Rik van Hemmen's blog

Rik van Hemmen's picture
Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Ryszard Kaczmarek Can Do!


Maybe too often do we tout the power of interning and mentoring, but this week we received a heartwarming note from one of our past interns which started as follows:


Since you deserve a partial credit for your support, I thought you would want me to share this great news I received last week.


The attachment in that email shows that our 1990’s Virginia Tech AOE intern, Ryszard Kaczmarek has been selected as Naval Sea Systems Command 2015 Engineer of the Year and is a Federal Engineer of the Year Finalist.


Today Rich is a Naval Construction Battalion Lieutenant Commander. That makes him a Seabee and therefore makes him the acme of “Can Do!”.

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True or not, this joke is attributed to Abraham Lincoln:


A farmer’s young son comes running into the house.


Out of breath he says: “Pa, Pa, the hired hand and Sis are in the hayloft. The hired hand has dropped his pants and Sis has pulled up her skirt! Pa, I think they are fixin’ to pee on the hay.”


The farmer says: “Son your facts are correct, but your conclusion is all wrong.”

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Note: I posed a question at the bottom of the original blog and in August 2016 added two book to the bottom of the list in response.


Books are fun, but very occasionally I have encountered books that have actually changed my understanding of humanity and the world.


Only a very small number of books actually unlocked pieces in my life’s puzzle, and helped me decode complex problems a little quicker and indentify false truths.


This is the short list of those books. (In parentheses I added the approximate date I read them and how I found out about them):


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The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has provided seed funding to the "Two States One Port Campaign", but to fully operate the Lettie G. Howard requires a budget of $600,000 per year.

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Maritime education is an incredibly powerful educational tool. While it does not necessarily have to be a path to maritime employment, it is always an effective path to provide Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Philosophy, History, Language and Arts (STEMPHLA) education.


The Lettie G. Howard project has a straightforward focus: Provide students with a tool to learn as quickly and effectively as possible by bringing them aboard a very significant vessel in one of the world's most stimulating maritime settings.  



I recently joined the Lettie for a weekend cruise and was one of 21 souls aboard. 


On my trip the vessel complement consisted of:

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Rik van Hemmen's picture
Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Dungeon Art (TBT)

Our office has a real dungeon where we keep our unused art, our extra gear, our historical records and our completed files.


Inevitably we need to clean out the dungeon when we no longer have space for the completed files and that means we literally get rid of dumpster loads of reports, depositions, shipping documents, drawings, manuals and photos.


We handle every file before it gets tossed because some of these files contain real treasures. Some files actually are moved completely to our historical section where they are kept forever and, undoubtedly, some of those files will show up in future TBTs.


At the last dungeon clean-out I came across this 1994 Henk van Hemmen sketch of an issue that was resolved long ago:


There are still many in the marine industry who remember Henk's technical sketching read more »


The general public’s awareness of maritime continues to be elusive. People without exposure to maritime have a vague notion of what ships do, but the knowledge is almost always superficial. Maritime is complex and therefore it takes a large investment to become deeply familiar with the dynamics of maritime in all its facets.


This made me wonder if it would be possible to make a list of 10 books that provides a strong introduction to maritime. These are not the 10 best maritime books, but rather a collection of books that contain a large part of the information that provides the reader with an understanding of the length, breadth, dynamics and human aspects of maritime. They are not listed in order of quality or importance, but rather in a roughly chronological fashion. While there may be fictitious characters or events in some of these books, the maritime details in these books all are true and correct and thereby are great sources for acquiring real maritime knowledge.


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Our intern Matt Stern is guest blogging on some background research he did at our office on hydrogen fuel before he gets ready to start his junior year at the Bronx High School of Science:




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Wood is a truly wonderful material, not just for its beauty, but also for its excellent engineering characteristics. While wood technology has been around for thousands of years for boat construction purposes, wood technology is still developing today.


In August of 1999, Woodenboat magazine published an article on a novel type of wooden mast construction. Masts originally were tree trunks. Tree trunks themselves are very efficient engineering structures, but for many centuries it has been known that a hollow tree is not much weaker than a solid tree. Similarly a hollow mast also is not much weaker than a solid mast and much lighter. And in sailboat design light is good and light weight high in the boat is awesome.


Therefore hollow masts were a feature of the fanciest wooden sailboats for many years, and with epoxy glues it became possible to glue together fancy hollow masts and hollow wooden masts were quite common. But still, not until the 1999 Woodenboat article did the boatbuilding world become aware of a very clever approach to hollow mast building that is now generally referred to as bird’s mouth mast construction.


If you look at the crosssection of the mast the term is obvious since it looks like a bunch of bird’s beaks biting their neighbors.  read more »

A Time magazine article by Leigh Gallagher highlights a problem that we deal with on a daily basis but that pretty much stays just below our awareness horizon. In the article Mr. Gallagher describes a professional epiphany of a town engineer with regard to town planning codes that exhibits itself as suburban sprawl.


The issue is simple; every piece of infrastructure that is built to support a community needs to be maintained. Infrastructure on a large flat scale, as is common in suburbs, inherently is larger per capita than in more compactly arranged communities and therefore more expensive to maintain. (Maritime, on the other hand, only incurs terminal infrastructure investment and maintenance costs. The maritime highway infrastructure is essentially free). The article describes how this sprawl results in unmanageable infrastructure maintenance costs, but the solution is all around us.


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