Sea-Fever blog


Preserving Maritime Heritage: The Port Society Website by Peter A. Mello

Sea-Fever Consulting LLC recently launched a new unit called seaz media which focuses on helping maritime and nonprofit organizations use social media to advance their missions.

One of our first projects was to create a web presence for the New Bedford Port Society, a small nonprofit organization that has been serving mariners and the local community continuously for nearly 180 years.  The Port Society owns and maintains two of the most significant buildings in our nation’s rich maritime heritage: The Seamen’s Bethel and The Mariner’s Home.

To learn more about this project, check out the seaz me blog and visit the Port Society website.

NBPS frontpage 2

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Tallest Ship Brings High Hopes to Littlest State by Peter A. Mello

Oliver H. Perry by Onne Van der Wal

While the title of this post sounds a bit like a children’s story, it’s really all big business.

On January 23, 2009, Ariana Green wrote an article in the NY Times titled In Rhode Island, Hoping a Tall Ship Can Help a Sagging Economy about a nonprofit organization, Tall Ships Rhode Island, purchasing a less than half finished tall ship from a foundering Canadian organization with the hopes boosting their tiny states economy, among other things.

Tall ships in America got their start in Newport, RI back in 1973 when Barclay Warburton III, along with a group of like minded maritime enthusiasts including Bart Dunbar, also member of the current group, established a new nonprofit to advance the concept of sail training and organize the US Bicentennial Tall Ships Celebrations in 1976. The American Sail Training Association was founded and over the years has grown to become a national and international nonprofit whose mission is to “encourage character building through sail training, promote sail training to the North American public and support education under sail.” (I was the executive director of the ASTA from 2001 through 2006.)

Warburton and the ASTA founders actions were very important to the local community because up until 1973 Newport was a Navy town. However, in that year, the fleet left, the base was downsized significantly and Newport was left pondering a potentially dismal economic future. Tall Ships and the Americas Cup would end up saving the day by transforming the city into one of the sailing capital’s of the world and a maritime heritage tourism destination.

Fast forward 36 years and can the current group pull another miracle out of their duffle bag? Green writes:

As Rhode Island struggles with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, city and state officials hope that turning the hull into a tall ship will create jobs, attract tourists and spur interest in the state’s maritime history.

“Today cities realize they benefit from having a flagship for their community,” said Timothy Walker, who teaches maritime history at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. “It’s a way to be really visible and make an impression that can travel. It can literally fly the flag for a community.”

But not everyone is aboard with an optimistic assessment:

But Jeff Bolster, a professor of maritime history at the University of New Hampshire, said officials should not overestimate the economic contribution a ship project would make.

“A vessel of this scale is not going to be a huge help to the ailing economy,” Mr. Bolster said. “It has a modest operating budget, so it alone can’t solve the state’s fiscal problems in a major way.”

It will be all very interesting to watch. This is a very experienced group being led by Captain Richard Bailey who for years ran popular sail training programs aboard the HMS Rose until to she was sold to Fox to star in Master & Commander as the HMS Surprise. Today the Rose/Surprise is part of the San Diego Maritime Museum’s fleet of historic ships.

On the downside is that the Oliver Hazard Perry is a very large ship, second only to the USCGC Barque EAGLE in the United States. Ships this size are very costly to run and often difficult to fill. While nearly anyone who has sailed aboard a tall ship will vouch for it’s power in being a life changing experience, marketing the concept to wider public has always been challenging. The current projected cost of the project is $5 million and her scheduled launch is 2011, but I have yet to see a ship of this scale come in on budget and on time. Tall Ships Rhode Island has always been good at raising money and in this economy and for the foreseeable future, they have to really count on all of the contacts, connections and tricks they can pull out of their ditty bags.

This is a very exciting project for the City of Newport, the State of Rhode Island, the entire region and even the nation. While it seems pretty ambitious in scale, it’s no less so than what Barclay Warburton III pulled off in the early 1970’s. I bet he’s looking down and giving Tall Ships Rhode Island a big Huzzah for their efforts.

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Messing About In Ships podcast episode 31 by Peter A. Mello

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(49 minutes)

Download MP3: Messing About In Ships podcast episode 31

Subscribe Via iTunes HERE

Shownotes @ Messing About In Ships blog

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This Day In Maritime History: A Stove Boat Begets A Whale of a Tale by Peter A. Mello

Gregory Peck as Ahab in Moby-Dick

Wired.com reminds us that November 20, 1820 marks the real life event that inspired one of the classics of American literature, Moby-Dick.

The story of the Essex was the inspiration for a young Herman Melville who himself served time at sea on similar whaleships. More recently the Essex story was chronicled in nonfiction fashion by Nathaniel Phlibrick in his award winning book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex .

From Wired.com:

The Essex had taken its share of whales and on Nov. 20 appeared ready to take a few more when a pod was sighted off the starboard beam.

The ship’s three remaining whaleboats — one had been destroyed by a whale’s flukes during an earlier hunt — were dispatched for the kill. As the harpooning began, First Mate Owen Chase, commanding one of the whaleboats, looked back and saw a large sperm whale, which he estimated at 85 feet, approaching the Essex.

As he watched helplessly, the whale propelled itself into the ship with great force. Some crewmen on board were knocked off their feet by the collision, and Chase watched in disbelief as the whale drew back and rammed the ship again. This time the Essex was holed below the waterline, and doomed.

The crew organized what provisions they could and two days later abandoned ship aboard the three whaleboats. Twenty men left the Essex. Eight would ultimately survive the harrowing ordeal that played out over the next three months.


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29 Bells for the Edmund Fitzgerald by Peter A. Mello
November 10, 2008, 12:58 pm
Filed under: maritime heritage | Tags: , , ,

Thirty three years ago today the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with 29 souls. Here’s a very moving video about this tragic event.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgI8bta-7aw]

Edmund Fitzgerald Song of the Bell At the recommendation of the Just One More Book podcast, last year I purchased the children’s book The Edmund Fitzgerald: The Song of the Bell for my then 4 year old son Luke who not surprisingly loves ships. (Listen to the podcast here) The book is beautifully illustrated and the authors do a great job telling the story of this magnificent ship and her loss. Death can be a challenging subject for young children but the authors handle it superbly. I highly recommend it.

Additional info:

The fateful voyage of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Jenny Nolan / The Detroit News (Nov. 11, 1975)

US National Transportation Safety Board Report (PDF)

 

 


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New Bedford Port Society – Helping Mariners and Preserving Our History by Peter A. Mello

In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot.” – Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville 1851

Phil-looking-presidentialYesterday my cousin Phil was elected president of the New Bedford Port Society at the Annual General Meeting. He’s a good guy who will bring some new energy to this 179 year old organization. I was also accepted as a member and look forward to helping any way I can.

The New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park website:

During the years 1828 – 1829 when the whaling industry of New Bedford was at its height, a number of the city’s leading citizens gave their deep consideration to the “character building” of nearly five thousand seamen employed out of this port. Accordingly, on June 2, 1830 they organized under the title of the New Bedford Port Society, for the moral improvement of seamen and later became incorporated under the following act: An Act To Incorporate The New Bedford Port Society For The Moral Improvement Of Seamen.

Across the street from the great New Bedford Whaling Museum, the New Bedford Port Society is responsible for 2 very important historic buildings located in the heart of the National Park: Seamen’s Bethel and The Mariner’s Home.

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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: , ,

Luke-on-Lagoda

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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