Saturday, June 20, 2015

Two Ships Passing In The Night (of interest to sailors...anybody can drive a boat, but it takes a little bit of skill to sail a boat)

A midnight encounter with a Navy ship and what we learned from it.
posted by Andy & Mia @ SAIL Magazine
I was sleeping on the port settee, the first time since we started this trip back in NYC that we were on starboard tack and I wasn’t hanging in the lee cloth. So a nice cozy sleep, and I was out cold. We’d been motor sailing all night, and the wind was veering around from SW to an expected NE as we passed through a very weak cold front. We we’re smack in the Gulf Stream to boot, but starting to make progress again in the right direction.
Loud voices and a luffing mainsail rousted me. I grabbed my glasses and peered out the companionway to see what the commotion was all about. Behind us – just, and I mean yards away – loomed the dull grey sides of a Navy ship as she slipped past. I could make out a helicopter on her aft deck bathed in yellow work lights and a few guys milling about. ‘Holy shit, holy shit!’ was all that Doug and Alyce could muster in the immediate aftermath. I didn’t fully comprehend what had happened until I climbed outside and watched the ship slide by our port side. Another few seconds of inaction – or should I say WRONG action (I’ll get to that) – by Doug, Blue Heron’s owner, and I’m sure we’d be dead.
Well, we aren’t dead. At least I don’t think so. I had to pinch myself to be honest in the aftermath just to make sure. I’ve never ever come that close before. But I do have a similar story that I shared with Doug that I’ll get to. But first, what actually went down.
Doug and Alyce were on watch, the rest of us asleep. They had the graveyard shift (ironic name) from 0000-0300. Around 1230 or so, according to their story that we talked through after, a Navy ship came on the radio asking them to change course so they could safely pass. We’re about due East from Norfolk, by the way. Doug obliged, and they safely passed. They were even on AIS, ‘USNS APACHE’. It’s breezy from the NNE, but otherwise clear. The stars are out, and with the new northerly wind, all the humidity is gone from the air, a welcome respite.
Anyway. Shortly thereafter, Doug and Alyce identified another set of lights on the horizon to starboard, and started monitoring it. Nothing on the AIS though. Alyce thought she saw something on the chart, but it’s not clear what, or if she meant AIS or actually printed on the chart. They’d been navigating on the Furuno NavNet chartplotter that’s in the cockpit under the hardtop. Alyce is on her first ocean passage. She’s been sailing before, but only recreationally and never at night to my knowledge.
Both Doug and Alyce were unsure of these new lights. They concluded that it must be a platform of some sort, anyway something that was stationary. Doug altered course slightly to port. The object was still on a constant bearing (though Doug didn’t think of it this way yet), so he continued altering course to port. All the while I’m asleep. Eventually, and almost too late, Doug realized his mistake – it was a ship after all and had actually been moving. Doug’s course alterations – they were wrong, which I’ll get to – were simply keeping it on a collision course with us. In the end, he turned hard to port and actually did a loop to let it pass. And JUST. It wasn’t even funny-close. It was effing scary-close.
Rule #1 when I came aboard Blue Heron as skipper for this shakedown cruise (Doug and Tasha had bought the boat, an HR43, about a year ago and hired me to help them get safe offshore experience) was that the crew wake me up at the SLIGHTEST inkling of doubt. Whether course change, sail change, confusing lights, whatever. My life when I’m asleep is literally in the hands of those on watch and I needed to be SURE they’d get me at the slightest question.
I think we’d all gotten dulled into complacency by the ease if the trip so far. Nice sailing, good visibility. The homeward leg, only 275 miles to NYC to complete the circle. For whatever reason, Doug and Alyce didn’t wake me, and proceeded assuming what they saw was a stationary platform.
As an aside, I made exactly the same mistake in 2012. Mia and I were sailing Arcturus across the North Sea from Scotland to Sweden. Our first big double handed passage, four on, four off. The North Sea of course is littered with oil rigs. At any given time at night we could see a dozen of them. Arcturus was motoring in light air, I was hand steering. I saw what I thought was just another platform and altered to port. Same thing happened. Before it got too close though, I woke Mia for a second opinion. In my sleep-deprived state I’d made a poor call. She saw right away it was a ship and we averted disaster a lot sooner than in this case tonight, though it was a strikingly similar series of events that could have caused trouble.
The first mistake was not waking me. The second was not realizing he was in a CBDR – Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range – situation. A collision course. The third was the following.
In both cases the un-identified lights were to starboard, and in both cases we incorrectly altered course to port. Since it was indeed a ship, and we were both under power, we in fact were the give-way vessel. Anytime you’ve got another boat from dead ahead to 120 degrees to your starboard, they’ve got right of way (assuming you’re both motoring). And in that case, you ALWAYS alter to starboard. Mistake number 3. By altering to port, Doug was keeping Blue Heron in that CBDR situation. Because it was nighttime, he had a tough time judging the distance (range), and didn’t realize his mistake until it was almost too late.
I was too scared at first to be angry (that came later), but once the dust settled, we talked through what happened. I guarantee that Doug will never get himself in that situation again. Nothing quite like a near-death experience to properly engrain some new knowledge.
In the end though, we took away the following:
1. Wake the skipper when there are ANY questions.
With my new business on Isbjörn, our Swan 48, I’ll be putting myself in this same situation over and again – inexperienced crew on watch while I sleep. Somehow I need to do a better job of getting this point across. And crew, you need to take it seriously.
2. Learn your lights & Rules of the Road.
3. Learn how to determine a CBDR situation at night.
It’s as easy as watching the un-identified lights in relation to a fixed point on your boat. A shroud or stanchion, say. Or get out the hand bearing compass. You have one right? If it doesn’t move in relation to that, you’ve got a constant bearing. It’s hard to judge distance at night, but constant bearing is enough to know you ought to do something.
4. Recognize a chain of events that might lead to trouble and break it!
Doug’s decision-making process was the classic domino effect that so often leads to disaster. One small error compounded over time and before you know it it’s too late. Recognize the POSSIBILITY of such a chain of poor decisions – even if you think you’ve made the right one – and take action to break that chain, even by simply getting a second opinion, before it’s too late. Be humble.
5. Plan for the worst.
What would have happened had we been too late in turning? Tasha, Oskar and I were all asleep down below. Doug and Alyce might have wound up in the drink unscathed if we’d had a direct collision. They had PFDs on, and presumably the offending ship would have stopped to help. But us three in the cabin? Our chances would have been pretty slim of escaping the wreckage for one, and staying afloat without PFDs.
If you recall the Rambler 100 incident in the Fastnet Race a few years back, you’ll know they lost their keel shortly after rounding the rock and the boat turned turtle rather suddenly. But they were a pro crew and had drilled for this kind if thing. Remarkably, the off watch had the presence of mind to not only escape the boat, but grab their PFDs in the process. They all survived.
When you’re asleep on passage, do you know EXACTLY where your personal PFD is, and could you grab it in the dark in a panic? We’d been lax in this area too, chucking our PFDs in a pile on the starboard settee. Correctable mistakes were made to cause this near miss with the ship, but what if we’d have hit a container? You’ll never see that, so not much you can do there but be prepared when the water starts rushing in. I think I’ll be sleeping closer to my PFD from now on.
I got a bit angry at Doug after the adrenaline wore off and I tried to go back to sleep. He broke Rule #1, and in doing so, put us all in danger.
But I got pissed at myself too. Somehow that ‘call the captain’ rule wasn’t taken seriously enough, and I have to shoulder some of that blame. We also hadn’t, in hindsight, briefed the chart in enough detail. There are no fixed platforms in this part of the ocean, so that error should have never happened. Doug was also conferring with Alyce. Nothing against her, but she’s the least experienced crew on board, and he should have asked me.
Anyway, we escaped unscathed, and now all we can do is take this forward, learn from it ourselves, and tell the story to others as a cautionary tale. Doug knows that he’ll forever be the subject of my ‘what not to do’ speech anytime I brief a new crew from now on! That may be a little embarrassing, but he’ll certainly never make the same mistake.
Until next time..
This article was syndicated from Andy's Blog - 59º North Offshore Sailing Adventures

Friday, June 19, 2015

Open Letter To R.W. ~ The Democrats have always hated our Independence

Dear Bob,
I just wanted to remind you of last night’s chit-chat after the card game was over.  You’re not the only one that exhibits a certain amount of disdain for a comment that I made regarding one of the core beliefs of the Democrats.  You may have not noticed in yourself the look that become you after my comment but it certainly looked to me as one of disbelief.   But as I said, “You’re not the only one.”  I have friends that I’ve known for most of my life and they exhibit the same ignorance; but I will never let their lack of knowledge reduce the thousands of hours of study that I’ve devoted to these matters to zero…I know in my heart if they equaled my time in the books we would all be on the same page.  Now my comment revolved around one Benjamin Rush from Pennsylvania who was highly respected among the patriots following the years after the Revolution.  Although it may not matter to you that Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, I mention it only to enhance my point that Democrats have always disliked American Independence from the very beginning and Benjamin Rush aptly describes what amounts to be their hatred for the freedoms won by that historic revolution of thirty some odd years earlier.  
In the following quote, Rush is writing to his friend John Adams thirty-five years after the date set as our founding; 1776.   His letter of July 20, 1811 is mostly a catharsis of sorts to a friend and patriot of another time and place that will most likely never again be seen in the annals of history.  In the first part of the quote, Rush is describing to Adams the Democrats hatred of George Washington (“He has treated us as a master would do his slaves…”) followed by a line listing several names of other Founding Fathers “…disliked or hated by them.” And ending with a snide remark about Benjamin Franklin (“But for that fellow, we should never have had independence.”).
Of the farewell addresses you mention in your letter it is hardly safe to speak, they are so popular in our country, but I cannot help mentioning a remark I heard made by one of our Democrats a day or two after the last of them was published. “He has treated us as a master would do his slaves, were he about to transfer them to a new master.  As a servant of the public, he should have been more modest.” How is it that the old tories love him exclusively of all the Whigs of the Revolution?  The names of the Adamses, Hancock, the Lees, and Franklin are all more or less disliked, or hated by them.  One of them a few years ago in viewing the statue of Dr. Franklin in a niche over our city Library door, said with a malignant sneer, “But for that fellow, we should never have had independence.”
Just so that you know, I transcribed the above quote from the book, Letters of a Nation by Andrew Carroll (page 89, Broadway Books 1997)...maybe someone will find the entire letter somewhere on the Internet.
And so it is with today’s Democrats stressing the authority of a central government over the freedoms and individualisms our Founders fought and died for can only be summed up in a another cliché, “Democrats hate America…they always have and always will.” …I only wish Benjamin Rush was around to tell it like it was then while all you have to do look at cities like Detroit and Baltimore to see what it’s like now.  ~  Norman E . Hooben
The following added February 25, 2107

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Doomsday Shelter...Can you afford one?

Personal bunkers for private residences. The Quantum in a Box from Vivos
Personal bunkers for private residences. The Quantum in a Box from Vivos

Typical living quarters layout
Typical living quarters layout

Vivos E1 Inspiration Living Quarters Theater
Living quarters screening room

Vivos E1 Inspiration Living Quarters Bedroom
Living quarters bedroom

Vivos E1 Inspiration Foyer Stairs
Stairway into the foyer

Vivos E1 Hospital Area
Hospital area in the shelter

Fortified entrance to shelter
Fortified entrance to shelter

Vivos E1 Inspiration Community Pool
Community swimming pool

Vivos E1 Secured Storage Tunnel
Secured storage tunnel within shelter

The following from: Forbes Life
Billionaire Bunkers: Exclusive Look Inside the World's Largest Planned Doomsday Escape

For the very first time, a modern day Noah’s Ark has opened its doors for an exclusive inside look offering up plans for the ultimate Billionaire bunker and doomsday escape.
Vivos founder and CEO Robert Vicino announced Vivos Europa One which will be an invitation only, five star, underground survival complex, similar to an underground cruise ship for the elite. Each family will be provided a private 2,500 square foot of floor area, capable of two story improvements for a total of 5,000 square feet of private living quarters. With fit and finish comparable to a mega-yacht, each member family will hire their own architect and contractor to build out their living quarters to the custom standard they desire.
The expansive shelter is located in Germany and is one of the most fortified and massive underground survival shelters on Earth. Originally built by the Soviets during the Cold War, this shelter was a fortress for military equipment and munitions. After the DDR was merged with Germany, the German government inherited this relic and intended to use it for the same purpose of weapons storage. However, due to a law prohibiting the storage of ammunition near a major highway, the German Government soon realized they could not continue with their plans and decided to auction this 76 acre complex. A wealthy investor purchased the entire property, along with all of its improvements, both above and below ground. Vicino says “We are proud to bring this epic project forward in these increasingly dangerous times.”
The hardened facility is capable of withstanding a substantial close range nuclear blast, a direct airplane crash, biological and chemical agents, shock waves, earthquakes, tsunami, electro-magnetic pulses, and virtually any armed attack.
The complex includes over 21,108 square meters (227,904 square feet) of secured, blast proof living areas; and, an additional 4,079 square meters (43,906 square feet) of above-ground office and warehouse buildings, including a train servicing depot. The typical chamber area is 5 meters wide (16.40 feet), by 6 meters tall (19.68 feet) and 85 meters (278.87 feet) long. Collectively there are over 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of continuous tunnel chambers (equivalent to 71 Boeing 747’s fuselages stretched end to end). All shelter areas are located behind 3 separate nuclear blast and radiation proof vehicle entrances, and a number of other passages for access by people only. Each of the three main tunnel entrances includes an outer security door system, followed by a 40 ton hydraulic truck access door with hardened steel rods which expand into the surrounding encasement, and a second set of massive steel doors providing an airtight seal shut, protecting against chemical, biological and gas intrusion. The underground main traffic corridors are large enough to allow mechanical transportation of heavy equipment to almost any point within the complex.
The structural rock provides for an extremely high load carrying capacity of the mountain above, as well as superior shock wave absorption, high thermal retention, stable temperature at an average 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity control.

All underground rooms are serviced by two fully customized climate and ventilation systems. The self-contained water and power generation system with three diesel generators, including redundant back-up systems, assures autonomous operation of the underground shelter without support from the outside world. This vast limestone mountain contains a water treatment plant with deep water wells, a power plant, a hospital area, restaurant areas, air filtration and cooling systems, as well as a series of massive blast doors which a tank could drive over to enter.
The above-ground facilities are equally as impressive, including several office buildings, barracks for a hundred, a power plant, fuel storage, railroad spurs complete with a train depot for repairs, guard buildings, and warehouses, all within an impenetrable perimeter wall, complete with military concertina coils. Once the gates are locked, the only way in or out of the property is by helicopter.
The original cost of the complex was estimated at over 200 million Euros, with a replacement value of approximately 1 billion Euros. The shelter is currently in turnkey operational condition ready for the common area and private living quarters improvements to outfit the underground complex for a select number of families.
Additionally, the shelter will include a collection of zoological species, an archive for the most precious artifacts and treasures of the world, a DNA Vault to preserve and protect the genomes of millions of donors, and a modern day “Hall of Records”, to autonomously survive virtually any catastrophe or disaster for several years. Vivos will retrofit, equip, furnish, stock, supply and convert this complex into a state-of-the-art, contemporary complex.
Private improvements will include all of the typical amenities enjoyed by the floating counterparts, including pools, theaters, gyms, a kitchen, bar, bedrooms and deluxe bathrooms. The possibilities are limited only by each member’s personal desire.
Vivos will provide each living quarters with power lines, plumbing for water and sewage, HVAC systems, communications lines, security systems, internet and closed circuit systems.

All common areas will be improved and outfitted by Vivos, including the roadways, restaurants, bakery, brewery pub, wine cellar, community meeting rooms, prayer rooms and chapels, nursery play rooms, classrooms, training rooms, computer areas, a television and radio station, the communications center, security and detention center, vaults for valuables, security equipment and devices, water purification facility, deep water wells, interior water and fuel storage tanks, power plant, air handling and (NBC) nuclear, biological and chemical filtration systems, battery backup power storage, mechanical repair shop, decontamination showers, private offices, pet kennels, a hair salon, theaters, the hydroponic gardens, a fully equipped hospital, storage rooms and warehouse areas, all food and medical supplies, a non-hybrid seed bank and the DNA storage bank.
Vivos will also provide the electric transportation vehicles and trams, armored security vehicles, helicopters, protective suits and apparatus for outdoor chemical, biological and radiation exposure, above-ground offices and warehouses, a security center, the rail spur and maintenance station, the above-ground power plant, above-ground gardens and open space, farming, fishing and hunting equipment, boats and rafts.
Once each member’s private accommodations are completed, furnished and fully outfitted, their respective quarters will be locked and secured, limiting access to their families and staff prior to lockdown; while Vivos will operate and maintain all common areas (under and above-ground) pending a catastrophic event.
Members will arrive at their own discretion, prior to lockdown, landing their private planes at nearby airports. Vivos helicopters will then be deployed to rendezvous with each member group, and safely fly them back to the shelter compound, behind the sealed gates from the general public. Members will then enter the shelter and access their private quarters. Each family will pay a base amount for their respective living quarter’s area, along with their fair share of the ongoing stand-by costs for operational management, staffing, taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities, and restocking as needed.
Vivos has planned doomsday retreats in the past including private bunkers for residences, but it is only now that this new location has come to fruition offering up a unique potential for those who truly want the ultimate in personal safety for their families.

See also: The Richest People On The Planet 2015