Monday, August 29, 2016

A Broader Canvas

Since childhood, I’ve collected pictures of ships.  Mostly postcards, these portraits were easily affordable and portable during travels.  The collection started with the passenger liners on which my grandparents sailed, and then continued with whatever seemed relevant to the family or historically noteworthy.  The result is an eclectic assortment, a little of this and a little of that, with a little from here and a little from there.

Each image has its own story, and in several instances, its own connection to our family.  With no further ado, then, let me present a dozen or so of what I think are the best and most interesting photographs:

The place where it all started.  An aerial view of the passenger piers on the West Side of Manhattan.  Shown at left are three Cunard ships, including the Queen Elizabeth in the center.  At right are the America of United States Lines and one of the twins Constitution and Independence of American Export Lines.  Note the overhanging fantail tern on the American Export ship.  This is a long gone aspect of the shipbuilder's art, a lovely finishing touch on a very attractive vessel.
The Constitution and the Independence were my grandparents' favorite ships.  They made unhurried voyages between New York and several Mediterranean ports, and while certainly first class operations, they did not engage in the movie star sophistication of some of the more famous liners.  This is my favorite portrait of the Constitution, one of a half-dozen that my grandparents collected.  She appears to be at anchor, probably off a Mediterranean port, judging by the shadows cast by a high summer sun.  
Twice my grandparents sailed aboard the Cristoforo Colombo of the Italian Line in the late 1950s.  They mailed this portrait of the ship home from Italy following a voyage from New York to Napoli in October of 1959.
When the Cristoforo Colombo arrived in Napoli, she docked here at the Stazione Maritima.  Monte Vesuvio looms in the background across the bay.  The American Export ships also docked here.  Note the multi-colored twin stacks of either the Constitution or the Independence rising above the building.  Many years after my grandparents' travels, the Rigel docked here during my time aboard here in 1979.  More recently, the Nieuw Amsterdam, on which my oldest son got married, has docked here while on her summer cruises.
During my transatlantic travels of the 1970s, I happened across this souvenir log of the United States, which I gave to my grandfather.  He and my grandmother had made one voyage on this ship in 1955, and I thought he would find this item interesting.  He did.  He told me, however, that the United States went too fast--New York to England in three days--and he preferred a slower, longer, and more leisurely crossing.  The voyage data on the back of this card brag about speed, speed, and speed.  I've come to agree with my grandfather.  The ships I later sailed on typically took ten days to reach Europe.
The troop transport Upshur is about to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge, most likely after departing from the Military Ocean Terminal in Oakland, California.  For years this vessel carried American military personnel, their families, and their belongings between the West Coast and the Far East.  She also carried South Korean troops during the Korean War.  Long afterwards, as the school ship State of Maine, notices stenciled in Korean remained on the bulkheads in the troop compartments.  I made two summer voyages on this ship as a teenager in the mid 1970s.  I also sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge several times, not on the State of Maine, but while aboard the Mercury and the Comet in the 1980s.
The ferry R. S. Sterling of the Texas Highway Department.  I rode this ferry on Monday, May 30, 1977, during the time of my apprenticeship aboard the tanker New Jersey Sun.  While she was drydocked at the Todd Shipyard in Galveston, I wandered around town on Memorial Day and found entertainment in free ferry rides between Galveston and Port Bolivar, Texas.
The aircraft carrier Lexington moored in her home port of Pensacola, Florida.  On another side trip during my time aboard the New Jersey Sun, my brother and I took a tour of this ship on Saturday, May 21, 1977.  Years earlier, as a student pilot, he had landed on and taken off from the Lexington at sea in the Gulf of Mexico.  I remember him remarking that the flight deck seemed pretty small.
A winter view of the first Queen Elizabeth at the Ocean Terminal in Southampton, England.  While such snow is unusual in southern England, the Queen Elizabeth and her sister the Queen Mary called at this spot regularly for decades.  Years after they reached the end of their careers, the oceanographic survey ship Wilkes docked at this same berth several times with me on board in the winter of 1980 and 1981.
Cunard's new flagship Queen Elizabeth 2 leaves Southampton for the first time in 1967.  The QE2 and I have followed each other along the American East Coast.  I saw her a few times in Fort Lauderdale when I was posted on the Bartlett and the two ships tied up across the pier from each other.  Years later, I took the children to see the Queen several times in New York and once in Portland, Maine.
An aerial view of the passenger ship piers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in the 1970s.  I acquired this postcard in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, in early November of 1979 when I was sailing aboard the General Hoyt S. Vandenburg.  I wanted very much to visit San Juan and see the old colonial city, but that would have to wait a few years.
The nearly identical twin sisters Caribou and Joseph and Clara Smallwood of Marine Atlantic.  These were two of the four vessels that connected North Sydney, Nova Scotia, with Argentia and Port-aux-Basques, Newfoundland.  We sailed aboard the Joseph and Clara Smallwood from North Sydney to Argentia on Monday, June 21, 2004.  At the time, it was the longest voyage the children had made--fourteen hours--and they loved every minute of it.  I did, too.  I remember that it felt absolutely wonderful to sail out of sight of land and onto the open Atlantic again!
The cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam of the Holland-America Line appears in a computer-generated image.  While the line of foam alongside the ship would lead us to believe she is underway and making way through the water, there is no bow wave, no side wave, no stern wave, and no wake.  There are also no passengers or crew out on deck.  My guess is that this is an artist's rendering made while the vessel was under construction in 2010.  Still it's a good likeness of a fine ship.  Our oldest son, James, was married aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam in Fort Lauderdale on Sunday afternoon, February 5, 2012.  Three days later, with the whole family aboard, the Nieuw Amsterdam docked at the cruise ship piers in San Juan.  A dream come true, I happily spent the day exploring this beautiful city.  In one further family history connection, my grandparents' final voyage was a winter cruise to the Caribbean in January and February of 1968.  Sailing one last time aboard the Constitution, they visited San Juan and docked at the same piers as the Nieuw Amsterdam.

Since my childhood, then, ships have been important means of transportation as well as the centerpieces at family gatherings on many occasions.  From the bon voyage celebrations at the West Side piers to the wedding aboard the Nieuw Amsterdam and numerous voyages in between, these vessels have have served us very well.  Now, even though most of these ships are long gone, they live on in the photographic arts and in the family archives, and they bring back many happy memories.  The family and the ships thus form a dual blessing, and we are expected to “receive it from the hand of the Lord, with a thankful heart” (D&C 62:7).  In looking back on these happy times aboard these great ships, how could anyone not feel thankful?

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Watching the World Go By

At my age now, it’s sometimes nice to just sit back and relax and enjoy the show.  In the shipping business, the show goes on around the clock, day and night, every day of the year.  Some times are busier than others, of course, but there is almost always something to see. 

When the children were growing up, we frequently took them to watch the ship show.  This was always fun, educational, and inexpensive, and it always held the whole family’s interest, even for extended periods.  We had a few favorite spots where the traffic tended to be both concentrated and varied, and also where the scenery was beautiful.  Often we combined this entertainment with other activities, and we almost always brought a picnic lunch with us.  If we set out early enough, we brought a picnic breakfast as well.  We also always brought a camera, and sometimes a video camera, too.  I used up a lot of film on these excursions, believing that I could never have too many pictures of the ships and my children.

Several times each year, we took the children to Long Island to visit their grandparents.  There it’s always easy to watch the ship show because there are so many good vantage points close to home.  One of my favorites is in Brooklyn.  Alongside the Belt Parkway and in the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge lies a small park overlooking the Narrows, the main entrance to New York Harbor.  Several benches line a promenade and face the water.  Local residents relax on them, take in the view, and fish.  We went there to watch the fleet arrive and depart.

One such occasion in particular stands out in memory.  Arriving at 6:00am on a rainy and foggy Sunday, August 17, 2003, we did not need to wait long for the first ships of the day to appear.  Emerging from the drizzle hovering over the Lower Bay, three major vessels in succession entered the harbor.  Another left and went to sea, and others maneuvered through the fog in the anchorage.  Photographing these ships through the mist proved challenging, but I managed to get a few good shots.  We spent about two hours at this vantage point.  I would have been happy to remain all morning, but it was Sunday, and of course we had to go to church.  For now, I’ve selected the best of the pictures I took that day, and I’m happy to present them here:

The first arrival of the day.  In the very early morning of Sunday, August 17, 2003, the container ship P&O Nedlloyd Seattle has just sailed under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and now proceeds up the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Next comes the cruise ship Carnival Legend.  Very few passengers are out on deck at this early hour.
The container ship OOCL Faith of the Orient Overseas Container Line heads out to sea. She and the Carnival Legend passed port to port just north of the bridge.
The cruise ship Norwegian Dawn arrives next, bound for the renovated passenger piers on the West Side of Manhattan.
Finally, the Elizabeth Ann comes in with the barge 4001 on the hip.

Another of our favorite ship watching spots lies a few states away to the northeast.  The Spring Point Ledge Light stands at the end of a breakwater that extends from Spring Point in South Portland, Maine, into Portland Harbor.  It commands a superb view of Casco Bay, Portland Head, the harbor entrance, the city, and the surrounding islands.  We’ve taken the children there on several occasions, and they’ve all loved it.  One cloudy afternoon on Wednesday, August 7, 2002, proved to be a busy traffic time, as these photographs indicate:

A close-up view of the Spring Point Ledge Light, at the end of a 900-feet long jetty in Portland Harbor, on Wednesday, August 7, 2002.  At the very end of this jetty, and in the shadow of the lighthouse, we relaxed with our picnic lunch and watched the world of commercial shipping pass in front of us:
The oil tanker Nassau Spirit maneuvers past the lighthouse on her way to the adjacent Portland Pipeline Terminal, just to the west.

The ferry Island Romance heads from her terminal in downtown Portland to the Casco Bay Islands.
The pilot boat Portland Pilot returns to the city after delivering a pilot to an arriving ship.
The cruise ship Regal Empress arrives with a load of tourists.  The rounded merchant cruiser stern, the riveted overlapping strakes of shell plating, and the graceful curvature of the hull identify her as a fairly old vessel, but she is still running.
Finally, on Tuesday, June 26, 2001, we have a partial view of the tanker Rebecca moored at the Portland Pipeline Terminal.  The comparatively tiny catboat lying at anchor gives a good perspective of the massiveness of the Rebecca.

Next, returning to Long Island but going this time to its eastern end, we visit the ferry dock at Orient Point on an August day in 1976.  This predates my children by eleven years; in fact, I was still a teenager myself then.  A day trip by automobile with my parents took us to both the North and South Forks of Long Island, to both Montauk Point and Orient Point.  In something of a busman’s holiday, as I had just shortly before returned home from sea, we visited the waterfront and gazed out to sea.  Then we looked over the ferry facilities and took pictures of the ship in port.  I did not realize then how much of a role this ferry link to Connecticut would play in the family’s future, especially after the children arrived.  Here, then, is my favorite picture from that day:

The ferry Orient loads up at her terminal in Orient Point, Long Island, on a sunny day in August of 1976.  The battered hull plating and the generous allotment of rust indicate that the Orient has seen many years of service and has taken some punishment from a rough sea.  She has since gone to her reward, and newer vessels have taken her place.

In these and other waterfront locations, the beauty of the earth, sea, and sky are readily apparent in all weather conditions.  There is something about the sunlight in the way that it plays upon the water, the shore, and the ships that brings out the best in all of them.  And, without the responsibility involved in working aboard these ships, I have the leisure time to contemplate the majestic beauty around me.  At the end of the day, one of our hymns elevates this beauty to the supernal:

                                    Softly now the light of day
                                    Fades upon my sight away.
                                    Free from care, from labor free.
                                    Lord, I would commune with thee.[1]

[1] George W. Doane, “Softly Now the Light of Day,” in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985, p. 160.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Old Fleet

Many years ago when I was young, the Delaware River and Bay Authority operated a fleet of four ferries between North Cape May, New Jersey, and Lewes, Delaware.  The vessels were headquartered at a large terminal facility at the western end of the Cape May Canal, and this site provided ready access to the open water of the Delaware Bay while also affording sheltered berths.  The service began operations in 1964, and it continues to the present time, although with a newer and more modern fleet.  The old ships, while now mostly gone, live on in photographs and memories, and they hold a special place in my personal chronicle of the sea.

My family vacationed every summer in Cape May during my teenage years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  At first, we simply watched the ferries at the terminal in North Cape May and from Sunset Beach in Cape May Point.  After a while, though, just watching was no longer enough for me, and I pestered my parents about sailing on these big ships.  But my father balked at spending money for a mere joyride.  He had no desire to go to Delaware and did not see what the point would be.  He did inquire about the cost, however, and we learned that same-day, round-trip tickets for pedestrians were actually quite inexpensive.  My mother and grandfather also liked the idea of going sailing, and so we all went to sea with the fleet for the first time in August of 1972.

Our first voyage took place aboard the Delaware.  The weather was beautifully sunny and clear and the sea calm.  The Delaware rode placidly and comfortably across the mouth of her namesake bay to Lewes and back in about three hours.  It seemed to go by very quickly.  In my adolescent enthusiasm, I wandered all over the ship examining everything and feeling great delight in going to sea aboard such a capital vessel and in deep water.  With my adolescent lack of foresight, however, I took several pictures but not nearly enough, and I never thought to record the day’s events and voyage particulars in any kind of notebook.  While I regret that now, I am glad that I bought every postcard of these ships that I could find.

This initial voyage across the Delaware Bay proved to be so enjoyable for the entire family that we did it every summer for the next three years.  We made our subsequent voyages aboard the New Jersey, the Cape May, and I think the Cape Henlopen as well.  My grandfather, a former Captain of the ferry boat Henry Ludlow on the South Shore of Long Island, especially liked these longer crossings of the Delaware Bay.  He and I frequently walked around the ships together, and he often shared his expertise about various aspects of the ferry, the sea state, the weather, and the docking maneuvers with me.

One of my favorite aspects of these ferries was their paint scheme.  A very distinctive, multi-colored, and even unique design, it really made these ships stand out and be recognized.  It was so much more attractive, and it required so much more skill to apply, than the sprayed-on single color paint jobs of many vessels.  Over the years since, I’ve come to appreciate just how much a good paint scheme can contribute to a ship’s character and persona.

The four round-trip voyages that I made aboard the Delaware Bay ferries in my teenage years were all wonderful experiences.  They introduced me to the magnificent physical and spiritual  beauty of the sea and to the ineffable pleasure of going to sea.  They also helped me realize that seafaring was the career that I wanted to pursue.  After sailing across the bay several times, I next wanted to sail across the oceans, and eventually I did.  Now, many years later, I have fond memories of the old fleet of Delaware Bay ferries, and I’m happy to share some of my favorite photographs of them here:

An aerial view of the Cape May terminal.  This is actually in North Cape May, several miles from town, on the north shore and west end of the Cape May Canal.  This view is to the north.  On the left, to the west, is the Delaware Bay.  The ships present are, left to right, the Delaware, the Cape Henlopen, and the Cape May.

A stylized profile view of the Delaware, the largest vessel in the fleet.

The New Jersey.  She has just departed from the North Cape May terminal and is heading west out of the Cape May Canal.  In just a few minutes she will reach the open water of the Delaware Bay and then she will turn south.

The Cape Henlopen.  She has just entered the Cape May Canal from the Delaware Bay and is heading east toward the ferry terminal.  This is the same Cape Henlopen that now sails on the New London, Connecticut, to Orient Point, Long Island, route operated by Cross Sound Ferry.

An antique postcard portrait of the Cape May.  This was most likely a black and white photograph that was later hand painted in color.  A very interesting artistic style from a bygone era.
A real color photograph of the Cape May approaching the big terminal in August of 1971.
The Cape Henlopen (partly obscured) and the New Jersey at the docks in North Cape May in August of 1971.
The Delaware approaching the terminal in August of 1972.
Aboard a ship and at sea!  From the Delaware as she heads south toward Lewes, we see the northbound New Jersey, bound for Cape May, in August of 1972.
As the Delaware returns north from Lewes to Cape May, we see the Cape Henlopen heading south for Lewes.  Same day in August of 1972.