Saturday, January 7, 2023

Hydrofoil yachts from the origins in 1861 to 2020

source François Chevalier & Jacques Taglang blog
The first sailing boat caught on video in foiling mode was Gordon Baker's Monitor, 
a project supported by the U.S Navy.
This is 1955 and the craft achieved speeds between 30 and 40 knots.
-In 1987 Eric Tabarly said: “One day all the boats will fly”.
Quite a prediction as things have turned out! 

Links :

Friday, January 6, 2023

Surviving 133 days at sea: the remarkable life of Poon Lim

From HistoryDefined by Carl Seaver

On November 23, 1942, the Royal Navy destroyer SS Benlomond was torpedoed by a German submarine.
Poon Lim, a Chinese civilian seaman aboard the ship, found himself stranded in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Against all odds, Poon Lim survived 133 days at sea before being rescued by Brazilian fishermen.

The Early Life of Poon Lim

Poon Lim was born in China in 1918.
He grew up in a fishing village and learned to swim at a young age.
When he was just ten years old, his family moved to Malaysia, where he continued to work in the fishing industry.

In 1942, at 30, Poon Lim was drafted into the Chinese Merchant Marine to work as a steward on the SS Benlomond, a British ship transporting supplies from Southeast Asia to Australia.

The Sinking of the Benlomond

The SS Benlomond was generally slow and sluggish, had scant weapons, and was now cruising alone away from any other friendly ships.

On November 23, 1942, the Ben Lomond was torpedoed by a German U-boat.
Most of the crew members on board were caught off guard and perished along with the ship.
Poon Lim was the only survivor of 55.
Fortune and fate had a very different plans in store for him.

Poon Lim was able to grab a life jacket as the ship sank and dived into the water.
He swam for around two hours before coming across and boarding a 8 by 8-foot wooden raft.
In the end, this was essentially the only good luck he had for the next 133 days at sea. 
Approximate voyage of Poon Lim
How did Poon Lim Survive?

Poon Lim first needed to assess his resources and anything else at his disposal after he had calmed down, taken a deep breath, and thought about his situation.

Tins of dried biscuits, 40 liters of water, a bag of sugar cubes, chocolate, two smoking pots, an electric torch, and a few flares made up the raft’s scant survival kit.
Along with the life jacket he could grab before jumping off the sinking ship.
He also had the clothing on his back.
Poon Lim‘s inability to swim was the last, arguably the most horrifying, part of his situation.

But no matter what food the life raft offered, he could not travel the entire distance with his supplies.
This meant that if he wanted to survive, he would need to be creative and innovative.
He started using all the raft’s resources as he realized he shouldn’t count on being rescued and needed to find food and drinkable water.
First, Ploon Lim captured and directed rainwater using the canvas on his life jacket.
Then, using the wire from his electric stove and nails he had taken out of the raft’s wood, he made little fish hooks and larger fish hooks. 

The many setbacks at sea

The brave man survived the many fishes he caught during those four months. He even managed to save some for later days.

However, one of the many setbacks he faced during those 133 days at sea was when his raft was hit by a storm, destroying his fish stock and drinking water.

Poon Lim was on the point of passing out, so in a desperate attempt, he started fishing for the birds constantly circling his boat and splashing into the water nearby.
He was fortunate enough to catch one and quickly drank its blood to slake his desire.
He continued catching birds because they gave him enough food and water to last.

However, all the blood began to attract sharks to his raft.
Poon Lim finally decided to use bird flesh as bait to draw the smaller sharks in so he could catch them after discovering that these sharks wouldn’t leave him alone.

When a shark finally bit the bait, he hauled the animal into the raft.
Lim beat the shark to death with a half-filled water jug after covering his hands in canvas for protection and grip.
He fought the sharks and relished their fins, a Hainan Chinese delicacy. 

Poon Lim Honoured (1943)
On Being Rescued

In 1943, as Poon Lim neared land, he was eventually saved.
He had previously stated that he knew the land was close because the water’s hue had drastically changed. 
Poon Lim after his rescue

Three fishermen eventually located his raft and saved him.
He had lost roughly 20 pounds during the course of his quest.
However, the fact that this man reached land and stepped ashore alone is a monument to his strength and fortitude.
He then spent the following month in a hospital in Brazil before being sent back to Britain.
Eventually, he came to the United States, where he lived in Brooklyn until he passed away at the age of 72.
That is Poon Lim’s incredible genuine story.
He is a man among men and a true survivor.
Links :

Thursday, January 5, 2023

New horizons for hydrography, but who will conquer them?

Many hydrographic survey companies are moving towards the usage of uncrewed survey vessels (USVs).
One example is Deep BV.
Pictured here is the Deep Lorean, a Maritime Robotics Mariner 6 USV, safely and successfully performing an uncrewed survey for the Port of Rotterdam.

From Hydro by Wim van Wegen

Industry Survey: Technology and energy transition bring new opportunities

Every year, Hydro International surveys the state of the hydrographic industry to gain a comprehensive understanding of the sector and the challenges it faces.
The survey includes a series of multiple-choice questions, but also questions that allow for detailed, open-ended responses, giving us a wealth of information to analyse.
After carefully reviewing and evaluating the survey results, we present our findings in this article, where you can learn about the main trends currently affecting our industry.
We zoom in on four aspects: industry expectations, the main challenges/threats (i.e. what stands in the way of business growth and industry development), the most important technological developments and the main opportunities and drivers of growth.

We also address the types of survey projects likely to present the greatest business opportunities in 2023 and whether there is a correlation between the level of investment that companies foresee and these opportunities.
Finally, the feedback provided by the survey participants gives us insight into the skills required by modern hydrographic professionals to meet today’s industry demands.

Prospects of the industry by continent for 2023.

Industry Prospects

The general consensus among hydrographic surveyors is that the industry will continue to be in demand in 2023, with potential for growth.
This is attributed to an increase in offshore projects, the need for environmental protection and advancements in technology.
The blue economy – the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs – is also expected to play a role in the industry’s growth as coastal nations become more aware of its importance.

Industry Expectations
  • The mood in the industry is good, as most respondents view the prospects for the hydrographic surveying industry in 2023 as better or much better than in the past couple of years: 
  • 43.4% of respondents said ‘better’, 
  • 37.6% said ‘much better’, 
  • 14.3% said ‘same’ 
  • and only 4.8% said ‘worse’.
  • 24.7% of respondents expect their company to experience 
  • 5–10% growth between 2023 and 2026, 
  • 22% expect 0–5% growth, 
  • 18.8% expect 10–20% growth, 
  • 13.8% expect more than 20% growth, 
  • 9.3% expect stagnation, 
  • and 1.9% expect a decline (9.5% chose ‘not applicable’).
These are resounding results, but perhaps some context is needed to identify what exactly is behind this widespread optimism.

The statistics capture the reasons for the optimism very well, as the survey results show that the main drivers of expected growth are the adoption of new technology (51%), investments in staffing (33.1%) and available tenders (30.5%).
Other factors that may contribute to growth include investments in training (27.6%), the growth curve of recent years (25.6%), business diversification (24%) and impacts of global and regional events and policy (22.4% and 21.1%, respectively).

The hydrographic industry is experiencing a boom due to a surge in worldwide government investment in the blue economy and renewable energy sources, particularly offshore wind farms, tidal and wave energy and cable route projects.
This increased demand is bolstered by requirements for climate change mitigation and opportunities in the UN Ocean Decade.
The UN Ocean Decade seeks to increase public awareness of the important role that hydrography, seabed mapping and marine data play in marine spatial planning, and the same awareness is created by the highly inspiring Seabed 2030 project.

Biggest challenges for the hydrographic industry.
Challenges and Threats

To make the most of the great opportunities and solutions that our field has to offer the world, we must also be aware of the challenges that lie ahead, some of which are already troubling the sector.
After all, these challenges do exist, as the results of the industry survey once again underline.
The survey participants agree that the hydrographic industry will face some major challenges in the coming years, including attracting and training a new generation of surveyors (26.8%), adapting to new technologies such as autonomy and AI (19.3%), training and competency development (18.4%) and enabling the reuse of survey data for other purposes (9.8%).

We also asked respondents what they regard as the three biggest challenges for hydrographic organizations in 2023.
These were finding and retaining staff, training and competency development, and embedding new technology.
Other challenges mentioned included data management, funding, dealing with government policies and regulations, meeting demand, the knowledge gap with clients and low-quality entrants.

One of the survey respondents critically reflected on the adaptation of technology: “It is evident that the onshore geospatial world is advancing rapidly, making it difficult for those attempting to bring the same technology offshore to keep up.
Even when the people using the technology are relatively young, often only 30 to 35 years old, the technology is often already outdated.
To make things worse, the crews on vessels are often composed for 80% of contractors who are there to perform the same trick they mastered many years ago, making it almost impossible to give them proper training in the latest technology.
It is therefore essential that companies provide the necessary training and resources to ensure that their staff can keep up with ever-evolving technological advancements.”

Investment expectations for 2023.

Not everyone shares the general optimism of the survey results; there are some serious concerns, often arising from circumstances beyond our sphere of influence.
The main factors behind the predicted stagnation or decline include increasing operating costs, a shortage of qualified personnel, inadequate funding, a lack of investment in technology, and the unpredictable effects of regional and global events.
These geopolitical factors can have a profound effect on the regional and even global economy; for instance, the link with increasing operating costs is indisputable.
As one respondent said: “The drastically increased delivery time for equipment caused by the global supply chain crisis and the shortage of components is currently making it really difficult to source equipment on time to meet project deadlines.”

Therefore, although the results of this survey are largely optimistic, many survey respondents remain realistic and are aware of the underlying concerns.
The main issue identified by many organizations is the lack of skilled personnel, as the availability and quality of offshore survey personnel is under pressure.
This is a critical topic that needs to be addressed and reversed, as a striking number of survey participants highlighted the difficulty of finding personnel with the required knowledge of data acquisition and processing.
Furthermore, retaining and developing sufficient qualified and experienced personnel to cover the increased activity safely is essential.

Most challenging project phase.
Challenging Project Phases

Hydrographic surveyors face a variety of challenges, including limited budgets, logistical difficulties, problems with sourcing appropriate equipment and qualified personnel, rapid changes in technology, legal procedures, difficulties in matching new methodologies to specifications and tenders, and dealing with competition.
Additionally, they must contend with local and international financing and political policies, administrative complications, equipment malfunction and outdated specifications, as identified in multiple comments from respondents.
The major challenges are not so much technical, such as data acquisition and processing, but more business-related, such as specifications and tendering and sourcing of equipment and personnel.

Technological Developments

There has been immense enthusiasm concerning the use of autonomy and robotics in the hydrographic survey industry in recent years.
But what does the industry survey tell us about the future of companies that build traditional hydrographic survey vessels? The survey results point to a combination of crewed and uncrewed vessels as the preferred solution, and deploying multiple unmanned USVs and AUVs is seen as the most effective way to map the oceans.

We asked the survey participants which technological advancement they expect to be the most influential driver of innovation in hydrography in the near future.
The main answers were: robotics & autonomous systems (22.1%), uncrewed systems (21.0%), machine learning & artificial intelligence (15.2%), satellite-derived bathymetry (10.0%), UAV bathymetry (Lidar) (8.9%), real-time processing (6.5%) and open data (making survey data available for multiple uses) (5.4%).
The miniaturization of sensors is also expected to play a key role in improving the capabilities of surveying and mapping the seabed.

Autonomy, robotization and machine learning systems will not render hydrographic surveyors obsolete (see ‘Debate statement’); instead, they can help to maximize the expertise of hydrographers across multiple projects and create a new work environment for those entering the industry.
In the next decade, the advancement of technology will significantly improve hydrographic activity, although the human factor – the hydrographer – will remain the most important component.

Adoption of New Technology

The adoption of new technologies is a major concern in the hydrographic industry, so we could not lag behind and surveyed the progress being made and readiness to use new solutions in the hydrographic community.
We examined the adoption stages of autonomy, uncrewed systems and AI in the respondents’ organizations.

Hydrographic professionals are increasingly turning to robotic, uncrewed and autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) to conduct seafloor surveys, and an increasing number of hydrographers believe that uncrewed surface vessels can support subsea inspection, construction support and hydrographic surveys.
More and more organizations recognize the value of autonomy and say that they are prepared to join the mission working to achieve safer, faster and more sustainable operations.

AI is no longer just a buzzword, but the ever-increasing and affordable availability of capacity and computing power to process and store data have opened the doors to many new opportunities.
The emergence of AI in marine geomatics, ocean sciences and hydrography is increasingly visible, as reflected in the answers provided in this year’s industry survey.

Analysis of Artificial Intelligence:

Organizations are still in the early stages of adopting AI, as only 7.85% of respondents said that AI is currently embedded in their organization’s operations, and a further 16.04% occasionally use it.
There is a high level of interest in the technology, as 32.76% of respondents are reading up on it and 23.55% of respondents are developing solutions.

Analysis of Uncrewed Systems:
Organizations are more advanced in their adoption of uncrewed systems, with 14.01% of respondents currently embedding them in operations and 25.16% occasionally using them.
There is still more research to be done, as 20.06% of respondents are reading up on uncrewed systems and 15.61% are sourcing or testing solutions.

Analysis of Autonomous Systems:
Organizations are in the middle stages of adoption of autonomous systems, as 13.85% of respondents say they are embedded in their organization’s operations and 21.62% occasionally use them.
Again, there is a high level of interest in the technology, as 29.73% are reading up on autonomous systems and 18.92% are developing solutions.

Adoption phase of autonomy, uncrewed systems and AI.

Opportunities and Drivers for Growth

The offshore wind industry and related hydrographic sector are keen to decrease their reliance on fossil fuels and their CO2 emissions through the use of cost-efficient environmental assessment services.
The same applies to more traditional hydrographic surveying and mapping tasks.
These industries can reduce their reliance on costly, conventional solutions and make a positive impact on the environment by integrating sensor technology with unmanned and autonomous vessels, which could be a viable solution to this issue.
One of the noteworthy outcomes of this year’s industry survey is that this is often seen as a business opportunity, as many service providers regard this as a unique selling point: sustainability as an opportunity and driver for growth.

We asked respondents what types of survey projects they expect to provide the best business opportunities in 2023.
These are the top seven responses.

Key Takeaways

Technological developments in the next ten years will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the role of the hydrographic surveyor.
Automation will be a vital aspect of our profession, as well as more efficient and cheaper data collection methods.
The use of unmanned vehicles and machines will also become more common, and surveyors will need to develop new skills to control multiple systems at once.

The biggest challenge for the hydrographic industry in the coming years will be to attract and train a new generation of surveyors, followed by adapting to new technologies (autonomy, AI, etc.) and training and competency development.
The development of AI and machine learning systems will require surveyors to become data and IT specialists, rather than mapping and sensor specialists.
Other challenges that were identified include open data – enabling the reuse of survey data for other purposes – the management of hydrographic data, dealing with government policies and regulations, fulfilling the potential role in solving the climate problem, preventing a ‘race to the bottom’ (i.e.
keeping standards high) and bridging the knowledge gap with clients, which is a topic worthy of further discussion in forthcoming issues of Hydro International.

Once again this year, the industry survey has yielded an abundance of invaluable insights that will serve the Hydro International editorial board for the foreseeable future.
We have used some of these findings to shape this article, yet many of the most significant discoveries could not be included due to our desire to keep the article to a manageable length.
Therefore, we will be featuring several stories over the coming year based on the survey results.
We would like to thank all those who took the time to complete the survey.

Debate statement

“In ten years’ time, hydrographic surveyors will have been replaced by robotization and AI.”

If the view of the average hydrographic professional were to be expressed in a few sentences, it would look something like this: Combining human intuition and machines using AI seems to be the most successful approach.
As chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov, who in 1997 became the first world champion to lose a match against an AI-driven machine when he lost to the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue in a highly publicized match, aptly put it: “Machines have calculations, people have understanding. Machines have instructions, we have meaning. Machines have objectivity, we have passion. People have dreams, machines don’t.”

In the next 10 to 20 years, the capabilities of robots will continue to increase.
What implications does this have for the professions in the hydrographic sector? Could jobs be threatened by robotization and the development of AI? Or is the reality more nuanced – AI may solve all kinds of problems and uncertainties that stand in the way of progress in our field, but this does not make people obsolete.

Who are the survey respondents?

The survey respondents are employed by a contract surveying company (18.6%), a surveying consultancy company (17.5%), a hydrographic office (13.1%) or a research or educational institute (12.4%) – representing the vast majority of organizations that employ hydrographic professionals.
A bit more background information on the respondents sheds light on their role within their organization.
They are most commonly employed in surveying operations (49%), project management (42.5%), research and development (33.8%), team management (33.5%), general management (22.7%), and marketing and sales (16.3%).

Skilltrade Cat B students installing a hydrographic survey system.
As our survey reveals, the hydrographic industry needs to think about how to recruit, and more importantly retain, hydrographic professionals.
This will require continued investment in qualified personnel.

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Sailing alone around the world: Joshua Slocum

Global Solo Challenge © New Bedford Whaling Museum

From Sailing Cruising by Alper Günoral

For millennia, the ocean has been a gateway to new worlds, the starting point of journeys towards the unknown.
It was either the quest for food supplies or running away from the enemy.
Somehow, men jumped on the first basic rafts and started to navigate.
Specialised knowledge made it possible to navigate farther with the never-ending development of seafaring vessels.

If Homo Sapiens, the last surviving human race, has now spread to all continents, it is also thanks to intercontinental sea voyages.

I read R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island when I was ten years old.
That novel made me curious about the world.
So, I studied the oceans and islands on world maps, then dreamed of the days I would go to those places.
Since the age of 15, when I chose sailing as my profession, I have worked in different positions, from washing sails to managing a whole warship.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to cross any ocean yet under sail, but there is a route I would like to follow one day and ports I want to visit.
One of the books I read is the story of Captain Slocum.
Captain Slocum grew up in a family of sailors and became a seafarer at a young age.
He was a captain for years, travelling to China, Australia, Japan, and Alaska.
Joshua crossed the oceans many times.
Until, one day, he settled in Fairhaven.

He became the first sailor to cruise around the world, alone, onboard his sailboat Spray at the end of the 19th century.
He published his story in a book titled Sailing Alone Around The World.
The language of the book is simple and the narration is so fluent that it makes the reader feel like he is travelling onboard Spray.
At the beginning of his book, he says that when the last ship he was captain of for years was scrapped, he felt empty for a while.
Then one day a friend came to Fairhaven, and said: "I found a ship for you".

When he arrived at the pier where the ship was, he saw a small neglected boat and considered it just a bad joke.
Still, he was persuaded to repair the 37ft sloop, named Spray.
For 13 months, he felled trees with his axe and used them for parts.
Eventually, the boat was completely refitted and renewed.
He spent a total of $553.62 and transferred all of his experience to the refitting of the boat.

After repairing the boat, he tried to go fishing for a while.
But in his own words, he was not cunning enough to fool the fish.
Meanwhile, he decided to begin a voyage around the world and set sail from Boston on April 24, 1895.
When he set out, he thought that the rainbow he saw in the bow of his boat seemed to be bending towards his boat.
He interpreted this as an angel getting on board.

His first stop was Gloucester.
Let me quote from his own words as he entered this port under a strong wind.
"I made for the cove, a lovely branch of Gloucester's fine harbour, again to look the Spray over and again to weigh the voyage, and my feelings, and all that.
The bay was feather-white as my little vessel tore in, smothered in foam.
It was my first experience of coming into port alone, with a craft of any size, and in among shipping.
Old fishermen ran down to the wharf for which the Spray was heading, apparently intent upon braining herself there.
I hardly know how a calamity was averted, but with my heart in my mouth, almost, I let go of the wheel, stepped quickly forward, and downed the jib.
The sloop naturally rounded in the wind, and just ranging ahead, laid her cheek against a mooring pile at the windward corner of the wharf, so quietly, after all, that she would not have broken an egg.
Very leisurely I passed a rope around the post, and she was moored." Captain Slocum, who shrugged his shoulders to the master sailors who conveyed their congratulations from the beach, just said "what, it's nothing".

He got some supplies from Gloucester.
He wanted to have his chronometer repaired, which he described as a newfangled notion of navigation but gave up due to the expense of 15 dollars.
In the following days, he got a tin clock for one dollar and completed the whole voyage with that one.

After leaving Gloucester, he set course to Gibraltar.
He planned to reach Gibraltar and sail through the Mediterranean and then the Red Sea to reach the Indian Ocean.
But when he was a few miles west of Gibraltar, he came across some pirates and miraculously ran away.
Then he altered his course southwest to Brasil.
He continued south until he passed Magellan Strait, where some locals tried to rob his boat.
He put nails on deck when he slept at night, and laughed at the surprised cries of the bare-foot locals trying to get onboard.

Just after passing the Magellan Strait and heading west, he got into a terrible northeastern storm and had to go back to the east and stayed between the islands south of Chile.
After the storm, he continued west and visited Robinson curse's island before reaching Australia.
He then visited Madagascar and South Africa.
While in Africa he met some high-ranked European officials and had a hard time trying to explain to one of them how he sailed 'around' the world as the official believed the world to be a flat object.

In South Africa, he had a new member onboard: a goat which was given as a gift.
From South Africa, he sailed northwest and reached the Caribbean, but his new personnel ate his nautical charts.
Meanwhile, the United States and Spain declared war.
By chance, he reached the USA without encountering any Spanish ships.
But there was another problem waiting for him there: the entrance of the port of Newport was mined! Avoiding the sea mines, he sailed so close to the shore as "hugging rocks was less dangerous than embracing mines".
In Newport, he dropped anchor on June 27, 1898, at 0100, ending his 3-year and 2-month journey.
He then sailed two more days to take Spray to where she was born, arriving at Fairhaven on 3 July.

Along the way, Slocum came across many vessels, almost all the people seemed shocked at the notion that he was sailing alone.
Almost everyone exchanged some gift or at least an AHOY with each other.
He disliked any vessel that passed without saluting.

He didn't have navigation lights, but only a fisherman's lantern.
He also had a two-burner cabin lamp to have some light inside the boat.
As some makeshift tender, he cut a castaway dory in two athwartships, as there was no room on the boat for a full one.
He had a makeshift autopilot made out of lines and pulleys.

In the end, he gained half a kilogram throughout the voyage and his muscles got stronger.
His friends said he looked younger.
During the voyage, he earned some money from the interviews he made at the ports he visited, the visitors who came to visit his boat and exchanging materials like tallow.
In addition, in almost every port he visited, people provided food and repairs for free.

All his experience is written in his book, Sailing Alone Around the World.
He made his mark in history as the first person to circumnavigate the world with a sailboat.
His adventure inspired dozens of sailors who would later repeat the same route.
I would like to convey the reason for the success of the voyage in the words of the Captain:

"To succeed, however, in anything at all, one should go understandingly about his work and be prepared for every emergency.
I see as I look back over my small achievement, a kit of not-too-elaborate carpenters' tools, a tin clock, and some carpet tacks, not a great many, to facilitate the enterprise as already mentioned in the story.
But above all to be taken into account were some years of schooling, where I studied with diligence Neptune's laws, and these laws I tried to obey when I sailed overseas; it was worth the while."

Links :

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Autonomous cruising technology is poised to transform superyacht design. Here’s how.

courtesy Feadship

From Robb Report by Gemma Harris

Autonomous navigation on superyachts will turn the pilothouse into an augmented-reality center buried below-decks.
That frees up prime real estate on top of the superyacht for the owners.

The pilothouses of most superyachts have undergone remarkable transitions from the strictly functional to space-age sophisticated over the last 10 years.
Hundreds of yards of cable and analog technology have been replaced by digital switching systems and sleek, Star Trek-style touchscreens.
The helm, now as stylish and advanced as the rest of the vessel, can rightfully take a bow.

We could soon see another major transition, this time towards fully autonomous navigation.
“When the technologies we’re working on are ready, they’ll bring a revolution to wheelhouse design,” says Massimo Minnella, founder of Team Italia, which specializes in creating custom pilothouses, including the spaceship-looking Air Bridge.

Various designers have been hard at work, penning autonomous conceptual designs straight from a science fiction movie.
There is Emmanuel Klissarov’s Moondance, Ultra Design’s Pagoda, Feadship’s Pure, and the Solaris concept from the Paul Agency.
“Increased autonomy and especially level 5 [full automation] will provide the designers with unprecedented freedom to express their creativity,” notes Klissarov.

One of the byproducts of having no pilothouse is better views for owners and guests.
The superyacht launch Moondance is a good example.
Courtesy Klissarov Design

By its nature, autonomy allows designers to replace the human element of navigation in a conventional pilothouse with more innovative design possibilities—including redefining basic layouts.
“The interior layouts can be set free by autonomous navigation and situational awareness sensors,” says Joonas Vartola, head of design at Ultra.
Adds Klissarov: “There will be visible design changes in the overall look of vessels, proportion-wise, but also feature-wise with a significant focus outward. The yachts will open up.”

Translation: Superyachts may no longer need a conventional bridge on the upper forward deck of the vessel.
Designers can use those upper decks with 360-degree, uninterrupted views, for owners and guests.
Feadship’s Pure, for instance, has relocated its “Command Center” pilothouse to a lower deck, using 360-degree augmented reality displays to provide clear views of the water, with navigational data projected onto the screen.
The captain stands behind a small console deep inside the boat, with no windows, to control the ship.
The space that had been a pilothouse is now free for other uses.

Autonomy solutions are “already common on subs and naval vessels,” says Bram Jongepier, senior specialist at De Voogt.
Jongepier recognizes the “controversial proposal” of Feadship’s design, but adds that “superyachts revolve around their owners, and many prefer to have a forward-facing stateroom with panoramic views in the area where a wheelhouse normally is.
Placing the bridge higher up impacts the profile.”

Fully autonomous boats are years away but pilothouse designers like Team Italia have been busy with new concepts like the Air Helm.
Courtesy Team Italia

Freeing up this space enables “the best ‘seats’ in the yacht to be reserved for guests and owners versus technology,” adds Joksa Heikkila from Ultra design, whose Pagoda concept also makes the boat look sleeker by removing the conventional pilothouse.

Other designers equate autonomy and enhanced views, but on other vessel types.
Klissarov’s Moondance is a limousine tender for a superyacht that’s autonomous, which frees up forward space for clearer forward views but the “variable opacity” of the hull sides (think tinting windows) and “stargazing” roof allows for a new type of experience for guests and owners going to and from the mothership.

Instead of a captain at the helm, Moondance has an AI unit up front that performs all boat-handling functions.
Courtesy Klissarov Design

New ways to use the yacht will automatically flow from the autonomous changes, says Paul Cazaux-Debat of the Paul Agency.
“Improved autonomy will make the user experience easier and more enjoyable,” he says.
“Autonomy opens up the possibility to create different activities onboard.”

How that will eventually play out remains to be seen, but it’s clear that the autonomous revolution will be driving superyacht design as much as it’s steering the boat.

Monday, January 2, 2023

High tech cowboys of the deep seas: the race to save the Cougar Ace

The Cougar Ace lists at a precarious angle in Wide Bay, Alaska.
Photograph: US Coast Guard

From Wired by Joshua Davis

When a freighter packed with cargo worth $103 million flipped onto its side in the North Pacific, a motley salvage team got the call to save it.

Latitude 48° 14 North / Longitude 174° 26 West.
visualization with the GeoGarage platform (NOAA nautical raster chart)

Almost midnight on the North Pacific, about 230 miles south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands.
A heavy fog blankets the sea.
There's nothing but the wind spinning eddies through the mist.

Out of the darkness, a rumble grows.
The water begins to vibrate.
Suddenly, the prow of a massive ship splits the fog.
Its steel hull rises seven stories above the water and stretches two football fields back into the night.
A 15,683-horsepower engine roars through the holds, pushing 55,328 tons of steel.
Crisp white capital letters—COUGAR ACE—spell the ship's name above the ocean froth.
A deep-sea car transport, its 14 decks are packed with 4,703 new Mazdas bound for North America.
Estimated cargo value: $103 million.

On the bridge and belowdecks, the captain and crew begin the intricate process of releasing water from the ship's ballast tanks in preparation for entry into US territorial waters.
They took on the water in Japan to keep the ship steady, but US rules require that it be dumped here to prevent contaminating American marine environments.
It's a tricky procedure.
To maintain stability and equilibrium, the ballast tanks need to be drained of foreign water and simultaneously refilled with local water.
The bridge gives the go-ahead to commence the operation, and a ship engineer uses a hydraulic-powered system to open the starboard tank valves.
Water gushes out one side of the ship and pours into the ocean.
It's July 23, 2006.

As the Cougar Ace cargo ship begins to capsize just south of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, the tech cowboys of Titan Salvage are called in to save the sinking vessel.
In the crew's quarters below the bridge, Saw "Lucky" Kyin, the ship's 41-year-old Burmese steward, rinses off in the common shower.
The ship rolls underneath his feet.
He's been at sea for long stretches of the past six years.
In his experience, when a ship rolls to one side, it generally rolls right back the other way.

This time it doesn't.
Instead, the tilt increases.
For some reason, the starboard ballast tanks have failed to refill properly, and the ship has abruptly lost its balance.
At the worst possible moment, a large swell hits the Cougar Ace and rolls the ship even farther to port.
Objects begin to slide across the deck.
They pick up momentum and crash against the port-side walls as the ship dips farther.
Wedged naked in the shower stall, Kyin is confronted by an undeniable fact: The Cougar Ace is capsizing.

He lunges for a towel and staggers into the hallway as the ship's windmill-sized propeller spins out of the water.
Throughout the ship, the other 22 crew members begin to lose their footing as the decks rear up.
There are shouts and screams.
Kyin escapes through a door into the damp night air.
He's barefoot and dripping wet, and the deck is now a slick metal ramp.
In an instant, he's skidding down the slope toward the Pacific.
He slams into the railings and his left leg snaps, bone puncturing skin.
He's now draped naked and bleeding on the railing, which has dipped to within feet of the frigid ocean.
The deck towers 105 feet above him like a giant wave about to break.
Kyin starts to pray.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, 4 am.

A phone rings.
Rich Habib opens his eyes and blinks in the darkness.
He reaches for the phone, disturbing a pair of dogs cuddled around him.
He was going to take them to the river for a swim today.
Now the sound of his phone means that somewhere, somehow, a ship is going down, and he's going to have to get out of bed and go save it.

It always starts like this.
Last Christmas Day, an 835-foot container vessel ran aground in Ensenada, Mexico.
The phone rang, he hopped on a plane, and was soon on a Jet Ski pounding his way through the Baja surf.
The ship had run aground on a beach while loaded with approximately 1,800 containers.
He had to rustle up a Sikorsky Skycrane—one of the world's most powerful helicopters—to offload the cargo.

Rich Habib, Senior Salvage Master
Photograph: Andrew Heatherington

Ship captains spend their careers trying to avoid a collision or grounding like this.
But for Habib, nearly every month brings a welcome disaster.
While people are shouting "Abandon ship!" Habib is scrambling aboard.
He's been at sea since he was 18, and now, at 51, his tanned face, square jaw, and don't-even-try-bullshitting-me stare convey a world-weary air of command.
He holds an unlimited master's license, which means he's one of the select few who are qualified to pilot ships of any size, anywhere in the world.
He spent his early years captaining hulking vessels that lifted other ships on board and hauled them across oceans.
He helped the Navy transport a nuclear refueling facility from California to Hawaii.
Now he's the senior salvage master—the guy who runs the show at sea—for Titan Salvage, a highly specialized outfit of men who race around the world saving ships.

They're a motley mix: American, British, Swedish, Panamanian.
Each has a specialty—deep-sea diving, computer modeling, underwater welding, big-engine repair.
And then there's Habib, the guy who regularly helicopters onto the deck of a sinking ship, greets whatever crew is left, and takes command of the stricken vessel

Salvage work has long been viewed as a form of legal piracy.
The insurers of a disabled ship with valuable cargo will offer from 10 to 70 percent of the value of the ship and its cargo to anyone who can save it.
If the salvage effort fails, they don't pay a dime.
It's a risky business: As ships have gotten bigger and cargo more valuable, the expertise and resources required to mount a salvage effort have steadily increased.
When a job went bad in 2004, Titan ended up with little more than the ship's bell as a souvenir.
Around the company's headquarters in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it's known as the $11.6 million bell.

But the rewards have grown as well.
When the Titan team refloated that container ship in Mexico, the company was offered $30 million, and it's holding out for more.
That kind of money finances staging grounds in southern Florida, England, and Singapore and pays the salaries of 45 employees who drive Lotuses, BMWs, and muscle cars tricked out with loud aftermarket DynoMax exhaust systems.
There's also a wall at Titan headquarters with a row of photos of the men who died on the job.
Three have been killed in the past three years.

Titan's biggest competitors are Dutch firms, which have dominated the business for at least a century due in part to the pumping expertise they developed to keep their low-lying lands dry.
But 20 years ago, a couple of yacht brokers in southern Florida—David Parrot and Dick Fairbanks—got fed up dealing with crazy, rich clients and decided that saving sinking ships would be more fun.
They didn't really know much about the salvage business but thought that the Dutch companies had come to rely too much on heavy machinery.
When a ship was in distress, the Dutch firms invariably wanted to use their impressive fleet of tugs and heavy-lift cranes.
Fairbanks envisioned a different kind of salvage company—one with no tugs or cranes of its own.
Instead, the new outfit would buy jet-ready containers for pumps and generators, and when a ship called for help the Titan team would charter anything from a Learjet to a 747, fly it to the airport nearest the ship, and then hire a speedboat or a helicopter to get a team aboard.
If they needed a tug, they'd rent one.
There's a wall at Titan headquarters with a row of photos of the men who died on the job.
Three have been killed in the past three years.
Titan's business plan hinged on the idea that ships could be saved by human ingenuity, not horsepower, and the company's unconventional approach worked.
When a container ship ran aground in a remote part of Iceland in the mid-'90s, the Dutch wanted to bring in their cranes.
Titan jury-rigged the ship's own 198-ton cranes and used those instead—no long-distance transport needed.
In 1992, a freighter sank alongside a dock in Dunkirk, France.
Again, the Dutch called for cranes, but Titan won the contract by proposing a novel approach: It hired a naval architect to create a computer model of the ship.
The model indicated that the vessel would float again if water was pumped out of the holds in a specific sequence.
Titan put the plan into action using a few crates of relatively inexpensive pumps; the ship bobbed to the surface as if by magic.
Since then, a naval architect capable of rapidly building digital 3-D ship models has been a key member of the Titan team.

Jolted awake in Wyoming, Habib pushes himself out of bed.
His dogs cluster around him.
He gives Beauregard a scratch behind the ear.
Clearly the dogs want to go along, but he'll need a little more help than they can give.
It's time to mobilize the Titan A-team.

The Cougar Ace
Length: 654 feet
Weight: 55,328 tons
Decks: 14
Max stowage capacity: 5,542 cars
Ballast: 11 stabilization tanks (teal)
Crew on July 23, 2006: 23

Illustration: Don Foley
Seattle, Washington.
Breezy, Warm.

Marty Johnson zips through the traffic in his black BMW Z3 convertible.
He's wearing shades, and though he just turned 40 he has a boyish look that suits the car.
But the cool-guy persona has its limits.
He just learned how to drive a stick shift, so he takes the long way around town to avoid hills.
He is actually a shy naval architect who likes to discuss the early history of J.R.R.Tolkien's Middle-earth and certain aspects of particle physics.
But he has a taste for fast cars and the money to buy them, thanks to an unusual ability to build digital models of ships.

Since graduating first in his class from New York's Webb Institute, a preeminent undergraduate naval architecture school, Johnson has traveled the world with his laptop, building 3-D models and helping refloat sunken things.
He was on the team that recovered the Japanese fishing trawler sunk by a US submarine off Hawaii in 2001, and he oversaw a system to lift a submerged F-14 from 220 feet of water near San Diego in 2004.
In his free time, he wins boat races in which the skippers build their vessels from scratch in six hours or less.

But so far, Johnson has refloated only vessels that are already sunk.
Most days, he's cooped up in an office at the port, waiting for something exciting to happen.
His skills don't go to waste—he's particularly well known for designing a 76-foot tugboat able to navigate rivers as shallow as 3 feet.
But Johnson wants more; he wants to be one of those guys who drops onto the deck of a sinking ship and saves the day.

He's about to get his chance.
His office calls: Rich Habib wants him on a salvage job for the history books—one Johnson might have missed if not for a lucky break.
Habib's usual 3-D modeler, Phil Reed, is visiting his in-laws in Chicago, and his wife won't let him go to Alaska.
He recommends Johnson, who has worked with Habib once before.

The job is daunting: Board the Cougar Ace with the team and build an on-the-fly digital replica of the ship.
The car carrier has 33 tanks containing fuel, freshwater, and ballast.
The amount of fluid in each tank affects the way the ship moves at sea, as does the weight and placement of the cargo.
It's a complex system when the ship is upright and undamaged.
When the cargo holds take on seawater or the ship rolls off-center—both of which have occurred—the vessel becomes an intricate, floating puzzle.

Johnson will have to unravel the complexity.
He'll rely on ship diagrams and his own onboard measurements to re-create the vessel using an obscure maritime modeling software known as GHS—General HydroStatics.
The model will allow him to simulate and test what will happen as water is transferred from tank to tank in an effort to use the weight of the liquid to roll the ship upright.
If the model isn't accurate, the operation could end up sinking the ship.

Habib thinks Johnson is up to the task.
In 2004 they worked together on a partially sunken passenger ferry near Sitka, Alaska.
The hull was gashed open on a rock—water had flooded in everywhere.
The US Coast Guard safety officer told Habib and Johnson to get off the ship, saying it was about to sink completely.
It was too dangerous.

Habib refused.
His point of view: It was his ship now, and he would do what he wanted.
The safety officer reprimanded Habib and told him that no ship was worth "even the tip of your pinky."

Habib smiled.
Insurance lawyers have calculated the value of a pinky—$14,000, tops—and that's far less than the value of a modern commercial vessel.

Johnson told the Coast Guard not to worry; the ferry would be floating again in three days at exactly 10:36 in the morning.
The Coast Guard was skeptical but, three days later, as the tide peaked at 10:36 am, the ferry bobbed up and floated off the rock.
It was a rush to be that right.

So when he gets the message inviting him to join the team headed to the Cougar Ace, his only question is "When do we leave?"

Trinidad and Tobago. Offshore.

And if I say to you tomorrow, take my hand child come with me.
The languid sound of Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be" drifts across the Caribbean.
A 24-foot fishing boat lolls in the blue waters, the stereo cranked up in the wheelhouse.
It's to a castle I will take you, where what's to be they say will be.
The island of Trinidad—lush, green, rugged—is just off the port bow.
A few beers remain in the bottom of the boat's 98-can cooler, and a bottle of Guyanese rum sloshes about on the floorboards.
On the back deck, a fishing pole droops lazily from the densely tattooed arm of Colin Trepte: boat owner, rum drinker, and deep-sea diver who's always ready with a roguish grin for the ladies.

Colin Trepte, Lead Salvage Diver Photograph: Andrew Heatherington

Trepte loves days like this—mid-80s, a couple of snapper in the bucket, and the sun warm on his face.
A sign in the wheelhouse states "This is My Ship, and I'll Do as I Damn Please."
A silver skull dangles from a loop on his left ear.

Trepte's youth in the east end of London seems a long way off.
The tattoos tell the story: The naked, big-breasted woman on his forearm stares at a demon etched in Puerto Rico, where a cargo ship ran aground.
The dragon on his shoulder is from Iceland, where he cut a grounded freighter into pieces.
Some of the designs have only been outlined—a crystal ball on his back remains deliberately empty.
It represents the fact that, as a Titan salvage diver, he never knows when the phone will ring.
And when it does, he could be bound for Eritrea or Tierra del Fuego, and the only real question is which bag to bring—cold weather or warm.
Both are packed, waiting ashore in his bungalow outside Port of Spain on Trinidad.

His cell rings.
It's Habib.
Trepte sighs.
All good days must come to an end.

"Cold weather or warm, mate?" Trepte asks.

North Pacific. July 25, 2006.

In the hours since the Cougar Ace rolled, the Coast Guard and Air National Guard have scrambled three helicopters from Anchorage and, in a daring rescue effort, plucked the entire 23-man crew off the ship.
Nyi Nyi Tun, the ship's captain, has ordered his crew to stay mum on the cause of the accident, and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines—the ship's owners—have declined to offer a detailed explanation.
Because the incident occurred in international waters, the Coast Guard has decided not to investigate any further.
Only Lucky Kyin talked that night.
He was whisked to an Anchorage hospital, where a reporter from the Anchorage Daily News asked him how he felt.
His answer: "The whole body is pain." As to the cause of the accident, all Kyin will offer is that it interrupted his shower.

The phone wakes Rich Habib at 4 am in Jackson Hole on July 24.
The Cougar Ace has flipped, and he begins mobilizing the Titan team.
Right now, it doesn't really matter how it happened.
What matters is that the Cougar Ace has become a multimillion-dollar ghost ship drifting toward the rocky shoals of the Aleutian Islands.
What's worse, according to the crew, the ship is taking on water.
The Coast Guard alone doesn't have the capability or expertise to handle this kind of emergency, and officials fear that the ship will sink or break up on shore.
Either way, the cars would be lost, and the 176,366 gallons of fuel in the ship's tanks would threaten the area's wildlife and fishing grounds.
Mazda, Mitsui, and their insurers would take a massive hit.

At first, executives at Mitsui seem to think the ship is a lost cause.
They contact Titan, but then they wait for about 24 hours, apparently under the impression that the vessel will go down before anybody can save it.
When they realize that it will stay afloat long enough to break up on the shore of the Aleutians, they agree to sign what's known as a Lloyd's Open Form agreement.
It's a so-called no-cure, no-pay arrangement.
If Titan doesn't save the ship, it doesn't get paid.
But if it succeeds, its compensation is based on the value of the ship and the cargo—in this case, a still-to-be-calculated fortune.

With the deal done, Titan charters a Conquest turboprop out of Anchorage.
The propellers sputter to life.
The Titan crew buckles in for the three-and-a-half-hour journey to Dutch Harbor, a small fishing town about 800 miles west of Anchorage on the Aleutian chain.

Hank Bergman, Salvage Engineer
Photograph: Andrew Heatherington

But before they take off, a final member of the team hops on.
It's Titan mechanic Hank Bergman, the Swedish cowboy.
As a young man in a small town in Sweden, Bergman inexplicably developed an affinity for Hank Williams and fantasized about the American West.
He took a job as a ship engineer to get out of Sweden and soon built a reputation as a man who could fix anything, no matter how big.
He has been with Titan since its beginning; as a result, he's had the money to buy land in Durango, Colorado, stock his 864-square-foot garage with two Jeeps and a classic Mercedes-Benz 560SL, and play cowboy whenever he wants.
Now he boards the small plane wearing his trademark black leather cowboy boots and says hello to everyone in his pronounced Swedish accent.

The team—Habib, Johnson, Trepte, and Bergman—arrives in Dutch Harbor and heads out to sea at top speed aboard the Makushin Bay, a 130-foot ship readied for salvage work.
It's stacked with generators, steel-cutting equipment, machining tools, and salvage pumps that can remove water from the ship or transfer it from one hold to another.
Johnson's laptop is loaded with GHS, and he begins building a rough model of the ship based on photographs and diagrams emailed from the owners.

After more than a day of full-speed motoring through the North Pacific, the Titan team spies the Cougar Ace.
At first, it's only a sharp rise on the horizon.
But as the Makushin Bay approaches, the scale of the ship dwarfs the salvage vessel.
In the distance, a 378-foot Coast Guard cutter—complete with helicopter and 76-mm cannon—looks puny compared with the car carrier.
It's as if the men have gone through some kind of black hole and emerged as miniatures in a new and damaged world.
The Cougar Ace lies on its side, its enormous red belly exposed to the smaller boats around it.
The propeller floats eerily out of the water, the rudder flopped hard to port in the air.

"Holy fuck," Trepte mutters.

Illustration: Don Foley

Six hours later, an HH-65 Coast Guard helicopter flies the team to the ship and lowers the guys one by one onto the tilted deck in a steel basket.
Dan Magone, the owner of the Makushin Bay, comes with them.
He's a local salvage master himself and an expert on the region's currents, tides, weather, and shoals.
He has spent more than 27 years saving fishing boats in the area and is along as an adviser to, in his words, "the big shots."

The ship is rocking, but the sea is calm, and Habib thinks it's holding steady at a list of about 60 degrees.
Titan's first mission: hunt for water on board.
Johnson needs to know exactly how much water is sloshing around the cargo holds so he can input the data into the digital model he's constructing.

Habib unloads coils of rope from his backpack.
Descending into the sharply tilted ship will require mountaineering skills.
Fortunately, Habib knows what he's doing: He once scaled a 2,300-foot frozen waterfall and recalls with fondness summiting a notoriously difficult peak in the Canadian Rockies.
On the way down, he was attacked by a wolf.
The faded scar makes him chuckle.
Maybe the mountain adventures put things in perspective.
After all, this is just a giant sideways ship floating loose in the Pacific, not a deranged wolf on his back.

The guys click their LED headlamps on.
The generators have gone dead, and it'll be pitch-dark below.
The ship's thick steel sidewalls block radio reception, so once the men are below they won't be able to communicate with the outside world.
All they'll have is each other.

Navigating the Ship

When the Titan Salvage crew first boarded the Cougar Ace, they needed to determine the extent of flooding in the holds.
To get there, the men had to climb using ropes and harnesses.

The mission, step-by-step:

1. Airlift to the ship on an HH-65 Coast Guard helicopter.
2. Use ropes to descend through a tilted stairwell.
3. Open the access hatch to the ninth deck and rappel past hundreds of Mazdas.
4. Survey the flooding and retrace the route back to the surface of the ship.
5. Shimmy along the top side to the rear of the ship, then climb a ladder to the back-deck opening.
6. Use ropes to descend the back desk.

From the low side, jump onto a support boat.

Deep within the ship, the men dangle on ropes inside an angled staircase and peer through a doorway into the number-nine cargo deck.
Their lights partially illuminate hundreds of cars tilted on their side, sloping down into the darkness.
Each is cinched to the deck by four white nylon straps.
Periodically a large swell rolls the ship, straining the straps.
A chorus of creaks echoes through the hold.
Then, as the ship rolls back, the hold falls silent.
It's a cold, claustrophobic nightmare slicked with trickling engine oil and transmission fluid.
Trepte lowers a rope and eases into the darkness.

Everyone is wearing a harness with two carabiners attached to short straps.
They've tied loops every few feet into some of their ropes, creating a series of descending handholds.
Like rock climbers rappelling in slow motion, they back down the steep deck, lowering themselves one looped handhold at a time.
Habib tells them to always keep one carabiner attached to a loop in the rope; that way, if they fall, the rope will save them.

They reach the middle of the deck.
There's a ramp built into the side of the hull at this level—it's for driving cars on and off the ship.
Now a good deal of the ramp's exterior is about 25 feet underwater.
It's got a thick rubber seal, but it wasn't designed to take the pressure of submersion.
Habib thinks it might be leaking.

Sure enough, as they descend farther, Trepte sees green water with a sheen of oil.
The water is about 8 feet deep and runs the length of the compartment—dozens of new Mazdas can be seen beneath the murky surface like drowning victims.
It means the seal has been compromised.
It's leaking slowly and could fail completely at any moment.
If that happened, seawater would fill the deck in a matter of minutes and drown them all.
But Habib figures that since it has lasted this long, it's probably OK for now.

Trepte measures the dimensions of the wedge of water in the hold using a metal weight and string and shouts out the numbers.
While Johnson does some trigonometry on a small pad of paper, Habib accidentally steps on one of the straps securing a car, and the Mazda lurches downward with a screech.
Trepte looks up with a start and realizes that he's at the bottom of a suspended automotive avalanche.
Dozens of cars hang over his head.
If one broke its straps, it would trigger a domino effect, sending a pile of Mazdas down on top of him.

"Ay, mate, try not to kill me down here, won't ya?"
Trepte shouts up to Habib.

"Rog-o," echoes the response from the shadows.

Johnson finishes his calculations—the wedge of water weighs 1,026 tons, part of the weight keeping the ship pinned on its side.
They will have to pump this water overboard and then fill the high-side tanks to add enough ballast to bring the ship back to an even keel.
According to Johnson's preliminary computer simulations, pumping 160.9 tons into the starboard-side tanks will do the trick.
But the model shows that any more than that may roll them all the way over to the other side.

"You're talking about a flop?" Habib asks.
"That's what I'm saying," Johnson replies.

The situation is more precarious than Habib had thought.
If they overfill the high-side starboard tanks, the Cougar Ace will roll back to normal—but then keep going, potentially in a matter of seconds.
Everybody on board would be catapulted from one side of the ship to the other, and the car straps could snap.
If the cars were to pile up on one side, the added weight would create even more momentum, causing the ship to roll upside down and sink.

To avoid that, they need to pump a precise amount of water.
It's Johnson's job to figure out exactly how much.
In an ideal world, he would plug in data for the position and weight of all the cars and the amount of liquid in each of the ship's 33 tanks and 14 decks.
Unfortunately, there's not enough time to collect all that information.
He'll have to do some guessing and hope his instincts are good.

It's getting dark by the time they emerge from inside the ship—they were down for more than three hours—and Habib decides not to ask the Coast Guard to pull them off by helicopter.
It would be risky in the twilight.
Given the calm sea, he figures they can make their way to the back deck of the ship and jump from the low port side onto the Makushin Bay.

But when they reach the back and take stock of the situation, it doesn't seem that simple.
If the deck were flat, they could just walk straight across.
But now it's a 105-foot metallic cliff dotted with keg-sized steel bollards.
If one of the guys were to slip when not clipped in to a rope, no amount of clawing on the hard surface would arrest his slide.
He would rocket down the 60-degree incline with only the blunt steel of the bollards to break his fall.

What's worse, the automated fire-prevention system vents onto the deck.
Since the generators have been down for days, the system's chilled liquid carbon dioxide is warming and expanding.
Every few minutes, the oxygen-snuffing chemical explodes out of the vent in a raging, negative-110-degree cloud.
Direct exposure could cause frostbite and even suffocation.
Habib has tested the area with an oxygen monitor, and despite the deafening white clouds of gas that periodically explode across the deck he assures everyone that there's plenty of fresh, breathable air.

Still, the situation makes Johnson nervous.
He's standing on the side of a giant winch 25 feet above the vent.
He'll have to climb through the blast area to get off the ship, and his backpack is stuffed with 30 pounds of gear.
It's going to be difficult to move down the looped lines with that extra, cumbersome weight.

Magone is anxious to get off the ship before nightfall makes it too difficult to jump onto the Makushin Bay.
He begins to back down the deck, followed by Trepte and Bergman.
The carbon dioxide explodes out of the vent, raining down slivers of dry ice.
They pause to shield their faces and then keep descending.

Johnson's nervousness mounts, and he stays put.
He tells Habib that his backpack is bothering him.
Habib offers to climb back up to the helicopter drop zone—there's extra rope there, which he can use to lower the backpack.
While Johnson twists his way out of the pack, Habib heads back up toward the drop zone.

When he reaches the lower end of the deck, Magone looks up and sees that Johnson still hasn't started his descent.
"What's taking him so long," Magone wonders.
"Ready for the next guy!" he shouts.

A moment passes, and suddenly Johnson is hurtling down.
He blurs past Bergman, screaming.
Johnson is falling, and he isn't clipped in to anything.
His body ricochets off a steel stanchion, sending him into an uncontrollable spin.
He plunges upside down past Trepte.
Nobody has time to react—in little more than a second, he has fallen 80 feet and his head smashes into a winch, with a sickening thud.
His face smacks the metal, ripping a deep laceration in his forehead.
Water sloshes just below him.
Blood drips into it.

"Shit, shit, shit!" Trepte shouts.
He steadies himself for a moment, then radios Habib: "Marty's had a tumble."

On the top deck, Habib is coiling rope.
"A tumble?" he thinks.
He keeps coiling for a few seconds.
A tumble's not a big deal—a tumble is like a slip and a twisted ankle.
But then he realizes that a tumble for someone like Trepte could mean falling out of an airplane with no parachute.
Trepte wouldn't call him unless it's serious, unless Johnson were truly injured or unconscious.

"Is he conscious?" Habib radios back, a note of rising fear in his voice.
"No," Trepte's voice squawks through the radio.

Habib hurls the rope down and races back the length of the ship.
He climbs as fast as he can down the looped line through the carbon dioxide blast zone.
Magone has swung over to the winch in the center of the deck and is struggling to stay in position over Johnson.

"Is he breathing?" Habib shouts.

Magone can't tell.
Johnson is face down, and Magone is afraid to move him by himself.
Habib swings over on a rope, and together they roll Johnson face up.
His eyes are open, staring straight through Habib.
No blinking.
No movement.
There's blood everywhere and he doesn't seem to be breathing, but he has a pulse.
He's alive.

Habib's heart is racing.
There's a chance.
He starts mouth-to-mouth just as a boat crashes into the Cougar Ace only feet from Habib and Magone.
It's the Emma Foss, a 101-foot tug whose crew, alerted by the radio exchange, has come to help.
But the collision rips off a piece of the railing that's supporting Habib.
He splashes into the cold water beneath the winch.
In an instant, he muscles himself back up beside Johnson.

"Let's get him off," Habib shouts.
He's thinking, "He can make it. He's got a pulse."

A stretcher is passed over from the Emma Foss.
The men strap Johnson in and transfer him to the tug, which takes him to a Coast Guard cutter; its medical facilities can keep him alive.
It's not too late.

"Come on, Marty," Habib says as they heft the litter back to the tug.
"We're gonna get you out of here.
Just hang in a little longer."

Johnson is hauled aboard the cutter, and the corpsmen establish a radio connection with their onshore surgeon.
Coast Guard medics take over while Habib and his team jump onto the Makushin Bay and wait nervously for an hour.
At 11 o'clock, the captain of the cutter calls Habib.

Marty Johnson is dead.

How Marty Johnson Fell

To get off the ship, Johnson and the others on the Titan team made their way to the back deck, then climbed down the steeply angled surface to the low side.
For Johnson, it was a daunting task—he was inexperienced as a climber and carrying a pack loaded with 30 pounds of bulky gear.

1. He was standing on the starboard winch.
He wasn't clipped in to his safety rope when he slipped and plummeted down the deck.
2. After 20 feet, he struck a bollard and began spinning.
3. He tumbled 60 feet more, coming to rest on the port-side winch.

Through an overcast sky, the sun dawns faintly the next morning.
The Coast Guard sends a lieutenant to the Makushin Bay to find out what happened and assess the state of the team.
On the surface, Trepte and Bergman seem fine.
Trepte has already moved into Johnson's bunk—"he won't be needin' it," Trepte says.
But a numbness seems to have gripped Habib.
Maybe he should send his team home before any more lives are lost.
Maybe it's time to abandon the Cougar Ace.

The lieutenant listens as Habib recounts the facts leading up to the accident: Johnson was standing on the high-side winch.
Somehow he slipped and hadn't been clipped in to a rope.
When Habib starts to talk about trying to save his teammate, about staring into his blank eyes, he feels a swelling in his throat.
He can sense tears coming.
Johnson was one of Habib's guys and was among the nation's best naval architects.
Habib looks away.

What he sees isn't comforting.
The Cougar Ace looms over the Makushin Bay like a rogue wave on pause.
It can't be ignored—it's now 140 miles from shore, and the weather is expected to deteriorate.
Winds of 26 miles per hour are expected by the next sunrise, and the weather service predicts 16-foot waves within a few days.
The team has to get back on board and connect a towline to the Cougar Ace, or it will either sink or be driven ashore.
The Coast Guard, the area fishermen, the ship owners, Mazda—everyone is depending on them, but they're battered, undermanned, and flying blind without Johnson.
Habib makes a decision: He'll stay.
But to see this job through, he needs more help.
He makes a call to headquarters in Florida.

A Coast Guard ship takes Johnson's body back to Adak, a rugged Aleutian island with an airstrip.
Soon, a twin-propeller plane floats down out of the sky and stops at the end of the runway.
The plane's ramp flips open, and guys lugging cold-weather gear hustle down to the tarmac.
They glance at the body bag and keep moving.
The reinforcements have arrived.

Phil Reed—Titan's chief naval architect—got the go-ahead from his wife and leads the men.
In the early '90s, Reed was one of the first to repurpose naval-architecture software for use on salvage jobs.
Now 48, he's Titan's most senior 3-D modeler—a sort of geek in residence.
But Reed is not a typical nerd.
Sure, on almost every job he's the only guy scampering across the decks with a laptop, and he absentmindedly taps the tip of his fluorescent highlighter on his head, leaving yellow streaks across his Titan baseball cap.
But he's also the guy who went into Banda Aceh after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and persuaded the Indonesian military to protect the Titan team while it hauled away an upside-down 684-foot cement ship.
He can take the heat as well as any guy on the team.

Two deep-sea divers—Yuri Mayani and Billy Stender—follow Reed.
They look like a rough-and-tumble version of Laurel and Hardy.
Mayani is a foulmouthed, hot-tempered 5'2" Panamanian with rippling muscles.
Stender is a laconic 6'2" Michigan native who spends as much time as he can living in a trailer in the woods near the Canadian border.
Somehow, these two have become good friends.
If they're not on a job, Mayani hangs out in Michigan, cursing wildly about the cold until Stender gets enough Pabst Blue Ribbon in him.
With Mayani around, Stender can sink into his natural state of bemused reticence.
Anything he's thinking—whether it's about lining up the next drink or the knockers on that blonde at the end of the bar—Mayani tends to say first and five times louder.
"We understand each others" is how Mayani puts it.
Stender refers to his friend as "the Panamaniac."

Phil Reed, Senior Naval Architect
Photograph: Andrew Heatherington

The Sycamore, the Coast Guard ship that brought Johnson's body ashore, takes the new guys on board, and they push off for a rendezvous with the Cougar Ace.
Someone from Titan headquarters in Florida calls Habib to say that Mayani, Stender, and Reed are underway.
Habib hopes they'll arrive before the weather hits.
The seas are already getting rougher, and that can only mean more trouble.

At 12:45 am, a fierce rain and heavy rolling ocean wakes Habib aboard the Makushin Bay.
He asks the captain of the Emma Foss to use its searchlight to survey the Cougar Ace's low port-side cargo vents.
Normally, these vents release car exhaust from the deep holds as vehicles are driven on and off the vessel.
When the ship is upright, the vents sit about 70 feet above water and have flaps to prevent rain from entering.
They were never meant to be submerged, but now the Emma Foss radios back that the high seas are churning to within 3 feet of the vents.
If they go under, seawater will likely push open the flaps and surge into the ship's holds, sinking the Cougar Ace.

By noon, Habib fears he's about to lose the ship.
The rapidly building swell is breaking on the port side, driving waves up to the vents.
At the same time, the swell has increased the ship's roll, dipping the vents toward the waves.
Habib's only hope is to tow the ship into the Bering Sea on the lee side of the Aleutians—something the Coast Guard wants him to avoid because of the potential risk to the environment.
The Sea Victory—a 150-foot tug—has arrived and managed to lasso a cleat on the back of the Cougar Ace.
The tug's 7,200-horsepower engine has the strength to pull the ship through the fast currents of the Samalga Pass and get to the lee side of the islands.
If Habib can do that, the land will act as a shield against the wind and waves.
He's got no choice.
It's time to run the gauntlet.

Under low-hanging clouds, the Cougar Ace and its convoy of tugs, Coast Guard escort, and salvage craft crash through the swell in a mad dash for the Bering Sea.
The Sycamore, bearing Reed, Stender, and Mayani, has gone full throttle to make this rendezvous, and the guys now stand on the deck and watch the cursed armada bear down on them.

Mayani stares at the sideways ship with disbelief.
The Cougar Ace looks like a death trap to him— the crew must have been hit hard.
"How many motherfuckers died in there?" he asks.

"One," Stender says.
"Our guy."

"Trick-Fuck," Mayani spits.
He has a lot of respect for Habib but refers to him as "Trick-Fuck" because Habib is always tricking him into doing crazy things.
And, from where Mayani is standing, this is going to be the biggest trick-fuck yet.

It's certainly one of the craziest things Reed has ever seen on the sea.
He boards the Makushin Bay, and Habib grimly hands him Johnson's computer.
Reed agrees with Johnson's assessment— the ship could easily flop.
To decrease that risk, the team needs to make sure that the largest low-side ballast tank is filled, so it counterbalances any rapid roll.
The crew had reported that they left it half full.
This will be the team's first important task: a journey to the deepest part of the ship to drill a hole in the tank and fill it all the way.

To get there, they will have to descend like spelunkers.
So Habib orders his men onto the Redeemer, a 132-foot tug that has joined the operation.
He greets them gruffly and takes hold of a rope hanging from a railing on the Redeemer's upper deck and begins to climb using a device called an ascender.
They're at the mouth of the Samalga Pass—there's no time for small talk.

Mayani looks at Stender out of the corner of his eye and asks him what's wrong with Habib: "He a fucking monkey now?"

"Shut up!" Habib shouts.
He explains that the Cougar Ace has become a labyrinth.
Since it's heeled onto one side, they'll have to learn how to walk on walls and scale the sloping, perilous decks.
Unfortunately, they'll have to learn to do it in the middle of the ocean.
This will be their only chance to practice before they board the ship.
Hopefully, no one else will die.

While the team trains on the ropes, the tugs haul the Cougar Ace safely through the pass and into the calm waters of the Bering Sea.
The vents ride higher above the surface—that's one less danger, for the time being.
Now they need to get back aboard.
The Emma Foss deposits the newly expanded team on the low side of the Cougar Ace's back deck, just a few feet from where Johnson died.

Reed serves as the navigator through the intricacies of the vessel's holds—he has spent the past 24 hours memorizing the Cougar Ace's complex design.
But it's one thing to picture the orderly lines of a blueprint, quite another to traverse the dark confines of a capsized ship.
As a result, Reed is not always sure where they are, and the darkness fills with a steady stream of Mayani's elaborate Spanish curses.
Nobody wants to get lost inside this thing.

It takes them almost three hours of rappelling and climbing to descend to the 13th deck, and when they get there, no one is that excited to have arrived.
This far down, they are well below the waterline.
The Bering Sea presses in on the steel hull.
They feel like they're inside an abandoned submarine.

Reed and Habib crawl along the tilted deck, periodically consulting a drawing of the ship's internal compartments.
They rap their knuckles on a piece of steel—this is the top of the low-side ballast tank.
Trepte pulls out a drill and bores down.
Suddenly, water erupts.
The tank is already full and pressurized—water must be flowing in through a broken vent on the underwater side of the ship.
It sprays furiously.
They have unwittingly caused the worst thing possible: The deepest cargo hold is flooding.

In an instant, Trepte covers the hole with the tip of a finger and presses hard.
The sound of gushing water abruptly stops, and the shouts and curses of the moment before echo through the hold.
Salt water drips off Mazdas, and the panic the men all felt transforms into a contagious laugh.

Trepte is keeping the ship afloat with one finger.

"Well, I guess the tank is already full," Reed chuckles.

"Very funny," Trepte says.
"Now whyn't some of you smart chaps go figure out how to fix this bloody mess."

While Habib races to the Makushin Bay to find a solution, Mayani plugs the hole with his finger to give Trepte a break.
They go back and forth for an hour and a half before Habib returns with a tapered metal bolt to jam into the hole.
Their fingers took a beating, but now they know that the tank is full.
Reed enters the data into his computer model, runs the numbers, and tells Habib how much water he needs to pump into the high-side tanks.
It's time to roll the ship.

The plan is to position large pumps throughout the ship and begin moving liquid in a sort of orchestrated water ballet.
Reed has already choreographed the dance in his GHS model but still hasn't been able to find a solution that guarantees the ship won't flip.
When he runs the simulation, GHS sometimes shows the ship righting itself, but sometimes it just keeps rolling until it's belly-up.
Then it sinks.

Righting the Ship
The Titan Salvage crew built a digital model of the Cougar Ace so they could develop the following plan for shifting water between ballast tanks (teal) before attempting to right the ship.
1.Position self-contained, diesel-powered pumps on the flooded ninth deck and suction it dry, dumping water overboard.
2.Check water level in the fifth port ballast tank (red) to ensure adequate counterbalance.
Begin filling starboard ballast tank (yellow).
3.Fill the fifth starboard tank with 160.9 tons of seawater to bring the ship fully upright.
Illustration: Don Foley

Habib decides not to worry about that right now and tells Mayani and Stender to position pumps near the water that has flooded into deck nine.
Though they are both highly trained deep-sea divers, they play many roles on a salvage job.
They can operate cranes, drive bulldozers, and slice through metal with plasma torches; Stender can even fly a helicopter.
Right now, their role is to lug the 100-pound pumps into place.
Since there are no functioning winches on board, the two men haul the pumps by hand, using, as Mayani likes to say, a combination of "man-draulics and the man-crane."

Mayani is assigned to play pump monkey.
Stender ties one rope around his buddy, a second rope around a pump, and then, using a rock-climbing belay device, lowers both down the face of deck nine.
Mayani hugs the pump so that it doesn't get banged up on the way down.
What happens to Mayani is another matter.

"I'm no fucking pinball, motherfucker!" Mayani shouts as he slams against walls and cars.
Stender likes the pinball reference and starts calling himself the pinball wizard.

The shouting brings Habib rappelling down.
He shines his headlamp on Mayani, who—still hugging the pump—is swinging back and forth in an attempt to build up enough momentum to hop over a column of cars.

"What are you two doing?" he asks.

Yuri Mayani, Salvage Diver
Photograph: Andrew Heatherington

"What the fuck it look like we're doing?" Mayani shouts.
"Stealing cars?"

"Listen, I don't want any damage," Habib says.
"Not even a fingerprint."

Mayani swings away from the cars with the pump and then back, picking up more speed than he expected.
He smashes into the windshield of a CX-7 and clobbers the sideview mirror of another.

"You're coming with me, bitch!" Mayani screams at the mirror and rips it clean off.

Habib shakes his head.

"Sorry!" Mayani shouts.
"It was either me or the fucking mirror."

Once the pumps are set up, Stender and Mayani explore the ship.
Mayani is on the hunt for some binoculars—he likes to collect mementos from jobs.
He took a bright-yellow plastic radio beacon from the last ship he helped save and displays it proudly next to the flat-screen TV in his Florida condo.
Sometimes the ship's crew objects, calling the guys pirates.

"What the fuck you think we are?" Mayani likes to say.
"We look like yuppies?"

Billy Stender, Salvage Diver
Photograph: Andrew Heatherington

Luckily, the Cougar Ace is a ghost ship—there's no one to get in their way.
Stender and Mayani make their way to the bridge.
There are no ropes up here, so they're not clipped in to anything.
They find a door on the high side of the bridge, but when Mayani jostles it, it flies open, throwing him off balance.
Stender lunges for him, but Mayani falls inside and slides down the steeply inclined bridge.
As he accelerates, he grasps for anything and manages to wrap an arm around the captain's chair 40 feet down, arresting his fall.
Amazingly, he sees a pair of binoculars dangling from the chair.

"Are you OK?" Stender shouts, on the verge of panic.

"I found the motherfucking binoculars," Mayani responds, momentarily forgetting that he's hanging off the chair as though it were a tree sprouting off a cliff.

"Good job," Stender shouts back.
"You did that real nice.
Now how the hell you plan to get out of there?"

Mayani doesn't have a good answer.
Stender looks around and sees a fire hose.
He grabs the nozzle, lowers it down, and Mayani climbs up the hose.
He took the type of fall that killed Johnson, but Mayani doesn't seem too bothered.
Instead, he scrutinizes the binocs.
One of the lenses is cracked.

"Shit," he says and throws them back down into the bridge.

"OK everyone," Habib says into his mic.
Radios crackle across the Cougar Ace.
Bergman, Trepte, Mayani, and Stender are ready to drop down into the holds and fire up the pumps.
An additional four Titan guys have arrived to assist.
"Let's get this ship straightened up," Habib says.

The pumps roar to life.
Reed's model doesn't indicate how fast the ship will roll upright.
If it's anything like the time the ship first rolled, it will be fast.
It could be a dangerous roller-coaster ride.

Since the radios aren't powerful enough to reach the lower holds, Habib acts as both salvage master and radio relay, climbing halfway down into the ship so that his radio is close enough to pick up the signal of the guys up top and lower down.
He follows Reed's plan and shouts orders: "Pump the wedge of water on deck nine overboard.
Begin filling the fifth starboard ballast tank now." He's like the conductor of an unusual, waterlogged symphony.

Reed's calculations show that the fifth starboard ballast tank has to be about 20 percent full to bring the Cougar Ace all the way up, and as water begins to pour into the tank the ship starts to come off its 60-degree list.

"We're rolling her," Habib radios calmly.

Everyone aboard waits anxiously for the ship to flip in an instant, but the vessel rises slowly, like a stunned boxer after a heavy blow.
Water cascades down its sides.
It makes no sudden movements—it's as if the ship itself has been trying to figure out whether it can do this, whether it can really return to the land of the living.

As the Titan team coaxes the Cougar Ace upright, Habib ties a water bottle to one end of a rope and affixes the other end to a pipe, forming an improvised plumb line.
Using some basic trig, he calculates their progress: 56.5 degrees ...
51 degrees ...
40 degrees.
The Cougar Ace is coming up.
Every hour it looks more and more like a normal ship.

Stender and Mayani stay on board, sleeping on cars, smoking cigarettes, and tending the pumps.
For lunch, they toss one end of a line out a door that's halfway down the starboard hull.
It reaches the Makushin Bay 50 feet below, and the boat's crew ties some food on the line.
But when Stender and Mayani haul it up to discover a meal of boiled cabbage and popcorn, they snap.
"We don't eat cabbage, you fucking fucks!" Mayani screams, hurling the cabbage at the crew.
The crew dodges the fusillade of wet, steaming cabbage, and it splatters onto the decks and wheelhouse of the Makushin Bay.

As cabbage explodes out of the Cougar Ace, Habib checks his pendulum again and sees that it's still moving: 34 degrees, then 28 degrees and counting.

By the end of the second day of pumping, the Cougar Ace is upright.
A few days later, the owners come aboard to reclaim the ship.
What initially seemed like a lost cause is now floating freely.
It did not sink.
Ninety-nine percent of its cargo is intact.
There was no environmental disaster.

Soon, a payment of more than $10 million is wired to Titan's account.

For more than a year, the 4,703 Cougar Ace Mazdas sit in a huge parking lot in Portland, Oregon.
Then, in February 2008, the cars are loaded one by one onto an 8-foot-wide conveyor belt.
It lifts them 40 feet and drops them inside a Texas Shredder, a 50-foot-tall, hulking blue-and-yellow machine that sits on a 2.5-acre concrete pad.
Inside the machine, 26 hammers—weighing 1,000 pounds each—smash each car into fist-sized pieces in two seconds.
The chunks are then spit out the back side.
Though most of the cars appeared to be unharmed, they had spent two weeks at a 60-degree angle.
Mazda can't be sure that something isn't wrong with them.
Will the air bags function properly? Will the engines work flawlessly throughout the warranty period? Rather than risk lawsuits down the line, Mazda has decided to scrap the entire shipment.

Habib and the guys don't really give a damn.
In the 16 months since they saved the Cougar Ace, the team has done laps around the globe.
They pulled a stranded oil derrick off the world's most remote island, 1,700 miles west of South Africa.
Then they wrangled a 1,000-foot container ship off a sandbar in Mexico and rescued a loaded propane tanker in the middle of a Caribbean storm.

But none of the men will forget the Cougar Ace.
When Mayani does shots of Bacardi at clubs in Miami Beach, he sometimes thinks back to the first time he saw the car carrier floating sideways on the sea.
It gives him a chill until the rum takes hold.
For Stender, it's the same.
Trepte is the only one who doesn't seem affected.

"Listen, mate, all I do is crazy shit," he says, on a cell phone from his bungalow on Trinidad.
"You get used to it."

But Habib doesn't get used to it—Johnson's death still weighs on him.
When Titan asks him to attend a CPR refresher course, he arrives solemnly in the hotel conference room near the Fort Lauderdale airport.
The instructor lays out a few plastic dolls on the carpeted floor and asks Habib to demonstrate his technique.
A couple of other Titan employees in attendance joke that the emaciated mannequins resemble some prostitutes they met on a recent job in Russia.
Habib doesn't smile.
He doesn't join their laughter.
He kneels down beside one of the pale forms, breathes into its mouth, and tries to bring it back to life.
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