Rik van Hemmen's blog

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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Rik van Hemmen's picture
Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Deep Culture

At Martin & Ottaway occasionaly we see all aspects of our culture come together in a single project. This photo pays witness to such an event.

 

Consider:

 

The Engineering Attitude: We can do this, we have the tools, and we sure don't need to use the written instructions.

Frugality: Why pay for chair assembly if we have junior staff? read more »

Last week I found myself in Skagway on a cruise ship stop and hopped a ride on the White Pass & Yukon railroad. This railroad was a vital connection between the Pacific and the Yukon River gold fields. It starts in Skagway, the most northeast corner of the Alaskan Inside Passage, goes through the White Pass and then makes it to Whitehorse, Canada where it connects to the Yukon River system.

 

 

Today the White Pass and Yukon is a tourist railroad that provides a beautiful narrow gauge railroad ride through White Pass and has some of the steepest railroad grades and dramatic mountain rail engineering in the world, but, besides that, it was also a major player in the development of intermodal transportation.

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I just read Jill Lepore’s excellent article about disruption and innovation. She very carefully tears apart some recent trendy thinking about innovation and pretty much concludes that one cannot predict where innovation or disruptive technologies will come from and that, inevitably, any innovation or disruptive technology will pretty much find itself in the buggy whip maker position sooner or later.

 

In her article she provides a fascinating sidebar comment by noting that the term innovation used to be considered to be a somewhat negative term and in the early 20th century it was more common to call the march of mankind: Progress of mankind.

 

She describes it as follows:

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