What caught my eye: March 2024

Floating sauna in Oslo fjord rescues occupants of sinking Tesla

This is a remarkable story, one of my favourites for ages, which fortunately had a happy ending. What caught my eye specifically were the details of the good Samaritan vessel – a floating sauna – which came to the aid of a sinking Tesla. I must have led a sheltered life as I was completely unaware that such craft existed and that they are indeed popular in Norway and can be hired by the hour! And being a skipper of a floating sauna sounds like a very cool job – never getting cold on the job either!

Skipper of the floating sauna, Nicholay Nordahl, said, “It was a memorable working day. It was surreal, not exactly what you expect when you are at work. But we managed to act quickly.” And the sauna was soon put to good use to warm up the occupants of the Tesla, who were rescued from the icy waters unharmed. The driver of the Tesla has since revealed he thought the car was in park when he hit the accelerator. Both driver and passenger were unharmed in the incident and were met by emergency services when the sauna docked.

To conclude this story, I understand there are many floating sauna companies operating in Norway. Tripadvisor says a seat in a sauna for an hour and a half will cost a mere £18, or private rental for the whole boat (seating ten) is charged at about £120.

Ineos Britannia’s AC40 catches fire while training

Image credit: Paul Todd/America’s Cup
Image credit: Paul Todd/America’s Cup

As anyone who follows my scribblings will know, I am and still remain concerned about lithium-ion battery fires on boats, superyachts and ships and with good reason too. So, I was worried to read about another incident, this one involving Ineos Britannia, Britain’s challenger for the 37th America’s Cup. Damage was caused to one of the team’s training boats, Athena, after an electrical battery fire onboard off the coast of Barcelona.

While sailing off Mataro, the crew onboard Athena was required to react to a very sudden electrical fire on the AC40, which was highlighted by smoke pouring from the forward hatch. Ineos Britannia reports the team chase boat was quickly alongside, and fire extinguishers were deployed, but water was required to be pumped into the forward hatch to submerge the lithium battery to contain the fire. No one was injured in the incident. After stabilising the yacht and contacting the emergency services, the team had a long tow back to the Ineos Britannia team base, with constant monitoring of the crew onboard and the lithium battery.

As mentioned, this time there were no injuries, but that does nothing to ease my comfort level as far as lithium-ion battery fires at sea are concerned. The Athena crew were lucky as they had a support boat close by. The ordinary sailor at sea might not have been so lucky in similar circumstances.

Have you ever wondered how much it costs to maintain a superyacht for a year?

Photo credit: Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via Associated Press
Photo credit: Leon Lord/Fiji Sun via Associated Press

Secretly you have surely thought about how cool it would be to own a superyacht. I know I have and yes, I have occasionally wondered how much one year’s maintenance of a superyacht would cost – a bit out of my league for certain. It is one of those useless facts one carries around to reveal at an appropriate time for an unsuspecting audience perhaps who will be aghast when you tell them!

Of course, many things to do with superyachts are often shrouded in mystery and secrecy, so I am most grateful to the US government on this occasion as my information source. It is said to have been spending an eyewatering sum of more than $7 million a year to maintain a superyacht it seized from a sanctioned Russian oligarch. The government has urged a judge to let it auction the vessel before a dispute over its ownership is resolved.

Authorities in Fiji seized the 348-foot (106-metre), $300 million Amadea in May 2022, pursuant to a US warrant alleging it was owned by Suleiman Kerimov, a multibillionaire sanctioned by the US Treasury Department in 2014 and 2018. The legal arguments are many and varied as one might expect – and still ongoing – so who knows where it will end. But at least you are now in the know what to expect in terms of annual maintenance costs before you press the button on your superyacht purchase!

Artificial Intelligence helps to protect historic UK canal bridges from vehicle strikes

As some readers will be aware, I am fascinated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and keen to embrace it, so this story ticked all my boxes. The concern of AI falling into the wrong hands is a worry, but here’s a brilliant example of how it can be put to great use.  The UK Canal & River Trust (CRT) has developed an innovative AI CCTV system which is being trialled on the Lancaster Canal to catch careless hit-and-run motorists, who each year cause thousands of pounds worth of damage. As well as inconvenience to local residents and boaters, vehicle strikes on 200-year-old stone bridges cost CRT annually up to £1 million in repairs, diverting vital funds away from work to conserve the waterways.

CRT is testing the new system on Cockerham Road Bridge (no 79), near Forton, Lancashire, which was hit twice in 2022. In the past, the use of CCTV to provide constant recording of bridge strike hot spots in rural areas has proved prohibitively expensive due to a lack of power supply. But this new system is controlled by AI using a mobile phone signal and doesn’t continuously record but takes a few photos when it detects vehicle movement. The AI then assesses if the bridge has been impacted. If there is no strike, the photos are deleted and if damage has been caused, CRT staff receive a notification, allowing them to identify number plates to track down the offenders and claim full repair costs on their insurance. Last summer Cockerham Road Bridge had to be repaired again after yet another strike at a cost of £25,000.

Flying squirrels could be costly for Helsinki harbour plans

Image courtesy of the BBC
Image courtesy of the BBC

Like many people I am an animal lover and, although regarded as a menace by some, watching grey squirrels displaying their tricks and stunts on the lawn from my kitchen window over breakfast on a Saturday morning, is a regular treat! So, imagine my surprise and delight when I turned up this story about flying squirrels! According to researchers, Helsinki has seen a boom in the population of Siberian flying squirrels in recent years. Consequently, a cheaper and quicker option to build a tunnel as part of the Port of Helsinki’s expansion plans could be abandoned because of – yes, you guessed it – flying squirrels.

Planning for major development at the Port of Helsinki’s West Harbour has reached its final stages with a key tunnel still being assessed for ideal route and cost. The harbour tunnel, which will take traffic from Jätkäsaari to Länsiväylä, “will transfer the majority of the traffic caused by harbour operations in Jätkäsaari and Ruoholahti from the street network to the tunnel,” say planners. “It will also make traffic more efficient in Jätkäsaari and improve the general pleasantness and air quality of the area.” But will the flying squirrels win the day?

OK, so that’s quite enough frivolity for one month.
Mike Schwarz

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