Category Archives: Sailing

Somali Pirates Steal Russian Tanks

It is interesting to think about the lack of defenses used to guard a ship full of weapons, including tanks. The BBC reports:

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said the captain of the Faina cargo ship had reported being surrounded by three boats of armed men on Thursday afternoon

Defence Minister Yury Yekhanurov confirmed that 33 Russian T-72 tanks and “a substantial quantity of ammunition” were aboard.

The Faina sailed under a Belize flag and seems to have had no armed support or defenses. The US and Ethiopia can not be happy about this. It is no small problem, however, especially with the Somalis now managing a substantial budget for attacks while the US is all tied up with Iraq, Georgia and facing serious economic shortfalls:

Pirates have seized dozens of ships from the major shipping routes near Somalia’s coast in recent months.

Senior UN officials estimate the ransoms they earn from hijacking ships exceed $100m (£54m) a year.

This is all too familiar. I seem to remember the peak of the British empire came as Pirates increasingly challenged them on the high seas.


from “Salt-Water Ballads” by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life.
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Stiletto: Ultra-light Wave-piercing Navy Ship

The story from the almost defunct Office of Force Transformation is that carbon fiber and wave-piercing tunnel hulls can achieve great efficiencies. This is very different from the old style of “shock and awe” city-sized mega-ships:

Stiletto is an 80 by 40 foot wave piercing hull built entirely of carbon fiber. It’s unique “M-Hull” shape (See figure 1) is designed to channel is the energy that normally is produced as wake in a conventional V-Hull craft up under the craft into tunnels created by the M-shaped hull form. […] Capable of speeds up to 50 knots, the craft passively lifts itself out of the water about a foot as it speeds along reducing drag.

So here you have a 60 ton, 88 foot long, 40 foot wide $6M ship launched in 2005. It is said to be in active duty fighting drug cartels. Awesome.

This is the A-Class of Navy warships. Sure they have short range, but nothing puts a smile on your face like efficiency on the water.

Here is the most interesting part:

The wave action and resulting rough ride of the V-Hull has, over the years, taken their toll on these SEALs such that nearly a third of them are medically discharged within just 10 years of service due to the pounding G-forces applied to their bodies.

Is that true? Soldiers can only make it 10 years if they ride on V-Hull boats?

The pounding and crashing from fast-speeds over waves seems quite different to me than G-force effects that drain blood, for example. I mean people already have isolated the issue of hull pounding and solved much of it with foils that lift, no?

In similar news the BOR90 continues to amaze everyone with its efficiency:

While sailing upwind in no more than 9 knots of breeze, they heeled the boat enough to sail on only the leeward float, making even speed with our media boat at roughly 26 knots.

Converting less than 10 knots of wind into 26 knots of speed on the water is cool. The top speed of this thing is expected to break 50 knots, which means (aside from rough weather) it could take on the Stilleto with none of the fuel issues. And it cost $60/lb to build, which is a mere $10/lb more than the Stilleto. Larry Ellison is definitely the type of guy to spend more than the Pentagon on a boat.

Just to re-iterate, the future of vessels clearly is in ultra-light wave-piercing multi-hulls. The V is as dated as the SUV…then again I do not see many people ready to convert to a more efficient model.

Might take a decade or so before we see widespread changes. Imagine Navy fleets of high-speed drone swarms launched from tubes instead of carriers with decks and associated destroyers, and two-seaters that snap together for high-speeds and communicate with one another to navigate.

Pirates Thriving in Somalia

Somali pirates are making money and investing it into better pirate technology, according to the BBC

Observers say pirates made about $30m from ransom payments last year – far more than the annual budget of Puntland, which is about $20m.

When the president of Puntland, Adde Musa, was asked about the reported wealth of pirates and their associates, he said: “It’s more than true”.

Now that they are making so much money, these 21st Century pirates can afford increasingly sophisticated weapons and speedboats.

This means that unless more is done to stop them, they will continue to plunder the busy shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden.

I wonder whether the cost of lost ships, let alone security for ships, is above $30m. The article mentions 30% of the world’s oil is shipped near Somalia.

Another question is whether America can afford to allow the country of Somalia to stabilize as an Islamic state, or whether they will continue to destabilize the region and leave the pirates a home.