December 15, 2016

EERIE ENCOUNTERS! - Part 4 of The Chesapeake Charm

"A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind."

Webb Chiles

This is a Tale Of Two Ships.

When you are sailing all alone on the widest part of the Chesapeake Bay any little speck that you identify on the horizon tends to get your attention.  As was the case on this day when I spotted what appeared to be a ship approaching me from the south.  

I'm always leery of ships when I'm out sailing because they move so fast and don't have a lot of mobility to avoid me if necessary. They can be right on top of you in a heartbeat so you have to keep a close eye on them.  

I debated whether to alter my course to stay far out of her way.  It was difficult to discern the speed and direction this ship was approaching because she was not showing up on the screen of my AIS (Automatic Identification System). AIS is a cool piece of technology that allows me to determine the identity, course, and speed of an approaching ship. In this case there was nothing showing up ... zippo on the screen for this rather large vessel on the horizon.  I was puzzled. 

As I grew closer I began to scratch my head in confusion.  I deduced that maybe this ship was stationary at anchor and not in motion at all.

  As I got even closer a creepy feeling began to come over me.  It appeared I was approaching what I would call a ghost ship.  What the heck IS this I thought?

Sure enough as I got within a quarter mile the binoculars confirmed this was indeed some type of abandoned vessel, a true shipwreck.  I approached with a curious degree of caution.  It was like entering a haunted house. Spooky stuff here.

No other boats were in sight on this sunny day. An eerie silence hung in the air as I made my pass by this peculiar vessel.  More silence.  As I eased closer I could see she was totally dilapidated.  I wondered how she had clearly run aground way out here in the middle of the bay.  A few gulls perched on her rusted railing.

Her hull and topsides were totally rusted out and the entire ship seemed to be collapsed. It looked like thousands of bullet holes all over her entire surface.  I crept by keeping my distance about 100 yards in fear of something creepy jumping out from her.  It was so quiet out there with only the sound of my sails luffing in the wind as I slowly edged by her.  I wondered how I ended up here with this ship of such a dismal fate. But I was also intrigued and investigated further. 

As I cleared her stern I could barely make out the disfigured and rusted letters of her nameplate, U.S. Naval Ship, American Mariner, as seen below here.

I was entranced by this ghost ship and circled her once more to get a better look.  My mind raced as i pondered how on earth she ended up in this remote spot in such horrid condition.

Shards of metal seemed to be peeling away from her bulkheads and vertical supports everywhere.

She was grounded for sure.  But for how long? 
And why?  And why here?
My Google research tells me that this U.S. Naval ship American Mariner is 441' long and at one time had a crew of 55 with 10 officers on board.

Her upper decks had not withstood the test of time and were caved in, mangled, and disfigured.  You could still identify old remnants of the gangways, exhaust chimneys and a captain's command bridge from days gone by.  Sea gulls and pelicans had made this vessel their home now. A quiet breeze sifted by and I felt all alone out here with this beast.
After more research I was surprised to learn that the U.S. Navy had intentionally grounded her here back in 1966 and has used her as target ship for young airmens' target practice in military training exercises.  That explains all the bullet and missile holes that seem to cover her like a bad rash.

Here you can see the stern elevated out of the water after the center of the vessel broke in half. The prop seems to be missing.  Notice how she is riddled with bullet holes from military aircraft exercises. 

With this warning marker nearby, I would say you definitely want to stay clear when the military is practicing bombing missions around this old ship.

These larger holes must be where missiles entered on various practice missions.

I read where a young couple on the sailing vessel Gonzo also took a fancy to the mystery of this old ship wreck.  Personally I think the guy is a fool for going aboard this wreck, however you can see his creepy video of the interior on the YouTube link below:

After some further research I discovered some interesting facts about this old girl.  Here she is pictured in better times in the 50's or early 60's.

Notice the radar detection equipment to seek out incoming missiles

Some Early History About this Ghost Ship:

The USAS American Mariner was first launched in 1941.  She was U.S. Army research vessel from January 1959 to  September 1963. She was originally assigned to the DAMP Project to attempt to collect radar signature data on incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles in the Carribbean, the South Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean. Her initial operations involved providing radar track on the Atlas missile, which was under development at the time. 
She appears to have been the only ship to have ever served in the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy after being built for service with the U.S. Merchant Marine.
More on the history of this ghost vessel can be viewed at this link:

It was a curious encounter in the middle of the Bay.  She faded in the distance as I sailed on towards the Eastern Shore of Onancock.

 More Eerie Encounters on the Chesapeake - 5 days later in October 2016:

 Little did I know that another eerie encounter was about to follow me, literally. 

Just like the American Mariner ship, this next series of photos will illustrate the moment I spotted another teeny speck on the horizon.  

But this speck of was quite different indeed.  This object on the horizon was much shinier, definitely in motion, and moving at a rather fast pace as best I could tell.

I was leisurely sailing in the Bay about 5 miles south of the Potomac River entering Virginia, enjoying a pleasant broad reach and moderate pace.   I was humming a tune, trimming my nails, and enjoying the fall sunshine when I looked behind me and spotted this strange vessel a few miles off my port stern.  

I had seen photos of it in the news and immediately knew it was the latest addition to the U.S. Navy's fleet of destroyers.  As it got closer I zoomed in and noticed the huge frothy white wake it was creating as it forged across the Bay.

Welcome to the U.S. Zumwalt, the most advanced military vessel ever built.  It doesn't even look like a traditional ship, but more like some type of fortress moving on the water.

As my camera zoomed in closer she crossed paths with a container ship heading north.
What an eerie vessel.  No windows, no waving sailors on deck, no flags flying, just a huge metal beast moving steadily through the water. 

The U.S. Navy is building a fleet of 4 of these Zumwalt destroyers, named after Admiral Elmo Zumwalt.  She is 600' in length and cost $4 billion (with a B) to build. Plans were originally to build 32 of these monsters, but are now settling for a fleet of 3.

 Evidently, this one was just commissioned into the naval fleet on Oct. 15, 2016.  She passed me on October 18, just 3 days later, brand spanking new and fresh out of the gate.

 The unusual exterior design of this ship is for the purpose of being virtually undetectable on enemy radar. Although she is 600' long, they say her radar footprint is that of a 50' fishing boat.

She boasts some type of advanced gun systems and her two Rolls Royce gas turbine engines can transport a crew of 140 U.S. Marines at a speed of 30 knots.   She is designed for surface warfare, anti-aircraft warfare, and land attack.

It was only a matter of minutes before she was out of sight heading south towards Norfolk.  I hear she is headed to the Panama Canal and eventually to the West Coast to supposedly detour North Korea's aggression.  

But she is not without her faults.  I read where just one month later she broke down near the Panama Canal and had to be towed to a nearby port. Then as she was entering the canal she made contact with the inside walls causing cosmetic damage to the outside of the ship.

Here's a bit of trivia.  The commanding officer aboard the U.S. Zumwalt is Captain James Kirk, a highly decorated veteran.  I guess it is fitting that a supersonic ship like this has a captain with the same name as the captain of the Star Trek Enterprise.  Beam me up Scottie!
Captain James Kirk

 Here's a stock photo below to give a better view of this massive steel high tech machine.
So there you have it.
In many ways this naval destroyer has many of the same issues I encounter on Glory Days.  After all, cruising is really just a constant state of working on your boat in new exotic places.
Let's just hope she doesn't meet the same fate as the American Mariner, a ghost ship for target practice in the Chesapeake Bay.

Stay tuned for Part 4 of 
The Chesapeake Charm!
Tangier Island - a step back in time!
Onancock - The forgotten village on the East shore
Deltaville - where Glory Days takes a winter's rest!
I waved her goodbye, but no one waved back.

Recently in the news:
Just three weeks after commissioning the USS Zumwalt, the U.S. Navy has admitted it is canceling ammunition specially developed for the ship's high-tech gun systems because the rounds are too expensive. The guns, tailor made for the destroyer, will be unable to fire until the Navy chooses a cheaper replacement round.
The Zumwalt-class destroyers were conceived in the late 1990s as the first of a new generation of stealthy warships. The radar signature of the 610 foot long warship is that of a 50-foot fishing boat, making the Zumwalts great for getting in close to an enemy coastline and then using the 155-millimeter Advanced Gun Systems mounted on the front of the hull. The guns were designed to fire the advanced Long Range Land Attack Projectile, a GPS guided shell with a range of 60 miles.

The result would have been a destroyer that could rain shells down on enemy targets incredible accuracy, clearing a path for U.S. Marines as they advance inland. Alternately, they could strike targets such as terrorist training camps, military bases, and other static targets. The two Advanced Gun System howitzers are fed by a magazine containing 600 rounds of ammunition, making it capable destroying hundreds of targets at a rate of up to ten per minute.
Here's how the advanced gun systems are suppose to work:

Lord help us.


  1. Lord Help Us!! Dam Strait.. Thanks for your Blog..

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.