Gun-Running Ship On Display At National Museum Of Ireland

A historic gun-running ship from Ireland’s struggle for independence has gone on display at Dublin’s National Museum of Ireland.

The Asgard was built in 1905 for Erskine and Molly Childers, leading Irish nationalists. In 1914, they used the vessel to run guns to the Irish Volunteers in Howth. The smugglers brought in 900 German Mausers and a stock of ammunition, some of which later saw use in the famous standoff at the Dublin General Post Office during the Easter Uprising.

Authorities learned of the shipment, but that helped turn it into a propaganda coup. The Asgard had slipped through a British fleet to make it to shore and Irish nationalists managed to spirit the guns away. The soldiers stationed nearby only managed to grab three guns, and had to return them because they had seized them illegally!

Tragically, when marching back to their barracks, the soldiers met an unarmed crowd that jeered them. One of the soldiers fired, and this led to more shots. Four civilians were killed, including one by bayonet wounds. The Asgard’s victory and bloody aftermath added more fuel to the fire of Irish nationalism.

Erskine Childers was a keen sailor all his life and wrote the classic spy novel “Riddle of the Sands,” in which two yachtsmen discover a sinister German plot in the Baltic Sea. Well worth reading!

Mexico’s Sea of Cortes offers unique yachting experience

Baja Mexico’s Sea of Cortes, also known as the Gulf of California, is a secluded and protected UNESCO World Heritage biosphere reserve formed where Baja California broke away from the Mexican mainland about 20 million years ago. One of the most diverse seas and isolated peninsulas in the world it is also a favorite yachting destination.

Mexico’s Sea of Cortés lies adjacent to the more glitzy and better-known ports of Acapulco, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, which comprise the Mexican Riviera — and let’s just say: It’s a whole other world” says

American Safari Cruises has a little 22-guest yacht, the Safari Quest, that sails week-long adventure cruises from La Paz. The ship’s smaller size lets it explore many of the hundreds of islands and islets big cruise ships can’t get to. American Safari’s flexible and unhurried cruising philosophy promises time to seek out wildlife including multiple species of whales, dolphins and sea lions all prevalent in the wildlife-rich waters.”The Sea of Cortés is not as well-known as other destinations, but it’s a gem” said Tim Jacox, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

The inclusive cruise itinerary includes exploration of Isla Partida, Isla San Jose, Isla San Francisco and Isla Espíritu Santo. A visit to Bahia Agua Verde includes a mule ride into the arroyos of the peninsula guided by a local ranchero. At Isla Coyote, guests meet the Cuevas fishing family and tour the village and whale bone yard. Snorkeling with playful sea lions at Los Islotes is often a highlight of the trip.

Anchoring in quiet coves, the crew brings water toys out to play. The yacht transforms into a waterborne adventure platform for kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, sailing, skiff rides, snorkeling, swimming, swinging off the rope swing and tubing. Expert naturalists lead kayaking and hiking excursions to explore the beauty of the sea, the coastline and into the desert landscape to see giant Cardón cacti, red rock cliffs and white sand dunes.

The 22-guest Safari Quest features a hot tub, Tempur-pedic mattresses, heated tile floors in all bathrooms and upper category balconies. An all-American crew has a low guest-crew ratio of 2 to 1. The inclusive cruise includes all from-the-yacht activities and equipment; transfers; exquisite meals; fine wine, premium spirits and microbrews; and all port charges, taxes and feesYachts can be booked as a private charter or by individual stateroom.

Now through September 30, 2011, American Safari Cruises is offering a $200 per person travel credit for new bookings made on 13 select departures.

Flickr photo by Lime Salt Chile

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Daily Pampering: Superyachts of the future

What makes a superyacht super? It’s not just size that matters with these boats. The superyachts of the future are going green, according to the latest designs from Zero to Nine Design.

The eco-friendly superyacht 006 is a 43-meter (141-feet) concept yacht that boasts a fitted hardtop with photovoltaic cells capable of generating up to 20kW. Instead of using that power to for the sauna or the Jacuzzi, the yacht stores the additional power in dedicated 400-kWh battery packs for use while entering or exiting marinas or when shipping through protected and uncontaminated areas at low speed. The superyacht will have three diesel generators installed which will help optimize fuel consumption.

As for the asethics of this ship? The yacht design shows a twin-deck owner area, three crew cabins on the lower deck, one crew cabin on main deck and a captain’s cabin on the upper deck. The guest cabins have been designed to accommodate up to six people in three cabins. Not a bad way to spend time at sea.

Want more? Get your daily dose of pampering right here.


Marblehead–colonial jewel of New England

In a country dominated by big box stores and strip malls, it can be easy to forget our past, but there are occasional spots that are so well preserved they overwhelm you with a sense of another age. Marblehead, Massachusetts, is one of them.

Founded in 1629, Marblehead soon became a prosperous fishing village. In the 18th century it was home to privateers (a politically correct term for pirates sponsored by the government) who attacked British shipping in the Atlantic. When the American War of Independence started it was Marblehead men who crewed the first ship in the American navy, the Hannah. The town also supplied crews for the boats that ferried Washington over the Delaware river. You don’t get more Yankee than that!

But that promising beginning did not lead to greater things. Marblehead became a sleepy fishing and yachting backwater. This was just what it needed. “Development” generally passed it by, allowing the Colonial houses and winding, cobblestone streets to survive intact. I’ve been all up and down the New England coast and I can think of few places that evoke the 18th century like Marblehead. When antiquarian and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft first saw it in 1922 he was so taken with its beauty he used it as inspiration for his fictional town of Kingsport, the setting of several of his stories. Don’t worry, there are no sinister denizens summoning up unclean gods, just wealthy New Englanders with an appreciation for the past.

The best way to see Marblehead is to simply wander in the old town center, where historic homes cluster around the harbor. You’ll spot buildings that are two or even three centuries old, and while you may be familiar with this sort of architecture, seeing so much of it is what’s truly impressive. It’s a bit like a Yankee Pompeii, where the vistas once admired by periwigged gentlemen can still be seen and entire blocks once inhabited by America’s early merchants are still preserved. The homes of 17th century fishermen and the cemeteries of Revolutionary War heroes are much as they were. Don’t forget to stop by the J.O.J. Frost Folk Art Gallery to see the work of the famous local artist and the Grand Army of the Republic Civil War Museum. These two stops will give you some historic background to the town.

Marblehead is great for history buffs, but it’s a popular fishing and yachting destination too. I’m not much of a sailor (although I did catch a sand shark off Cape Cod once) so I don’t have any first-person experience with this side of the Marblehead experience, but the beautiful harbor and numerous yacht clubs show a lot of promise. Vicarious landlubbers can get a splendid view of the harbor from Fort Sewall, dating back to 1644.

[Photo courtesy Judy Anderson]

Teenage Aussie set to sail around the world

Jessica Watson likes to travel, but she approaches the concept a bit differently. The 16-year-old Australian just left Sydney Harbor today, and she wants to take on the world. Her goal is to sail 23,600 miles alone — through some of the toughest waters in the world — and become the youngest person in history to do so.

The trek has kicked off some debate in Australia as to whether Watson’s parents are nuts for letting her attempt this (not a position that’s hard to imagine).The family claims that the kid is plenty salty and knows her way around a ship, and she’ll have radio and e-mail access. She’ll be blogging, too. In the Netherlands, a pair parents disagreed on whether to let their 13-year-old daughter, Laura Dekker, attempt the same feat. A Dutch court put Dekker in the custody of childcare authorities while the parents fought it out.

For Watson, just getting her pink, 34-foot yacht to the starting line has been difficult. Last week, she collided with a cargo ship while sailing to Sydney to make a few last preparations for her journey. And, strong winds last week prompted the sailor to push back her start date.

There are two ways to categorize these around-the-world trips: assisted and unassisted. Watson is gunning for the latter. The youngest person to do this so far is Jesse Martin, also an Australian, who was 18 when he circled the world in 1999. To qualify as “unassisted,’ the vessel can’t take any new supplies, materials or equipment on board once the trip starts. Repairs can be made, but they must use stuff already on the yacht.

The youngest circumnavigating sailor is Mike Perham, from Britain, who went 28,000 miles in nine months, but his trip counts as “assisted,” because he stopped for repairs. Zac Sunderland, from California, was a few months older than Perham when he completed the trip in 13 months, but his was also assisted.