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.