Tuesday, July 29, 2014


An update from our ship's librarian Laurel:

Lisbon is now in our wake and we are once again steaming ahead across the wide and windy Atlantic. As we take some long but gentle rolls, let me tell you a little about the fun times we had in this last exciting port, which were awash with sunshine and almost endless activity! While some us would have been content to sit in a café eating classic dishes such as bacalhau (cod) prepared in a thousand and one ways, Lisbon itself was waiting!

The first thing most  visitors to Portugal’s capital city will hear about is the Great Earthquake of 1755, which destroyed much of what was then one of the wealthiest cites in Europe. After the devastation, the city was rebuilt on a grand scale and much of what we see today still retains this early splendor. Sprawled across seven hills, Portugal’s capital requires impressive legwork to explore in a mere three days. Fortunately, public transport options abound in the form of trams, buses, trains and the occasional elevador, which kept our calve muscles from screaming too badly and let us experience some mind-blowing views!

Docked right next to the Alfama – Lisbon’s ancient section which was left standing after the earthquake  – most of us began our wanderings through the city’s  narrow becos (alleyways), which gradually ascend towards the Castelo de São Jorge for a spectacular glimpse out over Lisbon’s traditional red-roofed buildings. From here it was an easy stroll through the tiled streets and buildings of Baixa, the shopping district, to pick up souvenirs before hitting the student-friendly bars and high streets of Bairro Alto. Those cadets who weren’t too tired from their ‘night shifts’ out in the city headed the next day to Belem, a neighborhood steeped in maritime history where explorer Vasco de Gama set sail for India in 1497. The impressive Mosterio dos Jeronimos commemorates his return, and was once home to monks from the Order of St. Jerome, whose job it was to comfort weary sailors. Maybe they too had “Q’s” to pass or something as hard as the Coast guard licensing exam to study for?


Many among our shipmates also ventured further afield, preferring to take day trips to see sights beyond Lisbon’s urban landscape. One group ventured as far as Fatima, a sight important to Catholics where visionary peasants are said to have glimpsed the Virgin Mary. They returned with wonderful shots of the town’s basilicas as well as of the beautiful countryside. Another contingent of cadets and some crew headed north to the beach town of Cascais to soak up some sun, and to try some paddle boarding. Once a small fishing village, this fun little coastal town now boasts three beaches, a pedestrian-friendly old section and a great shore-side bike path, as well as lots of post-beach activity. Belonging to the frigid Atlantic, however, the water was almost spine-tingling! A quick dip in these clear but icy seas was enough for me, but not for the enthusiastic Dive Club, whose members slipped on full wetsuits with hoods for a two-tank scuba diving trip to a nearby island.

The divers are still talking excitedly about the types of fish they encountered, which included at least one octopus!

A different type of scenery altogether awaited yet another pack of my shipmates on a jeep tour of Sintra village, a World Heritage site full of narrow cobbled streets, nearby mountains and royal palaces dating to as far back as the 9th century.

Following hiking trails through the mountains and around nature preserves such as Parque da Pena, we wandered among the redwoods, lakes and valleys covered with ferns and often surrounded by a cool tropical mist. Along the way, castles rose mysteriously out of the fog!

A mere 10 miles west of town, we made a final stop at Cabo da Roca, the 150-meter sheer cliff that is the westernmost tip of Europe. Although New York City wasn’t exactly visible on the horizon, we snapped some pictures and waved to you all back at home. We are now on our final homeward stretch with only the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean to go!

Cadet Shout Out: Chris Marshall, 3rd class, says hi Mom and Dad! Miss you see you soon. Love you much & got you some great gifts.





Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Getting Closer to Lisbon

An Update from our Ship's Librarian Laurel:

The horn has been blowing every two minutes or so for the past two days, but we are now finally emerging from a dense enveloping mist, as well as a fair amount of boat traffic down the English Channel. For those of us who aren’t busy navigating, standing on deck with only that whiteness around you is a truly awesome experience! As of this afternoon, it’s finally clear again however as we zip across the Bay of Biscay.

Our Sunday-at-sea was spent lounging around the aft sundeck, as well as reading, watching movies, playing dominoes, and hitting the gym (or thinking about it). While watches were still on, all classes were cancelled. The extra time gave many cadets the welcome opportunity to catch up on homework, study for license exams, and read over their notes for any midterms still to come.

Everyone’s thoughts have now turned to Lisbon, with its beautiful beaches and amazing views from the summit of the city’s seven hills. Yesterday evening, Henry from Chartwell’s – born in Lisbon– gave us a slideshow and lecture in the cadet lounge about all the activities available in the city of his birth. The cadets certainly sound like they are ready to tackle Lisbon, and I’ve been hearing lots of intense discussion. Tours are also scheduled for outside the city, including a bus trip to the local beach town of Caiscais, and a jeep tour of Sintra, a hill village with a fairy tale-like palace and lots of nature trails. Around town, Henry also mentioned a great many sights and neighborhoods worth exploring, in addition to some lovely parks, museums and restaurants worth visiting. His pictures were outstanding and we thank him for his many fine suggestions!

No sight of our feathered friend today, who yesterday was spotted roosting in one of the lifeboats. Maybe he left us for the beaches of France, or some English scones along the way.

Look out for plenty of pictures and more news soon after our upcoming break in Portugal!

Cadet Shout Out: Matt Hayes, from the 2nd class, says “Hi mom and dad, having a blast on the TSES 2014! Miss you and see you soon.”

Monday, July 21, 2014

Headed through the Channel

Update from the ship's librarian, Laurel.

We have a stowaway!

Fortunately, he eats like a bird of his (or her?) size should, and is not large enough to require a full-size plate at meal times. He also has yet to request a berth, preferring instead the slight winds at our port side as they blow gently through his tail feathers. We have yet to name our visitor, a homing pigeon, but he is very friendly and unafraid of his fellow shipmates. He has two small bracelets on either foot, one black and the other green.

As Britannica tells me, pigeons were first domesticated in Egypt around the year 3000 BCE, served as post carriers during the conquests of Genghis Khan, and were widely used as message couriers throughout many wars of the 20th century. The first pigeon races began in Belgium in 1818, and are still held regularly between Toulouse, France and Brussels, Belgium and also around the UK.

We can’t tell just where our little friend traveled from, but we hope that safe passage aboard the Empire State VI gets him just a little closer to his intended destination. Homing pigeons have been known to fly for several thousand miles to reach home, but even they can’t beat a free ride by sea.

In other news, our route has changed, and we are now headed through the English Channel. Tomorrow is a Sunday-at-Sea, which means a BBQ on deck! Check back soon for more updates and news.

Address for Portugal:

TS Empire State
c/o Marmedsa - Agencia
Maritima, LDA.
Av. D. Joao II - Lote 1.18.01 - Bloco B
Piso 2
Edificio Art's - Parque das Nacoes
1990-084 - Portugal


Update from the ship's librarian, Laurel.

We’ve had a calm few days at sea with lots of activity down here in the library, due in part probably, to midterms. All the students are busy studying, carrying around their rolled up charts, checking and re-checking tables, and burying themselves in colossal engineering textbooks. Of course, there is always the massive ongoing 3-table-long foosball tournament happening in the lounge for those in need of a little diversion.
In my spare time, I’ve actually started to half-understand my way around the TS Empire State VI, which – for those of you who don’t know this already – is actually a converted cargo ship. Although it’s always possible to wander around using the ladders outside the ship, inside it is easy to get turned around – until an instructor points out the schematic drawing hanging right in front of your nose! Now I can vaguely understand the layout of the ship’s “watertight bulkheads,” which isolate cargo holds in case of emergencies, but require lots of extra stairs when going from one hold to the next. From all this I can guess that we are presently in hold #3, and that the roof above us once opened up on a regular basis so that cars, sacks of grain, or all manner of other goods might be carefully and efficiently transported from one country to another.
We have left the Baltic and are presently somewhere in the Kattegat, the broad arm of the North Sea in Scandinavia. I hear we may be “bunkering” soon, which if I understand correctly means that we are stopping to refuel close to Skagen, on the northern tip of Denmark. From there, we are heading back around Scotland and down the calm Irish Sea.
Cadet Shout Out: John Hannon, 2nd classman, who already said hi to his parents, now wants remind them to send him lots of treats for his birthday. He says he has a cold but will hopefully get better soon, and candy will help. He misses Tootsie! Love you, see you soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baltic Sea bound!

Update from the ship's librarian, Laurel.


We are now staring into the mouth of Baltic Sea, somewhere between Germany and Denmark. With lower salt content than many other oceans, the Baltic has sometimes been seen as one big river mouth which often gets covered with ice in the winter.
Fortunately, it’s quite warm now with very sunny conditions for those on watch at the weather deck to lookout for other vessels and for those of us on break to scan for porpoises and chat.

I’ve been trying to learn a little bit more about how this ship gets from point a to b, and the cadets have been very happy to demonstrate the use of various kinds of instruments and computer equipment that’s required. So far I can understand just one thing clearly, which is that navigation is complicated business.

Hanging out in the aft chart room, a young lady mug explains to me that looks can be deceiving – the maps on the wall are apparently not “maps” at all, but are instead known as charts, which reveal key information such as ocean depth, currents, shoals, rocks, and other obstacles using various symbols. We talk a little about what I still refer to as “maps” as she shows me what she is up to on “ECTIS” – the “electronic chart display information system” that is used for paperless navigation.

The chart room is always one of the busiest places on the ship – full of cadets measuring the angles of the sun or the stars, finding the variation between true and magnetic north, examining our progress on charts of varying scales for various purposes, plotting our course based on way points and compass bearings, and doing what amounts to some very complicated math. (Thanks to instructors Lou Muno and Rick Martucci for helping me understand the tiniest fraction of what I’m looking at, but I think I will leave all the navigation business to the hardworking cadets!)

Shout out: Zac Curtis, Ist classman, says “Hi Mom and Dad! Finally made it to the library to study ! Love you!”

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Copenhagen...July 14, 2014

We are off to a slow, but still functioning, start today as we leave the port of Copenhagen behind in search of more temperate waters. As you may have heard, our time in Denmark’s capital city has been a blast, chock full of visits to great museums, outdoor music shows, and glitzy amusement parks. Now, it’s back to the ship life, but also time to rest and recap!

Berthed only a half mile away from the popular Nyhavn area, we were all pretty pleased with our close proximity to the city’s many incredible eateries, drinking establishments, and free outdoor concerts, which took place along the canals and in public squares as part of Copenhagen’s Summer Jazz Festival. Many of us enjoyed grabbing a few of the local version of the hotdog – topped with fried onions and sweet pickles – and listening to the music, which ranged from bluesy singer-songwriters to rock and New Orleans style jazz.

By day, we were busy either exploring the city on foot or by bicycle – locals’ preferred mode of transport. Although Copenhagen is a relatively small city, it’s spread out like the boroughs of New York with many smaller island neighborhoods.
Happy to roam beyond the central areas, we ventured further afield in search of youthful vibes in places like Vesterbro and Christiania, stopping at the palaces of Rosenborg and Amalienborg to watch the changing of the guard.

With three full days to spare, a large contingent of us escaped the city for at least a day to visit the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde, home to ocean-going vessels, warships, and fishing boats from the 11th Century and an excellent exhibition about Viking-era maritime technology. Another group of us opted to wade through literary history with a visit to the busy port town of Elsinore and Kronborg Castle, setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet. While it was possible to scramble underground through the dark dungeons, the apartments upstairs were obviously a little nicer, adorned with beautiful tapestries and sumptuous banquets fit for kings and queens. 

In addition to the unusual green gargoyles adorning the sides of many buildings and parks, Copenhagen’s phenomenal art museums were another big draw. Some of us headed to the Statens Museum for Kunst, which spans seven centuries of European art, while a few of us explored the modern (and phenomenal) sculpture garden of Louisiana, a short train ride away from Central Station or 20 minutes by car (thank you to my friend Liss, a local, for taking me!). Closer to home, there was also the impressive and free Danish Naval Museum, which spans Danish maritime history with more than 400 model ships, charts, walk-through displays, and a variety of navigational instruments.

As if all that wasn’t enough to exhaust the heck out of…well…just me, we also had the colossal grounds of Tivoli to contend with, where at least few of us (I hear) got hopelessly lost amidst neon-lit carnival rides, food stalls, and a wicked roller coaster known as The Demon.

Check back soon to hear more about our next adventures on cruise B, after a couple good night’s of rest!

Cadet shout out: Casey Ford, 3rd class mug from Owego, NY, says “Hi to my parents and my brother! I’m giving it all she’s got!”

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cruise B Photos

Photos from the Empire State VI at sea taken by our ship's librarian Laurel:

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The North Sea

Dear Readers,

It’s been nothing but beautiful and rugged cliffs for the past few days, as we loop our way through the Isles. There’s been some light rain here and there, and some very serious battleship and backgammon tournaments. I've occasionally stood in as honorary ‘judge’ for a few of these, but prefer to escape when the games get too bloodthirsty to see what cadets are working on elsewhere around the ship.

Down in the depths of the engine room, it becomes clear just how much skill and attention goes into getting this big old ship moving (pictures coming soon). The gauges alone are worth a good long (perplexed) stare as they register key information about machinery such as the rudder, shaft, propeller, and boilers. Relying on roughly one barrel or 36 gallons of fuel per nautical mile, the TS Empire State has a giant steam turbine bigger than most New York City apartments, as well as about a million moving parts that require constant maintenance and care. Engineering cadets stand for “watches” of approximately four hours, a time during which they learn the nuts and bolts of ship construction, gain practice communicating with the “deckies” upstairs, and gain the knowledge that hopefully keeps us from being stranded in the middle of the ocean. 

From my perspective, they seem to be doing a wonderful job!

I am happy to report that we are now finally in the North Sea, having coasted our way through the Scapa Flow early yesterday morning. Although I did not awaken on that occasion, many of us have been able to spend some time on deck each misty morning. Today, I awoke again to the fog horn to find the whole sea shrouded in mist. When the fog finally lifts each afternoon, many of us have also seen pods of dolphins. We've noticed that they seem to prefer the bow and are often seen jumping and riding our waves. Is it possible this is their version of surfing?

We are scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen tomorrow by about 5pm. The cadets all seem pretty excited about the chance to spend some time shore-side and are already talking at length about bike rentals, Danish sausages and pastries, and visits to the Viking Ship Museum. Look out for more exciting news about our time in Copenhagen soon after we return!

Cadet Shout Out: Irene Gogos says “Brittany Storr: I’m sorry you’re stuck working for the rest of the summer. Have fun at INDOC, show the Mugs who's boss!”


P.S.  Mailing information for the ports:


Rasmus Melchior Rasmussen
Ship Agency

Maersk Broker Agency
Midtermolen 1
2100 Copenhagen Ø

Lisbon, Portugal (24-28 July)

Marmedsa Noatum Shipping Agency (S5 Agency World) Av. D. Joao II - Lote 1.18.01 - Bloco B - Piso 2 Edificio Art's - Parque das Nacoes
1990-084 Lisboa (Portugal)
Attention: EMPIRE STATE c/o

Joao Marques

Monday, July 7, 2014

"What is the Job of the Ship's Watch Officer?"

Dear Readers,

We've made quite a lot of progress since my last post, sailing past Dublin, Scotland and on through the Hebrides Islands, and planning to coast our way through the “Scapa Flow” in the Orkney Islands, a sea basin of the sunken WWI German fleet of battleships. The cadets are in good spirits, and are holding some very serious chess tournaments, in addition to a whole lot of painting, welding, mopping, and studying.

The other morning, I had the pleasure of dropping in on a Nautical Science class for third year “mugs” that was being taught by former SUNY Maritime grad Rick Martucci (’72). Beginning the class with a question, “what is the job of the ship watch officer?,” the students came up with many thoughtful replies. With Martucci’s feedback, the class came to a conclusion that the watch officer’s job is to ensure the safety of the vessel in getting from one point to the other and to guarantee the safety of those on board. Cadets were also quick to point out that officers on watch must pay special attention to the weather, the position of the vessel, as well as to any work or other events that may be occurring on deck. It sounds like a tough job for hardy and responsible souls!

The lecture that followed on bridge equipment included a discussion about types of compasses and compass errors, which the students seemed to understand quite well. Martucci’s explanations helped to clarify gray areas for the class, and also brought the conversation back to focus on concerns about overuse of present-day technology. “Use the equipment, and not just gps” he noted, going on to stress how modern nautical technologies may be vulnerable to a range of other failings as well as cyber threats. Thankfully, such an important concept does not seem to have fallen on deaf ears amongst the cadets of this ship, who - unlike many of us - seem perfectly comfortable without their computers studying paper charts, taking bearings, reading tables, and performing many other hands-on duties in the field of nautical science. The rest of us simply stay put when our iPhones run out of juice!

Cadet Shout Out: Jeffrey Pitts from Texas A&M says “Hi to the fam and Meghan. Missing Texas weather like crazy. Found the blog lady! See y’all soon!”


Friday, July 4, 2014

Copenhagen Bound

Dear Readers,

We set off yesterday towards Copenhagen under mild weather conditions. Tim, our resident NOAA-affiliated weather wizard, says that a storm is coming, but the plan is to proceed slowly to skirt up behind the weather system. For now, we are headed at a gentle six to eight knots “north towards Alaska” as one of the instructors joked recently. For now it’s nothing but a gentle rocking as the cadets sit down to begin their classes.

Hoping to absorb one tiny iota of their nautical knowledge, I've been doing a bit of classroom hopping – which isn't always too difficult since the library itself is occasionally used as a classroom. Right now, for instance, I am listening to a lecture about various types of enclosed spaces and the types of gases for which a self-contained breathing apparatus must be worn. Fortunately for us, the library has wonderful air flow with the AC system permanently cranked way up to a setting that I like to call “Arctic.”

The cadets are themselves very eager to talk about what they learn, both in the classroom and at their various “watch” stations. My favorite place to visit on breaks is the bow of the ship, to talk to the cadet poised up there with binoculars for a 45-minute shift. Other boats, runaway barrels, whales and anything that could damage the ship are just a few of the items they are asked to look out for. So far I've missed a pod of dolphins, but I plan to catch a whale!

Cadet Shout Out: John Hannon, 2nd class, says “Hi to John and Eleanor Hannon. Don’t forget my birthday and make sure you give me good presents! Love, Jr. ADO 2nd Class Cadet Hannon.”


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Additional Photos from Cruise A

Dear Readers,

I was sitting in my office today when I received a package that came through the post from Oleg, our ship's librarian for Cruise A.

My fingers rustled the package... what could it be?

Upon opening, I found a CD-Rom with some additional photographs from the first part of this year's cruise.  Please enjoy.