Nautical History Quotes

Quotes tagged as "nautical-history" (showing 1-11 of 11)
Hank Bracker
“The SS San Pasqual
The SS San Pasqual was launched on June 28, 1920, but less than a year later was severely damaged in a heavy storm. In 1924, the “Old Time Molasses Company of Havana,” a leading Cuban-American molasses company, bought her to be used in Santiago de Cuba, as a floating storage container for raw molasses. Eventually her superstructure was somewhat dismantled and she was towed to Havana, where she remained until 1933. Later, she was once again towed. This time the SS San Pasqual was taken along Cuba’s northern coast and purposely run aground off Cayo Santa María.
During World War II, the SS San Pasqual was outfitted with machine guns and light cannons. Since the ship was hard aground, she was unable to chase Nazi submarines, but she was far enough off the coast to serve as a submarine lookout post. A footbridge was constructed out to her, providing access from the mainland, but time, tides and hurricanes have washed away all signs of the old bridge.”
Hank Bracker

Hank Bracker
“Packet Steamers
Generally Packet Steamers, ships or boats are regularly scheduled vessels carrying mail. Sometime armed these ships carried all types of mail although the name gives the impression that they only carried carried bulk mail. Reliability was most important and the service was first started by the British to carry embassy mail packets to the Empire’s colonies, outposts as well as Consulates and Embassies. Although the name denotes smaller high speed vessels the English designation “packet boat” can denote a large ocean liner.
In wartime these vessels were expected to run regular shipments past the gauntlet of warships and privateers. Some even had to evade marauding pirates. In 1829, pirates captured the packet Topaz and murdered her crew after looting her. In time commercial steam liners began to work regular coastal and international schedules having contracts from governments to carry mail as well as passengers and high-value cargo. Their services retained the name "Packet". The term was frequently used to identify American coastal vessels that carried cargo and passengers on routes from Maine to Cuba and beyond.”
Hank Bracker

Hank Bracker
“MS City of New York
The MS City of New York commanded by Captain George T. Sullivan, maintained a regular schedule between New York City and Cape Town, South Africa until the onset of World War II when on March 29, 1942 she was attacked off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina by the German submarine U-160 commanded by Kapitänleutnant Georg Lassen.”
Hank Bracker

Hank Bracker
“The M/S Saint Louis was a German passenger liner owned by the Hamburg-America Line. She was best known for her voyage in 1939, in which her Captain Gustav Schröder attempted to find homes for her passengers. On May 13, 1939, just prior to the Second World War, 937 German-Jewish refugees boarded the ship in the hopes of escaping persecution and the holocaust that was to follow. Although the passengers had previously purchased legal Visas, they were denied entry into Cuba due to contrived red tape. While the ship was in transit, Cuba changed its laws restricting entry to all but U.S. citizens. Even though the Nazi régime had already started to persecute Jews, the Captain of the Saint Louis insisted that the crew treat the passengers with courtesy and respect. Even though the crew followed the captain’s orders, the passengers became distressed when it was announced that they would not be allowed to enter Cuba. President Roosevelt and his envoys Cordell Hull, Secretary of State, and Henry Morgenthau, Secretary of the Treasury, as well as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, tried to persuade Cuba to accept the refugees. However, their actions were to no avail. It is believed that the German ambassador, on orders from Berlin, put pressure on Cuba. The passengers were refused permission to land, even though they were refugees fleeing persecution.”
Hank Bracker, Suppressed I Rise

Hank Bracker
“Pope Alexander VI issued a Papal bull authorizing the Treaty of Tordesillas on June 7, 1494. The treaty gave everything located beyond 370 leagues or exceeding 1,110 nautical miles west of Cape Verde to Spain for exploration, and everything east of this meridian went to Portugal.”
Hank Bracker

Hank Bracker
“The definition for the “Poop Deck” as found in nautical books would lead you to believe that the name was derived from the French word for the stern of the ship, la poupe which in turn was derived from the Latin puppis. On sailing ships this deck was higher than the main deck, making it ideal to navigate from. It also was where the binnacle and ship’s wheel were located for the helmsman. The deck of the poop deck formed the roof or overhead of the Captain’s cabin making it convenient for the Captain to reach. His after cabin was frequently irreverently referred to as the “poop cabin!”
As wooden ships with iron men were replace with wooden men on iron ships, the navigational functions, with the exception of setting the sails, were moved to the bridge. According to my father who was a ship’s cook in the early 1920’s, the term poop deck remained, but took on a totally different meaning. During the turn of the last century, with coal fired reciprocating steam engines replacing wind and sails, this rear deck was where animals were kept to be butchered for food. Salted meat packed in barrels and the lack of fresh vegetables was the frequent cause of constipation and even worse scurvy. Many ships of that era, and before, didn’t yet have refrigeration and this was the way they continued to have fresh meat. A cabin boy tended to the chickens, pigs, lambs and goats and it was up to the butcher or cooks to slaughter and quarter them. Of course the deck nearest the stern was ideal for this, leaving the ensuing smell behind in the wake of the ship.
Seldom is the term “Poop Deck” used now since with the advent of cruise ships nautical terms are fading. Bunks have become beds, cabins became staterooms and the head is now the restroom. Oh, what has become of the days of yore?”
Hank Bracker

Hank Bracker
“Far below the waterline in the very lowest compartment of a ship you will find a deck covering the bottom of the vessel from the centerline, most frequently the keel, to the sides creating a space called the inner bottom. The purpose of this space is to protect the ship from flooding if the hull were to become compromised or breached by a grounding. This deck, known as the bilge is also the collecting place for water and oil that flows from spills, rough seas, rain, leaks in the hull, engine oil and lubricant. The bilge being a vast expanse would be difficult to pump dry if it wasn’t for collection wells that are designed to pump the contents into holding tanks. These wells were and are still known as a stuffing box or a rose box. In years past these wells were pumped directly into the sea without considering the adverse consequences to the ecology. The discharge of bilge sludge is now normally restricted and for commercial vessels discharging this toxic waste is totally outlawed and regulated under Marpol Annex I. On larger ships waste water can be passively treated by methods such as bioremediation, which uses bacteria or archaea to break down the hydrocarbons in the waste and bilge water. Once treated the water could be safely returned to the sea.
Pumping the bilges was a constant undertaking by the ship’s engineers and was necessary to keep the ship afloat. There were times however when the drain in the rose box would become clogged, and that was when the lowest ranking member of the engine department was called upon to clear the blockage. On most ships this task would fall to the “Wiper” or on a training ship a “Mug or Plebe.” Never knowing what had clogged the drain in the rose box we were ready for anything. When, as a midshipman, my turn came to reach into the rose box I came up with rags, paper and thick gunk. Disgusting as it was it could have been worse! I have heard tales of dead rats and once the ship’s pet cat clogging the drain, but it was all in a day’s work. Coming back up on deck the sun shone brighter and the flying fish were a welcome sight!”
Hank Bracker

Hank Bracker
“Side-Wheelers were built following the time sail ships were popular. It was a time when engineers experimented with various ways to transfer the thrust of steam engines to useful ways of propelling vessels through water. Side-Wheelers are a subspecies of paddleboats that were popular for a time, until it was determined that they were actually dangerous in heavy seas. Paddle steamers have a paddle wheel on each side of the ship’s hull making the vessel vulnerable to wave action coming in from abeam. If the seas were heavy enough the upper paddles could actually push water in the opposite direction from the ships heading, although the upper reach of the paddles were usually encased in a wooden housing. If the vessel rolled far enough the paddles or blades on one side or the other could come completely out of the water, thereby losing the necessary resistance. It was dangerous at best and was most frequently used on river boats.
One of the best examples of a side-wheeler lost at sea was the sidewheel steamer Portland owned by the Eastern Steamship Company. It was 7 p.m. on Nov. 26, 1898 when Capt. Hollis Blanchard, convinced that he could outrun an oncoming storm and make it back to Portland in the morning left Boston. The 219-foot vessel had 120 passengers and 60 crew members including the night watchman, Griffin S. Reed of Portland. That night, hurricane-force winds and 40-foot seas blew up as blinding snow from two storms hit simultaneously and ravaged the New England coast. The Portland must been swamped by the violent sea just a few hours later. Although a ship’s whistle was heard on Cape Cod giving a distress signal of four short blasts, nothing could be seen through the heavy snow. Later that night bodies started washing ashore, late that night however. Many of the victims of the gale were laid to rest in the Portland Evergreen Cemetery. Griffin Reed’s body was never recovered however a stone has been placed in the cemetery in his memory. A total of about 400 New Englanders died in this storm still known as “The Portland Gale.” A hundred and fifty vessels, including the Portland sank in this ferocious storm leaving no survivors. In 2002, divers finally located the Portland in 500 feet of water. From her location, Highland Light, on Cape Cod, bears 175 degrees true at a distance of 4.5 miles.”
Hank Bracker

“The City of Boston allowed us to dock at the dilapidated Mystic Wharves, right next to where the ships from the Havana Line used to tie up. Without knowing it, we were witnessing the end of an era. Steamship companies that connected Cuba with the United States were dwindling, as commercial aviation came into its own. The Havana Line was already gone, and the New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Company, commonly called the Ward Line, was a shipping company that operated from 1841 until 1954 and ran “Whoopee Cruises” during the prohibition years. Because of a number of accidents, including the fire on the SS Morro Castle off Asbury Park on September 8, 1934, the company was left hanging on by a thread. In the mid-1950’s it was still possible to buy a round trip passage from Miami to Havana for about $45.00, which was a bargain, even in those days.”
Captain Hank Bracker, "Salty & Saucy Maine"

“The Empire State was a relatively quiet ship since she only used steam power to drive the turbines, which then spun the generators that made the electricity needed to energize the powerful electric motors, which were directly geared to turn the propeller shafts. All in all, the ship was nearly vibration free, making for a smooth ride.
With the sound of three short blasts on the ship’s whistle, we backed away from the pier. This ship was unlike most ships and we all noticed a definite difference in her sounds and vibrations. At that time, most American vessels were driven by steam propulsion that relied on superheating water. The reciprocating steam engines, with their large pistons, were the loudest as they hissed and wheezed, turning a huge crankshaft. Steam turbines were relatively vibration free, but live steam was always visible as it powered the many pumps, winches, etc. Steam is powerful and efficient, but can be dangerous and even deadly. Diesel engines were seldom used on the larger American ships of that earlier era since they were not considered cost or energy efficient. Led by German ships, diesel driven vessels, they are now the most popular engines in use.
The NS Savanna was the only nuclear merchant ship, ever built. Launched in July 21 1959, at a cost of $46.9 million, the NS Savannah was a demo-project for the potential use of nuclear energy. She was deactivated in 1971, and is now located at the Canton Marine Terminal in Baltimore, Maryland.”
Captain Hank Bracker, "Salty & Saucy Maine"

“Throughout the year we worked at maintaining and painting the vessels secured at the Academy waterfront. The school had lifeboats, running boats, sailboats, a wooden-hulled “Submarine Chaser” and the “Training Ship.” During the years that I was at the Academy, most of these ships and boats, being holdovers from World War II, were hardly new. They were in constant need of maintenance and repair, which, of course, fell to us midshipmen. Most of the other academies had the funding to hire a permanent maintenance staff, but not us. At MMA we took pride in what we did and we were the ones who took care of almost everything.
Every winter, for all the years that I was at Maine Maritime Academy, we sailed from Castine, Maine, to the warm waters of the Caribbean in January. In The Tricks End, our yearbook, the Caribbean was called our third home. It gave us something to look forward to, and it gave us the practical, seagoing training we needed to become officers in the United States Maritime Service.”
Captain Hank Bracker, "Salty & Saucy Maine"