darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
For me, shipspotting started with the names.

I'd be crossing the Steel Bridge, and some hulking ship would be taking grain at the eastbank, and the name of it is what would hit me. It would be my oracle for the day. They don't call ships things like Huge Disaster and Grave Humiliation, so the oracles were usually pretty good: Summer Fortune, New Eminence, Global Endeavour all sounded hopeful.

I started looking the names up four years ago. Some ships had stories, and even the ones that didn't--well, they're ships. They sail the ocean blue. They call at ports with exotic names. They're cool.

But inexorably, as the tales became repetitive, and the glamorous ports of call morphed in my imagination into the global shipping version of strip-malls, I started thinking about what the ships mean.

A dirty business. )

At anchor today in Stumptown: the Samjohn Amity, an oracle of anachronism, showing no inclination to change.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The bulk carrier Basic Arrow has been taking on wheat at the Steel Bridge grain elevator for the past couple of days. The inaptly name Basic Arrow is blunt and round-nosed and has a top speed of about 15 knots, whereas your basic arrow is narrow and pointy, and considerably faster over the short haul.

I liked the funny name. This ship collides with nothing but politics. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Tied up next to the Steel Bridge is the first ship I've seen there in months. Its name is Golden Venture, a very shiny Panamax bulk carrier so new that the grain pouring into its massive hatches this morning was probably harvested before the ship left the Chengxi Shipyard at Jiangyin, China.

Jiangyin is the name of the backwater planet in Firefly where the locals kidnap useful people like Doctor Tam from their ships and put them to work.

In real life, Jiangyin is a small city in Jiangsu province and home of one end of a very long, very beautiful suspension bridge across the Yangtze. Jiangyin is just upstream from Shanghai--whose name, interestingly, still has some currency as a verb in English, meaning, basically, to kidnap useful people and put them to work on their ships.

Well, I'm sorry to say that this Golden Venture, being on its first voyage and all, has accumulated no stories. But it seems to be named after a notoriously awful ancestor.

There is a thread of human bondage here. )

What I'd like to know is why anyone would ever name another ship Golden Venture after that. Ships roll off the lines in shipyards all over the world, day after day, and I'm sure that naming them is an onerous business. But still, how hard could it be not to choose the name of a doomed ship of criminality, desperation and death? Why not Golden Bough? Golden Mean? Golden Rule? Golden Years? Golden Girl? Golden Hind? Golden Door? Hell, Golden Showers would be better than this.

The only thing going into its hold here in Stumptown today is a whole lot of golden grain. Let's hope it stays that way forever.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The last few ships I've seen at the grain elevator by the Steel Bridge have been duds. No piracy, no accidents, no near-misses in the North Sea. Today's ship, the Zhonghai, a Panamax bulk carrier under the Panamanian flag, is, sadly, no exception.

It's big, it's pale blue, it needs a paint job, and the name Zhonghai (or Zhong Hai) is surprisingly common--for ships, people and companies. I can't quite figure out what it means. Maybe "loyal sea"? ([livejournal.com profile] kernelm might know...)

Blah-blah through Gibraltar, as every cargo ship on the planet seems to do eventually. Blah-blah Long Beach two weeks ago, blah-blah San Francisco last week...

I assume Zhonghai spent the days between last Sunday and today making a tiny northbound silhouette on the horizon off the West Coast. Now it's cozying up to the Steel Bridge and taking grain.

So, nothing much to say. But check out what my googling did turn up: This mesmerizing application from San Francisco. Give it a couple of seconds to load.

Recommended for map geeks and ship geeks alike, it's the coolest thing I've seen online all day.

Edited on 2008-04-24 to add: In the time since I wrote this journal, I've been studying a little Mandarin. It now seems fairly obvious to me, though I didn't have any means at the time of noting the Chinese characters on the ship's side under the Pinyin version of the name, that Zhong Hai was probably 中海, meaning China Sea.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Once a year, the Navy sails up the Columbia, makes a slight left at the Willamette, and triple-parks a few big gray ships at the downtown seawall.

It's all part of the Rose Festival, a creaky old Portland tradition involving parades, a queen, and a lot of meaningless bullshit charming old-fashioned ceremony.

So I'm walking to work along the river on Sunday afternoon (yes, fear and stress make me do this now) and the "Rose Festival Fleet" is in, and the river is full of pleasure craft.

It was a lovely Sunday. Unless you were a 'terris'. )

I didn't sit there too long. Work--and my need to kiss the boss's ass--was calling, and besides, I didn't want to get shot.

I think I'd like to get back to grain ships now.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Looming large in a fairly terrifying way the last couple of days next to the Steel Bridge (and making the Steel Bridge look particularly fragile by comparison): the Asia Graeca.

Without doing any research at all, I can tell you two things about this bulk carrier: it's nice and new, and it's very, very big.

Unfortunately, all I had was my phone-cam. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The Arethusa, a bulk carrier of Panamanian registry, was taking grain this morning next to the Steel Bridge.

I thought seafaring folk were supposed to be superstitious. Well, they weren't superstitious enough in naming this ship.

Arethusa is the name of a nymph in Greek mythology, a pal of Artemis and a determined maiden. Uninterested in the advances of some lusty river god, she ran off. He chased her across the sea (thus, I'm thinking, the foolish popularity of this name for ships), and in an odd bit of half-luck, Arethusa was saved when Artemis turned her into a fountain. Artemis does not, you note, do anything to the river god.


When you're named Arethusa, I guess you take what you can get, and consider yourself lucky. Or half-lucky.

Tales of some half-lucky ships. With pirates. )

So here's hoping that this Arethusa finds the other half of her luck, and leads an uneventful and pirate-free life all the rest of her days.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Tied up and taking grain next to the Steel Bridge, the charmingly-named Epiphania, a Panamax bulk carrier of Panamanian registry. "Epiphania" is a Greek place name and is the root of "epiphany," one of the most overused words of recent years. It means "a striking manifestation," "a sudden appearance," basically, "showing up."

Turns out that's a pretty apt name for this ship. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Lately departed from the grain elevator next to the Steel Bridge, the Far Eastern Marina, a bulk carrier of Panamanian registry, owned by the Far Eastern Silo & Shipping Corporation of Taipei.

I guess it can't help it if it's ugly. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Taking on grain at the Steel Bridge elevator today, the Global Challenger, not to be confused with a famous hot air balloon of the same name.

The huge grain hatches were open, and stenciled in very large block letters on their undersides were the words "SAFETY FIRST". You will see the irony of this in a moment.

Tugboats to the rescue. Yay, tugboats! )

I bet the Global Challenger postively slunk up the river this time, embarrassed to be seen.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Tied up just downstream of the Broadway Bridge today, the reefer Naxos, of which almost nothing can be said.

Honestly, this is the most boring ship in the world. It was once involved in some kind of freight insurance claim. And that's it. Insurance.


So, I leave the ship's nonexistent history behind and broaden my search.

Veggies: It seems that a "reefer" is a type of ship designed to carry frozen cargo. What kind of frozen cargo gets loaded on a reefer in Portland is a mystery to me. Veggies, maybe? I know that I've gotten loaded on a reefer in Portland at least once or twice. I've been accused of coldness, but last time I checked, I wasn't a vegetable.

Vacations: The Naxos would seem to be named for the unutterably picturesque and vacationy main island of the Cyclades archipelago off the southeast coast of Greece.

Um...Vice?: Naxos is the the birthplace of Zeus. It is also home to the cult of Ariadne, with which the phrase "orgiastic rites" is associated often enough to pique the curiosity.

There is no resemblance between this cult and the ship currently receiving frozen peas down by the Broadway Bridge. Sorry.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Tied up at the grain elevator by the Steel Bridge this week, a bulk carrier blandly named the Steven C.

I get nowhere with the Steven C. It is so bland that it is agented in Gibraltar by the Bland Company. No, really.

It has no history--one pass through Gibraltar, one stop in Australia, and that's it. I can't even find out who owns the thing.

Then I take a look at its IMO number, 8912314. And ah-ha! In 1999, that same IMO number was attached to the Lucky Fortune, a Japanese freighter registered in Liberia. Hmm...a case of false identity.

There's a gale. A resort. And murder. )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The Lihai, a bulk carrier of Liberian registry, has been tied up at the Steel Bridge grain elevator the last couple of days. It's a big hulking ugly thing, neglected by its ship mom and ship dad. A cave troll of a ship.

At the port of Hong Kong in 2002 it was cited for a gyro compass malfunction, and for the rottenness and detachment of a lifeboat mast. A fire extinguishing pump was not working, and the ship had no written safety procedures.

A commercial diving firm lists Lihai International--the ship's operating company--as a client, probably just checking the rusty hull of ships still afloat, but it makes me wonder how many they've sunk.

The name "Lihai" would appear to be Chinese li4 hai5, "formidable," or as someone said, "could only be adequately translated as 'badass.'"

The good ship Badass. Now depositing rust in the Willamette River.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
The not-too-rusty Sea Epoch is at the Steel Bridge grain elevator today. It's a bulk freighter of Panamanian registry, built in 1998. If you want to use the Sea Epoch to transport your stuff, it'll set you back $25,000 a day.

Back in July 2002, the Sea Epoch caused a 19 tonne crude oil spill by colliding with a Panamax tanker off Singapore. The Sea Epoch hit the starboard side of the tanker Lance Naik Karam Singh, sustaining slight damage to its own bow and obviously punching a goodish hole in the tanker. Nobody was hurt, both vessels remained afloat, and Singapore sent eight anti-pollution craft to clean up the spill.

I guess I'm a ship geek. I find this stuff fascinating. )

Next stop, probably Asia again. Dear Sea Epoch: Please avoid colliding with the Steel Bridge as you leave, 'cause that's how I get to work every day. Thanks.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Most days, I ride to work on a bus that crosses the river next to a grain elevator. The ship tied up there today was the Pistis.

Because there is a Gnostic Christian text on the Holy Spirit called the Pistis Sophia, the word pistis, which means "faith" in Greek, turns up frequently in connection with the word sophia, meaning "wisdom."

By contrast, in a search on freight ships called Pistis, the word "hull" turns up in connection with the word "corroded" more often than you'd think would be good.

Pistis was detained at Koper in 2002 for being in generally horrendous condition. New Orleans expelled it last July for undisclosed deficiencies. Bristol detained it the following month for, among other offenses, having its "main engine gagged open with a jubilee clip".

Pistis has not yet made the Paris MOU Port Control's Rustbucket list (PDF). But the fact that there is such a list gives me all kinds of faith in the persistence of humor.

Jubilee clips notwithstanding, wheat or barley from east of the Cascades was pouring into the open hatches this morning, and Pistis looked about ready to head downriver to the Pacific. Let's hope it gets to Asia in one piece.

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