Sunday, March 29, 2015

Two Saudi Pilots Bail Out Over Red Sea, Rescued With US Help

File Photo
Jets are complicated pieces of equipment, even if the price tag for each fighter jet is in the millions. Sometimes, things just don't go right.

An F15S encountered a major technical fault on the evening of March 28th, 2015. The pilots had few options, so they hit their ejection buttons and whoosh! They were free from the misguided aircraft and heading quickly for the sea.

An American helicopter flew Thursday from nearby Djibouti and rescued the two pilots, according the AFP. The USS Sterett coordinated the use of rescue assets from the U.S. base in Dijbouti, though for some reason, the U.S. role was rather off the record.

USS Sterett

The Saudi Arabian government along with fellow Sunni-led allies in the Gulf are bombing the Houthi rebels who threaten to take over Yemen. Supposedly, officials in Tehran are providing arms and support to the Houthi rebels. Iran denies having involvement.  

The U.S. is also keeping a low key in this battle, in part, by offering support services, but not combat troops.  The Houthi rebels seek to overthrow Yemen, further destabilizing the area.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Venezuela Cautions from Caribbean Safety and Security Net

Currently, tensions between the U.S. and Venezuela are extremely tight.  Sailors who are either in Venezuelan waters or thinking about transiting Venezuelan territory should carefully consider their options.  Entrance into Venezuela now requires a visa, along with all of the other documents previously required.

Privately, in not so private web casts, the Maduro regime has been bashing the U.S.  The rhetoric follows on the heels of Hugo Chavez, who rose to the podium at the United Nations after President Bush had spoken and said the air smelled like sulphur from "devil".  Chavez's words were an attempt at a humorous pun in which the "devil" might be the evil spirit himself or methane emitted from the President's body.  In any case, the inside joke, which only native Spanish speakers could understand despite it's translation, was a direct insult to the U.S. president and typical of a socialist government influenced by Cuba and unhappy with Washington.

Nicolas Maduro, following in the late Hugo Chavez's footsteps, has escalated the rhetoric as he works to gain support against growing detractors of the "Chavista"socialist philosophy.  With oil losing value, the Venezuelan government is fighting to maintain the status quo after having failed to help the country develop any export other than oil.  Venezuela produces almost nothing and is only a consumer, except for oil.  Even the oil industry is in ruins after years of pillaging petro dollars to give Venezuelan citizens a better life and to support Cuba, through the Venezuelan 3 to 10 billion dollar annual oil donation.

Public dissent has been effectively silenced in Venezuela.  The country even ousted CNN for a brief period after unflattering reports were made.  A student protest movement has been met with brutal repression, assasinations, disappearances and thuggery.  The Venezuelan government claims it has clean hands in the process while taking no action against the "effectivos", or popular watchdogs who keep tabs on citizen activity, block by block.  The efectivos are at least government sanctioned and appear to answer to no one, but attack anyone who speaks out against the Maduro regime.  That is a pretty big coincidence.

The U.S. seeks to place sanctions on known Venezuelan government officials who have U.S. assets, who send their children to U.S. schools, and who seem to swim in the same U.S. currency which is forbidden to the average Venezuelan citizen.  It seems inappropriate to the U.S. Congress that a select few Venezuelans should bask in the oil wealth of the country, spending the millions in the U.S., while opressing free speech a home.  As a result, Gustavo Gonzalez, head of the CIA-like Sebin, Manuel Perez, director of the national police and Justo Noguero who runs the state mining firm CVG but used to be a national guard commander, along with other officials known for abusing human rights, could have their bank accounts and properties frozen in the U.S.

Retaliation is expected.  U.S. citizens are likely to be the first targets.  Yachts are high value assets.  Both the government and the Venezuelan military are not happy with the U.S.  Sailors should take heed.

The Caribbean Safety and Security Net says:

If you are a US flagged vessel or carry a US passport and are planning to visit (even the offshore islands in an “en transito” mode) you should obtain the latest information available and make an informed choice.  All US citizens now require a visa for entry into Venezuela, and these must be obtained prior to entry. Arrival at any port , or an encounter with any official without the appropriate visa could result in denial of entry, or possibly detention and seizure. While foreign Venezuelan consulates can provide instructions and may process visa applications, travel to Venezuela by US flagged yachts or carrying US citizens should be considered at this time to be HIGH RISK.

CSSN encourages all US citizens currently in Venezuela, and any with assets there (boats, homes, businesses) to pay very close attention to the developing situation there. Historically,  response to this type of action by the US has been swift, but often poorly or inappropriately targeted. Cruisers and their boats could become the target for any local official hoping to improve their own standing in the Maduro regime. If you are a US citizen currently in Venezuela, it would be prudent to have a plan in place to depart on short notice.

US Announces New Executive Order Sanctions on Venezuela — Declares “National Emergency”

Monday 9 March 2015, United States President Obama issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the situation in Venezuela. Declaring any country a threat to national security is the first step in starting a U.S. sanctions program. The same process has been followed with countries such as Iran and Syria, U.S. officials said.

Link to full article

Venezuela Responds:
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela will respond shortly to new U.S moves to declare it a national security threat and sanction seven prominent officials, its foreign minister said on Monday. “We will soon make public Venezuela’s response to these declarations,” Delcy Rodriguez told reporters, declining to give further details.

Link to full article

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Tomnod Enlisted To Help Find Missing CAT

Durban - The crowd sourcing site, Tomnod, has been enlisted in the search for a missing Catamaran and her three member crew.

Getting Ready For Sail

Anthony Murray, Reg Robertson and Jarvd Payne set sail on a Sunsail C044-978 catamaran from Cape Town Harbour on December 14th, 2014. On January 18th, the crew made contact via satellite telephone. The most recent ETA places the Catamaran due in Phuket Thailand by the 2nd of February. As each day ticks down, friends and family have grown increasingly more concerned.

Finally, the families enlisted the crowd sourcing company, Tomnod, to take satellite photos of the possible search area. Anyone with access to the internet can take a shot at finding the veritable needle in the haystack. If the boat is still up, anyone might make a lucky find that will bring the crew back to their loved ones.

Anthony Murray, 58, is the skipper of the Leopard 44. Murray is well known as a skipper with over 25 years experience at sea. Reg Robertson, 59, also has extensive experience. For youth and strength, the two experienced sea salts brought along 20 year old Jaryd Payne. All three men are from South Africa.

Matthew Thomas is advising the families about next steps.
You can see the four Leopard Catamarans on the bottom of this photo.  They may not be as clear or in this scale on the Tomnod photos.  The crew may be in the liferaft, as well.
Tomnod, a division of Digiital Globe, is a private company which provides satellite images of natural disasters and for some missing yacht cases. Satellite images are prohibitively expensive so getting the images through Digital Globe provides an immense cost savings to the search team. The images can then be searched using the Tomnod program. Tagging a potential find is very easy.

Of course, finding the missing sailors is urgent because the sea is a harsh environment.  Still, long term survival stories abound from sailors who have managed extensive periods, more than a year, on a disabled yacht.

You can try your luck searching for the missing catamaran HERE.

On March 4th, 2015, Storme Robertson said;
Hello Everyone - Thank you for your continued support and searchingTomnod with us. Just to clarify as many of you are asking about details regarding the LIFE RAFT: Our men have a 12 man life raft, 3.0m wide and hexagonal (6 sided) with a day-glow orange canopy. KEEP TAGGING! YOU'RE DOING GREAT!"

On March 3rd, this item was posted:

Cat Impi
March 3 at 7:32am

Have not read all the posts yet, but do we know the content of their last call on 18 Jan ... I managed to trace weather pattern to 20 Jan in the vicinity - To the family, this is obviously a terrible time for you, but just to let you know to not give up hope - when we were in the Tuamotu Archipelago the authorities there at the time told us they found a man adrift at sea - he had been adrift for 16 months. The weather shows 51 knots which is a lot but easily doable on a new catamaran - perhaps dis-masted and drifting. I see too from the weather that if they were trying to angle south to get away from a cyclone in the vicinity that they would have had to drop well to the south as the winds otherwise would have been on their bow. Of course MRCC and all the folks will be considering this - but it would be nice to know what conversations took place in the last days of contact at sea

There is hope - they have a life raft - we will keep posting to our mates out there all the info possible - already we are being told by sailors they are 'on the look out'.Tomnod was instrumental in the search for the SV Nina which disappeared in the Tasman

Matthew Thomas - I would certainly want you heading up a search if we got lost!

Tomnod was instrumental in the Nina search which disappeared after being battered by a fierce storm. on June 4th, 2013.  Unfortunately, nothing of the Nina has ever been found despite 16,000 people who signed up for Tomnod to help complete the search.

When the missing Leopard catamaran failed to up  make port on schedule, the family notified  Maritime Rescue Co-.ordination Center (MRCC) in Cape Town, South Africa.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Single Handed Sailing, What It Is Really Like

What would your life look like if you launched out into the sea, managing long passages alone, with only your knowledge, trust and luck with mother nature to insure your safe return?

What is loneliness? What is self sufficiency?  How do you get a flying halyard lose from twisted lines?  How do you feel when you finally come home?

This video, beautifully made, and with just a tint of humor, gives us all a peak at life as a single handed sailor.

Great story telling. Did I hear you correctly it took 48 days on the return trip? Also excellent syncopation in your Latin kitchen percussion :-)

I think it was 48 days total for the "out" and "back" combined.  20 on the "out", and 28 on the return. 
Accidental Sailor Girl3 months ago

This is fantastic. Very well documented, fun to watch, and I love the fork on the floor and the burnt toast! :) Awesome! My boyfriend Pete and I have sailed our 37' wooden sailboat on an Atlantic circumnavigation. Check out my channel! Cheers!

After watching the video I read the comments! It's seems we all agree this was one of the best sailing videos we've seen. But if I had to describe why .... I would say it's the narrative! We all dream of solo sailing somewhere but underneath it all is a longing to find out something about ourselves. Some of us are afraid that we are as boring and uninteresting as we suspect! We produce overly hyper videos pretending to have an amazing time at sea but somehow we (the YouTube community) can see through that! This video was interesting because YOU seem to be an interesting person. Beautiful family and a quirky but kind spirit! I hope that's correct! But I think that's why we all like it so much! Thank you Mr. Williams. I was quietly entertained! 

Fantastic vid.
Best solo crossing vid I've seen to date!
Nice Ericson also.
I own a few Ericsons myself. I have a E27 that I restored and sailed for the last two years here on the Bay (Chesapeake Bay).. We were supposed to sail to St. Croix USVI last winter but never made it due to poor weather. I sold mirage last week to friends in North Carolina who hope to sail her down to St. John where we had met. I also have My project E32mk2. Complete gut and rebuild now lost in a legal dispute with the marina. Change of management and unwritten agreements not being met and what have you (If I don't get her back and finish her I hope someone does).

Cheers N beers