The Nautical World...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tom Toby, Chairman Special Recognition Award at Texas A&M Galveston Research Symposium 2011

Last Thursday I entered a Research Symposium at Texas A&M Galveston. The crowd of supporters, curious spectators, and judges was awesome! I really had a great time telling everybody about my project and answering all the questions, in fact, I wish they would have never stopped! I felt I was really able to relate my experience in dory building whether their background was in business, science, or anything else.

That really was my goal in this research. I wanted to show the relationship between man and boat and how it pertains to everyone. Wooden boats were the vessels that represented man's first experiments with fluid dynamics--whether it be water or air. Scientists got their start by accompanying a ship as a surgeon. In turn they were able to study the flora and fauna of the far reaches of the world. This analogy can follow every specialization because the gap between man and the water was ultimately bridged by a wooden vessel. I had a great time imparting my passion for all things maritime and deeply appreciate my experience.

Check out the poster I won with here!

By the way, check out Tom Toby's new paint!

Thanks to everyone for such kind words and genuine excitement, and special thanks to everyone who has had a hand in the building process!

Water is Life


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jeremy Smith, Friend and Fellow Marine

Today I learned of some really bad news. A friend of mine from high school and the Marine Corps was killed a few days ago in Afghanistan.

Jeremy and I were on the football team together and we used to hang out on the weekends. He was a year behind me and he joined the Marines the year after I did. Once I joined the Marines I lost touch with a lot of good friends but we stayed just barely in contact even though we had conflicting deployments and we were stationed on opposite sides of the U.S..

It always seems that when someone passes on everybody talks about how special that person was. Who knows if they really were? Well, Jeremy really was special, I can vouch.

I was never personally in combat with him but I knew what kind of guy he was. I knew before he joined he would be an awesome Marine. The guys I knew from the football team who joined the Marines weren't the best players on the football team, but we all had the most motivation and the biggest heart--that's what separates you from the rest. As I write this I am thinking of all our other teammates who joined the Marines. I know some that were much closer to him than I was and I know how upset they must be.

You may not agree with the war, the politics, or the situation, but anyone who has been over there knows that it's about something different. It is about the guy to the left and right of you.

Semper Fidelis

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cats and the Sea, Unsinkable Sam and others...

Cats and the Sea? What the heck does that mean? Well, I'll tell you, but first, let me ramble...

I had two cats growing up, Cleo and Cally. They were great but once a I moved away from home I started to be influenced by the "Dogs are so much better than cats" movement. Did I really feel this way? I mean, I doubt I really even thought about it, but nonetheless, I acquiesced.

This all changed a bit when my girlfriend moved in with me and brought her personal hair ball machine, Spiffy.

Now, the first time I ever met Spiffy was when I stayed at Kelly's house and I woke up at 2 in the morning to her sitting on my chest staring at me. As I refrained from making any sudden movements and she glared me down in the darkness of the night I realized that my interview process had begun. (Meanwhile Kelly's other cat Felix spent the next 5 visits pooping on my socks. His interview methods were slightly unorthodox.) Now, a few years later, I think I can safely say I was accepted. 

Dogs are very loyal and very open about it, but thats not to say that cats aren't either. And if you don't believe me, let me tell you about a cat named "Unsinkable Sam"...

Unsinkable Sam (originally Oscar) was a cat on board the German vessel Bismarck. When the Bismarck was sunk, Sam was picked up by the HMS Cossack. When the Cossack was sunk, he was picked up by HMS Ark Royal. When The HMS Ark Royal was sunk he lived with the Governor of Gibraltar and then eventually made his way back to England and lived in a sailor house. This cat survived 3 ship attacks and multiple battles. And he isn't the only one, there are tons of others!

Cats were treated like crew members on board. They were given rank, their own kit, entered in the Ship's Log, and even given their own hammocks to sleep in. Don't believe me? Check em out:

Unknown of the HMAS Nizam
Saipan of the USS New Mexico
Unknown of the HMS Eagle
Sarah of the HMS Shropshire
Convoy of the HMS Hermione
Unknown of the HMAS Kanimbla

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call overwhelming evidence. Adorable evidence at that. All of these pictures come from the Imperial War Museum and I got them from a cool website called Purr n' Fur. Check them out for a very complete history of cats during wartime.

Sailors aboard war vessels always traditionally had cats on board. In fact, it used to be a requirement for French vessels to carry two cats at all times. Cats were used for rodent control in the stores and also for companionship. Cats and seafarers have always had a strong connection and they continue to do so. Pick up a few books about people sailing through the Caribbean or Pacific, I can almost guarantee they have a feline pilot aboard. 

Do you have any cool stories? Email me or post something in the comments below.

Water is Life.


Friday, April 1, 2011

The Visibility Network Underground

If you've ever been to Galveston, you know most of the time the beach water looks like a bowl of gumbo. But, every now and then, whether it be because of Super Moon, the damming of the Mississippi, or the presence of a pod of filter-feeding whales, the water clears up. When the water is clear, it is time for Spear Diving!

So how do we know when its clear? You can check the websites, but they aren't accurate, and in the case of G-town, you have multiple parts, Offat's Bayou, Harbour, and the beach. They are not all created equal and they are not always clear at the same times. So, we've assembled a group of guys who like to spear dive (spear fish?) and if we ever see the presence of clear visibility, we send out the call. We head to our phones and start a little old-fashioned phone tree. We are like the French Resistance but more smelly.

I got the call yesterday from my salty friend Seth of JPL Marine Labs. He told me a friend (I mean, secret member of the Visibility Network Underground) told him the viz was at 4 feet or more. That is quite a bit here on Galveston, so I got my stuff together.

I made a trip to the Flagship, took my surfboard and spear out, and went to town. I got two beautiful sheepshead and I stopped there. The viz, when I got there, was more like three feet and a little choppy, so although it wasn't great, if you really want fish, it was perfect. 

Spear diving or spear fishing? I'm sure you can say both and be correct. I like to say spear diving because to me its just as much about the diving as it is the fishing. Maybe I should say dive fishing? Now I'm confused. Well whatever I end up calling it, I would suggest it to anyone. All you need is a nice spear, a mask and fins, and a little bit of training on holding your breath.

Do you have any spear diving stories or suggestions? Post them in the comments below or email me at

If you've never been here before, Welcome to Neptune Nation, where Water is Life.