Thursday, December 8, 2011

California Cannonball Melee

The crew of Mythbusters sent a cannonball shooting through a residential neighborhood during filming for a recent eopisode where they were trying to measureits speed.  The shot wound up leaving some very clean holes in a nearby house, in which the family was sleeping, and without injuring anyone bounced around before exiting the structure, bouncing across a busy street, off the roof of another home, and ending up coming to rest inside a parked mini-van.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Update - Intrepid

My previous post regarding the repatriation of the remains of the 13 Sailors of USS Intrepid crew from Libya has gained considerable attention.  Of course, I have deep sensitivities to our Navy's history and heritage.  I also have a moral obligation to defend my service.  And so I'm doing my best to see the issue of repatriating the remains of the Intrepid crew from the Navy's point of view.  As anyone giving even a glimpse to the argument can tell, the issue is a complicated one.  So let me play devil's advocate and see what shakes out.

Fossilized Pearl

There is a lot of media attention this year for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Pearl Harbor.  And much of it seems to be rightly recognizing that our living connection to that event - our veterans - are slowly fading away.  Consequently many articles this year focused on the stories of that day told from those who lived it.

But what will we remember of the event when everyone associated with it has passed on?  What do we remember of any event when the chief reminders are monuments silently extolling the unspecified sacrifice of faceless names, lost ships, and numbered unit designations?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Navy abandons its dead? or honors them?

There has been significant press lately on an issue more than 200 years old: thirteen American Sailors, often referred to as the first predecessors of today’s Navy SEALs, remain buried on Libyan soil. The families of some of those Sailors want the remains repatriated to the United States. Navy officials argue that the early practice of burying its dead at sea and along foreign coastlines near the site of death constitutes an official burial, and therefore considers the matter closed. Is the Navy honoring its dead? or doing an injustice to their memory? The issue is hotly contested.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

NHS Winter Retreat

I'm definitely slipping in updating this blog lately - the holiday rush can be thanked for much of that.  We've had lots of visitors to the Dockyard over the last week, but mostly just to check things out and not much actual work has been accomplished.  Oh well.  Now we have a short dash until Christmas and then on into the new year!

But Dockyard work aside, we do have a great event coming up - our winter retreat.  Last year, we just called it a board meeting - as it proved one of the rare occasions that our entire Board of Directors assembled in person to conduct business.  It also allowed our membership to come out and take part in the proceedings and discussions - so that the humblest of us could play philosopher for a few days.  The setting helped dramatically - rather than being cooped up in a board room, activities were held on the top floor of a board member's beach house in North Carolina's Outer Banks - with phenomenal views of the ocean, Pimlico Sound and Hatteras Light.  Everyone was accommodated in private suites, giving the proceedings a more casual, family-like feel, and the heated pool and hot tub were phenomenal, even in January.

This year, we're putting more effort into non-board business with several working groups and discussion forums.  What will those be, exactly?  Well, we hope our members will help us decide that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

You leave me no choice

A recent South Park episode entitled A History Channel Thanksgiving proved funny and sad all at the same time.  To summarize, the characters in South Park decide that rather than read books about Thanksgiving they'd watch the History Channel instead.  After waiting through Swap People, Hairy Bikers and Ice Road Truckers (I seriously could not have made those up), a show comes on about how the Pilgrims were really aliens from another planet, as were the Native Americans.  I nearly peed myself laughing.  And of course the episode goes on to get dumber and less funny - but as I stopped laughing I realized - this is it.  I'm not the only person who thinks HC programming is crap.  They get a lot of criticism, but stand staunchly behind rednecks and hillbillies as part of their network's programming objectives.  I've long since stopped pausing on HC to see what's on - but if it's part of their master plan, then someone must enjoy that crap.  That South Park episode was the first hint that anyone other than history enthusiasts despise their programming - that the idiocy can be recognized by mainstream viewers.

And so it begins - if this seems stupid to everyone, then you. leave. me. no. choice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ruby slippers authorized

Progress on the restoration of Monomoy No. 3 is moving along quite quickly - so quickly in fact that last weekend we totally expended our supplies of fasteners and epoxy putty - both critical materials in our re-framing process.  This isn't a wholly bad place to be in - it's a startling change to our usual schedule of movement, i.e. too slow.  But it does pose a problem in that our enthusiastic volunteers have picked up some great steam, and once you've got turns on, killing the momentum is deadly. 

So in our latest edition of The Pennant (the NHS weekly newsletter) as well as in a previous blog entry, we decided to create a "wish list" and ask supporters to chip in.  There's no gift like fasteners.  There's no gift like fasteners.  There's no gift like fasteners.  You get the idea.  I suppose it's better than asking for a heart, brain or courage - though we might start there too, soon.  We weren't really sure how well this would go over, but at least by allowing supporters to buy materials and send them to us, vice send money, at least they could be sure we weren't using the money for drugs.

But I'm very happy to report that less than 24 hours after publication, we've got enough material on its way to the Dockyard to keep efforts going for several weeks, maybe even months.  So thanks to those generous supporters who chipped in and helped keep our efforts going.  That said, I need you to be cool, honey bunny.  If I'm curt with you, it's because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast, and I need you two guys to act fast if you want to get this boat done.  That's right, we're going Harvey Keitel and a little Amanda Plummer on this thing. 

Or maybe, like most people, you just didn't get that quote at all.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All about drills, or, using your powers for good or evil

Actually, according to one of my favorite characters - Strongbad - you can only use your powers for good or for awesome.  Today, I'm eagerly awaiting a fascinating new machine - my taper bore countersink drill bitts with stop collars.  Kind of sounds like a Red Rider BB gun with a compass in the stock, doesn't it?  And like Ralphie, I have no shortage of people telling me I'll shoot my eye out, in one form or another.  The bitts cost a pretty penny - $90 plus $14 shipping for a set of 4 bitts and other assorted goodies - and like a kid at Christmastime, I'm waiting to rip open the package.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Open up a can of INSPIRATION!

Lately we've seen a steep decline in the number of volunteers who manage to make it out to our weekly working sessions.  And while I'm pretty sure it has a good deal to do with having to reef seams and dig out old fasteners, the work is becoming more enjoyable and even therapeutic as we progress into some more palatable aspects of restoration - such as scraping paint.  Or not.  But in all seriousness, between all the military personnel who have transferred in the last several months, we're down to a bare bones staff working excitedly on Monomoy No. 3 in the hopes of getting her into the water next year.  What's so exciting about that?  Well, that's where the inspiration comes from!

The things best learned by failure

Last week, we had a few problems with our steam bending as we started work on the pieces that had a tighter bend at the turn of the bilge.  Throughout the whole process I'd read just about everything there was to read about steam bending, at least as far as laying in frames "hot" - that is to say, right from the steam box into the boat.  But as I returned to the great and venerable texts from which I'd drawn much of my information I discovered that I had wholly discounted a different method, which the late great Howard I. Chappelle describes as "great for building single-handed".  Cool - that sounds about right for our skill level!  And on reading, I kicked myself for the simplicity of the most basic concept that had, until that moment, completely eluded me in all my research - that the hot bend was not, in fact the end-all, be-all of steam bent frames.  All at once I remembered why I pine so for the guidance of experienced builders that simply don't seem to exist in my neck of the woods, and despite all of my study, went back to feeling like the relative novice I am.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Where are THESE trees?

Last night's working session went over well, with the exception that the one frame we set out to bend ended up not cooperating.  Getting the hot frame correctly pre-bent and clamped in place proved pretty challenging, and ultimately proved to us that we need a pre-bending jig, or 'horse' to get the tight radii of the turn of the bilge before handing up the frame.  As I said yesterday, embrace shortcoming, learn and move on.

Luckily, I've found a few trees that might help with that appreciably.  I have no idea where these are but we need to find and harvest them ASAP.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

NHS Steampunk

Well maybe not that steampunk.  But certainly a little Rube Goldberg-ie, and steam is definitely involved.  Over the last two weeks, Monomoy No. 3 has been prepared for her first replacement frames to go in.  On Halloween, I decided of my own accord to go ahead and jump the gun, firing up the steam box and laying in some stock.  And even though I've followed all of the directions from every major boatbuilding publication almost to a tee, I was still amazed that the process worked relatively flawlessly and that I, decked in leather apron, welding gloves and knee pads, managed to singlehandedly replace two of the floors with brand-new gorgeous white oak in only a couple of hours - most of which time I spent reading the newspaper.

So while I may not have been 'steampunk' by the modern pop-culture sense, I still certainly felt like it.  Maybe I ought to invest in an old leather jacket and some round eye goggles.  Then maybe we can get some Comic-Con types to start volunteering - you never know.

Monday, October 31, 2011

U-Boat vs Monomoys, 1943

Doesn't the premise of that sound a little like SWOs vs aliens (aka Battleship, the movie)?  But step back a moment and check out the image above.  Who hasn't seen this famous picture?  Official Caption: "COAST GUARD CUTTER SINKS SUB: Coast Guardsmen on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter SPENCER watch the explosion of a depth charge which blasted a Nazi U-Boat's hope of breaking into the center of a large convoy.  The depth charge tossed from the 327-foot cutter blew the submarine to the surface, where it was engaged by Coast Guardsmen.  Ships of the convoy may be seen in the background."
 Date: 17 April 1943
 Photo No.: 1517
 Photographer: Jack January

What a great shot, depicting some of the very valuable service rendered by the USCG in WWII.  But in the same series of photos, taken by the same photographer from the same ship, we have another spectacular shot.  Click for a high-res view.
  Official Caption: "OFF TO RESCUE THEIR BEATEN FOES: A pulling boat leaves the side of a Coast Guard combat cutter to rescue Nazi seamen struggling in the mid-Atlantic after their U-Boat had been blasted to the bottom by the cutter's depth charges. Two Coast Guard cutters brought 41 German survivors to a Scottish port."
 Date: 17 April 1943
 Photo No.: 1516
 Photographer: Jack January
 Description: The men in this pulling boat were in fact a trained boarding team led by LCDR John B. Oren (standing in the stern and wearing the OD helmet) and LT Ross Bullard (directly to Oren's left).  With the assistance of the Royal Navy they had practiced boarding a submarine at sea in order to capture an Enigma coding machine and related intelligence material.  They were forced to take a pulling lifeboat when the Spencer's motor lifeboat was damaged by friendly fire.

Check out more, including photos of the Monomoy alongside the U-boat, here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Some interesting commentary...

I'm a huge fan of Google Books, and here's another example of why:

By Arthur B. Casmdy, Esq,. Member. (Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers)

By way of preface, the author refers to the New England dory, the New Bedford whaleboat, the Ranger boat for naval survey use in Central America, the racing cutter or barge, and the light steam or uaptha launch in common use on the coasts, as examples of highly successful craft for special uses. Navy boats have also been designed for their special purpose.

Requirements include: Strength to stand hard usage in rough water; stability under sail or oars: great carrying capacity, and weight as light as is consistent with necessary strength. Steam cutters must not only carry their own loads, but be capable of towing other heavily loaded boats. Aboard war vessels stowage space is limited, and the number of boats which can be carried also limited, so that the boats provided may be on occasions very heavily loaded with men, equipments and provisions—as in abandoning ship. Landing parties mean heavy loads, a probable pull through surf, and much banging upon the shore. In 1870 navy boats were classified according to size, but not form, and Chief Constructor Philip Hichborn has completed the standardization. In carrying out this scheme the best existing boats were selected and studied, also opinions invited from navigating officers who held different opinions about the rig. About 75 per cent favored the sliding gunter, and the others preferred the standing lug. The list of boats classified includes: Steam cutters, launches, cutters, barges, whaleboats, gig whaleboats and dinghies. Essential qualities of design for naval boats are: Safety, weight, comfort, and speed, in order. The author comments on each requirement, and gives much practical information concerning materials and methods of construction. In the matter of speed for steam cutters only a moderate rate is sought. In rough waters this ranges from eight knots for 40 ft. cutters to six knots for 28 ft. cutters. There are about a thousand boats in use in the Navy, and the average life is ten years.

Oh no he di-int. Isss ON!

Like Donkey Kong - from the Washington Post:  FIGHTIN' WORDS
The deputy ambassador at the British Embassy recently boasted about the British burning of the White House during the War of 1812, calling the sacking of Washington a “great British victory.”

Philip Barton, in an apparent attempt at humor, referred to the attack on the U.S. capital as he welcomed British boxer Amir “King” Khan to Washington this month to promote a Dec. 10 championship match with D.C. prizefighter Lamont “Havoc” Peterson.

“Amir, you may have ceded the home advantage to Lamont,” Mr. Barton said at a reception at the British Embassy, “but you - and he - should know this: There are a lot of us Brits here in Washington.

“We have had some notable victories here over the years. We even managed to burn down the White House in 1814!

“So, rest assured, come 10 December, you’ll have your share of local support. All of us are looking forward to another great British victory.”

Oh yeah.  So hit 'em back, yo!  ...or not.
The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines created an uproar over his claims that 40 percent of male visitors to the South Asian nation come for illegal sex.

Ambassador Harry K. Thomas Jr. made the comment at a forum in late September and then scrambled to apologize after realizing he got his facts wrong.

“I should not have used the 40 percent statistic without the ability to back it up. I regret any harm that I may have caused,” he said in a text message to reporters in Manila this month.

He expressed “deep regret” for his remarks and promised that the United States will continue to work with the “strong and dedicated partner of the Filipino people in combating the global scourges of human trafficking and sexual tourism,” an embassy official told reporters.

Mr. Thomas sent his apology to Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, and a government spokesman called the matter closed.
Wait.  You mean the Brit ambassador lashed out, and then we went and embarassed ourselves?  And in the end we didn't even address any of the percieved wrongs?  Wow - it's like the War of 1812 all over again there on Embassy Row in Washington.

200 years of progress in microcosm.  Awesome.


Color me confused

Last night's working session proved particularly productive.  With Monomoy No. 3 in the shop, we removed two complete floors, 8 and 17, and began cleaning up the planking interior faces for laying in new material this Saturday.  We're now down to the absolute bones of the boat - digging around deeper than a TSA agent screening a guy with frazzled wires hanging out of his pocket.  And in the process we're learning even more about the boat's construction and history.  No, we didn't find any dates scrawled between her planking, but it might as well have been.

As we began unscrewing and prying up the spongy old floors and poking around for other symptoms of dry rot, we broke out the trusty heat guns and started scraping back layers of paint.  And in the myriad colors bursting out under the scrapers, we were actually able to find some interesting tidbits that might help us validate the little we know of her documented past.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back to work

All summer, the Dockyard has been fairly well neglected - not much serious work going on as our boat programs came to a screeching halt - due largely to seƱor management (he's Uraguayan)devoting most energy to Hornet.  It didn't help that Monomoys 2 and 3 were outside, and the mosquitoes were quite bad this year.  Or that seam reefing is possibly worse than breaking rocks when it comes to hard labor.  But now the Monomoys have been shifted, and No. 3 is all set up so nicely - indoors I might add - and ready for volunteers in armchairs around the Hampton Roads area to start coming back out.

So I'm calling you all back in!  Over the last several weeks we've been horrible about keeping up the Wednesday night working sessions, but I'm trying to get that started again tonight.  1900 (7 pm)- Dockyard - get it.  We'll be getting started on planing down the framing stock, pulling out a few of the floors to be replaced, and getting out clamping devices ready for the actual work.

There is one thing missing in all of this - a budget.  The funds available for Dockyard work are scarce, and in 2011 were largely allocated for large materials.  That means we haven't purchased much in the way of tools and consumables that we'll need for moving forward.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Up to no good

Last weekend we bit into the last big "power shuffle" project at the Dockyard - flipping Monomoy No. 2 completely upside down, securing her in that position and then moving her to her 'parking spot' behind the Framing Bay.  No. 3 is resting comfortably inside the Framing Bay, preparing for her big re-framing - but before that happens we have some work to do - which I'm hoping we can knock out this week.

First, we have to complete No. 2's move.  Just like moving No. 3, this involves winches, rollers, sledges, mallets, a big can of lard, a young priest, an old priest, a corn-fed harvest mouse, whips, chains, whistles, yo-yo's, a circus midget - Wait, are you crying?  I'm so sorry.

It's not an exact quote, but I'm sure some will figure it out.  After more than a year of having almost no readers who get my movie quotes - suddenly I have some connoseurs out there.  Hat tip, movie lovers.  But I digest.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Up to Richmond for the Navy's Birthday

Yesterday I had the incredible privilege to be guest speaker at the Richmond Council Navy League's annual Navy Birthday Luncheon.  Hosted at Willow Oaks Country Club in Richmond, the festivities included a number of Sailors from USS Carter Hall LSD-50, USS Normandy CG-60 and Navy Recruiting District (NRD) Richmond.  I felt truly fortunate to be able to address such distinguished company.

Of course, I was quite nervous - this was my first major speaking engagement.  True, I've been in board rooms and conferences pushing the Hornet Project, and I've even written a few published book reviews, but this was my first 'general audience' presentation.  Of course, my slides failed to load, the projector had an issue - everything on my end that could go wrong did.  But the leadership of the Richmond Council were so incredibly gracious and welcoming that it more than made up for my technical issues.

The presentation initially focused on the early Navy and its first iteration during the Revolutionary War - but pointed out that it was only a temporary measure; the ships were sold off or destroyed after the war and the Sailors disbanded.  Later, the permanent Navy built to fight Barbary pirates was severely cut back, largely in response to criticism that it was cheaper to buy off the pirates than to fight them.  The first realization of the peace and wartime benefits of a permanent naval force were brought out during the War of 1812, a bitter struggle fought in the midst of a tremendous recession with high unemployment, sharp political divides - much the same conditions we face today.  That led to a quick discussion about Hornet, and the need to connect to the heritage - not just the history - of the Navy.

I'll publish more a bit later, but for now, back to the grind.  But thanks again, Richmond Council, for the tremendous honor, a great event, and even better company!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Remember USS COLE

Today marks the 11th anniversary of the attack on USS COLE.  The photo above was taken just over a month before the bombing.  The following is a list of the officers and crew killed in the attack:

Chief Petty Officer Richard Costelow, Morrisville, Pennsylvania.

Signalman Seaman Recruit Cheron Luis Gunn, Rex, Georgia.

Seaman James Rodrick McDaniels, Norfolk, Virginia.

Seaman Recruit Lakiba Nicole Palmer, San Diego, California.

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Lamont Saunders, Ringgold, Virginia.

Ensign Andrew Triplett, Macon, Mississippi.

Seaman Apprentice Craig Bryan Wibberley, Williamsport, Maryland.

Hull Maintenance Technician 3rd Class, Kenneth Eugene Clodfelter, Mechanicsville, Virginia.

Mess Management Specialist Seaman Lakeina Monique Francis, Woodleaf, North Carolina.

Information Systems Technician Seaman Timothy Lee Gauna, Rice, Texas

Engineman 2nd Class Mark Ian Nieto, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

Electronics Warfare Technician 3rd Class Ronald Scott Owens, Vero Beach, Florida.

Engineman Fireman Joshua Langdon Parlett, Churchville, Maryland.

Fireman Apprentice Patrick Howard Roy, Cornwall on Hudson, New York.

Electronics Warfare Technician 2nd Class Kevin Shawn Rux, Portland, North Dakota.

Mess Management Specialist 3rd Class Ronchester Mananga Santiago, Kingsville, Texas

Fireman Gary Graham Swenchonis Jr., Rockport, Texas

Rest in peace, all.

USS COLE continues today, her motto 'Determined Warrior', carrying out her nation's work.


A Navy Birthday Party - complete with costumed entertainment!

Navy Marks its 236th Birthday PORTSMOUTH - Chris Grimes adjusted his tall black top hat and picked up a shiny silver bone saw from the display table in front of him.

"This is my capital saw, for arms and legs," he explained. "And this smaller one is my metacarpal saw, for fingers and toes."

A doctor who was looking on - a real physician - grimaced.
"And the patients were awake for this?" he asked.
Grimes nodded. "Unless they'd passed out from shock."

The doctor shook his head. "A lot's changed," he said as he picked up an old, rigid metal catheter, probably used in the early 1800s.

Grimes was one of a handful of volunteer re-enactors who set up historical displays at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center on Tuesday as part of a celebration marking the 236th birthday of the U.S. Navy. The exhibits were supposed to be arranged outdoors at Hospital Point in front of the medical center's oldest building - the Navy's first hospital. Bad weather forced plans to change, so Grimes and the others instead set up inside, in patient waiting areas just down the hall from the hospital's modern-day operating rooms.
"Kind of a neat juxtaposition," one passerby remarked.

The Navy hosts a birthday celebration in Hampton Roads every year. Last year, it was held at Oceana Naval Air Station, and the year before aboard the battleship Wisconsin.

This year, organizers decided on a theme of Navy medicine, so Portsmouth Naval Medical Center, founded in 1830, seemed like a fitting venue. In addition to the historical exhibits, this year's celebration included a formal evening ceremony. In a speech before a room full of officers and dignitaries, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, Adm. John C. Harvey Jr., the head of Fleet Forces Command, said the re-enactors and their displays served as a reminder of just how much the Navy and Navy medicine have evolved.

Grimes, who's been posing for years as a 19th century Navy surgeon's mate, said he agrees - but only to an extent.

He pointed out a number of drugs on his display table that are still administered today, and then remarked that many of his tools are still in use as well; they've just been refined a bit.
"Actually," he said, "it's amazing how much is the same."


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Monomoy Musical Chairs

This weekend, the Dockyard crew turned out to do a little shuffling of Monomoys 2 and 3.  Both boats are moving into winter quarters of sorts - so they'll be protected without constant attention (as last year, when we had to brush snow off of tents regularly).

Monomoy No. 3 is now in the Framing Bay - a move of some 88 feet over soft and uneven ground, four turns and a slide sideways - all while stabilized (the keel is carefully aligned and the hull shape preserved in a cradle).  Overall the whole assembly weighs about two tons, and we moved it the only way possible - slowly.  Now, I know what you're thinking - don't hurt yourself.  Yes, yes.  All possible safety measures were adopted - such as "the scamper" - a means of semi-rolling and crawling quickly away from a boat that is about to fall on you, or "the worry" - where you chant "no, no, no, no" with increasing quickness in a verbal effort to stop the boat from moving.  But I digest.

All in all, the techniques for moving something this heavy yet so fragile are relatively simple.  Just take the whole thing like a box of chocolates - and assume you never know what you're going to get until you get there.  Adopt, adapt and improve, sort of thing.  Or maybe we should just name No. 3 "Jenny".

Friday, October 7, 2011

On Steve Jobs

A little off topic this morning?  Maybe.  And I certainly don't want to jump on any bandwagons - I'm far too busy trying to drive a small one.  But as a guy who has never bought a mac or anything with an "i" in front of it, I'm oddly moved by the passing of a guy who is described as a "visionary" and "innovator".  This is a guy who made a real difference doing what he loved, and I've always been inspired by people like him.  And Steve himself was very quick to often point out - it wasn't about the money.  In his own words, “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Now I'm sure a few regular readers have just realized my connection to all of this - Hornet.  There are a few quotes of his that I think are also pretty pertinent:

"you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

"Why join the navy if you can be a pirate?"

So I'm taking some time today to think about Steve and his vision - between everything else that is tugging at me from every angle and all the things I'm pulling my own hair out over.  The chance to take a moment out and dig deep into an idea is a tremendous luxury we can all afford.


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Printing costs WHAT?

So we're finally at the point where we're starting to print new Hornet Project overviews and summaries.  The overview is just that- a short overview, while the summary is much more in depth.  The overview is 8 pages front and back with lots of pictures while the summary is about three times the length with far fewer images.  The team has spent weeks hammering these things together, fine tuning text and tweaking formats.  Now, with our proud little bundles of awesomeness ready to print, we've just recieved our cost estimates and every jaw just hit the floor.

For a single printing of the overview, our printer wants $17 each.  Now that's low quantity - things would get much cheaper with greater quantity, but OUCH.  I'm not even going to tell you what printing the summary costs.  And while I'm sure everyone out there is thinking "you're publishing for a multi-million dollar project, what is a few hundred for printing?" its always been our focus on the bottom line that keeps our productivity up and our donors happy.  Splurge? Yeah right.

Overall, we'll be keeping costs down by putting the materials online for YOU to download and print for yourself if you like.  But we still need hard copies for prospective donors, and for now, that's my biggest headache.


Tonight's working session at the Dockyard has been cancelled.  Working session this Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm.


Monday, October 3, 2011

A productive start to the week

The Hornet team is making a round of presentations this week to key influencers.  Our new promotional material is rolling out and we wanted to have a chance to put it out to a select group before it made it available to the public.  The first of these just wrapped up, having gone quite well.  To be honest, I'm a little excited that things went so smoothly, despite a few not-so-well-placed comments and reassurances that I didn't need to make.

No, I won't say who it was with.  But I will say that it was rather close to home, which made things all the more shaky for me.  For some reason I always feel more comfortable presenting to total strangers - and the meetings seem to run better.  I know I'm definately more astute in conversation when I know the person I'm talking to isn't looking right through me.  A good rule of thumb to follow - that I need to start paying more attention to - is when you get what you want shut up.  Oh well, live and learn.

But here I am going on about my own uneasiness and what you're really looking for is what's going on now.  The long and short of it is, things are moving in a positive direction, and we continue to make progress.  More will follow as things solidify, so stay posted.

Friday, September 30, 2011

What really grinds my gears

Some of you might remember the news last year about the sudden sinking of the Sailing School Vessel (SSV) Concordia off the coast of Brazil.  All 64 people onboard survived after an annoying stint in the ship's liferafts.  The Canadian Transportation Safety Board released its report yesterday, blaming human error due to insufficient training standards.  The investigation found that the officer on watch had several opportunities to avoid the capsizing, including tracking the very squall that did them in visually and on radar.  The master of the ship was below sleeping, but had fully identified the threat of increasingly inclement weather.

Now, a sail training professional I am not, but a maritime professional I am.  I hold a US merchant mariner's license (chief mate unlimited tonnage) and have been a commissioned Naval Officer for 5 years (qualified OOD in two weeks and SWO in 5 months, for those who understand what that entails).  I've sailed aboard a half dozen tall ships, volunteering my time as a deckhand.  But all of that aside, this is relatively simple common sense stuff.  After all, as one of my early mentors pointed out, there is nothing in seafaring that is overly complicated, it's putting those simple things together and making good and timely decisions that makes or breaks your value.  In the simplest of terms, this has EPIC FAIL written all over it, and there is more than one person who ought to have their knickers hoisted for this.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Back again

Okay folks, sorry for the long absence.  Things have been very busy lately but I don't need to tell you - between the retirement of ADM Roughead and ADM Mullen, a new CNO - things are pretty exciting.  And here at NHS things are no different.  Yeah, we're still working on what we're working on, including new promotional and informational materials for the HORNET Project, along with a fresh round of website updates.  And all of it has kept me pretty busy.  Thankfully, its all exciting stuff and so that helps keep the motivation up.

One of the biggest projects recently has been a revamp of the website, conversion to .aspx format and updating the content.  We're still not done with this, but most of what's new is posted.  A quick word on this - yesterday we found that our "join our mailing list" link was not working properly, so if you have joined since Monday, please go back and join again to ensure we don't miss you in future mailings.

We've also been churning and burning on new HORNET promotional material for donors to keep the press on there.  Most of these will be published on our website soon, and snippets have already been published in our weekly newsletter, The Pennant.  Part of the reason that I've taken so long away from the blog is that I've been very wrapped up in those publications, and the website material.  It still isn't perfect, but it's getting there. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Sneak peek...

A quick look at one proposed draft of the new NHS Membership Cards.

Proof you're working too hard

In recent weeks, the Hornet Project team has been pushing to get the latest round of informational materials out - project summaries, white sheets, leave behinds, and power point presentations.  All of it to adjust for the shift in construction timeline from this winter to next summer and everything that goes with it - from the capital campaign to projections and pro formas, all is being re-hashed, cleaned up and adjusted for the most current information.

This just means that we've been rapidly sending emails back and forth, editing draft after draft, even throwing out and starting again in some cases.  And now we're all starting to get tired.  We're sick of hearing from each other - in a very Jerry/Newman relationship, almost across the whole team.  Of course a few days off will do some good, offering some rest and undoubtedly result in one final burst of relative genius before we finally publish, splash, and see if any ripples come back.

But this comes at an interesting time - this weekend I'm heading up to Alexandria for the USS Hornet (CV-8 and CV-12) reunion at the invitation of the USS Hornet Association.  I only hope to be able to keep up the smiles, enthusiasm, and constant conversation, even though I really shouldn't be anywhere near any mental processing of the project.  Maybe my vacation will start later.  Good news guys, take a week off - sort of thing.  At least I am genuinely looking forward to meeting everyone - with whom I've only ever had phone calls and email exchanges.  There are some great sea stories waiting for me, I'm sure, and if there is one thing I love its sea stories.

More to follow on Monday.


Subscribers to the NHS mailing list - as you read last week the free reign of the NHS Publishing Team is coming to an end in October.  But don't worry about scrambling for your memberships just yet - the new and improved website will make joining and payment of dues much easier, so standby for that.  Oh crap, that is something else I'm supposed to be doing.  No rest for the weary.

Have a good weekend, all!


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Navy today... so much pun!

I've been receiving more and more emails from folks around the world who love Naval history but don't know much about today's Navy.  So, this morning I thought we'd take a great opportunity to catch up a little on what the real Navy is doing - ADM Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations, spoke about the overarching mission and state of the Navy recently.  So let's go there - to that magical place.  I'm talkin' about a place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I'm talkin' about a little place called Aspen.  Yes, it's true - a precious little few of you get the movie quotes.  Forget it, just check out the flick.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Why books "for dummies" usually apply to me

As our team continues work on re-tooling the NHS website, I'm remembering why the ever-popular "for dummies" series of books are sometimes my best friend.  As with most NHS projects, we always finish with fewer volunteers than we started with, and it's usually up to yours trully to fill in the blanks.  This time, we're just plain short-handed all around, and so while our web guru Dave Lotz manages the conversion of our pages to ASP format, it's fallen to me - as final approval authority for content - to learn HTML so I can input my own writing to the website.  In previous editions, we've had skilled volunteers who do this without blinking, but as we spread ourselves thinner and thinner running around on various projects, I get to re-discover my role as supreme idler and slack remover.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Those of you who visit our website frequently might have noticed that over the past several days it has looked a little - well - jacked up.  Our Web Developer, David Lotz, is steadily converting our site from HTML to ASPX coding, a change that will streamline its operation and allow for easier updating.  Now I'm no techie but I do know this is a lot of work, and from what everyone seems to be telling me, is the next principle step to getting many of our more interactive website features - those we haven't turned on yet - working.

Some of you who have been following for a while might notice that I'm taking a much less sarcastically critical view of the website redevelopment than I did the last time it was overhauled.  No more practical jokes back and forth and far less pithy commentary - last time I received a number of emails from people that I was too critical and demeaning to our great volunteers doing the work.  Oh ye who know and appreciate my sense of humor not.  Thankfully they got it.  But I really can't make many jokes about this go-round of improvements - everyone is tired from a long year of volunteer work and many are running on empty.

So why make a push for improvements in these conditions?  Well, for one, because we're just badass like that.  But we also have some pretty cool stuff up our sleeve.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Newsletter - slipping!

Those who subscribe to the NHS weekly newsletter The Pennant have probably been wondering where this week's edition is.  We've had some great new developments that put a stop to the presses late last week and there hasn't been time to regroup and put it all into the new edition - keep your eyes open next week.

I should also forewarn the subscriber's list that it will soon be limited to NHS Members.  That's because as the NHS Board of Directors considers how to harness an influx of membership requests from all over the country, we realize that one of the greatest benefits we can offer is the distribution of that publication.  There will be more, of course - trinkets and special admittance to future events among the list of membership benefits.  And so the reign of free access to the NHS font of Hornet and Monomoy-related news could quite possibly be curtailed to those who are contributing to the press.

And now that we're on that subject - membership - I might as well make a few comments on that, specifically.  After all, I will be the first person to admit that we dropped the ball on this in recent months - and now we're scrambling a bit to realign and meet the demand signal.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A quick excerpt...

...from a great book and one of those references that is hard to put down once picked up:

"Many muskets were levelled at him, but were prevented by our officers from firing on so bave a man." Midshipman Skiddy's story of the US officers' response to the sight of Penguin's lieutenant left alone on his forecastle points to the existence among those officers of shared values, in this particular case respect for bravery.  Equally, the adroitness of Hornet's victory over Penguin - defeating the brig despite Hornet's first lieutenant, David Conner, being grievously wounded at the beginning of the action; her captain, James Biddle, being partly disabled during its course; and ending the battle with her twenty-one-year-old seconid lieutenant, John T. Newtown, as the senior uninjured officer - all suggests a high state of training and discipline among the officers.  How had these shared values, the well-honed skills, been acquired?
            Not by accident or inadvertence.  Rather, they were the result of a conscious and sustained educational program.  One could hardly overestimate the importance that the corps attached to its educational effort during the pre-1815 years.  Operations aside, there may be no aspect of the US Navy's early history that is more extensively documented in its surviving records.  "Without officers what can be expected from a navy? The ships cannot maneuver themselves, nor will the best of soldiers answer as substitutes for seamen" Thomas Truxton exhorted Secreetary of War James McHenry as early as 1797.  "If we are to have a navy, we must make officers to manage that navy."

p. 153 A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession; The Creation of the US Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815 by Christopher McKee.

Check it out on my book scroll to the right!


Thursday, September 1, 2011

A new leeboard - not that bad!

Oh come on - they're not so ugly!  I always hate it when people get on these rants about how leeboards foul the whole look of their nice graceful sheer - and there aren't many more graceful than that of a Monomoy.  The thing is functional, dammit, so think happy thoughts and suck it up!  When you look at it, just envision the windward performance and think of that nice course just off the wind.... sort of how when watching Susan Boyle I always just see Jack Black up there singing, and laugh a bit - then someone tells me I'm going to hell.

Last night at the Dockyard we cut out and shaped a plank of 5/4 white oak to serve as a new and theoretically improved leeboard for Monomoy No. 1.  The design comes courtesy of the Niagara crew in Erie PA, whose work with leeboards for their own boats is rather extensive.  It uses no tripping lines or rose-lines to drag in the water, and is much slimmer - in contrast to the fat, wide leeboard design we currently employ.  The work was prompted by a desire to see how high on the wind we can get Monomoy No. 1 to point - we know her sail can be very efficient but thus far her fouled underwater profile has prevented her from really working to windward well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Feedback on HORNET - the NHS command model

The first critical item of discussion aboard NIAGARA last week was the operation of HORNET under a military system, and the planned command model.  Among all of the preparations this is perhaps the most controversial facet of all.  For active duty sea service folks, this comes as no particular surprise, but for the civilian sail training community - as much as they want to say it isn't - this is a game changer.  After all, the last military-run sail training ships left service more than a century ago - the era of naval discipline under the square rig is all but forgotten in actual practice. 

Today aboard most ships, the officers are called and referred to by their first names (except in most cases the master, who is called captain or skipper) and nary a 'sir' or 'ma'am' is heard, and it isn't unusual for the officers to mix and mingle with the crew both on the ship and during off time.  And while most get along just fine without it, including NIAGARA (which is often cited as being more organized than many), there is an intangible benefit to be derived from naval discipline - which is often displayed on the Navy's better ships - that not only brings a crew together but drives them onward, motivating them and instilling a sense of tremendous pride that can best be described as a fighting spirit.  Hornet's crew has to set that bar highest of all - all eyes, even in the Navy's Atlantic Fleet - will be on her wherever she goes.  Anything less will ring false to the active Sailors we know we're going to meet, and in many cases cater to.  And none of this mentions the simple fact that onboard a Navy ship - even a mock-Navy ship like Hornet - it is what spectators and participants will expect to see.  But in an era when many of Hornet's crew will never have served in the military - how do we do this?  That's what we're working out, and NIAGARA's crew had some interesting feedback.

First, the obvious - the crew must adhere to a very rigid chain of command.  So today's entry will cover the generalities of the model with respect to ranks and responsibilities, and some of the comments and criticism from NIAGARA's officers and crew.

Back in the saddle, or um, whatever

What would the nautical equivalent of the phrase "back in the saddle" be?  I think I'm forgetting some common salty line there but it's eluding me.  Nevertheless I'm back and working on picking back up in the NHS pipeline of events and activities.  The hurricane did very little damage around the Dockyard, with most of the headaches being concentrated on policing up fallen branches.  And thankfully I have yet to receive any report of any of our members suffering much - so that is great.

But back here in the office, I'm suddenly overcome by that feeling best described as 'a case of the Mondays' although I hope this isn't the sort of place where I'd get my a$$ kicked for saying something like that (this is an easy one, a cult classic!).  After a week sailing aboard a tall ship, followed by a mad dash into a hurricane zone and two days cooking on my livingroom fireplace, the office has easily lost its usual charms.  I'm itching for more excitement, but more on that later - I'm sure everyone would agree that my boredom is dangerous.  But first, a little bit about the past week, and my absence.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Come on Irene

If anyone else starts quoting Freddie Mercury I'm going to loose my own bunt gasket.  Nevertheless, suffice it to say that I have returned to Norfolk, have taken charge of the Dockyard, and the Severe Weather Response Plan has been implemented.

No volunteers will be required at the Dockyard during any portion of the hurricane/foul weather.  The Monomoys are buttoned up as best they can be, and all else secured for sea.  Remain safe - go where you need to - so long as it's not the Dockyard.  On that score, I'm on high ground and I have beer - who wants a hurricane party?

Be safe everyone and I'll get back to writing next week. Yes, it is unreasonable to expect that I'll be answering the 200+ emails that have piled up on me this weekend.  Watch below (hat tip Niagara crew).


Friday, August 12, 2011

Meanwhile, at the idea pool

This weekend we're setting to work quietly, in our favorite armchairs with our trusty laptops and memo pads and calculators by our side.  Recently, we had a discussion about the USS HORNET Project and how it meshes with the existing 1812 bicentennial programming plans.  Now that those plans are being finalized, a clearer picture of what to expect and how to augment it is available.  But as we really focus on the question of what it all means, and should mean, we're in a great pool of thought processes - each with different origins and objectives but crossing somehow beneath the banner of "1812".  The great challenge is weaving every path into a giant knit onion - where the various layers and sinews compliment and embrace the bigger vegetable.  Served raw in that concentration is bound to make some restaurant-goers cry.  But in the right combination, with some preparation, the flavor comes out with great taste.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Grab a Snickers. Or just snicker, whatever.

So what's that saying so often made by the ubiquitous 'them' - about the best laid plans?  Yeah, well let's just say that I've grown soft and intolerant of traffic not having to drive onto Naval Station Norfolk in the mornings for going on two years now.  Nearly every single member of the crew we put together this morning was late - myself included.  And as I cursed everything from the Navy for not having more gates to the city for not designing a better traffic pattern to myself for not getting up earlier to the damned drivers who insist on tailgating the Monomoy where I can't see them - if I could kill with my mind it would have been a bloodbath.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Time traveller cell phone - REPRISE

"Oh nothing, just chilling at the Navy Yard, bored.  What's up?"

I may have retouched that photo, just a little.  In case anyone doesn't recognize it, this is a photo taken in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in 1861 after Federal forces had attempted to destroy the facilities as they evacuated in an attempt to deny them to Virginia state forces (Confederates) coming to occupy it.  Call it a hat-tip to the ongoing Civil War 150th anniversary commemorations, which certainly deserve attention.

This weekend I had a chance to head over to Portsmouth and visit some of my local favorites - the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Museum and the shipyard itself.  It's a visit I try to make a few times a year to go exploring with my military ID.  Sometimes I lament that civilians aren't able to see the shipyard - which requires a military ID to get in - but harbors some truly awesome remnants of our Naval history.  For those without a golden ticket, the museum is located in Downtown Portsmouth and you don't need one to get in, just a few dollars.

Friday, August 5, 2011

All things new and exciting

In NHS we always have a lot on our plate.  From graphic design to architectural work, boat restoration, promotional material and blogging - we run a huge gamut.  And it certainly keeps things interesting as focuses shift from one thing to another and back again - it has a certain freshness to it that just makes it awesome.  But as my individual focus shifts from one thing to another our volunteers seem to follow in step, shifting their focus as well.  It means that of all these great things, most are works in progress, completions are little victories unto themselves and more commonly overdue than not.  I suppose that goes with being your fearless leader - or maybe it makes me "John" (see pic).

So what other awesome things are in the hopper, besides the things I've brought up lately?  Plenty.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Who wants a workout?

Yesterday, some of our key volunteers met for lunch to discuss NHS operations.  This year, we haven't had much in the way of active programming, most resources being diverted to the USS HORNET Project.  But that hasn't stymied interest in getting Monomoy No. 1 back out on the water.  We have had her out several times, but mostly as an impromptu 'fun run' rather than serious training.  But as another round of Navy CPO selectees step up, we're finding more and more press to get our underway programming back in play.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sometimes I really do feel like an overgrown child

As I've posted recently, the Dockyard has taken on something of a fascination with models, mostly due to the great response recieved from Mini-HORNET, our 1:12 scale mock up of the ship.  As we continue to explore options to get models of HORNET commercially available, we're running the gammut of great model companies - many of which I've built kits from in my youth, or dabbled in turning to in adulthood.

Yesterday I had a great conversation with Philip Roberts, the owner of Steel, Chapman & Hutchinson LTD.   SC&H is a company that specializes in large scale radio controlled sailing ships - which definately falls into the 'dabbled as an adult' category; I've probably been debating on how to work one of those models into my pasttimes for years now.  These models, which are not cheap, are nevertheless durable, easy to build, fun to sail and absolutely gorgeous.  For between roughly $3,000 to $5,000, any person can become captain of their own miniature square rigger.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Even more brilliant ideas!

Between moving Mini-HORNET up to Richmond - no small endeavor let me tell you - and the growing list of projects around the Dockyard, this weekend was one of the most productive in some time.  Volunteers showed up around our operational area to help in a number of departments and I'm very proud to say our OpTempo is increasing.  Special thanks are well-deserved by the crew that set up Mini-HORNET in Richmond at the Virginia War Memorial on Saturday - an evolution that took just under six hours.

Now, we have even more projects started with notes and ideas flying back and forth with several construction projects moving right along.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Stay cool, honey bunny

And survey says no, most of you don't get the movie reference.  I can't watch these for you folks!

After we spent last weekend inside cowering from the heat, do you think we could possibly do it again this weekend?  NO!  We're on the move this weekend which means our perspiration-dripping work crew is going to be spreading their ofactory oasis all over this fine commonwealth of ours.  And where will we end up?  Why, Richmond, of course!  Mini-HORNET, our 1:12 scale mock-up, is on the move to the Virginia War Memorial in the heart of Downtown Richmond.  Why the Memorial?  Well first - WHY NOT? and second because of the folks who made it possible.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pennants on paper

Yesterday we published our first edition of a - what we hope to maintain as - weekly newsletter, The Pennant.  I hope it helps keep everyone on the same page - we're starting to become so widespread in our activities and support that many elements aren't always up to speed on the big picture.  It you didn't receive your copy of The Pennant, sign up for it by visiting our website and entering your email address - here.

To many, I'm sure it seems we are treading water - particularly if you don't live near or participate in our regular working sessions.  The fact of the matter is that we are waiting on a major breakthrough that will demonstrate our credibility and feasibility and put our projects into the realm of the possible in the perceptions of the prospective donors from whom we've gathered interest thus far.  But rather than sit patiently and wait for the breakthrough to come down the pike (and it seems to move slower and slower by the day) we're keeping busy, doing what we can, with what we have, where we are - so that when the capability for serious movement arrives, we can hit the gas hard and know we're accelerating in the right direction.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Are you ready for the HEAT to be brought on you?

This weekend, I'm fully anticipating most work in the Dockyard to come to a screeching halt, thanks to the abominable heatwave.  Of course that won't stop some from heading out to at least the shaded portions of the shop and sweating all over the work in progress.  Of course for many more sensible people there are more savory alternatives to the sauna, previously known as the Framing Bay.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Back to work!

Anyone familiar with the goings-on at the Dockyard is used to the endless shuffle of work - old projects and new, familiar and bizarre.  And now that we have something of a week-long break between exhibitions for Mini-HORNET we have even more work getting her ready.  So what else do we have rolling right now?  Plenty.  And the intense heat only adds to the FUN in the non-air conditioned shop and in the bright beating sun of the open dockyard.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sea Stories 2 - the Smoke Generator

I was a new man aboard the USS Fremont. Our A division boat shop was the starboard half of the after deck house. The port side was property of R (repair) division, and aft of the deck house was the fantail, property of 3rd (deck) division. The ship was departing NOB Norfolk, when a "senior person" approached me. Now on the port side of the fantail resided a strange large covered object, under coarse canvas that had received multiple coats of gray and black paint.