Nautical News: For the week of August 3, 2014


A Boston Harbor Cruises whale-watching boat got stuck 13 miles offshore in a restricted area after it became entangled in a mooring buoy cable used by LNG tankers to offload their cargo into a natural gas pipeline. The security zone was created to protect the pipeline and the LNG tankers using it, and that is why vessels are restricted from navigating near there. What was supposed to be a 3 hour tour, turned out to be an overnight excursion for the 157 passengers and 6 crewmembers aboard. The boat departed around 1PM and returned to its dock in Boston around 8 the next morning after divers with special tools were able to free the whale watch boat. Two Coast Guard cutters and a motorlife boat stayed alongside the ship overnight for security and in case medical treatment was needed. Passengers were provided with food, water, and blankets, but many of them were too seasick to eat. Passengers were told by a Boston Harbor Cruise official that all of them would receive a refund on their $50 ticket and a $100 gift card for a future Boston Harbor Cruise, but many passengers said they were so seasick that they would never go on a boat again. They also were offered $500 cash for their pain and suffering.



Here is a story about another passenger boat in trouble, but at least they all didn’t have to spend the night together. Twenty-four passengers and three crewmembers aboard a disabled tour boat in the Piscataqua River in Portsmouth, New Hampshire were rescued by the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard received a report that the vessel Celia Thaxter had lost power and was being pushed against the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge by the current. Multiple Coast Guard and New Hampshire Marine Patrol boats rushed to the scene to help. A Coast Guard officer from station Portsmouth said this incident was exactly what they train for. No injuries were reported.



NOAA Fisheries just released an update on the Gulf of Maine cod stock based on their catch data. The landings showed the cod stock’s health appeared to have deteriorated since the 2012 assessment. NOAA officials stated that the timing of this update was done so that the New England Fisheries Management Council, which meets tomorrow, could implement more restrictions. The dismal news delivered a blow to commercial groundfishermen who believed that the cod stock was rebounding to the point where the federal cuts in allowable catch limits for groundfish might be mitigated and areas currently closed to commercial fishing re-opened.



Hundreds of Massachusetts lobstermen went to their state house to complain about a National Marine Fisheries plan that would prevent them from setting traps between January and April. The ban was proposed to prevent whale entanglements in lobster gear. However, lobstermen said they no longer use floating ropes between traps. Local lobstermen and state officials agreed the proposal is unnecessary and would hurt the area’s economy. NOAA officials rebutted saying they could have asked for a 6 month closure, so be happy that it is only 4 months. New Hampshire and Maine lobstermen who do not fish in the Stellwagen Bank area would not be affected.



Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries official Greg Skomal, working with researchers from the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, tagged a 12 foot long, female great white shark this week off the coast of Cape Cod. It was the area’s first tagging of the year and one of only a few sightings of a great white. The group nicknamed the shark “Avery.” Skomal, a biologist with the state’s Division of Marine Fisheries, said sightings have been a little below average this year due to the cooler sea water temperatures. Skomal said there tend to be more sightings in August when the water gets warmer. NOAA said there is no doubt that the population of great whites is growing off the East Coast due to the abundant supply of seals.



A 37-year-old Cape Cod man was sentenced to two years in prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of oysters valued at $25,000 from farms on Cape Cod last summer. In addition to stealing the oysters, the trays that were holding the oysters in the shellfish beds were lost after the tide carried them out to sea. Prosecutors said that the thief told them who bought the stolen oysters and he too was arrested and convicted. The farmer said the person who bought the oysters was just as guilty as the person who stole them.



This past week a kayaker was rescued after he became lost in thick fog. The man used his cell phone to call 911. A local harbormaster got the kayaker’s cell phone number and returned the call. He asked where the kayaker departed from and if he had a sound or signaling device. The kayaker said he had a whistle. The harbormaster went to the kayaker’s last known position and started sounding his siren until the kayaker could hear it. The kayaker would direct the harbormaster by telling him if the siren was getting closer to him. Every few seconds the harbormaster would stop sounding the siren, and listened for the kayaker’s whistle. The harbormaster soon found the lost kayaker and guided him back to the pier. This rescue serves as a reminder for people to know the weather conditions prior to going out on the water.



And last on today’s nautical news, four years ago in July, archaeologists working ground zero at the World Trade Center site found the remains of an old wooden ship’s hull buried under 22 feet of dirt. Nobody knew for sure how it got there, but now scientists and historians think they have solved this mystery. Apparently, the hull was buried in what was once a landfill. The landfill was created to bulk up the tip of Manhattan’s shoreline. Samples of the hull’s white oak were studied and the worm holes found in the wood suggested that the ship made at lest one trip to the Caribbean. Remnants of oysters found fixed to the ship’s hull showed that it remained in the water for a long time before being buried in the landfill. Scientists were also able to determine from the rings in the wood that the ship was built around the same time the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were signed. Experts say that there is no doubt that the hull represents a rare and valuable piece of American shipbuilding history.



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