Stacking the Deck

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges

Panamax container vessel Maersk Carolina is loaded with cargo from the Wando Terminal at the Port of Charleston, SC on May 16, 2016.

In 2016, when this photo was made, roughly 90 percent of the world’s goods were carried by sea, with over 70 percent in containers carrying everything from flat-screen TVs to sportswear from Asia to the rest of the world. This particular vessel, Maersk Carolina, was on her way to a final year of service. At just 29 years old, she had outlived her usefulness. Built in 1998 in Ulsan, South Korea by Hyundai, she is 292 meters long, 32.25 meters wide, with a draft of 6.5 meters. For those of us without metric conversion tables, that means she’s about the length of two-and-a-half football fields, about as wide as three school buses parked nose to tail, and the keel would touch bottom if the water was less than 22 feet deep. She only carries 4.324 TEU (Twenty foot Equivalent Units) each of which, conveniently, is the size of your average shipping container. But, alas, she is obsolete by today’s standards. Today, ports like Charleston are dredged to a depth of 52 feet to allow vessels that can carry three times the TEUs.

When she was built she was considered one of the largest vessels to be able to navigate the Panama Canal and, as such, was called a “Panamax” and was given the name Grete Maersk. When she was about four years old, her name was changed to Maersk Carolina and she sailed the high seas under a US flag. Her home was in Virginia, but she sailed all over the world. One sad day in 2003, she encountered heavy sees off Newfoundland in a storm that ripped and crushed containers stacked on her deck. Sources in Halifax said more than 130 containers, a mix of reefers (refrigerated boxes) and dry boxes went over the side in the storm. The ship was en route to Halifax from the Mediterranean. Fortunately, all personnel on board were safe. They were all American citizens. In her final chapter, Carolina was stacked with cargo in Charleston, SC bound for as far away as Antwerp, Belgium and on to a final destination: to be broken up and recycled at Jiangyin Xiagang Changjiang Ship Recycling in China.

This tale will be included in a collection of stories I’m working on about the experiences and encounters we have aboard Seanachai, our 1986 Catalina 22, home ported in Charleston SC. For now, it’s my contribution to Dutch Goes the Photo Tuesday Photo Challenge: Stack

Maersk Carolina 958 ft long, 106 ft. wide, carried up to 4,324 20 ft. boxes of cargo

Long legs and ruffled feathers

Aboard Seanachai, Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges

On a recent trip aboard Seanachai, our Catalina 22 sailboat, we anchored in Fishing Creek, just off the Intracoastal Waterway at Mile 501.5 between the North and South Edisto Rivers in South Carolina. The range of tide in the estuary is about 6 feet. I captured this Snowy Egret when the light and the tide were low–perfect time for me, but something in the moment ruffled his feathers!

I’ve been hoping for just the right opportunity to post the image and Our Eyes Open Bird Weekly Challenge Long Legged Birds seems like the perfect fit!

Ken Kauffman, a writer for the National Audubon Society says this about the Snowy Egret, “A beautiful, graceful small egret, very active in its feeding behavior in shallow waters. Known by its contrasting yellow feet, could be said to dance in the shallows on golden slippers. The species was slaughtered for its plumes in the 19th century, but protection brought a rapid recovery of numbers, and the Snowy Egret is now more widespread and common than ever. Its delicate appearance is belied by its harsh and raucous calls around its nesting colonies.”

Telling a Seanachai Tale

Aboard Seanachai, Latest Pix, Life Captured

GOPR2320 01

The description on our YouTube channel reads:

He’s a seafaring navigator. She’s a freelance writer and photographer. High school sweethearts, they were married in 1977, raised their children and spoil their grandchildren. After 30 years, they finally stopped dreaming about owning a sailboat. They bought an ‘86 Catalina 22 in September 2014. Capitalizing on their Celtic roots, the boat is named “Seanachai” (pronounced shawn-a-key), which means Storyteller. You’ve found the place where they post some of their adventures, special projects and lessons learned.

We are fortunate to sail in Charleston SC, with its beautiful, busy harbor, active ports and lots of connecting waterways and pristine creeks — each ripe for exploring.  No two days on the water are the same.  I’m a lot like a child on Christmas morning when I see the playful dolphins surface,  or the soaring seabirds taxi into flight.  I can’t resist trying to capture them or the scores of watercraft we encounter; everything from stand up paddle boards to mega yachts, cruise ships, cargo ships, fishing boats, pleasure craft and tugs.  None of these sights are new for the Captain, but his mate is mesmerized.

It’s challenging to capture images on a moving sailboat, especially when–just as the photographer is framing her image–the Captain orders, “Ready about!”  The dutiful deckhand abandons the shot and preps the jib sheets for a tack.  To tell the full story, I also want to show how we work together to get underway, handle the running rigging and such.

Recently we made a day sail up the Wando River near Charleston with the GoPro Hero mounted to the stern rail. Together with the Panasonic camcorder and the Nikon D5100 on hand, we’re able to tell a new Seanachai tale.

What do you think?

Ducks on the Dock

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges


Mr. & Mrs. Mallard resting in the shadow of a dock piling                 Nikon D5100 35mm, f-11, 1/125

The late afternoon Spring sun casts long shadows across a dock at the Cooper River Marina, home to our 1986 Catalina 22, “Seanachai”.  This pair of mallard ducks found a bit of cool respite in a strip of shade.  Ducks are very light sleepers, resting their heads on their backs and tucking their beaks into their feathered wings for a bit of extra warmth, but with sharp eyes popping open at the slightest threat to their safety.  The original image was shot in color and desaturated to contribute to Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge “words that end in ock”



Pair of Mallard Ducks resting in shade


A Great Ocean Tank of Fish

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges

Boy looking at fish in Great Ocean Tank of SC Aquarium

Nick imagines what it would be like to visit the deepest oceans, filled with exotic fish.

In 1983 Charleston SC Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. visited the Shedd Aquarium near Chicago, and an idea was born. He made a deal to purchase a contaminated strip of land on the Charleston waterfront, secured Superfund money from the federal government to help clean up the area and built the South Carolina Aquarium. It’s a stunning piece of architecture when viewed from the Charleston Harbor as we often do, Aboard Seanachai.

Nick, pictured above, has great plans to explore the deepest ocean reefs and discover exotic undersea creatures. For him, a visit to the SC Aquarium is a trip to wonderland.   This photo is my contribution for Travel with Intent’s Blog, One Word Sunday Challenge “Fish

Completed in 2000, there’s much to see at the SC Aquarium, which was designed to showcase plants and animals found in each of five regions of the state.

But the centerpiece is the Great Ocean Tank. Forty-two feet below the surface at its deepest point, it’s the deepest public aquarium in North America. The 18-inch thick windows are acrylic—strong enough to keep back the pressure of 365,000 gallons of water, without distorting the images of the fish. A multi-layered filtration system “turns over the water” in only 90 minutes.

It showcases three distinct areas of the Atlantic Ocean, the deep/open ocean, the shallow rocky reef and the deep rocky reef. About 550 animals of 40 different species swim in the tank. The only animal in the tank that’s not a fish is Caretta, a 30-year-old loggerhead sea turtle.

Caretta, loggerhead turtle in the Great Ocean Tank at the SC Aquarium

Caretta, a loggerhead turtle and the only “non fish” in the Great Ocean Tank

SC Aquarium Charleston, SC

View of SC Aquarium from Charleston Harbor – as seen “Aboard Seanachai”

The Lookout’s View

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges

Here’s my entry for Nancy Merrill’s Photo A Week Challenge “Look Up”

As we prepare for the Spring sailing season, I’ve had some time to look through some older images.  This one is from October 2016 when my husband and I made a weekend cruise aboard our Catalina 22, Seanachai.   Part of the passage took us through Wappoo Creek and I experienced the opening of the Burnet R. Maybank drawbridge from a new perspective.  We posted a YouTube video of the first leg of the trip, including the opening of the bridge.

Burnet R. Maybank bascule bridge opens

Burnet R. Maybank bascule bridge opens for boat traffic.                   35mm, f6.3, 1/250

At it’s center, the bridge has a clearance of 33 feet.  The masthead to the waterline of our boat is just over 29 feet.  Technically, we could motor under the bridge, and we did–about three months later–as captured in the photo below.  The captain’s steady hand guided us under the center of the bridge, while I looked up.

Sailboat masthead clearing under bridge

Masthead clearance less than 3 feet under a closed Brunet R. Maybank bascule bridge! 55mm, f 6.3, 1/1000

Floating Oddity

Aboard Seanachai, Latest Pix, Life Captured, Photo Challenges


“Lady in the Lake”  by Mark Cline                     35mm   f 5.6  1/250

When you embark on a 5-night, 6-day sailing adventure along the Gulf Coast of Florida, you expect to see the sugar sand beaches and blue green water of the Gulf of Mexico.  What you don’t expect to find is the likeness of a 108-foot woman skinny dipping in a marina.  She’s my entry for Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge this week.

In 2012, George Barber, billionaire art patron and owner of the marina, commissioned Mark Cline, a self-taught sculptor, to design this unusual floating lady.  Already well known for the whimsical creations formed in his Enchanted Castle Studios, the Virginia artist built the fiberglass sculpture, inserted giant styrofoam blocks inside her head and knees and  gently splashed her in a pond at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, AL.  Later, she was trucked down the the Alabama gulf coast and placed in the corner of the Barber Marina, where she could greet all the visiting crews.  Mark Cline christened her “Country Girl Skinny Dipping,” but locals call her “Lady in the Lake.”

My husband and I had a chance to see her when we took our Catalina 22 “Seanachai” on the 20th Annual C-22 Northern Gulf Coast Cruise (NGCC).  A YouTube video series highlights our adventures, this episode includes our visit to Barber Marina.

Sailing Vessel "Seanachai" at Barber Marina

Seanachai “The Storyteller” at Barber Marina, Elberta AL May 10, 2017


Duck, Duck, Quack!

Aboard Seanachai, Life Captured, Photo Challenges


Mallard Drake on Marina Dock                                                         f/6.3  1/500, ISO 250, 35mm

After a spring daysail aboard Seanachai, we came upon this mallard drake standing at the edge of the marina dock. Camera at the ready, I took a few steps toward him.  Truthfully, I expected he would fly away at any moment. Instead, I was able to get close enough to cast a shadow over him, which toned down the highlights from the setting sun, and revealed the detail in his feathers.  For several minutes he stood his ground, looked me right in the lens, and commenced to recite some sort of duck manifesto while I happily snapped this image–my entry for Cee’s Fun Foto Challege: Duck Duck Goose.


close enough to cast a shadow!


Seanachai Sun Screen

Aboard Seanachai, Digital Art Projects

Summertime temps this year have been hovering in the mid- 90s, which makes for an uncomfortable time aboard Seanachai.  One day, we’ll sail with a proper bimini top, until then, we’ve adopted an idea from The $tingy Sailor for a “poor man’s bimini”.

The boom tent is easy to install and stows away compactly in the cabin.  We’ve motored with the boom tent installed, but mostly we use it when we’re at the dock.  It makes the cockpit about 10-15 degrees cooler–just what the captain ordered to make the sundowners more enjoyable!

Here’s a video I made detailing how it works.


Remembering September – Part 1

Aboard Seanachai

NOAA R/V Joe Ferguson at Ross Marine Dock, Johns Island SC

NOAA R/V Joe Ferguson                                                       f/6.3 1/1000s, ISO 280, 55-200@200mm

September is a month of anniversaries for me in many ways, and in a solemn way, for the United States.

Aboard Seanachai for our wedding anniversary cruise, my husband and I made a two-day trip along the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) from Charleston, SC to the Limehouse Bridge on John’s Island.

I photographed lots of watercraft along the way, but this image of the Research Vessel Joe Ferguson is particularly significant.  She was apparently having some maintenance completed at Ross Marine boatyard on John’s Island when I snapped this picture.  Not the best photo technically, but the story makes it special.

According to the website, the vessel was obtained by Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary in July 2008.  She provides a platform for research, rescue, training and educational operations for researchers connected with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

The boat is named for Joe Ferguson, who was the former director of the National Geographic Society Education and Outreach Program.  Ferguson was killed on             September 11, 2001 when the plane carrying him was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon.  He was traveling with National Geographic Society staffer Anne Judge, and three teacher-student pairs on an educational trip to the Channel Islands of California.  The team was planning to participate in a Sustainable Seas Expedition.  The teacher-student pairs were: teacher James Debeuneure and student Rodney Dickens; teacher Sarah Clark and student Asia Cottom, teacher Hilda Taylor and student Bernard Brown. All of the star students were 11-year old sixth graders.

That I would learn about these outstanding people and their work within days of the anniversary of their deaths makes this September profoundly memorable.

Framed Through the Rigging

Aboard Seanachai, Photo Challenges

Black and white image of a sailboat viewed through the frame of another boat's rigging, Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge over the Cooper River, Charleston, SC

Through the Rigging                                                               f7.1, ISO 100, 1/400s, 35mm

The San Francisco, CA firm Donald MacDonald Architects,  was charged with creating a design for a new bridge across the Cooper River near Charleston, SC.  The goal, they said, was to create a timeless landmark that pays homage to the historic city and compliments the harbor and waterfront park.  Across the landscape, the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge “evokes a sail motif over the river.”  It opened to the public in July 2005.

A sailboat framed through the rigging of our C-22 Seanachai, with the landmark bridge behind emphasizes the architect’s theme and is my entry for this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: Frame

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Fighter plane?

Aboard Seanachai, Latest Pix

Aboard Seanachai on August 22, we were on the Cooper River, passing under the Ravenel Bridge around 5 PM.  Suddenly, we saw this small airplane making several close passes around the bridge and later, over Drum Island.  At first I thought it must be a photographer, but it seemed incredible that the pilot would be making so many passes.  We watched the plane, a Thrush S2R-T34,  make big swooping curves around the iconic bridge, then drop down for a low pass over the trees.  It was not until we were home again and some investigation revealed that the plane was likely spraying for mosquitos in the city and the island.  (The photos clearly show the sprayer attachment.)  Local news reports from a previous treatment noted drivers on the bridge were terrified at the sight of the plane.  According to other reports, the low flying airplanes deliver specially modified chemicals to eliminate mosquitoes in areas of stagnate water. Although it’s the first time I saw it, this kind of delivery system has been used in this area for at least six years.  This fighter plane was merely turning around over the river so as to continue making passes across the land–doing battle with the mosquitoes!