accountability · Maritime · Maritime Heritage · responsibility · ships · Tradition

Ships, Captains and Leaders

Crisis Accountability and Responsibility

This is the story of two ships, their masters and how they reacted in the aftermath of a mishap. You have heard of the Costa Concordia; a ship with state-of-the-art navigation and communications technology. The other ship was a 1637 ton sailing barque that lost all its masts in a storm off the Falkland Islands in December 1905.

So, at face value nothing in common; different times and ships, part of the world as well as type and cause of the accident.  Even the ending is different: the sailing ships managed to limp into Montevideo harbor after 46 days with its valuable cargo of nitrates intact.

What they have in common are the culture, values and traditions of the two masters and crews. So, how could their behavior and performance after their respective mishaps have been so different.

There are of course many reasons but the one that is key is the role of a ship’s captain, and for that matter any business or government leader, in the 21st century compared to 100 years ago.

Today a ship and its captain are pretty much on automatic pilot; in fact, many decisions are made off the ship in an office somewhere where “managers” decide on a course of action. While maintaining objective responsibility, a captain is reduced to a mere figurehead.

The captain of that other ship was the ultimate decision maker. He had no choice, being so far away from home and for long periods of time. He and the ship owner shared in the risk and responsibility as well as in the rewards in the event of a successful voyage. In other words: total accountability!

Technical issues aside, this could be a determining factor in the performance aboard ship and in the conduct of a business, a government or a nonprofit institution.

Systems with diffused power and limited liability have major advantages but, as with the economic crisis of the last several years, they also lead to disasters with long term consequences for everyone.

A century ago the captain had every incentive to perform. He also had total responsibility and the unconditional allegiance of the crew; the ultimate team effort with a clear leader! Today’s captains are salaried employees. Nothing wrong with a salaried employee but who are the real de-facto captains of today’s ships? The implication is that today’s highly trained and sophisticated managers do not take responsibility by design. They have a job to do and they do it extremely well. Under this scenario, when something goes wrong it is difficult to establish accountability and assign responsibility. More importantly, it takes a long time to determine the causes of a problem and make the necessary adjustments.

Note: The captain of the sailing ship was this writer’s grandfather.

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Lake Charles Louisiana

Creole and Cajun Traditions Mardi Gras and a Pirate Festival

Lake Charles, also known as Port of Jean Lafitte, River Lafitte and Charleston, was founded by merchants and tradesmen as an outpost. Located on a level plain about 30 miles (48 km) from the Gulf of Mexico with an elevation of 13 feet (4.0 m) on the banks of the Calcasieu River in Southwestern Louisiana, it borders Lake Charles, Prien Lake, Henderson, English and Contraband Bayou.

ryan street lake charles 1903Creole and Cajun Traditions the local culture includes the Lake Charles Symphony, founded in 1938, that hosts concerts at the Rosa Hart Theatre and the Lake Charles Little Theatre. The Imperial Calcasieu Museum features a permanent historical exhibit with artifacts, an art gallery and is home to the 400 years old Sallier oak tree. Historic City Hall Arts and Cultural Center hosts the Charlestown Farmers’ Market and the USS Orleck Naval Museum, located in North Lake Charles is a Veterans memorial and museum.

Historical Charpentier District is named for the carpenter-architects who built the mixed-style homes in the district. It features the Black Heritage Art Gallery, which is on the Louisiana African American Trail and the Mardi Gras Museum of Imperial Calcasieu with the largest collection of Mardi Gras memorabilia in the South.

arts and culture centerThe Louisiana Pirate Festival is a twelve-day annual festival held during the first two weeks of May. The celebrations are filled with savory Cajun food, family fun, and live entertainment. Following the legend of piracy on the lake and Contraband Bayou, the festival begins with pirate Jean Lafitte and his crew capturing the city and forcing the mayor to walk the plank.

Ocean-going Ships Sail from the Gulf of Mexico via the Calcasieu Ship Channel

The Port of Lake Charles is the thirteenth-busiest in the United States, the fourth-largest liner service seaport in the U.S. Gulf, and a major West Gulf container load center. The Calcasieu Ship Channel provides direct access to the Gulf of Mexico 34 miles (55 km) downstream. The ship channel intersects the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway just north of Calcasieu Lake.

henderson bayouPublic Transportation Lake Charles Transit provides five bus routes throughout the city which is also served by an intercity bus station and Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train route.

Industry petrochemical plants, an oil refinery and facilities for LNG receipt, storage, and regasification are located along the Calcasieu Ship Channel. Local industry also includes companies which services airplanes and a facility which manufactures and exports parts for nuclear power plants.

Commerce Lake Charles serves as the shopping and retail hub for a five-parish area. The Cottage Shop District is home to a dozen small businesses and the L’Auberge du Lac Casino offers upscale boutiques.

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Havre de Grace Maryland

rivers canals an historic district museums local artisans an underground railroad

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHavre de Grace is at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of Chesapeake Bay. It is named after the French port city of Le Havre – the Harbor of Grace. During the Revolutionary War, the small hamlet known as Harmer’s Town was visited by General Lafayette who commented that the area reminded him of the French seaport.

George Washington stayed overnight in the town in 1789 on the journey to New York City for his first inauguration. During the First Congress in 1789, Havre de Grace missed by only one vote being named the capital of the fledgling United States.

Early Industry in Havre de Grace included oyster and crab harvesting as well as fruit orchards. Products were shipped to markets along the East Coast and upriver.  Havre de Grace became known for duck hunting, and was a seasonal destination for hunters who hired local guides to escort them hunting on the river and along the bay.

Havre de GraceLocal Artisans Made High Quality Decoys on Display in the City’s Decoy Museum

The Southern Terminus of the Susquehanna and Tidewater Canal bypassed difficult navigational areas of the lower Susquehanna River between Havre de Grace and Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, where it connected to the Pennsylvania Canal. It was built between 1836–1840. The Lock Keeper’s house and remnants of the canal exist today as a museum.

The Underground Railroad Havre de Grace was a primary town on the Eastern Route as slaves crossed the Susquehanna to havens in Pennsylvania, on the way to Philadelphia and New York. By the 1860s, a large population of free African Americans had settled in the town, supporting independent artisans, as well as jobs associated with shipping on the river, canal and the railroads.

The Seneca Cannery, currently an antique shop, is a very good example of a late 19th century brick industrial building with its classical facade and massive stone buttresses on the rear. Many patents followed the opening of the S. J. Seneca Cannery: 1901, The Baling-press; 1905, The Cooker and the Tomato Scalder; 1917, Improved Tomato Scalder and the Can-opener; 1918, Tomato Peeling Machine.

HdG maritime museumThe Central Business District was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Havre de Grace Historic District, which recognizes its architecture and historic fabric. A variety of museums help explain and interpret the city’s rich maritime past and present: the Decoy Museum, the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, Concord Point Lighthouse, the Lockhouse Museum, the Black wetland restorationEyed Susan paddle steamer. Havre de Grace also claims a renovated seaplane port.

The Environment the town is located on a freshwater wetland, tidal cove, and small forested area teeming with species of flora and fauna; the backdrop for generations of inhabitants, from the earliest Native tribes to the first European colonists in the 1600s, to today’s thriving 21st century community.

The Maritime Museum is a 10,000 square foot, three-story modern building adjacent to Concord Point Heritage Corridor, Havre de Grace’s historic district spanning five waterfront acres and a designated attraction on the National Park Service’s John Smith and Star Spangled Banner Trails.

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Paducah Kentucky

trade transportation arts and culture

Paducah is located at the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers, between St Louis and Nashville. The city is the hub of a micropolitan area comprising Kentucky and Illinois counties. First settled in 1821 and laid out by William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, it was named Padoucas, the word for Comanche from a Spanish transliteration.

Paducah ViewTrade and Transportation

A River and Rail Economy was the key to Paducah’s development as a port, a red brick making factory, a foundry for making rail and locomotive components and dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats comprised the town infrastructure. Thanks to its proximity to coal fields, Paducah was the home port for barge companies and an important railway hub connecting Chicago with the Gulf of Mexico.

Broadway Main StreetThe Paducah-McCraken County River Port Authority provides maritime services for the rural regions of Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, and Northwestern Tennessee. It specializes in bulk, agricultural and containerized cargoes. The agency specializes in bulk, agricultural, general and containerized cargoes, and operates a Foreign Trade Zone in the only Marine Highway Designation on the Ohio River and the only Marine Highway port on the river that is designated for container service.

Arts and Culture

Ephemera workshopThe National Quilt Museum is a cultural destination that attracts quilters and art enthusiasts to the Paducah area. The museum features professional quilt and fiber art exhibits that are rotated throughout the year and is the largest single tourist attraction in the city.

Paducah is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network

The Paducah Wall to Wall program was begun by mural artists on the downtown floodwall in 1996; over 50 murals address subjects ranging from Native American history, river barges, steamboats and local African-American heritage.

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Chesapeake Bay and the Eastern Shore

history geology hydrology fishing and the environment

Chesapeake Bay is an estuary and the largest such body in the contiguous United States and is a very important feature for the ecology and economy of the Middle Atlantic Region. More than 150 major rivers and streams flow into the bay’s 64,299-square-mile – 166,534 km2 covering parts of six states.

Thomas Point Lighthouse Chesapeake BayHistory in 1524, Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano sailed past the Chesapeake, but did not enter the bay. Spanish explorers may have been the first Europeans to explore parts of the bay which they named Bay of the Mother of God. In the late 16th century the British founded a colony and Captain John Smith explored and mapped it between 1607 and 1609. The first designated all-water National Historic Trail was created in 2006 following Smith’s historic 17th century voyage.

The Eastern Shore is home to crabbers, oyster men, gentlemen-farmers and sharecroppers, boat builders and antiques dealers. Activities include fishing, crabbing, swimming, boating, kayaking and sailing.

ChesapeakeTidal WetlandsGeology and Hydrology the bay was formed starting about 10,000 years ago when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age flooded the Susquehanna River valley.  Much of the bay is shallow; it is approximately 200 miles – 320 km – long and 2.8 miles – 4.5 km – wide at its narrowest and 30 miles – 48 km – at its widest point. Average depth is 21 feet – 6.4 m. Because the bay is an estuary, it has fresh water, salt water and brackish water.

SkipjackFishing once employed up to nine thousand water men and their skip jacks, the only remaining sailing work boats in US waters, engaged in the seafood production of blue crabs, clams and oysters. Now, runoffs from farms and urban areas, over-harvesting and foreign species invasions have made the bay less productive. Oyster farming helps maintain the estuary’s productivity and is a natural effort for filtering impurities and reduce the amount of nitrogen compounds entering Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake watershedEnvironment in the 1970s, Chesapeake Bay was discovered to contain marine dead zones – waters depleted of oxygen and unable to support life – that weaken the base of the estuary and its food source.

The runoff and pollution have many components that help contribute to the algal bloom which is mainly fed by phosphorus and nitrogen. Algae prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the bay while alive and de-oxygenates the bay’s water when it dies and rots. Also, the over-harvesting of oysters has made it difficult for them to reproduce, which requires close-proximity to one another. The depletion of oysters has had a particularly harmful effect on the quality of the bay as they serve as natural water filters, and their decline has further reduced the water quality of the bay.

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The Ohio River

American River Trails

The Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh. From there, it flows northwest before making an abrupt turn to the southwest at the Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania border. The Ohio then follows a roughly west-northwest course until Cincinnati, before bending southwest for the remainder of its journey through the US Midwest and joining the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. The 981 mile – 1,579 km – river flows through or along the border of six states; its basin includes parts of 15 states. The Ohio’s largest tributary is the Tennessee River.

Evansville IndianaOhio means the Good River in Iroquoian

History the Ohio was important to Native Americans as several civilizations formed along its valley and used it as a transport and trading route.  In the five centuries before European conquest, the Ohio Valley was characterized by numerous regional chiefdoms and earthwork mounds. In 1669, French explorers became the first Europeans to see it; later, it became a primary transportation route for pioneers during the westward expansion.

Lawrenceburg IndianaDuring the 19th century, the Ohio was the southern boundary of the Northwest Territory and the western end of the Mason-Dixon Line forming the border between free and slave states; it was the way to freedom for thousands of slaves escaping through the Underground Railroad resistance movement.

Steamboat Morning Star 1858Economy trading boats and ships traveled south on the Mississippi to reach the Gulf coast and ports in the Americas and Europe providing an export route for goods. The need for access to the port of New Orleans by settlers in the Ohio Valley led to the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Connections with Eastern states increased with the start of railroad service connecting the Potomac River and the Ohio Valley.

The Widest Point on the Ohio River is One Mile just west of downtown Louisville

Donna York Tug BargeLouisville is your anchor location for travel in the Midwest. Centrally located along the Ohio River, it is one America’s most accessible cities, within a day’s drive of more than half the nation’s population. Louisville was founded at the only major natural navigational barrier on the river. The Falls were a series of rapids where the river dropped 26 feet – 7.9 m. The Louisville and Portland Canal locks were built to circumnavigate the falls between 1825 and 1830.

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Historic Ships in Baltimore Harbor

Located within easy walking distance of each other in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, the US Sloop-of-War Constellation, the US Submarine Torsk, the US Coast Guard Cutter Taney, and the Lightship Chesapeake exhibit life at sea from the mid-19th century to the mid 1980’s.  Also included in the collection is the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse which marked the entrance to the Patapsco River and Baltimore Harbor for over 130 years.

USS ConstellationRestoration One of the most essential functions of Historic Ships in Baltimore is the ongoing maintenance and restoration of our ships.  The Museum’s dedicated Maintenance & Restoration staff and volunteers work to ensure that these national treasures survive for future generations.

Collections consist of approximately 50,000 objects, photographs and documents. These artifacts tell the stories not only of the ships and lighthouse, but of the thousands of brave sailors for whom these historic sites were a duty post, a home, and a way of life. New items, often donated by former crew members and their descendants, are rotated into exhibits so there are opportunities to see something new in future visits.

On Board Activities

Pier 1: USS Constellation Your first stop may be Pier 1 and an exploration of the Museum Gallery where USS Constellation’s history is portrayed through artifacts and personal effects which belonged to the ship’s crew. Once on board, uniformed crewmembers can answer questions and help to make your experience a memorable one.  There are four decks to explore: the top or spar deck is where all sailing operations took place; the next deck down is the gun deck where the ship’s main battery of guns, the Captain’s Cabin and the Galley are located.  Exploring further you will reach the berth deck where most of the crew lived and socialized and going down one more ladder you will be in the ship’s hold where food, water and gear for a crew of 325 was stowed.

chesapeake lightshipPier 3: USS Torsk & Lightship 116 Chesapeake Living on board a lightship was no picnic.  Long boring days sitting on station and terrifying nights in storms made for a duty that took a very special person to fulfill.  While on board Chesapeake you can see the exhibit on sailor’s Canine Companions. The US Submarine Torsk is a highlight of the Historic Ships collection.  Traversing the boat from stern to bow you will view the torpedo rooms, the navigation station, the operation station, the engine room, the crews mess and crew berthing areas – over eighty sailors lived aboard and the only way to pass someone was to turn sideways.

Pier 5: USCGC Taney & Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse Taney was decommissioned in Baltimore in 1986 and remains much as the Coast Guard left her.  The tour takes you around the deck to the bridge and below decks to the berthing areas, mess deck, the wardroom (officer’s quarters) and back onto the fantail. The Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse contains an extensive exhibit on the building of the light as well as information on lighthouses around the Chesapeake region.  Built in 1856, it is one of the oldest Chesapeake lighthouses still in existence.

Education Programs

The Historic Ships Overnight Programs provide an immersive hands-on historic experience with a twenty-first century applicability that encourages team-work, problem solving, and learning.

walk in the footsteps of sailors and learn about life aboard ship

USCGC TaneyUSCGC Taney an immersive, hands-on experience aboard a WWII veteran that saw action in the Atlantic and Pacific.   Activities encourage teamwork, communications skills, and quick thinking.  Learn first-hand about signaling at sea, steam engines and propulsion, shipboard damage control, and navigation.

USS Torsk a hands-on experience aboard a WWII fleet submarine.  Learn about things that are unique to submarines including periscopes, torpedoes, buoyancy and how submarines manage to exist below the surface.

USS Constellation walk in the footsteps of sailors and learn about life aboard a mid-19th century, U.S. Navy warship.  Participants become Landsmen, USS Constellation’s newest crew members.  Overnight recruits “learn the ropes” and quickly develop both a working nautical vocabulary and a familiarity with the basics of life aboard a man-of-war including Civil War-era dining, hands-on activities, and the navy hammock.

Guided Tours

Educational ProgramsShip as a Machine a walking tour with demonstrations and one hands-on activity (Bracing the Yards). This tour examines the purpose, design, and construction of sailing warships and focuses on those aspects of Constellation’s build that make her uniquely suited for the role she played. Basic questions are answered such as: If the wind blows to the right, why does not the ship move to the right; what keeps the ship from turning over in the water; how are war-ships built differently than merchant ships.

historic ships in baltimore educational programsConstellation Fights the Slave Trade her proudest service may have occurred during the three years immediately before the Civil War when, as flagship of the navy’s African Squadron, she led this nation’s fight against the trans-Atlantic trafficking of slaves.

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