Boaters Are Heroes in the Wake Of Hurricane Harvey

When the helicopters and air lift operations can’t keep up, it’s time to call for more boaters. Search and rescue operations are maxed out in Texas after Hurricane Harvey has dumped close to 50 inches of rain in the area. Boats seem to be the only way to evacuate people quickly and in mass numbers, and even that isn’t doing enough to help the thousands of stranded people along the Texas coast. But the boaters are coming from nearby and faraway places, boats in tow, using exit ramps as boat launches.

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Armchair Hurricane Forecasting


With half of the east coast buckling down as Hurricane Matthew stares down the Atlantic seaboard, we thought it might be a good time to share this great article published today on GCaptain. Here’s to hoping you need none of this, and to many more days of sailing and boating before cold weather shuts down the upper portion of the coast.

With Hurricane Matthew currently barreling across the Caribbean and threatening Florida and the U.S. East Coast, G Captain reached out to Fred Pickhardt, a Tampa, Florida-based professional ship weather router, to ask him what were some of his go-to websites and resources for tracking hurricanes and tropical storms. Here are a few of his favorites:

Best Hurricane Tracking Sites

  1. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is the place to find the official tropical cyclone forecasts and warnings issued by the US government for the North Atlantic as well as the Eastern North Pacific.  The site has many resources available with excellent satellite photos, computer model guidance and an archive of past historical tracks going back into the 180o’s. The NHC site is user friendly and comes in full feature, mobile and text only versions with easy access to the latest storm info, official advisories, marine forecasts and much more. Hurricane Matthew coverage HERE.
  2. The Weather Underground Tropical Weather Page is a very comprehensive and easy to use site which provides excellent tools for storm tracking for both the professional and the amateur.  The site is available in a full (graphics heavy), a lite version, a mobile version and an iPhone version. This site allows you to track tropical cyclones anywhere on the globe with interactive maps that allow overlays of computer guidance, forecast tracks, many satellite images and features several excellent weather blogs. Hurricane Matthew coverage HERE.
  3. The Naval Research Lab (NRL) Monterey Marine Meteorology Division Tropical Cyclone page is another useful site that provides global storm tracking with comprehensive satellite and forecast track information on tropical cyclones across the globe.  This site is heavy on satellite images and is oriented a bit more to the professional user. Hurricane Matthew coverage HERE.
  4. Stormpulse is a commercial site that offers both current and archive tracks on an interactive map that allows you to overlay satellite, radar and surface data. It has a unique feature that allows you to quickly check how far the storm center is from major cities/ports. Hurricane Matthew coverage HERE.

Other Useful Tropical Cyclone Tracking Sites

  • Tropical Cyclone Guidance Project (TCGG), part of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), provides real-time guidance and information for major storms, including Hurricane Mathew. The site uses data from a variety of modeling centers outside of the NCAR, such as NOAA, other national numerical weather prediction centers, and universities. Hurricane Matthew coverage.
  • NASA often provides great satellite imagery for major hurricanes and cyclones. Check out their page for Hurricane Matthew.

Also be sure to check out Tropical Tidbits, a blog that focusses primarily on tropical cyclones and related topics, as well as Mike’s Weather Page at, which is a mash-up of various official models and information.

‘El Faro’ Wreckage Images and Video Released

The sinking of El Faro in the face of Hurricane Joaquin marks the United States biggest maritime disaster since the loss of SS Marine Electric in 1983 in which 31 of the 34 member crew were lost 30 miles off the coast of Virginia.  Yesterday, on January 3rd, images and video were released by the NTSB of the ‘El Faro’ wreckage found by the US Navy ROV & Salvage team.  The ‘El Faro’ is mostly still in one piece, with the top decks of the bridge missing and sheared off, further testament to the fierceness of the weather she encountered, and she rests in 15,000 feet of water off of the Bahamas. (The Titanic is in 12,000 feet of water, to give some perspective.)

While the families continue to mourn their losses and search for answers as to why this disaster was allowed to happen, the pieces of the tragic puzzle have begun to be put back together, all without insight from the Data Recorder, which to date, has not been recovered as it was located on the top deck which sustained major damage and images show its former location which is devoid of the recorder.  The 790-foot ship went down in massive seas, presumably after losing propulsion and rolling over, sinking to the bottom with all 33 lives aboard lost in the tragedy.


It’s a great loss to the US Merchant Marines – 28 of whom were aboard this 790-foot container ship (the others were Polish and were aboard to work on the engines while underway – another bad sign about the condition of the ship).  Once again we offer condolences to the families and friends of those lost in the tragedy – many of whom (about half) were only in their 30s.  May they rest in peace in their tomb in the warm waters of the Bahamas. And may the lessons and mysteries surrounding this tragic even serve to protect future ships and crew from similar tragedies.


The ‘El Faro’ Family Relief Fund

The El Faro is shown in this undated handout photo provided by Tote Maritime in Jacksonville, Florida, October 2, 2015. The U.S. Coast Guard said on Friday it was searching for the 735-foot cargo ship with 33 crew members aboard reported to be caught in the powerful Hurricane Joaquin near Crooked Island, Bahamas. The container ship El Faro was en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Jacksonville, Florida when the Coast Guard received a satellite notification that the ship had lost propulsion and was listing heavily. The crew reported flooding had been contained. REUTERS/Tote Maritime/Handout via Reuters    ATTENTION EDITORS - FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO SALES.

The sad loss of all lives aboard the El Faro which was lost at sea in the midst of Hurricane Joaquin hits our area here hard. The New England’s 2 maritime schools, Maine and Mass Maritime Academy’s both had alumni aboard and many of the families affected live in or near our area here. With that in mind, we offer this update on the support fund being started to help the families of those lost at sea.

From GCaptain: TOTE Maritime, owners of the cargo ship El Faro, said Friday that it has set up a family relief fund for the 33 families of the El Faro crew.

The fund will be held and administered by the Seamen’s Church Institute, North America’s largest mariners’ service agency.

“Over the last few days we have had hundreds of employees, mariners, customers and individuals from around the country inquire about where to donate in support of the families” noted Anthony Chiarello, President and CEO of TOTE. “This fund will ensure that 100 percent of all gifts goes directly to the families as they deal with the loss of a loved one. We continue to keep the families and loved ones of the crew of the El Faro in our thoughts and prayers.”

TOTE will also be establishing an education fund for the children of the El Faro crew members that will support diverse educational needs.

Details: El Faro Family Relief Fund

Every little bit will help them out. Get involved and help our fellow mariners.

How to Prepare Your Boat for a Hurricane

As the weather forecast zeros in on what could be a strong Hurricane barreling up the East Coast – it’s never too early to prepare your boat for a big blow or hurricane. Maybe you are in line to have your boat hauled by the busy hauler or boatyard – and maybe you plan to ride it out on your mooring or in your berth. Either way – (and even if your boat is safely ashore) you need to prepare for “the worst” in time to not be panicking and preparing as the storm bears down on your harbor.

This is a very important video on how to prepare your boat before a hurricane hits your area. It is essential to listen to weather forecasts and take the necessary precautions to properly prepare your boat from harsh winds and dangerous waves. You can find dock lines, fenders, chafing gear and thousands of other marine supplies at

Be safe! Be smart! Be Prepared!


Building a ‘Paper Boat’ of Hurricane Katrina Memories

paperBoatToday marks the 10th (TENTH!!!) anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana. Katrina was the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States. The storm is currently ranked as the third most intense United States landfalling tropical cyclone, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille in 1969. The massive storm left a giant mess in its wake, with a completely flooded city and years of rebuilding dams and levees and neighborhoods and houses.

The funny – not so funny – part of the Katrina story is that people with boats became heroes.  Not the mega yachters either, guys with little fishing skiffs and dinghies circled the city plucking desperate people and pets off roof tops and saving them. Water world, as we suspected, is well suited for boats and boaters. Kudos to those brave enough to venture out in the face of danger. But to be honest – zipping down your street in a skiff sounds like an adventure. We all know this was nothing of the sort.

Enter this amazing NoLa artist and this cool story about his effort to connect with his community and continue to express the emotions that came with a damaged city.

Chris Staudinger and his father have built the skeleton of a 16-foot canoe. The boat is big enough, Staudinger hopes, to carry the memories of the post-Katrina community. 

Beginning with a reception at Byrdie’s Gallery, 2242 St. Claude Ave., on Saturday (Aug. 29) from 6 to 10 p.m., Staudinger will coat the hull of the boat with 2005 storm and flood stories he has gathered from contributors. He hopes that eight layers of paper, brushed with polyurethane, will make the vessel watertight. Though he’s not sure when or where he’ll take the canoe to water, he plans to make it “fully functional.”

Staudinger calls the project “Paper Boat.”

“Paper Boat” will be Staudinger’s first conceptual artwork. In the past, he confined his artistic expression to the written word. 

“I’m actually more of a writer or poet,” he said. “I’ve never really considered myself a visual artist. I just want to do something different.” 

Staudinger said that he used to lead canoe trips in Mississippi and once helped build a 34-foot canoe to ply the Mississippi River. Memory of that was the spark of the “Paper Boat” project. Read more of this story here.


Happy? Hurricane Season!?


June 1 marks the beginning of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season. Although NOAA projects it to be a below normal season, (Great, NOAA – We’re totally screwed now. Thanks a lot!) it doesn’t mean coastal areas will have it easy. The Coast Survey sector, usually responsible for charting and sounding, plays a critical role in NOAA’s response efforts. Check out their page here for more cool info about this very important sector of NOAA.  And keep your fingers crossed that NOAA’s predictions for the 2015 hurricane season are correct!