Saturday, December 17, 2016

El Faro - The Lighthouse

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) released the transcript from the Voyage Data Recorder (VDR) of the SS EL Faro- a cargo ship which sunk at ~7:39 am, October 1, 2015, as it steamed into a rapidly developing Hurricane Joaquin. The ship was on its weekly trip to Puerto Rico, from Jacksonville, Florida.

                                                             El Faro in 2008. Peter Ferrary / Flickr

The transcript shows that Captain Michael Davidson repeatedly shot down his junior officer's suggestions and requests to change course, and that Davidson was mired in consternation throughout the trip.

Despite crew questions, El Faro captain steered toward hurricane, transcript shows - Miami Herald

The morning of the tragedy, the captain got back to the bridge, at just after 4 am (after being in his stateroom, since 8 pm the night before).  The ship's capabilities were being tested by Hurricane Joaquin, yet he still downplayed the storm.

Chief mate: "I turned off the off course alarm.  it was going off every five seconds. hearing' it ring- ring- ring- ring."

With the ship and storm on a collision course, cargo was getting compromised, the engineers were trying to balance the ship, maintain the power plant and pump out seawater from the holds of the old steamship. After losing propulsion, the ship was at the mercy of 50 foot waves and 140 mph winds.  The SS El Faro, was only 22 miles from the storm center when it sunk.

Once again, the Miami Herald and Florida Times-Union ( do a great job in covering the SS El Faro. The Miami Herald map, below, shows the relationship of the ship's path into Hurricane Joaquin.

Point of no return- Oct. 1 - 1:30 a.m.

As the map above shows, the ship turned towards the hurricane at 1:30 am, but third mate Reihm (3M) says to the helmsman, AB-3, hours before, at 9:19 pm:

21:19:40.3 well right now– we got nowhere to go. you would have to– but later on there's a gap in the chart– you can head south– you know.– it's a good idea to have a– really– ideally– what (you/we) should have is a other alternate– you should have a backup route...

This is the most important conversation of the whole transcript, in my opinion. The "you can head south" bit, is, where I think Reihm is suggesting using the Crooked Islands passage as the "backup route..."

Reihm contacted the captain, in his room, nearly two hrs later:


uhh well it's– the– the– the current forecast has it uhh– max winds um a hundred miles– an hour. at the center.– umm and if I'm lookin' at this right– um– and it's moving at– at two-three-zero at uh five knots. so I assume it stays on that same– moves that same direction for say the next five hours. and uh so it's advancing toward our trackline– and uhh– puts us real close to it. umm you know like– I could be more specific– I could um– plot that out. but it's gunna be like real close (and). and uh– don't know. uh– uh I can give ya a better number and call ya back. we're lookin' a meet it at say like four o'clock in the morning. (you know).

Reihm calls Davidson back a few minutes later after figuring out the tracks of the ship and hurricane:

23:13:38.3 so– at oh–four hundred we'll be twenty-two miles from the center. with uh max one hundred with gusts to one-twenty and strengthening so– the option that we do have– umm from what I can see– is at oh-two hundred we could head south. and that would open it up some– so I mean of course I'd want you to verify what I'm seeing. I do understand you expect us not get into the quadrant dead ahead and (expose) us. just so you know that– that's how that's how close we'll be.– you're welcome.

A few hours later, second mate, Danielle Randolph, 2M, now in charge of the bridge, called captain Davidson @ 1:20 am to discuss the escalating situation. Although the conversation is not whole, the Captain and second mate (2M) talk on ship's phone (ET) about the ship's course and Danielle says:

2M-ET 01:20:50.3 "– right now my uh– trackline I have zero-two hundred– alter course straight south and then (we'll) * go through all these * shallow areas. umm (and the next) course change (will/gunna) be (through the Bahamas) and then (just gunna) turn * * *."

I think what second mate Randolph is saying is- At 2 am, there is a course change to "straight south", which would send the ship through the Crooked Islands Passage, west of the Crooked islands (see nautical chart above); what 3rd mate Reihm suggested to Capt. Davidson, hours earlier on his watch... But, it seems, she doesn't like that route or is confused as to what course to take (it's unclear), Randolph mentions that the south route will put them over shallows and go through the Bahamas. In reality, the "shallows" she refers to is a commonly used, deep water pass (thousands of feet deep), that would not have added much, if any time to the run and would afforded some protection to the ship from the incoming hurricane.

2M-ET alright I'm gunna adjust course (that) @3M (had/planned) * * *. he wants to (run) * * *. * * *. * * * one-one-six. okay. thank you.

This short, 1.5 minute conversation between Capt. and 2M Randolph was a mind fuck.  I think Reihm kept his southerly track as a "backup route" on the chart plotter, in the hopes of the second mate and captain taking his advice; after he left watch at midnight. This miscommunication between the captain and his officers was the last order of disconnect, that ultimately sealed the crew's fate.

After the call ends, the helmsman (AB-2) and Randolph, discuss the route change. The second mate contradicts herself when asked if they are gonna switch to heading 116.

2M- he said to run it. hooold on to your ass @AB-2. [spoken very loud and dramatically and then the sound of laughter.]
AB-2- he wants to change course to one-one-six?
2M- nope. [sound of laughing.] oh no– that's– that's the original course. that umm– uhh @3M– planned out. that gets us in– into the storm at four o'clock in the morning.
AB-2- so– we're– gunna stay on this course?
2M- with the course change. yeah– the one that you see on the radar.
AB-2- uhh we (want to come to) one-one-six.
2M- yeah. eventually.

Then, a minute later, as if the conversation with the AB-2 didn't just happen, she says- "alright @AB-2- let's start easing it over to one-one-six- nice and slow" You can see on Miami Herald map, where on Oct. 1 - 1:30 a.m., the ship changes direction to the direction of the storm, instead of heading south to the left/west of the Crooked Islands.

Hats off to to third mate, Jeremie Riehm, the lowest ranked deck officer, and the AB's: the abled bodied seamen, the helmsmen- with decades of experience on the water and the wheel (although low on the totem pole) were the voice of reason on the bridge, during the voyage.

 RIP Sailors.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Apple vs. Adobe Flash

WTF is going on these days? it's 2016 and apple still won't accept Flash and Vice versa. Personally, I think flash sucks, and it's beat, but WTF?!
And since i'm on topic, WTF is up with all these tech companies not working together, to make more seamless communication?! Google, Apple, Microsoft, Adobe,and other belligerents; GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER. "Blah, blah, we're competitors" is their narrative, well idiots, the consumers are gonna pick the ones that work the best.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Kaught looking.

A few weeks ago, a young, emotional, major league pitcher for the Miami Marlins perished, along with two friends. Although speed was most definitely a factor, the vehicle they were in wasn't an exotic European sports car or private jet, it was a 32 foot sport fishing boat.
Here is a great synopsis of that fateful night-

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weather and WIND

For years, the weather game has been getting more complex, with satellites and new weather models giving amazing pictures and data, predicting storms and helping people go about their lives. We can thank the US Government and it's employees for most of this information. Like many US Government agencies/assets, The National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provide invaluable weather and climate data with their DATA gathered from Satellites, Doppler Radar, Ocean weather buoys, and weather stations across the United States and the world.
What is most important to me and many others around the ocean and maritimes, is ACCURATE WIND SPEEDS and wind predictions. The information is out there, but many weather outlets (phone apps and websites) incorporate shoddy data from suspect sources (backyard weather stations), with the reliable, accurate info. All these inaccurate stations do is create noise, and distract from legitimate data.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Goldman Sachs needs to lay an egg

Although there's unrest in markets and turmoil around the world: markets, indices, and industries can move independently of one another and are starting to show it, hurray!!!: Global Markets Are Falling Out of Lockstep, and That's a Good Thing

Now contrast:
Gasoline Trades as if US Nearing Recession, Goldman Says.

I'm thinking, WTF? How can cheap oil be an indicator for a recession? When gas was $5/gallon, consumers were BEGGING FOR RELIEF. Now oil is cheap, and that's a problem?!?! I realize the health of the oil industry affects businesses down the pipeline 😏, and are affected by the ebb and flow (puns keep coming) of price fluctuations -- but are oil prices a reliable benchmark for the health of the economy?
I Google the historical oil prices for the peak(real $$$ not adjusted for inflation). Turns out the highest ever price for oil was right before the Great Recession of 2008; Goldman Sachs played a big part in the 2008 recession.
Oil peaked at $145 in July, 2008 and by December, after Lehmann Bros and AIG bit the dust, oil was down to $30/barrel, roughly what a barrel is trading at now.
Is Goldman trying to insinuate that a recession is looming because oil prices are trading low? It seems completely logical, except for the fact that the global economic landscape (now) doesn't look anything like the 2008 financial meltdown.--

What Goldman economists are missing is: steady or lower \/ consumption and increase /\ supply aren't bad for everyone.
--If you told your doctor, my caloric intake is down and my energy level is up, they would be ecstatic. --

US auto sales set a record in 2015, coupled with a increase in travel, American's have logged a record number of miles driven in the past year, and US consumption of oil is down, due to increased efficiency and fuel economy. Coupled with strong consumer confidence, and unemployment is below 5%, and wages have begun to climb as well.

The USA will weather the early 2016 storm, and continue to help other economies through free trade and partnerships.
I'll adjust you for inflation.