Alas, we are all out of bubblegum

I guess somebody had to ride that lion to Valhalla.

roddy piper

A 30-foot sandbagger with an interesting past


All images this post are mine and I release them into the public domain. Click to big up in each case. If you want even higher rez, email me and I’ll hook you up (egerwriter at

On a trip around my stomping grounds I finally got around to visiting the new Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum in Biloxi. I say new because the original, housed in the old WWII era USCG seaplane station, was swept away during Katrina leaving only the very top bell-tower of the historic facility.

If you are in Biloxi, stop by and see the new museum as it is very interesting.

While they had a large collection from the old light cruiser USS Biloxi (which will be covered in a future WW!) the highlight for me was Nydia.

nydia historic

Note the SYC pennant fourth down

Nydia is 30-foot gaff-rigged shoal draft centerboard sloop built in the late 1890s for the Commodore of New Orleans’s Southern Yacht Club, John A. Rawlins.

(Note: SYC is historic, putting on the oldest point to point regatta in the Western Hemisphere, initially raced on July 4, 1850, and has several Olympic sailing medalists listed on their rolls.)

Nydia was constructed in Biloxi of cypress and steam-bent oak at the Johnson Shipyard owned by William N. Johnson, a native of the city with a reputation for crafting lightning fast boats. Nydia was raced as a open pit “sand-bagger,” which meant there would be the skipper on the tiller and a “bailing boy” forward who spent his time shuffling sand bags from side to side to adjust the roll while racing.

Between 1898 and 1910, Nydia competed in no less than 39 regattas and races between Mobile and New Orleans, winning a cabinet full of trophies and a fair bit of cash and prizes. Her first win was the Bay-Waveland Yacht Club regatta on July 29,1899 (116 years ago this week!) and her last was the same event in 1908.

After 1904, she was owned by A. Baldwin Wood, a well-known New Orleans engineer who developed the pumping stations that keep the Crescent City dryish.

Baldwin added a cabin and continued her sailing career after 1910 as a seasonal pleasure craft, carting her back and forth from the Mississippi Sound to land-based storage during the fall and winter months.

During WWII, he had to obtain a special permit from the Coast Guard to continue sailing her, but nonetheless did so.

Wood, literally crossing the bar with his hand on the tiller, died aboard Nydia on a morning sail in 1956 and, at his request, she was given to his alma mater– Tulane University– along with some $380,000 and a stipulation that she be maintained and displayed for 99 years.

Well, Tulane eventually ran out of space over the decades and by 2003 Wood’s estate discovered she was in a sad shape, then launched a legal campaign to win custody of the sloop.

Risking destruction, she was saved just before Hurricane Katrina, lovingly restored in Biloxi by shipbuilder and sailor John Dane and put on exhibit at the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum, with her mast rigged with correct English cotton sails and pennants to include one from the SYC.

She sits about 100 yards from Back Bay Biloxi, with a view of the Horn Island Pass and the open sea beyond.

nydia 4

It was said of Nydia that, “A tree has a body, but when it is fashioned into a beautiful boat, its timber then takes on a soul.”


nydia 2 nydia sail plan nydia stern

Today she is the only hull remaining from Johnson’s yard which was located just blocks from where she currently rests.

At night she sits, bathed in a spotlight for the world to see, standing watch over a 45 foot long 1:5 scale model of a German U-boat used in the film U-571— which has a less romantic home in the dark parking lot.

nydia night

See the U-boat lurking? Hint: Bottom left. Das Boot!

Navy now has a Command Senior Chief (CMDCS) rate


For those of you tired with the regular old Senior Chief...the Navy now has something new for the goat locker

Initial eligibility for conversion to the CMDCS Rating will be those active duty Sailors assigned the 9578 Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC). All future conversions to the CMDCS rating will be through the annual CMDCS administrative selection board.

“The CMDCS rating strengthens the command leadership triad and provides our very best senior chiefs increased responsibilities in this rating while enabling greater levels of experience as they advance through the ranks,” said Fleet Master Chief April Beldo, fleet master chief for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education (MPT&E).

Hunter S. Thompson on Outlaws

Animated Studs Terkel interview with HST on the Hells Angels from 1969

The Zeppelin pipe

Imperial German Air Service pilot with pipe stem o2 tank

Dig the watch (altimeter?) on his cuff. And you know that nose piece has to suck after about 3 seconds

A pilot in the Imperial German Air Service, wearing leather attire and the classic cork and leather flight helmet he also carries the oxygen “pipe stem” for high altitudes.

Germany was one of the earliest nations involved in the First World War to recognize and address the need by aviators of aircraft and dirigibles for supplemental oxygen. The great Zeppelin dirigibles, by virtue of their ability to fly at higher altitudes, were the first war craft outfitted with aircrew oxygen systems, which were at first of the conventional compressed gas type, contained in iron storage flasks.

Soon, however, the heavy storage flasks were replaced by early liquid oxygen generating systems. These systems were devised and produced by the Draeger Company, a company long associated with respiratory and resuscitation equipment for mining use. Other systems were produced by the Ahrend and Heylandt Company.

It wasn’t long before some higher flying German bombers and fighters were equipped with these small, lightweight liquid oxygen systems. Oxygen could be breathed from these small ‘personal’ liquid oxygen systems through use of a mouthpiece (frequently called a ‘pipe stem’) that could be held clenched in the mouth of an aviator. The tube providing the oxygen was attached (on the German systems) to a large rebreathing bag positioned nearer the unit than the ‘pipe stem’, so that although the oxygen flow rate was continuous, more of the gas could be saved and reused in the process that would have otherwise been wasted.

(Colourised by Royston Leonard from the UK)

The Ukrainians are getting more and more NATO everyday

Moves are underway in the Ukraine to become less-Moscow and more NATO as the country is shedding its old school Warsaw Pact garb and ranks and trying very hard to look more Berlin and Brussels than Minsk and Pskov. They are replacing thier rank system, inherited from the Soviet Red Army (and the Tsarist Imperial Army before them), with standard NATO ranks and a new series of uniforms looks very Western European indeed.

Wartime wheel gun: The Colt Commando revolver of WWII

One of the most collectable Colt 38s around were produced during the Second World War on a special contract for the military and, true to their name, these guns often were used “somewhere behind enemy lines.”

Going back to the early 1900s, the Colt Police Positive and later the Official Police set the bar for medium-framed six-shot double-action revolvers with a swing out cylinder.

colt police postive ad

These guns, with barrels that ranged from 2 inches to 6 inches and in more than a half dozen calibers that ran from .22LR to .38 Special. As the name would imply, these guns were extremely popular with both uniformed police and security as well as G-men and T-men and the Coast Guard during Prohibition.

When World War II came, Colt garnered a contract for nearly 50,000 .38S&W caliber (.38/200) of their Official Police revolvers for the British military in 1940– while the U.S. was still on the sidelines.

Then came Pearl Harbor and the Colt wheelgun went to war for Uncle Sam.


Read the rest in my column at Firearms Talk

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