not want to appear critical of the Bishop’s present management.

Though it is customary to place a ship in dry dock every five years to inspect and repair the hull, the museum did not do so with the Falls of Clyde, which was last in dry dock in 1987. Nor did it install zinc anodes, at a cost of a few thousand dollars a year, which would have prevented the hull from decaying.

In 2001, Senator Daniel Inouye, a Democrat, announced a Congressional earmark of $300,000 to preserve the Falls, and Mr. Pfeiffer, who died in 2003, contributed a personal matching grant of $300,000.

Nonprofit cultural institutions, like the Bishop Museum, have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to their communities and supporters to act competently as stewards of the treasures in their care.  While there have been a number of cases over the years where museums have been criticized for selling or deaccessioning works in their collections for various reasons, it’s difficult to recall many that show the alleged incompetence at this scale in preserving a nationally significant treasure.

Cross-posted at Weekly Leader.

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As If The Titanic Story Isn’t Sad Enough – Last Survivor Trying To Survive The HealthCare System Now by Peter A. Mello
October 17, 2008, 10:15 am
Filed under: life, maritime heritage | Tags: , , , , ,

YouTube – Last Titanic Survivor

Titanic survivor sells mementos to pay for care – The Associated Press Oct. 16, 2008

Henry Aldridge & Son The Devizes Auctioneers

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Foto Friday – Miniature maritime? by Peter A. Mello
October 17, 2008, 9:39 am
Filed under: FotoFriday | Tags: , , ,

Foto Friday

The above photo by Flickr photographer Yueh Hua Lee uses an interesting Photoshop technique called “tilt shifting” to make his photograph of Jhongjhu Port look like a miniature. Please click on the photo above for a larger version to get the full effect.

Here’s a link to some other tilt shifted images on

Here’s an interesting Youtube video that applies the same process.

YouTube – Flip Camera Tilt-Shift Visual Experiments.

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Tall Ship Sailing and Social Media: US Brig Niagara Video by Peter A. Mello
October 16, 2008, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Nonprofit, sailing, social media, storytelling, tall ships

Back in July 2006, when I was executive director of the American Sail Training Association, I created this video in one evening from footage shot by the ASTA summer interns aboard the US Brig Niagara, one of the most spectacular ships in the fleet. I revisited it tonight after getting an email from my friend Billy who’s currently chief mate on Niagara and low and behold, we’re in spitting distance of 10,000 views. Can you spare a fella a watch and get it around this waypoint?

YouTube – TALL SHIPS CHALLENGE 2006 on US Brig Niagara

Begging for views aside, social media is an incredibly powerful tool for nonprofits to have in their toolbox. Think about it. Just a year before this video was made and posted, you really couldn’t do this sort of thing because Youtube did not even exist. A month after I posted it, the Wall Street Journal published one of the first articles about the online video sharing phenomenon. In 2 short years there are so many powerful video and other communication platforms available via the Internet that it will make your head spin.

My video has nearly 10,000 views with zero production or marketing budget. It’s not Disney or Spielberg but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, it probably shouldn’t be if you are a nonprofit. Storytelling through direct program participants is authentic and powerful.

Anyway, Billy got me thinking about all of this tonight so please go over and visit the US Brig Niagara blog to see what they are up to this winter.

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USCG Chief Petty Officer SeaDog Retires by Peter A. Mello
October 16, 2008, 12:21 am
Filed under: life, maritime

Pentagon Channel reports:

YouTube – Coast Guard retires explosives-search dog

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The Good Pirate Brogan Charts a Social Media Course Over the Horizon by Peter A. Mello
October 15, 2008, 2:02 pm
Filed under: maritime, social media, work | Tags: , , , ,

Chris Brogan logoMaster blogger and social media Commander Chris Brogan has hopped aboard the good ship of maritime metaphors in business with his recent post, The Beauty of Pirate Ships. This sighting was reported by lookout and friend, Dawn Carter, who blogs over at Chronicles of Dawnia.

Okay, many Sea-Fever readers might not be comfortable with pirate metaphors but Chris ends his post with a Quick Disclaimer that he knows the history of pirates so don’t “crap” on his analogy. Agreed? Aye, aye! Anyway there are some good pirates out there right? Aye!

Swalllows and Amazons Forever If anyone reading this is not familiar with Chris’ work, get yourself underway and sail over to his blog. He has the incredible knack for taking business, marketing and social media concepts and simplifying them so that anyone can see the light. Like Seth Godin, he’s a masterful storyteller who entertains while he teaches. .

The point of his post that the beauty of pirate ships is that the ship (aka infrastructure) is much less important that what you do with it. Chris writes:

You see, they (pirates) weren’t as worried about the details of the operation and maintenance of their existing infrastructure. Instead, they had a fierce passion for their goal of acquiring a living from other vessels on the seas. How does this apply to what we/you do? This game is going to get crazy (has already become crazy). We need to focus harder on the goals than we do the infrastructure, the excuses, the labels, and everything else that gets between us and a goal.

He goes on to say:

This isn’t about chaos. It’s not about throwing everything away. It’s about knowing which parts are vital to moving through the waters, versus the pieces we keep around because that’s what we always did. I wouldn’t always advise something of this nature, and it’s not the right plan for everyone. But me? I’ve got the Jolly Rogers heading up the flag pole soon, and will fire all the guns as soon as my target is in sight.

The Good Pirate Brogan followed up with another briny post, Finding Treasure in the Comments. I’ll let yer scurvy dogs discover that one for yerfelves.

So take the Good Pirate’s advice and batten down the hatches, stow the anchor, point your nose to the wind, keep a steady hand on the tiller and sail toward your business goals full and by.

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Shipbreaking / People Breaking – Poverty At Work On The Beach (Blog Action Day 2008) by Peter A. Mello
October 14, 2008, 10:41 pm
Filed under: Environment, life, maritime, work | Tags: , , ,

blog action day 2008 logo

If you write a maritime or any other type of blog and are not participating in Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty, please consider linking to this post. Thanks.

Today is Blog Action Day 2008. This year’s theme is Poverty and in the maritime world you don’t have to think to hard about where poverty resides.

Southern Asia is notorious for it’s shipbreaking industry where governments allow unscrupulous businessmen to purchase dying ships which are then scrapped by teams of poorly trained and equipped workers for a few dollars a day. The conditions, as Bob Simon reports in the following 60 Minutes segment, are about as close to hell on earth as you can get.

The Ship Breakers

Several professional photographers have tackled this subject with increibly powerful images including Edward Burntysky Shipyards, Building and Breaking, Brendan Corr’s End of the Line, and Sebastiao Selgado’s coffee table masterpiece Workers. However, there are also some powerful images posted on that convey the incredibly hazardous conditions which threaten these workers.

photo by bangladeshblog

by florian99

Ship Breakers II by Ventsdest

Sad Face on Gandani Beach by Michael Foley Photography

September 1, 2008 report from

YouTube – Hazards of the Ship Wrecking Trade

Shipbreaking by the International Metalworkers Federation:

YouTube – Shipbreaking

Amazing photo essay Shipbreak: A Biology of Steel by Claudio Cambon

Shipbreaking in Bangladesh website

Greenpeace’s Bangladesh Shipbreaking website

ILO’s Is There A Decent Way To Break Ships by Paul Bailey

Unfortunately this human and environmental crisis is not going to be solved anytime soon and at least not until first world governments step and take responsibility for the full life (and death) of ships that carry their nation’s goods.

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New Captain at the Helm of the New Bedford Whaling Museum by Peter A. Mello
October 14, 2008, 10:52 am
Filed under: maritime heritage | Tags: , ,


The New Bedford Whaling Museum is one of my favorite maritime museums. I’ve written about it before as a place that launched my passion for and career in the maritime world. (The World’s Largest Ship Model). Today the museum continues to stir the imagination of future captains like my son Luke (above). It’s always a regular port of call for our family adventures.

Last month the museum appointed James Russell as it’s new president. Most recently Mr. Russell was vice president at the International Yacht Restoration School in Newport, RI and prior to that he was at the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, RI.

Last week the New Bedford Standard Times published an interview with Mr. Russell about his thoughts about his new job and the future of the museum. Here’s a link to the article: After two weeks on the job, new president of Whaling Museum has only positive impressions (October 12, 2008)

Under the former president, Anne Brengle, who moved on to the Coast Guard Foundation last year, the museum expanded significantly and really became a world class institution. Of course, with growth comes challenges and I’m sure the new president will have his hands full for some time to come.

We wish Mr. Russell good luck and great success in navigating this great museum into it’s next era.

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Christopher Columbus Interview (Rare Footage) by Peter A. Mello
October 13, 2008, 12:01 am
Filed under: maritime heritage | Tags: , , ,

YouTube – Sesame Street News Flash: Christopher Columbus

Happy Columbus Day!

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