mariners

Sometimes the Good Guys Win

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.     -Author Unknown

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.
-Author Unknown

Pirates made the news again this week, though I’m afraid it wasn’t good news for them. Twelve pirates were convicted in a Mauritian court for an attack on the MSC Jasmine off the coast of Somalia on January 05, 2013. It may seem like an eternity ago that the wheels of justice began turning, but they did turn. Originally, a court returned a not guilty verdict, but the prosecutors challenged the results, and a second trial yielded the new verdict.

For those of you who are geographically challenged, Mauritius is an island off the coast of southern Africa. If you didn’t know that, don’t feel bad. I had to look it up myself. Mauritius has a special treaty with the European Union that allows pirates taken off Somalia to be tried there.

And if you think Mauritius is just a small jerkwater, backwoods, impoverished island that will do anything for a buck, you’re mistaken big time. Mauritius has a thriving economy with tourism at its heart. With a solid infrastructure, this island is all about stability, democracy, and a rising middle class.

When the twelve pirates attacked the Jasmine with rocket-propelled grenades, a security team hired to protect the Jasmine repelled the attack. They promptly notified authorities, and plenty of help arrived. The USS Halyburton, the FS Surcouf, and a German patrol aircraft all played a part in apprehending the pirates.

Earlier this year Somalian pirates were found guilty of hijacking the yacht Tribal Kat and murdering its captain. They received six to fifteen years. They pretty much got away with murder.  Had it been the pirate Joseph Bannister, they would have been hanging from a yardarm before the ship got into port. Continue reading →

Ten Amazing Facts about Mariners

… There are millions of merchant marines in the world serving on ships of all sizes including freighters and oil tankers. The Philippines are the most represented in the field with over 700,000. Without the sacrifice of these men and women, world commerce would come to a halt. Wall Street may be the key to our financial institutions; trucks the key to shipping goods overland; but sailors manning the ships out on the sea are the glue that holds the world economy together.

… The average mariner can expect to be away from port for months at a time. It is probably the number one issue that professional mariners would change if they could. Some companies have started offering sailors year round contracts with a steady salary thus mollifying the sacrifice of months away from family. For most mariners, the issue is far from resolved.

… Though entry level mariners gain their education from the school of hard knocks, those interested in making a career of it must earn degrees or take courses to qualify themselves for better paying positions. In some countries, they must appear before boards whose members are sometimes described by sailors as being rude, unfair, and often outdated in their own knowledge. This makes advancing oneself difficult.

… Because of the economic climate today, many shipping companies are cutting back on ships and jobs. This leaves less good jobs for qualified mariners who work hard to promote themselves.

… Being a mariner is not a job for pansies. Hazards abound and death at sea, although not commonplace, happens. Dying thousands of miles from a loved one is difficult. Imagine the emotional and financial stress for family back home when they receive word their husband, father, or son has died at sea.

… One of the real hazards at sea is still from pirates. They often attack a ship, take what is of value including personal possessions of sailors, then leave. Those are the lucky ones. Other pirates, well-armed and ruthless, think nothing of brutalizing crew members. Still others take the crew as hostage and will not surrender them or the ship till a ransom of thousands of dollars has been paid.

… From Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, we have learned the common cause of death for mariners is pirates or drowning. It may surprise you to know that top causes of death are accidents. Some are from falling from great heights; others from falling overboard. One of the greatest hazards comes from confined space. Depending on the type of space, the danger could be from fire, electrocution, poisonous gasses, crushing from loose cargo, high temperatures, or injury from slipping on wet surfaces. And this list is far, far from definitive.

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Uncommon Mariners Not Just For Pirates

KEYS SUNRISE, PELICANS, TARPONS AT ROBBIES JUNE 8 152 #2_ed

 

“Welcome to the World of Pirates, Mariners, and the Eternal Sea.” Like billowing sails on a three-masted schooner, these words greet every visitor to my site. I put them front and center because I want everyone who comes to my page to know exactly what they can expect.

Like my upcoming book, Uncommon Mariners, you’ll find lots of information on pirates, ancient and modern, though my site isn’t just about pirates. It belongs just as much to mariners- those lusty, able-bodied men and women who for years have worked and played and sailed on high seas and in harbors all around the world.

Moreover, my site is also about the sea and the creatures that live there. The drama that plays out in the oceans every day as thousands of species struggle for survival is both riveting and shocking.

As I mention elsewhere on my webpage, I don’t propose to be the final word on any of these topics. Other sites do a fine job keeping you abreast of pirates and threats to mariners and the sea.

When you come to Uncommon Mariners, bring a pirate’s heart, playful and rebellious, but bring an inquisitive and probing mind too.  Do this and I promise you an entertaining, inspiring, and informative voyage.

I want to put a smile on your face with curious facts and amazing stories about mariners and the sea, but I also want to incense and anger you by making you aware of events and trends that are impacting mariners, the ocean, and its creatures in terrible ways.

Because the news isn’t all bad, I want to tell you about key players making a positive difference in mariners lives, the ocean environment, and the fight against piracy. And I want to provide you with links so you can learn more about these issues and act in ways big and small to make a difference. Continue reading →

Ten More Facts You Never Knew about Pirates

JOLLY ROGER 8X10 FINAL What a day

Last time we visited, ye took a little test to see how much ye really knew about us buccaneers. Did ye know enough to escape the gangplank or was ye swimming with the sharks. Think you’ll survive a second broadside from me cannons? Good luck, mates. Ten right answers and ye merit sailing with Blackbeard himself. Three wrong answers and anyone will know yer a landlubber fer sure and no mariner of the high seas.

  1. Piracy in the Caribbean ended when England ruthlessly hunted down pirates like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd. False. On September 05, 1717, the king actually offered a pardon for most pirates if they agreed to stop their nasty ways. Knowing the handwriting was on the wall, 300 pirates In Providence agreed, thus making it easier to hunt down those that remained.
  1. Pirates preferred tall ships with three masts and lots and lots of cannons. False. The overwhelming number of pirate ships weren’t close to the majestic ships portrayed in movies. Many pirates opted for smaller, lighter vessels that could move swiftly when chasing or being chased. Because large ships could not navigate shallow channels needed to dodge and hide, pirates preferred boats with shallow drafts.
  1. Except for a few isolated incidents in history, pirates were not a problem for mariners until the Golden Age of Piracy. False. A century before, Cheng I Sao ruled the South China Seas for years with as many as 300 ships. The Mediterranean Seas were infested with Corsairs for years, attacking ships and villages for booty and slaves. Both St. Patrick and Julius Caesar were kidnapped by pirates. Caesar told his captors he would be back to crucify them. He did just that.
  1. Pirates used the Jolly Roger to create a esprit de corps among themselves. False. Pirates used the Jolly Roger with trickery and intimidation, flying the same flag as a ship they targeted so as not to arouse suspicion. Then when they were on top of their prey, they raised the skull and crossbones, striking terror into the hearts of everyone on board.
  1. The only worthwhile booty for any self respecting pirate was gold or silver. False. While no one ever turned down these treasures, food, water, rum- especially rum, clothing, medicine, and other supplies were all valued.

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A Salute to Mariners

We owe an incredible debt to mariners whether they answer the call of the sea for money or adventure. Include in that group commercial fishermen, members of the merchant marines, ferry and tugboat operators, workers on cruise ships, and many more brave men and women who know what the demands of life on board a ship entails.

And make no mistake about it. The men and women who serve in the United States Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines and around the world are a special breed of mariners. Along with the aforementioned, they willingly put themselves in harm’s way for their country not only in war time but in times of crisis when life, limb, and property hang in the balance.

Much has been made of the dangers from pirates these past several years. With more than one sailor losing his life to these ruthless cutthroats, they are a force to be reckoned with. The luckier ones have been held ransom while loved ones a world away wait for years in dread and uncertainty.

But pirates aren’t the only peril mariners face when the last vestiges of land disappear. As stately and rugged as they are, ships today still must face the ferocity of storms at sea. How many men and women lost their lives just in this past year because of storms? Only the other day, a Russian trawler went down within minutes with fifty-four dead and fifteen missing. The death toll would have been far worse if not for nearby sailors risking their lives to save those in the frigid, choppy waters.

Old or poorly maintained ships are yet another hazard many mariners around the world must deal with. Alas, it’s a fact of life that for some companies the bottom line supersedes the lives of those who serve on their ships.

Ask any mariner working on a fishing boat or cargo ship about the dangers they face on any given voyage. It’s not a reflection on the captain or crew. It’s the nature of the job. Equipment doesn’t always work the way it’s supposed to. Long hours and weariness take their toll, making it easier for accidents to happen.

Continue reading →