Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Looking for a Ship

I love sea stories.  My book cases are filled with tattered versions of classic fictional tales, travelogues, and non fiction accounts of life, discovery, and war, at sea.  The pages of these books tell grand tales of history, adventure, and discovery, that land lubbers like me can only dream about.  Unless, of course, I am reading about them.

Some of my favorites?  Moby Dick, Kon Tiki, Two Years Before the Mast, Sailing Alone Around the World, and the Mutiny on the Bounty Series by Nordholf and Hall.

Another book I really enjoyed, although I haven't read it for some time is Looking for a Ship by John McPhee, which is an adventure filled account of life at sea as a Merchant Marine aboard the cargo ship the S.S. Stella Lykes as she sails down the Pacific Coast on a 42 day journey.  He encounters among other things, pirates! 

Container Ships, like the Stella Lykes, are prevalent in our port city of Seattle which, if you aren't familiar with our geography sits on Elliot Bay, a part of the Puget Sound.  These ships arrive from all over the world, carrying containers filled with goods the likes of which we can only speculate about.  

As I mentioned, Seattle is surrounded by water.  Not completely surrounded because, of course, that would make us an island.  Again, for the geography challenged, Seattle is not an island.  But there is enough water around so that an ordinary family can actually live in a home with a view of some of it.

And, we are lucky enough to be one of those families.   Looking out our kitchen windows, or upstairs in Lukas' room, we can see the Puget Sound in all it's glory.   And also passing ships.  They pass by day and night, in all weather, in all seasons.  They even pass by on Holidays.  In fact, I saw one pass on Christmas Day.  I wondered if there was a tree aboard.

They're not coming by constantly, but enough so that Lukas and I have taken to playing a game around witnessing them.    If we happen to be looking out the window at just the right time, day or night, and see one of these ships pass by we will call out...

"Ship Spotting!"

This will earn the spotter a point on our chalk board.  I have no idea what score will constitute an eventual victory, but recently I was running ahead by enough that Lukas decided to expand the definition of a 'ship' to include sail boats.  On that afternoon there happened to be several out on the sound and visible with the naked eye.   

His number of chalk marks immediately shot past mine.   "That sneaky little cheater" I thought to myself.  I protested a little,  but eventually decided that I wasn't going to begrudge him his points, especially since we hadn't actually defined what a ship was beforehand.

And it's not about winning, right?  Right.

I'm confident that I'll catch up eventually anyway.  As a matter of fact just a couple of days ago I spied a large container ship silently slipping past my vantage point as I prepared lunch in my kitchen.  

Lukas wasn't around for me to call out "Ship Spotting", so I just watched it as it passed by, thought of McPhee's  many adventures, and wondered if this particular crew were off to experience some grand adventure.  Perhaps in some remote location.

But then I realized it was just headed south, and there's nowhere down there for them to stop.  

Except Tacoma.

image credit: Bryan Bloss West Seattle Blog


Post Post Modern Dad said...


James (SeattleDad) said...

@PPMD - Are you testing to see if I will respond?

Post Post Modern Dad said...

No, my first response timed out for some reason. I said something along the lines:

I hated Moby Dick. Do you have the Stormalong stories? They are tall tales along the lines of Paul Bunyan but sea-faring.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@PPMD - Moby Dick is not for everyone. And no I haven't heard about the Stormalong series, but I'll be looking for it now. Thanks for the recommendation.

Slamdunk said...

Sounds fun. We live near a small airport and play a similar game just with flying machines.

Diplo_Daddy said...

From our apartment overlooking the Persian Gulf here in Kuwait, we too have an excellent view of all types of ships pulling into the country's main sea port. And if we're lucky, massive oil tankers going into/out of Iraq. It's a very busy shipping lane.

A few years ago, when we lived in London, Christopher and I would travel to an open field near the end of one of Heathrow's two runways. Planes from all over the world would pass less than 100 feet overhead. Loved it!

J-Tony said...

I love those "game" moments. Sounds like a lot of fun.

Dashing Dad said...

I love maritime books too, I am currently reading "Over the Edge of the World" about Magellan's voyage around the globe. As far as history books goes, it is intriguing and I am reading entire chapters at a time, rather than 2 pages and falling asleep.