Tall Ship Comeback

The University of Tokyo has designed a sail system for use on cargo vessels utilizing collapsible hollow rigid sails.  The system could shave up to 30 percent off the fuel needed for a typical voyage. 

(Credit: University of Tokyo)

The gigantic sails telescope so can be automatically controlled to provide maximum assistance according to wind conditions.

Further improvements in fuel consumption could of course be made by slowing down.  Already many ships are sailing at reduced speeds, slowing from 25 knots to 20 knots. Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, has slowed all the way down to 12 knots - less than the speed of pure sailing ships in 19th century.  The has resulted in 30% less fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions and saves them tens of millions of dollars per year in fuel costs.   So imagine combining the two strategies.

While a return to pure sail will come in the long term, an advantage to the University of Tokyo system is that it can be retrofitted to existing ships.  They are hoping to start seeing them in use by 2016.

Irony of irony if we start shipping fossil fuels using sail powered ships.


Spud, the Sailor Man

I harvested our potato crop recently.  Did pretty well for a novice I think.  We netted 7 kilograms (15 lbs) from our mini-garden.  Everything from pingpong ball size to large fist sized ones.    Very tasty and no pesticides, or insecticides used.

Machu Picchu - Inca lost city - a potato civilization

Sailors and potatoes go way back.  In movies involving American military life, there is often a scene of sailors peeling potatoes (though I prefer to eat the skins whenever possible as they contain a lot of nutrients).

I had a neighbor - Merle - when I was at university who had served aboard the BB-38 USS Pennsylvania during World War II.   He was there when Pearl Harbor was attacked.  At the time, the Pennsy was in dry-dock, but still received battle damage.

When they got underway again, they went over to Maui and anchored in Lahaina Rhodes, a sheltered area between the islands of Maui, Molokai, and Lanai, to re-provision the ship.    Merle was sent ashore to find potatoes.  The Pennsylvania was the largest battleship that US Navy ever had, with a compliment of over 1300 officers and men, so they could go through a lot of potatoes in a hurry!   And Maui didn't grow a lot of them as you might imagine - mostly sugar cane and pineapple.   So basically, they got every potato on the island.

How many sailors does it take to peel a potato?

Potatoes were first cultivated by the Inca about 2300 years ago.  It was the staple of their remarkable civilization except when they went to war at which times they would switch to Quinoa.   When Spain conquered the Inca in the early 16th Century, they brought some back to Spain and eventually families of Basque sailors raised them in northern Spain as a staple that could be taken to sea.

Sir Walter Raleigh planted some 40,000 acres of them in Ireland in the late 16th century, from where they spread to other parts of Europe.

Speaking of Sir Walter - here's Bob Newhart in 1961 doing a skit about him:

Potatoes are the fourth largest food crop in the world after corn, rice, and wheat.  (The diet of every successful civilization has been based on one of those starches or variant thereof.)
Of course so called "French fried" potatoes, while the most consumed vegetable of Americans (oy! No, I'm not making that up), is not in the same category being filled with fat, trans fatty acids, and acrylamide. 

My corn is blossoming and I'm looking forward to that small crop - just 20 or so plants in three stages to spread out the harvest.   Other veggies are doing well.  We are starting to get really nice zucchini now, and are eating broccoli regularly.

I fights to the finishk, cause I eats me spinachk (and potatoes) says Spud the Sailor Man!

From the "everything you know is wrong" department:  It was the Frenchman Jean Nicot, from whose name the word nicotine is derived, who introduced tobacco to France in 1560, and it was from France, not the New World, that tobacco reached England.