Sea-Fever blog


“Staring into the dark, gaping, bottomless maw of insanity.” by Peter A. Mello

That’s what Lawrence W. Cheek, a writer from Whidbey Island, WA says how a friend describes “the long days of deadly tedious filling and sanding” the hull (fairing) of his current boat building project.

Cheek wrote a great Preoccupations column for the January 9, 2010 New York Times (Finding an Answer in Rough Seas) about the benefits of building a boat other than having a boat at the end of the process. He calls it a “post graduate seminar in character building.”

It works pretty good for youth too!



Sea-Fever Style: India House’s “Mildewed Maritime” Decor by Peter A. Mello

Well, that the opinion of ALAN FEUER in his Rooms column in today’s (April 22, 2009) of the New York Times (Time and Tide Gnaw at a Downtown Enclave) While sounding a little harsh, there is more than a ring of truth to it and frankly therein lies the India House’s charm. At least for me.

India House by epicharmus on Flickr.com

A maritime curiosity shop as much as a luncheon club, the India House was where I was taken on a number of occasions by the “big wigs” to celebrate successes when I was cutting my business teeth. For good luck it was always a good idea to rub the belly of the big fat smiling Buddha standing sitting guard inside the front doors. If you like maritime culture, history and heritage, this place is like Disneyland (with cobwebs and expensive threadbare Persian rugs).

And this was a place where captains of industry made history. From the India House’s website:

We will never fully know how discussions over luncheon and private meetings at India House changed history from 1914 through World War Two. The maritime historian, Frank O. Braynard, in his 1973 foreword to the second edition of The Marine Collection at India House, states that “England could not have survived [World War Two] without the armada of American-built, American-manned, American-operated merchant vessels…managed by many of the outstanding members of India House.”

So without the India House, German might be spoken in England today. (more India House history)

Sept 27, 1914 NYT article - click to download PDF

Click on the above article for a PDF download of the original 1914 story which makes interesting reading. I was particularly struck by the following paragraph which shows how little things have changed in nearly 100 years.

From the sound’s of Feuer’s article, the same people who I spied across the room thirty years ago are still going there today. They appeared to be pretty old back then so there must be something good going on here. Maybe the new marketing pitch should be “Eat in the India House and Live Forever!”

This economy is causing all kinds of casualties. And while most people wouldn’t notice if the India House rolled up its carpet, it would be a real loss to our national maritime heritage. And heck, where else can you go and grab a good turkey club and feel like you are eating in a maritime museum.

The NY Times has a cool interactive feature you should check out.

Previous NY Times article: Streetscapes/India House, at 1 Hanover Square; A Club Created With the Theme of World Commerce

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FotoFriday: Want to Become a Citizen Photojournalist? by Peter A. Mello
April 3, 2009, 11:21 am
Filed under: life, maritime | Tags: , , ,

NY Times reader Camille

Want to become a Citizen Photojournalist?

The New York Times has asked readers to send in their photos from around the world Picturing the Recession. They ask “How do you see the recession playing out in your community? What signs of hardship or resilience stand out? How are you or your family personally affected? Creative ways of documenting the changes around you are encouraged.” You can submit your photos here.

Earlier this week, the New York Times published a story about how the global financial crisis and economic recession is having an impact on boating in America.(Boats Too Costly to Keep Are Littering Coastlines) Always sad to see a derelict boat.

Brett Flashnick for The New York Times 

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Messing About In Ships podcast espisode 32 by Peter A. Mello

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(64 minutes)

Download MP3: Messing About In Ships podcast episode 32

Subscribe Via iTunes HERE

Shownotes @ Messing About In Ships blog

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Foto Friday – Night Shift / Coast Guardsmen (NY Times Lens Series) by Peter A. Mello
Lens CG by Michelle Agins for the NY Times

Boatswain's Mate Estrella, who was born in the Dominican Republic, works to protect the infrastructure and to assist in search and rescue operations. Photo: Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

The above photograph is one of a series from a slideshow from the NY Times Lens Series.  From the City Room blog, Lens: Night Shift | Coast Guardsman:

Luis Estrella, 26, a boatswain’s mate third class, patrols the waters from the Staten Island Ferry to the Outerbridge Crossing to Newark Bay on a Marine Domain Awareness patrol, which involves a four-man crew that works two 12-hour shifts over 48 hours.

The patrols work in three areas — the upper Hudson River, Lower Manhattan and the Newark Bay area — to protect the infrastructure and to assist in search and rescue operations.

About the Lens Series:

For the past three months, Michelle V. Agins, a staff photographer for The Times, worked the night shift alongside them, patrolling New York Harbor for security breaches with the United States Coast Guard, presiding over the empty pews with the night watchman at the Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue at 29th Street, feeding infant twin boys with a baby nurse in Park Slope, riding an ambulance all over with emergency medical technicians. Here Gary Louhisdon, a security guard at the American Museum of Natural History, walks among the exhibits, much as Ben Stiller did in “Night at the Museum.”

Each week for the next three months, photographs will appear of other members of the city’s secret club that meets after midnight. Please, they asked, do not call it the graveyard shift. They are not dead.

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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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Pirate PR by Peter A. Mello
October 6, 2008, 1:09 am
Filed under: maritime | Tags: , , , , ,

Pirate illustration by Kate O'Connor for the NY Times Over the past few years we have seen a surge of pirate activity across the globe with some of the highest profile incidents taking place off the coast of Somalia in Africa.

The one that has certainly secured the world’s attention involves the Russian ship MV Faina which is full of military equipment destined for Kenya. The ship is currently surrounded by navy warships and basically has nowhere to go. The pirates have demanded a ransom of $20million. The stand off continues as of this post.

NY Times reporter Jeffrey Gettleman was extremely resourceful in securing the pirates’ satellite phone number which he called and ultimately connected with the official spokespirate, Sugule Ali. Now the PR world is abuzz about Pirate PR. Here’s a few interesting articles.

Swashbuckler Has A Future on Wall Street – Virginia Pilot (Oct. 2, 2008)

But I Promised the Pirates’ Flack That I Wouldn’t Quote Anyone But Him! – Editor & Publisher (Oct. 2, 2008)

Pirates Reveal a New Side With Spokesperson – PR Week  (Oct. 1, 2008)

Pirates Have PR Pros, Too – PR Junkie – Ragan Communications (Oct. 1, 2008)


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