Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Sea Bear" sinks off Fire Island in Storm

An investigation is underway after the "Sea Bear," a tugboat, sank off the coast of Long Island Saturday, leaving one man dead.

One crew member died and three others were rescued when the boat sank in icy and stormy waters off of Ocean Beach, about a mile off Fire Island, authorities said.

One of the crew members managed to make a cellphone call to the Coast Guard at about 2 p.m. as the tugboat Sea Bear was sinking, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Morgan Gallapis.

She said the man said their boat was sinking and they needed assistance.

"They had only seconds to let us know before they sank," Gallapis said.

Three male crew members in immersion suits were rescued by the Coast Guard from the water a mile off of Fire Island Pines, some two miles to the east of the initial sinking, Gallapis said. Fire Island is a long, skinny barrier island that hugs the south shore of Long Island.

Investigators say the tugboat was part of a crew doing work at Shinnecock Inlet. On the way back to Fire Island, the boat began taking on water as heavy rain hit the area.

Three Coast Guard boats, a helicopter, two other tugboats and Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau boats all searched for the fourth crew member, authorities said. Suffolk officers on the beach assisted in the search.

Coast Guard Command Duty Officer Mark Averill said the man's body was found shortly after 5 p.m.

The victim, who was not immediately identified, was not wearing an immersion suit, Averill said.

He said the water temperature was 37 degrees.

Gallapis, based in the New Haven, Connecticut Coast Guard station, said the three men who were rescued were treated for hypothermia at the Fire Island Coast Guard station but otherwise had no physical injuries.

She did not know what caused the boat to sink, but the accident occurred during a storm. Suffolk County police said inclement weather prevented their aviation officers from flying and police Marine Bureau boats were hampered by heavy ice in the water.

The petty officer said the tugboat that sank was among three heading back to their New York City base after completing a project on Long Island.

"This tug was in the back of the line when it sank," she said. "The other tugs continued without seeing them. They heard the distress call and headed back to assist in the search."

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Coast Guard rescues Lobstermen off of Block Island

A Coast Guard helicopter from Cape Cod hoisted four lobstermen to safety after their boat sank in 250 feet of water about 40 miles south of Block Island, R.I. this morning.

The four men aboard the 60-foot Sakonnet Lobster sent a distress call at about 4:15 a.m. after the boat began taking on water, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

By 6:40 a.m., the crew had abandoned ship, dressed in survival suits. By 7 a.m., a Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopter had arrived from Cape Cod and hoisted all four men to safety, the Coast Guard said.

“These are very lucky, but also very prepared fishermen,” Lieutenant Matt Vanderslice, the co-pilot of the aircraft from Air Station Cape Cod, said in the statement. “They had all the right gear onboard, it worked, and they knew how to use it. That’s why they’re safely back on land today.”

The Sakonnet Lobster sank in the midst of winds at nearly 35 miles per hour and 6-foot seas, the Coast Guard said. The water was 64 degrees.

The Coast Guard also sent a 110-foot cutter to the scene, which marked the sunken ship’s last known location. The Coast Guard’s First District rescues 350 people every yea

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

New England Cod Stocks Collapsing...

As a young man, I spent many days deep sea fishing out of Boothbay Harbor Maine, and the 'trophy' catch was always hauling n the largest Cod. On every trip, it wasn't unusual to see someone haul in a four or five foot long, 50 or 60 pound cod. But if you look at the paltry offerings in the supermarket fish case, you would see little more than one pound filets, barely a foot long - and most of this come from Greenland, not US waters.

What we have been seeing and fearing has now been confirmed; What follows is Friday's statement from NOAA Fisheries regarding the decline of cod stocks in the Gulf of Maine:

"As part of our work to monitor conditions of fish stocks across the country, and to ensure we’re managing our nation’s fisheries in a sustainable fashion, NOAA Fisheries, working with our partners in industry and fishery councils, collects a variety of information to prepare stock assessments to evaluate the health of federally managed fish stocks.

We have prepared a stock assessment update for Gulf of Maine cod, a key fish stock for the Northeast groundfish fishery. Unfortunately the news is not good. The new analysis presents a grim picture for the potential recovery of this iconic fish stock.

The results indicate virtually every indicator of stock condition declined or worsened in 2013.

Spawning biomass levels are estimated to be at 3 to 4 percent of the biomass target for maximum sustainable yield.
Fishery resource survey indices and spawning stock biomass are at all-time lows.

Part of the rationale for developing this update was to move forward in our efforts to streamline the way in which we alert fisheries managers to changes in stock conditions or other data collected between full assessments. In addition, we examined the most recent survey data for Gulf of Maine cod, and all major indicators of stock health appear to have deteriorated since the 2012 assessment. Therefore, we generated an assessment. We hope this will be accepted as part of a standardized approach to providing these kinds of timely updates in the future that managers can use in decision-making.

The stock assessment update entailed adding new catch, survey, and age data to our peer-reviewed stock assessment models that were used to complete the 2011 and 2012 full assessments for this stock. The update reflects stock condition through 2013.

We realize that this news is difficult and NOAA Fisheries will work with our partners in the New England Fishery Management Council to discuss next steps, including peer review options of these preliminary results.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fire Island Rangers Break Law, Trample Dunes on Personal Moral Crusade

According to former Fire Island National Seashore Chief Resource Protection Ranger Lena Koschman, "Our mission is to ensure that our natural and cultural resources are protected, and our visitors are safe" (2013.) One would assume that the protection of the fragile barrier beach sand dunes, which are the only things standing between fierce ocean storms and the rest of the island, would be considered "natural and cultural resources" worthy of protection.

Given the few rangers available to police the 35+ mile seashore, many times it is the local residents who 'police' the dunes and make sure that visitors do not cross over; walking on the dunes exposes the beach grass roots which hold the dunes together.

But in Cherry Grove, a few Rangers have shown an increasingly aggressive and obsessive mission to find naked people back behind the dunes in the scrub woods in daily raids...and yesterday, they apparently decided that the possibility of catching a hidden nude body in an obscure path, in a place that has been clothing optional for more than 70 years, was worth destroying the dunes.

Apparently, Chief Ranger Duane Michael, a recent transplant from South Carolina, told a local reporter that that he would not be comfortable taking his young daughter through the woods for fear of what she would see. Yes, Duane, Cherry Grove has been clothing optional since before you were born. I assure you, the hundreds of children of all genders and all ages who have played happily on the beaches of Cherry Grove this very summer offer no evidence no trauma from the scandal that you have created in your own mind.

According to Brookhaven Town Ordinance Chapter 76(6), the following is prohibited:

"...Pedestrian traffic which causes sufficient damage to primary dunes to diminish the erosion protection afforded by them."


"A violation of this hereby declared to be an offense punishable by a fine not exceeding $250 or imprisonment for a period not to exceed six months, or both."

The Fire Island Rangers would be hard-pressed to claim that their scrambling over the dune could not, or dd not, cause damage.

In fact, their very own website states,

"Beach grass ...stabilizes the sand to form dunes. It is very important to respect this plant in order to protect the primary dunes that provide protection for the rest of the barrier island."

Indeed, the residents of Cherry Grove have spend tens of thousands of privately-raised funds to rebuild dunes that were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

The respected Sea Grant Institute and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute agree:

In a new campaign, they urge all beach-goers to use dedicated stairways to cross primary dunes, rather than traipsing across the beach grass.

The Fire Island Rangers - who have the luxury of driving a vehicle on the beach to go anywhere they need to - could easily have accessed the area behind the dunes using two different staircases, one at Ivy Walk in Cherry Grove, and one near Sandy Walk in Fire Island Pines. Instead, they chose to ignore all Best Management Practices for the community's ecosystem in an effort to play "SWAT-Team" for a day for their boss.

Two years ago, Rangers were caught on video telling beach-goers that the law requires them to "cover up," though they denied it until the video surfaced on social media (Park Rangers at Gunnison Beach on Sandy Hook, another clothing-optional beach under the Park Service, has never felt compelled to deliver this message to beach-goers.) But now the attitude appears to be, "Dunes, Safety, Ecosystems, and Public be damned - we have a moral crusade to attend to!"

Outrage can be expressed to the following Seashore Officials:

Superintendent's Office - 631-687-4751
Superintendent: K. Christopher Soller

Fire Island Chief Ranger's Office - 631-687-4757

And, at a higher level:

Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
Phone: (202) 208-3100

National Park Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Phone (202) 208-3818

Monday, July 14, 2014

South Street Seaport's New Amsterdam Market Closes

In what was the last gasping breath to preserve the traditional uses at Manhattan's South Street Seaport, the New Amsterdam Market - an open air vending fair of locally grown produce, meats, fish, and local crafts - is now closed.  The South Street Seaport - never adequately regarded or funded by the City of New York, and now a target for the Howard Hughes Corporation for building high-rise luxury condominiums and expanded chain-stall mall opportunities - looks like it will go way of working class neighborhoods throughout New York since the advent of the Bloomberg administration.  Today, I received the following letter from Robert LaValva, who worked tirelessly to keep the seaport a seaport:


July 14, 2014

Dear Friends:
I am sorry to announce that New Amsterdam Market has ended, and will no longer take place on South Street.
Founded in 2005, New Amsterdam Market was first staged at the site of the Old Fulton Fish Market in Lower Manhattan on December 16, 2007. Over the ensuing seven years, the market grew in frequency and scope while nurturing an evolving community of small businesses dedicated to sustainable food production, regional economies, and fair trade.    

Through our steadfast presence under every adversity, we also championed the preservation of New York City's oldest 
commons, where public trade has been conducted since 1642.  We held a total 88 markets and numerous innovative celebrations of our region's bounty; supported nearly 500 food entrepreneurs; and contributed to the creation of more than 350 jobs.   

However, I was never able to raise the funding or attract the influential backers needed for our organization to thrive.  Furthermore, we were dealt a mortal blow in 2013 when Council Member Chin, who had long professed to support our cause, betrayed the community in favor of a suburban shopping mall developer, Howard Hughes.  As a result, Lower Manhattan has already lost more than one acre of beloved and irreplaceable public space and is now seeing its most precious public asset ruined by inappropriate programming and terrible waterfront design.

Our last market at this location was held on Saturday, June 21, 2014. 

I thank all of you who supported this endeavor.


Robert LaValva, Founder
New Amsterdam Market


Recent visits to the Seaport revealed a quasi-circus atmosphere, as the nautical and historical elements were downplayed in favor of tourist-oriented live entertainment and upscale shopping; the New Amsterdam Market and Bowne Stationers proved to be the exceptions to the neo-carnival approach.

Three separate efforts by this blogger to donate a complete collection of over thirty 150-year old nautical paintings, created by my great-great grandfather J.Lawrence Giles (whose lithography shop was located on Beekman Street at the Seaport during the Civil War era) received not a single response.  

The Seaport, which also owned a museum unit on the Woodcleft Canal in the maritime village of Freeport, Long Island, closed that unit for good several years ago as well.

More Disappearing Old New-York....


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NOAA Coast Survey Improves Public Access to Data on Thousands of Wrecks

Knowing the locations of shipwrecks and other obstructions has always been important for safe navigation ‒ but mariners are not the only people who want to know about wrecks. They are also important for marine archeology, recreational diving, salvage operations, and fishing, among other interests. Now, Coast Survey has improved their Wrecks and Obstructions Database, giving everyone easy access to new records to explore. Historically, Coast Survey has maintained two separate sources of information on wrecks. NOAA has recently combined the sources, bringing together information on nearly 20,000 wrecks and obstructions.

Coast Survey established the Automated Wreck and Obstruction Information System (AWOIS) database in 1981 to help estimate the level of effort required to investigate items during a planned hydrographic survey, but maritime users were also interested in AWOIS’ historical records. However, because the emphasis is on features that are most likely to pose a hazard to navigation, AWOIS has always had limitations. Most notably, AWOIS is not a comprehensive record and does not completely address every known or reported wreck. Additionally, for a number of reasons, AWOIS positions do not always agree with a charted position for a similar feature.

Coast Survey compiles NOAA’s electronic navigational charts (NOAA ENC®) from sources on features that are navigationally significant. As the official chart data used in electronic chart and display information systems (ECDIS), ENCs are the authoritative source of information about known or reported wrecks and are much more comprehensive than AWOIS. However, the features in an ENC typically lack the historic information and context provided by AWOIS.

Correcting for some overlap between the two source databases, Coast Survey’s new wrecks and obstructions database now contains information on about 13,000 wreck features and 6,000 obstructions. Wreck features from each original database are stored in separate layers but can be displayed together. Users may also choose a background map from several options.
The new database also offers users additional data formats from which to choose. Historically, shipwreck data in AWOIS was available in Adobe PDF and as Microsoft Access Database (MDB) format. More recently, KML/KMZ files replaced PDF and MDB formats, making it easier for public users to view AWOIS data, by using freely available software such as Google Maps or Google Earth. Now, in addition to KML/KMZ and Microsoft Excel formats for general users, Coast Survey provides the data in ArcGIS REST services and OGC WMS services, for use in GIS software programs or web-based map mashup sites.

Sunday, July 6, 2014