Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Fisherman clash with police

Police guard France's agricultural ministry against protesting fishermen 21/05/08
French police guarded the ministry from angry fishermen

French fishermen have clashed with police in Paris as they stepped up protests over rising fuel costs.

Protesters threw flares and police fired tear gas outside the agriculture ministry, where Minister Michel Barnier was meeting fishing unions.

Ferry traffic with the UK has also ground to a halt, with fishing fleets blockading several French ports.

Meanwhile, a major strike against President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reforms is set to begin.

Workers are due to walk out for 36 hours, starting on Wednesday evening, to protest against government plans to make people work 41 years, rather then the current 40, before being able to draw a full pension.

Price cap

The fishermen's blockade began more than a week ago, and was originally confined to a few ports like La Rochelle on the west coast.

But it spread until, on Wednesday, Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk on the north coast, all serving cross-Channel ferry services to Britain, were isolated by a ring of fishing boats.

The fishermen say rapidly rising prices for diesel threaten them with bankruptcy. They are demanding a greater subsidy from the government, in effect putting a cap on prices.

In January the government approved an aid package for fishermen worth 310m euros (£248m) over three years.

Mr Barnier is seeking approval from the EU commission to give state aid to the sector.

But fishermen say that agreement is redundant, since fuel has become 30% more expensive since the start of the year.

As the minister met union representatives in Paris on Wednesday, as many as 200 fishermen gathered outside.

Dozens of flares were thrown, injuring up to four policemen, according to reports.

Riot police surrounded the building and responded with tear gas.

Sarkozy confident

The fishermen's protest came as the government is facing industrial action from various sectors.

French teachers protest against proposed cuts in Paris
French teachers say cuts in numbers affect quality

Port workers plan a strike for Thursday against privatisation - which is likely to exacerbate the problems caused by the fishing blockade.

Thursday will also see major action by rail, postal, utility and other public sector workers across France.

They are protesting against plans to extend the retirement age.

It follows a teachers' strike against job cuts last week.

Unions are hoping that a head of steam is building up against Mr Sarkozy's economic reform plans, says BBC correspondent Hugh Schofield in Paris.

But the president has so far made the calculation that most people accept the changes that he has promised, and there is no sign of him backing down, says our correspondent.

--From the BBC

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hole torn in £330m Cunard liner

The whole ripped into the stern of the Queen Victoria
Repairs are due to be carried out during the night.
A hole has been ripped into the stern of a £300m luxury British cruise liner as it crashed while docking in Malta.

Cunard's Queen Victoria, which was named by the Duchess of Cornwall in Southampton in December, hit the quay at Valletta.

None of the 1,887 passengers onboard was injured in the crash.

"The ship touched the quay as she was berthing and sustained some damage which is now being assessed," said Cunard president Carol Marlow.

The 90,000-ton ship, which Cunard says is its most luxurious, boasts seven restaurants, three swimming pools, a 6,000-book library and a casino.

The previous three Cunard "queens" were named or launched by reigning queens.

The three Cunard "queens" in Southampton
Queen Victoria was recently joined by the QE2 and QM2 in Southampton
But the champagne bottle used in Queen Victoria's naming ceremony failed to break against the ship, regarded in maritime circles as bad luck.

Cunard said the damage was being assessed and that repairs were under way and should be completed during the night.

"This will necessitate the cancellation of the call at La Goulette in Tunisia which the ship was due to visit tomorrow but its expected call to Gibraltar on the 17 May will go ahead as planned.

"Cunard will be compensating guests for the disruption to their voyage," a spokesman said.

Queen Victoria will eventually replace the 40-year-old QE2, which is being decommissioned and turned into a floating hotel in Dubai from 2009.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Giant Starfish, Lilly Fields Found in Antarctic Waters

Well-Fed Starfish
Well-Fed Starfish

March 21, 2008 -- Scientists who conducted the most comprehensive survey to date of New Zealand's Antarctic waters were surprised by the size of some specimens found, including jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles and 2-foot-wide starfish.

A 2,000-mile journey through the Ross Sea that ended Thursday has also potentially turned up several new species, including as many as eight new mollusks.

It's "exciting when you come across a new species," said Chris Jones, a fisheries scientist at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "All the fish people go nuts about that -- but you have to take it with a grain of salt."

The finds must still be reviewed by experts to determine if they are in fact new, said Stu Hanchet, a fisheries scientist at New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research.

But beyond the discovery of new species, scientists said the survey, the most comprehensive to date in the Ross Sea, turned up other surprises.

Hanchet singled out the discovery of "fields" of sea lilies that stretched for hundreds of yards across the ocean floor.

"Some of these big meadows of sea lilies I don't think anybody has seen before," Hanchet said.

Previously only small-scale scientific samplings have been staged in the Ross Sea.

The survey was part of the International Polar Year program involving 23 countries in 11 voyages to survey marine life and habitats around Antarctica. The program hopes to set benchmarks for determining the effects of global warming on Antarctica, researchers said.

Large sea spiders, jellyfish with 12-foot tentacles, huge sea snails and starfish the size of big food platters were found during a 50-day voyage, marine scientist Don Robertson said.

Cold temperatures, a small number of predators, high levels of oxygen in the sea water and even longevity could explain the size of some specimens, said Robertson, a scientist with NIWA.

Robertson added that of the 30,000 specimens collected, hundreds might turn out to be new species.

Stefano Schiaparelli, a mollusk specialist at Italy's National Antarctic Museum in Genoa, said he thought the find would yield at least eight new mollusks.

"This is a new brick in the wall of Antarctic knowledge," Schiaparelli said.

Ray Lilley, Associated Press

Friday, February 29, 2008

From Power Cruising, April 2008

“Many people have written books about chucking their stressful careers and moving aboard a boat. Most of these are amateurish travelogues that fail to inspire or touch the reader. Not so Mary South's THE CURE FOR ANYTHING IS SALT WATER (a quote from Isak Dinesen). This is an honest, open, wonderfully written story of personal discovery, in which the author embraces a relationship with boats and the sea, using her new perspective to reexamine relationships with friends and lovers, past and present.”

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wave Runner

A new propulsion system for boats ditches the diesel

Going the Distance: Captain Ken-ichi Horie, aboard the Suntory Mermaid II, prepares to travel solo 4,350 miles from Hawaii to Japan on wave power alone. Photo by S. Yamada

This month, 69-year-old Japanese sailor Ken-ichi Horie will attempt to captain the world’s most advanced wave-powered boat 4,350 miles from Hawaii to Japan. If all goes as planned, he’ll set the first Guinness world record for the longest distance traveled by a wave-powered boat and, along the way, show off the greenest nautical propulsion system since the sail.

A simple spring system enables twin fins beneath the bow of the Suntory to move up and down with the incoming waves and pull the boat forward.
At the heart of the record-setting bid is the Suntory Mermaid II, a three-ton catamaran made of recycled aluminum alloy that turns wave energy into thrust. Two fins mounted side by side beneath the bow move up and down with the incoming waves and generate dolphin-like kicks that propel the boat forward. “Waves are a negative factor for a ship—they slow it down,” says Yutaka Terao, an engineering professor at Tokai University in Japan who designed the boat’s propulsion system. “But the Suntory can transform wave energy into propulsive power regardless of where the wave comes from.”

Horie’s latest adventure builds on a storied career of eco-sailing. In 1993 he pedaled a boat 4,660 miles, from Hawaii to Okinawa, setting a world record for the longest distance traveled by a pedal-powered boat.

In 1996 he set the world record for the fastest crossing of the Pacific Ocean in a solar-powered boat. And in 1999, he made a solo trip across the Pacific in a catamaran made from recycled beer barrels.
With a maximum speed of five knots, the Suntory will take two to three months to complete a voyage that diesel-powered craft accomplish in just one. But speed is not the point. The voyage aims to prove that wave propulsion can work under real-world conditions, opening up the technology for commercial applications such as cargo shipping. “Oil is a limited power source,” Horie says, “but there is no limit to waves.”

How to Ride Waves Across the Pacific

Electricity A set of eight solar panels produces 560 watts to run the navigation lights, ham radio, satellite phone and PC.

Propulsion Dual fins set in a side-by-side configuration beneath the bow convert wave energy into a dolphin-like kick that can propel the three-ton boat at five knots.

Stability The fins absorb energy from the rocking of the boat to help make the propulsion more efficient.

Hull The outer hull, only three millimeters thick, is made of a durable recycled-aluminum alloy.

Outboard Motor Reserved for extreme emergencies.


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