Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I'm glad somebody is saying this

Last weekend while at the NHS Winter Retreat, the attendees were amazed to watch the initial reports of the Costa Concordia sinking roll in - no pun intended.  I'm not going to get into the weeds on this, but suffice it to say that I'm very relieved to see some of the press more latched on to the "over-reliance on electronic navigation" and "a failure of judgement by the captain" and less on "we need safer ships and higher training standards".

Ships today - by and large - are very safe.  Remarkably so.  But the mariners who manage them on the other hand, well, as one myself I can tell you I've grown increasingly concerned over the past 10 years that fewer and fewer are rooted in the fundamentals of that profession.  So many today rely on electronic gizmos - and it's so easy to! - that the most basic principles, such as management of lifesaving on a foundering ship, are going by the wayside.  There was an old Quartermaster aboard my first Navy ship - the crusty  type who is almost irritating to talk to at first.  But I learned quite a bit from him, including evolved use of the Mark 1 Mod 0 Eyeball.  As incidents like these continue, I wonder how long it's going to take everyone to realize how simple the solutions really are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Low gravity environment

One of the core missions of NHS is to use antiquated technology 'at sea' to develop teamwork and leadership skills.  This we accomplish with our small boats, a mission we will someday expand to Hornet.  Putting participants in an open boat with no engine and forcing them to be reliant on their own abilities to get underway and return safely is rather startling, too.  It has the effect of peeling back that blanket of security most people have in their daily routines and modern technology, leaving most feeling a little vulnerable.  And that's where the education starts - building up from the base of core abilities as individuals, and coming together as a team in a foreign, and highly demanding environment.

But it has another effect as well - it makes people think about the technology they rely on every day.  Some hearken back with anecdotes of the days before cell phones and the internet.  And after a while one question always comes up - as technology makes life, and information, more convenient, are we getting dumber, or perhaps worse, lazier?

Some time ago, I came across the picture above, and I've been thinking about that concept ever since.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

HELLOOOO Annapolis!

As we enter the new year, I've moved to Annapolis and started a new assignment as a seamanship, shiphandling and navigation instructor at the US Naval Academy.  Yes, I've entered the history-bedecked halls of our Navy's most celebrated educational institution.  I know - God save the Navy.

My regular weekdays will largely be spent alternating between Luce Hall and a gray-hull on the Severn River, returning to my surface warfare roots tackling all manner of naval navigational gnarliness.  After two years on an admiral's staff, the move is tremendously refreshing, and I'm psyched!

I also have to say, having not spent much time in Annapolis before now, that I'm amazed to find it such a small, close-knit community.  Everyone seems to know everyone else and I've constantly been meeting new people - including a few, um, fans.  That's right, a few NHS followers caught me out in town and stopped to say hi - so HELLOOOO Annapolis!  And don't worry - I.  Have.  A.  Plan.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Bicentennial year - and we're already celebrating the 200's!

Well, I've been away for some time now - and to the more or less devoted readers follow this blog, you have my apologies.  It's been a busy season, not just for the holidays but also here at NHS, where the point was far from lost on our staff that we are entering the first year of the War of 1812 bicentennial commemorations.  But 200 years ago, right now, one of the fastest ships in the American fleet was racing diplomats to and from Europe.  During the winter of 1811-1812, newly promoted Master Commandant James Lawrence would find himself at the proverbial spearhead of the United States’ entry into the conflict we’re about to commemorate.

Many will no doubt recall that Lawrence would go on to give the Navy its legendary motto "Don't Give Up The Ship".  But in 1812, he was already somewhat well known.  In fact, while most no doubt associate Lawrence with the capture of the frigate Chesapeake, he had quite a stellar - albeit curtailed - naval career which I feel significantly outweighs the 'glory' of his bravely fought end.