Friday, January 16, 2015

Corbin Foss Completes Epic Voyage: All in a Days Work!

This morning, the Corbin Foss is completing her epic voyage delivering the USS Constellation for scrapping in Brownsville.

The voyage of 16,000 miles began at Bremerton Washington on August 8, 2014.

Her final destination is International Shipbreakers, Ltd.

Here the famous combat veteran will be converted to a pile of scrap metal.

While the entire enterprise covered hundreds of miles of interesting waters, as an armchair traveler, the passage through the Strait of Magellan would certainly been of interest to me.

Finding no support in Portugal, King Charles V of Spain provides Ferdinand Magellan with five old ships to accomplish his journey.

In September 1519 the expedition departed Seville with five ships and 265 men.

Magellan assigned Concepcion and San Antonio to explore the strait, but the latter, commanded by Estêvão Gomes, deserted and returned to Spain on 20 November.

Sadly, Magellan never made it home. He was killed in a clash at Mactan, in the Philippine Islands. On April 27, 1521. After 14,460 miles, the expedition ends back in Seville on September 8, 1522, with only one boat, the Victoria, and a handful of the original 265 personnel.

The tug Rachael (Tradewinds Towing) connected with the tow in Panama. As required by the Chilean government, Rachael acted as a safety backup.

The Capt. Latham switched out the Rachael at Callao, Peru, joining the Corbin Foss on October 19, and stayed with her through November 6th.

Having an additional tug was a safety measure to cope with significant weather and seas, and transit through the Strait of Magellan.

Most worrisome feature in the Strait; Paso Tortuoso (torturous.)

Here the channel narrows down to 1,500 yards (1,371 meters).

In his Blog, Tainui's Travels, John Valentines writes this about his passage through Paso Tortuoso:

"At Paso Tortuoso, 3 big bodies of water meet with interesting and unpredictable races and currents.
We hug the shore in what seems like a 1-knot favorable eddy. Out to starboard there are all sorts of whirlpools and overfalls.

"So impressive that there seem to be high steps in water level between them. "Faraway", 4 miles ahead and in the middle of the channel, is barely making ground in a 4 kt adverse current."

So three additional tugs joined the venture; Beagle, Otway, and Pelican II. Two on either side of the Constellation, and the third attached to the stern.

The passage through Paso Tortuoso was uneventful, and the fleet hove to at Punta Arenas on November 4th. Punta Arenas is a thriving city; with cruise ships calling on a regular basis.

On November 6th, the Capt Latham disconnected from the tow at the eastern entrance to the Strait, returning to Punta Arenas.

Corbin Foss as seen from Capt Latham off the coast of Chile

This was certainly an epic voyage. The Foss Maritime "Constellation Blog," recorded daily position reports through out the entire campaign. But for a highly detailed account, including pilot reports, dozens of photographs and, especial enlightening, a series of five video tapes, showing the vessels advance toward the Strait of Magellan, follow this link.

In the bottom right corner, click on Quadrant Maps. The videos are found in the 5th Quadrant Map.

In researching this article, I discovered a virtual beehive of activity taking place at the end of the earth.

Everything from hustling fishing lodges, helicopter rides to see Cape Horn, weather permitting of course.

Transportation between the main land and island of Tierra del Fuego is interesting, to say the least! In this video, look at the overshoot required to land the ferry against prevailing wind and current!

This RoRo system could be the answer to the Washington State Ferries dilemma. No more expensive infrastructure - docks and relatively inexpensive ferries!

Further Reading:
 ►  Straits in Latin America: The Case of the Strait of Magellan. The boundary treaty of 1881 between Chile and Argentina.

►  Operation Soberanía. The 1978 Argentine military invasion of Chile, left thousands of unexploded mines - to this day - buried along the Argentine - Chilean border.
►  Highly recommend this Princeton University web page, which details the succession of charts of the Strait of Magellan, filling in details by explorers we know little of.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Höegh Osaka: Removed from the Cricket Pitch!

A drama played out rapidly as the Höegh Osaka, outbound from Southampton England to Bremerhaven Germany, became stricken Saturday Night.

The Pilot made a steely decision to ground the Pure Car/Truck Carrier on Bramble Bank in the Solent near the Isle of Wight, rather than allow her to flounder in the extremely busy shipping lane linking Southampton to the English Channel.

In a statement, Ingar Skiaker, CEO of Höegh Autoliners said: "Our vessel developed a severe list shortly after she left port and the pilot and the master took the decision to save the vessel and its crew by grounding her on the bank.

"This showed great skill and seamanship on behalf of our crew when faced with such challenging circumstances."

The crew of 24 plus the Channel Pilot were rescued, with only two minor injuries, which included a broken leg (falling down stairs.)

The Höegh Osaka remains grounded on her starboard (right) side on Bramble Bank at over a 50-degree list.

This was the scene folk at Cowes on the Isle of Wight awoke to on Sunday morning. Crew booked so fast that they left the radars running!

About 1,400 vehicles are on board the Höegh Osaka, including 1,200 Jaguars and Land Rovers. Jaguar Land Rover would not disclose their value but 1,200 of the cheapest models would be worth more than £35 million (USD52.8m) while 1,200 top of the range models could exceed £100 million, (USD1.5m.)

There are 65 Mini Coopers, and a Rolls Royce Wraith worth an estimated £260,000 (USD392,831), all destined for the Middle East, where the ship was headed after a planned stop at Bremerhaven.

A spokesman for JCB said there were 105 of their machines on board, destined for dealers in the Middle East. "We are awaiting further information from the shipping carrier about the current status of the machines and any plans they may have for retrieval," he said.

The extent of damage to the cargo is not yet known, according to Ingar Skiaker, CEO (chief executive officer) of Höegh Autoliners, which owns the vessel. No oil had leaked from the vessel and preventing any environmental impact was his key priority.

•  2000:  Launched in Japan as Maersk Wind
•  2011:  To Höegh Autoliners
•  Vessel type: PCTC (Pure Car Truck Carrier)
•  IMO: 9185463
•  Gross tonnage: 51,770 tons
•  Summer DWT: 16,886 tons
•  Length: 590 ft (180 m)
•  Beam: 105 ft (32 m)
•  Draft: 24 ft (7.4 m)
•  Power Plant: Mitsubishi 8UEC60LS, 19,140 pp (14,270 kW) driving a single shaft fixed pitch propeller.
•  Speed: 19.2 knots (35.6 km/h)
•  Crew: 24
•  CEU: 5,215

Like a TEU , 20 foot equivalent unit, is a measurement of how many containers a container vessel can carry, a CEU or car-equivalent-unit is the standard unit of measure for roll-on/roll-off ships and car carriers.

This measurement is based on the dimensions of a 1966 Toyota Corolla, model RT43.

Therefore, CEU RT43 is 13.5 feet (4125 mm) x 5 feet (1550 mm) x 4.6 feet (1400 mm). The ground space required for a CEU RT43 is approximately 69 sq ft (6.4 sqm) and the ground slot, including spacing in between vehicles is 80 sq ft (7.4 sqm.)

So, a vessel with a capacity of 1000 CEU can stow 1000 vehicles of the 1966 Toyota Corolla model RT43 size.

Amazing Choreography! At 2:10 notice van picking up drivers. When you have hundreds of cars to load, speed is of the essence. Every minute a ship has lines on the quay, money is burning up.

The salvage master who coordinated the re-floating of the Costa Concordia, Capt. Nicholas Sloan, is in charge of salvaging the Hoegh Osaka. Late today, the vessel was moved to a safe location for further evaluation.

The vessel unexpectedly drifted free of Bramble Bank this afternoon, and was towed to a location known as "Alpha Anchorage."

Indications are that something went awry with the ballast system causing the vessel to begin heeling over.  You may recall that caused the PCC Cougar Ace to heel over in the North Pacific several years ago. 

Oddly, the Bramble sand bank hosts the annual cricket match between the Island Sailing Club and the Royal Southern Yacht Club. Once a year during low spring tides, and for less than an hour, the tide exposes the sand bank creating an unusual cricket venue.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Happy New Year Story!

Beginning in 1941, and continuing into the 1950's, Canadian National Railroad converted 30- and 40-ton wood sheathed boxcars into cabooses. These conversions resulted in a very large group of cabooses with similar characteristics, including two rectangular windows on each side.

As a young teenager living in Prince Rupert in the late 1950's, I had the opportunity to ride in CNR caboose 76016 many times, as she tagged along at the end of a log train. I wrote about my experience in "Never Face the Engine!"

I caught up with this SP freighter just outside Dixon California. As I advanced toward the power pack, I spotted this blue plume of smoke. While driving, I snapped this photo. Then eased off the gas and gave the boys in the hack the pinched nose signal for hot box. They were in the process of slowing down, and gave me a friendly acknowledgement.
Not possible with an End of Train Device!

The Death Knell sounded for the utilitarian caboose, when Florida East Coast, following a decade of bitter labor disputes, reduced the train crew to an engineer and conductor, and parked it's fleet of cabooses in the late 1960's.

Read "In the Public Interest?" A fascinating account of one of the worst labor disputes this country has ever experienced.

To "replace" the eyes, ears and noses of the crummy crew, a plethora of high technology track side devices have been conjured to check for loose wheels, overheated journals, and dragging equipment, while overhead sensors can determine if a load has shifted.

This CSX presentation details many of these devices. And this video demonstrates a "High Car" detector!

And, of course, FRED  (End Of Train Device) monitors brake pipe pressure.

"A train without a caboose is as uncomfortable as a sentence without a period."

Much has been written about the lowly caboose. Of the many colorful nicknames attached to the crew car, I favor "crummy." The crummy was at once

•  An office
•  Bunkhouse
•  Meal hall
•  Observation post
•  Tool locker

In all my travels aboard 76016, it never occurred to me to take photos inside the caboose, nor did I document the view from the cupola, which was impressive, especially when trailing along behind a cut of thirty or forty empty log bunks!

Fortunately for us, one fellow did document the beehive of activity that once enveloped the crew car. Jack Delano.

Jack Delano joined the Farm Security Administration (FSA) in 1940 during its middle years (1937-1942) and worked for the agency and its successor, the Office of War Information (OWI,) for three years.

He, along with a dozen or more photographers, criss-crossed the United States documenting all phases of human activity during the War Years. Thousands of images were captured, a permanent memorial to what I believe were the halcyon years for this country.

On one of his assignments, carried out in March to April 1943, Delano traveled from Chicago to Los Angeles on freight trains to photograph the railroad industry during wartime. From the dozens of photos taken on that assignment, I pulled out those shots that captured the quintessence of the caboose.

The bulk of the photos were taken from Acheson, Topeka & Santa Fe (ATSF) caboose 2038.  I'll let the photos tell the story of life aboard a caboose.

While the photos are more than 70 years old, they capture my generations fond memories of railroading before the money grubbing mergers reduced  railroading from more than 200 operating systems down to seven homogenized toaster oven fleets.

This is what I miss most about the "period at the end of the train." The humble caboose with a friendly crewman waving!