In Peril – A Daring Decision, a Captain’s Resolve and the Salvage that Made History

No Comments 23 June 2010

Here’s a true story that will raise the hair on the back of your neck.  The events surround four vessels whose stories come together off the coast of Florida in November of 1994.  One is the tug Orgeron, towing a barge, Poseidon, with an unusual cargo.  An enormous aluminum fuel tank on which the space shuttle rides piggyback and draws fuel to propel it beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.  (Trivia:  NASA spends 4 years and 50 million dollars in the construction of each tank, and it’s used for eight minutes.  It burns up in the atmosphere and is not recovered.)  Then there is the soon-to-be abandoned and severly listing freighter, Jeano Express, drifting toward the shoals of Tennessee Reef.  The Cherry Valley is a 688 foot tanker, loaded with oil and bound from New Orleans to Jasksonville, the Northeast corner of Florida.  And another freighter, the Firat, loaded with steel rebar and anchored outside the entrance to Port Everglades at Fort Lauderdale.  Toss in a few vessels as supporting cast.  Then add a double-shot of  Tropical Storm Gordon…..mix well and stir.  Finally, in come the lawyers and judges, all sitting on their Blackwall Factors, the governing principles behind salvage awards.

Skip Strong, captain of the Cherry Valley, along with Twain Braden, have done a fine job in providing a concise level of detail, meticulously documented.  In Peril  A Daring Decision, a Captain’s Resolve, and the Salvage that Made History…’s high seas drama, but it’s so much more.  It’s a well written page-turner.  It’s recent history. It’s all factual.  This is a book I just couldn’t put down.  No doubt your experience will be the same.

The first part of this vid shows NASA’s external fuel tank.  It’s hard to get a sense of it’s enormous size until you see it.

And here is a link to more pics fron “Universe Today” that show the proportions of the external fuel tank that the Orgeron was towing.  For the jaw-dropping price tag……it’s gotta be big…’s gotta be good.

External fuel tank

And this may be just a bit off-topic, but I just couldn’t resist posting this rather long video (45 min) that is a tribute to our space shuttle program and the engineering behind it. Marvelous images and some wonderful views of the external tank, the boosters and the shuttle in super slow-motion — to provide a glimpse of the intricate details engineers look for. There’s narration, too, to inform you of everything you’re seeing.

“This compilation of film and video presents the best of the best ground-based Shuttle motion imagery from STS-114, STS-117, and STS-124 missions. Rendered in the highest definition possible, this production is a tribute to the dozens of men and women of the Shuttle imaging team and the 30yrs of achievement of the Space Shuttle Program.”

The video was produced by Matt Melis at the Glenn Research Center, and “provides highly inspirational and educational insight to those outside the NASA family.”


Water Tank Replacement and a Few Other Things – Phase 3

No Comments 23 June 2010

Port-side TanksThe four new tanks arrived a few days ago from Ronco Plastics.  And what a pleasure doing business with them.  The turnaround time was less then ten days; everything arrived in perfect condition and just as spec’d.  I’m using two of their 30 gallon B-189 tanks at each side, a total of 120 gallons, a 36 gallon increase.  Nice!  These tanks will be mounted back-to-back as shown in the thumbnail and plumbed together.  They will live below decks in the approximate location shown, their centerline being  just outboard of the outboard stringer.  Replacing the exhaust elbows allowed the mufflers to be repositioned as far outboard as possible, so the tanks can be about an inch from the mufflers.  These tanks will weigh 500 lbs. per side when full.  Comparing with a centrally located tank with a full weight of 700 lbs, the new arrangement should have higher moment of inertia.  Meaning that side to side rolling behavior should be minimized.  It’s an interesting theory.  As soon as a few more pieces to the puzzle are complete we’ll get the seat-of-the-pants test.


Water Tank Replacement and a Few Other Things – Phase 2

No Comments 16 June 2010

After examining all the possibilities for a little water getting into the lazarette, it finally came down to the fiberglass exhaust elbow on the port engine.  It seems to have deformed just a bit from age and heat.  It was not obvious at idle but showed up when the engine was at higher rpm.  Credit for the detective work should go to Mark Hanger of Mark’s Marine Repair and Scott of National Marine Exhaust.  The pad beneath the dripless shaft seal of the port engine showed more staining than the starboard side.  Scott picked up this detail right away and focused on the exhaust elbow above.  Where the exhaust elbow penetrates the bulkhead, there was  a gray/black stain down the aft side of the bulkhead.  Mark spotted it.   The problem elbow and the stain are visible in the pic in the  “Phase 1″ post.  Another clue I should have spotted was the black bathtub-ring stain around the bottom edges of the stringers where the water mixed with exhaust would pool until caried away by the bilge pump.

New exhaust elbows were ordered up from National Marine Exhaust; they are quick and the workmanship is flawless.  As is evident in the pic, the elbows are really beefy; impossible for an aggressively tightened hose clamp to do damage.  I found a tank size from Ronco Plastics that would go through the hatch and provide plenty of capacity.  The only catch is that I have to use two 30 gallon tanks on each side and plumb them together.  I made a mock up and it appears that everything will fit, maximizing storage space and water capacity, while improving access to all systems dramatically.


Salvage – A personal oddyssey

2 Comments 05 June 2010

Salvage-IanTewWow, what an adventure book.  17 year old Ian Tew begins his maritime career in 1961 as a Junior Cadet aboard the Dara, a 382 ft. passenger cargo ship.  Terrorists detonate a bomb in the engine room and the ship burns; Ian finds himself swiming at night in the Persian Gulf after his lifeboat capsizes.  True story.  And just the beginning.

The body of the book consists of over two dozen chapters, each describing a salvage operation during the period 1974 to 1984 while Ian worked for Selco Salvage, based in Singapore.  The big tugboats used in the salvage operations range from 150′ to 260′ in length.  A vessel most only view from a distance. Salvage – A personal oddyssey introduces the recreational boater to the far greater levels of complexity required for large commercial operations. The details are fascinating.  Often it’s a race against time, tides and weather to refloat a ship, aground on a reef a long way from any assistance.  But, imagine salving a super-tanker, 916′ long, on fire from Iraqi missle hits, in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war. 

Salvage - A personal oddyssey is really high drama, told in Ian’s matter-of-fact British tone; delightfully professional and not aggrandizing. All the events are documented and factual.  Don’t wait, order a copy of Salvage, today.  Better order up two copies:  one for yourself and one for your best boatin’ buddy.  You will learn alot about tugboats, salving and towing; you won’t be able to put it down.

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