Messing About In Ships – A New Maritime Podcast

MAIS header dec 2007 lou vent photo

I am very excited to tell you about a new project that I’ve been working on with my friend Captain John Konrad, the founder and CEO of, the most comprehensive set of resources for maritime professionals on the Internet.

Starting today, we have launched a weekly maritime podcast called Messing About In Ships. Many of you may be familiar with Kenneth Graham’s 1908 classic children’s book, The Wind in the Willows in which Ratty declares to Mole:

“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats

Well, we may have grown up a bit but we still agree with Ratty; only now we mess about in slightly larger and more complicated vessels.

Each week John and I will explore stories that appear in gCaptain’s great Discoverer news section of their website. We will also each select a blog or podcast for a weekly feature we call New Media Port of Call. We have plans to interview maritime professionals, authors, educators, regulators and others about issues that affect the maritime industry today and into the future. Finally, each episode will close with a selection music from the Podsafe Music Network for your enjoyment.

What we are most excited about is you taking an active role in shaping this project. We have set up a Messing About In Ships blog where the show notes and links from each episode will appear and we encourage you to comment there. Also consider recording a short audio comment, attach it as an MP3 file to an email and send it to podcast@messingaboutinships(dot)com and we will find a way to integrate it into the program.

A final note: The photo that we used in the header of the Messing Abount In Ships blog is the January image from the 2008 Houston Pilots Calendar. All of the photos in the calendar were take by our friend, Lou Vest, a pilot himself. Lou’s extraordinary photos can be found on (click here). The proceeds from the sale of these calendars fund scholarships to maritime schools, sea scout troops, the Houston maritime museum and other worthy causes. They suggest a minimum donation of $10 but frankly Lou’s images alone are worth way more than that. Lou’s Flickr page has more information in case you are interested in buying this beautiful calendar and supporting this worthwhile cause. We will change the header image each month to coincide with the photo in the calendar.

This podcast is a work in progress. We ask you to listen and give us your feedback so that we can make the show as entertaining and informative as possible. We also ask you to bear with us as John and I iron out the wrinkles that are bound to happen through the first few episodes.

So without further ado, here is Episode #1 of Messing About In Ships. We hope you enjoy it!

Please click here to subscribe to the weekly Messing About In Ships podcast through iTunes.

To download the MP3 of Episode one, right click here and download and save the file on your computer. You can then open it in Windows Media Player, iTunes and other media players.

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Shipwreck "Genius" Off To A Meeting With Davey Jones

Steffy (dad-reconstructing2) The December 4, 2007 NY Times reports that self taught nautical archeology expert and MacArthur “Genius” Grant award recipient, J. Richard Steffy has passed away. (J. Richard Steffy Is Dead at 83; Made Shipwreck Analysis Scientific)

I knew nothing about Steffy until I read his NY Times obituary but I came away wanting to know more about this man who at 48, and with two teenage sons, left a successful 22 year old family business to pursue his passion for studying shipwrecks. Despite never having graduated college himself, his second career ultimately led him to a full professorship at Texas A&M University where he launched their highly acclaimed Maritime Archeology program.

“I like to think that shipbuilding was the most important early everyday technology,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1992. “The Greeks and Romans built big and beautiful temples, but I think there’s really nothing like a ship, their ships.”

Steffy’s story is inspirational and instructive about what can happen when you commit to following your passion and dreams. From middle aged electrical contractor to world renowned nautical archeologist and MacArthur “genuis” grant recipient. Hmm, may be it’s not too late for me after all!

Steffy’s son, Loren, made the following entry on the Remembering J. Richard Steffy webpage (blog):

The morning before he died, George Bass and Cemal Pulak stopped by. Dad could barely speak, but as Cemal talked of a new find in Turkey, I could see the familiar twinkle in Dad’s eye. His smile said it all. He was taking in every detail.

After they left, he said in a barely audible whisper, “that was nice.” A few minutes later, he he dozed off and never regained consciousness. I can’t imagine a more fitting ending to his life than to share a final conversation about ships with old friends.


Interesting resources: J. Richard Steffy Ship Reconstruction LaboratoryCenter of Maritime Archeology & Conservation – Department of Anthropology – Texas & A.M. University

(HT – Lincoln Payne via H-Maritime LISTSERV)

Photo: Loren Steffy

Can you spare some change, for a Tall Ship?

New media tools allow nonprofits to reach out in ways never seen before. I’ve written about this previously here.

In the spirit of the Holidays, I present the following public service announcement for a new organization called the American Tall Ship Institute.

Their message is simple and concise. “Here’s what we can do, here’s what we need.”

If you-know-who ever read my previous post, this would be a good place to help out. Hope somebody can help make some kids’ Christmas really extra special.

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Overboard – The Laura Gainey Story (on video)

Video is a medium that has the potential to speak to us like no other. While it is said a picture is worth a thousands words, it’s impossible to calculate the value of moving images. Combined with sound, they can tell us as compelling a story as we can get without actually going through the experience.

cbc 5th estate overboard_front

I just finished watching the CBC News Fifth Estate program about the incident aboard the tall ship Picton Castle that lead to the death of Laura Gainey last December. The entire program video is posted on the Fifth Estate website (click here). This episode was appropriately called Overboard and I found it to be a powerful and at times disturbing investigative report. I strongly encourage you to watch and draw your own conclusions.

I have previously written about this tragic loss here, here, here and here.

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Happy 150th Birthday Joseph Conrad!

Joseph_Conrad from wikipedia Today marks the 150th birthday of one of the greatest sea-storytellers of all time, Joseph Conrad.

Master mariner and novelist, Conrad was a keen observer of human nature, often using maritime life as the medium for delivering lesson’s that transcend the shipboard experience.

The ship, this ship, our ship, the ship we serve, is the moral symbol of our life. A ship has to be respected, actually and ideally; her merit, her innocence, are sacred things. Of all the creations of man she is the closest partner of his toil and courage. From every point of view it is imperative that you should do well by her. And, as always in the case of true love, all you can do for her adds only to the tale of her merits in your heart. Mute and compelling, she claims not only your fidelity, but your respect. (An Introduction to Conrad (1933) – Part I Autobiography, The Ship We Serve – p. 82)

Conrad is probably most famously known for the classics Lord Jim and The Heart of Darkness; however, his short stories are some of my favorite works of literature. Youth, A Narrative and The Secret Sharer are two that I find particularly entertaining and meaningful and have integrated both in leadership programs for youth and adults, respectively. (see USCG Commandant Thad Allen’s comments about his recommended leadership reading from Leadership Profile Series – Department of Management at the US Coast Guard Academy)

Many of Conrad’s works including Youth, A Narrative and The Secret Sharer are freely available for download through Project Gutenberg in print and audio formats.

The Australian National Maritime Museum currently has an exhibit entitled Conrad in Australia and on their website they have two short recording of readings of the author’s works that are worth listening to.

Additional interesting information about the author’s life and work can be found at the Joseph Conrad Society website.

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