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.

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