Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Stuff You See Later

Good cameras with long lenses still aren’t binoculars. 

And so there are sometimes some real surprises when an image is opened onto something exponentially larger than the 3” LCD screen on the camera.

A case in point:

Polar Queen

Depending on your computer and display adapter, you might (but probably won’t) notice the tiny dot just aft of the third crane stanction.  If you look at the larger version of the shot, you’ll see what I’m talking about.  There’s a guy out there, creeping along the crane cables.  (I’m assuming that it’s a male… most of the crew on ships like these are still male)

I had no idea that he was there when I was shooting this stuff.  I was just paying attention to that big, dark band of nastiness that was creeping up on the other side of these ships.

Less than ten minutes after I made this shot, the torrential rain that those dark clouds were carrying had swept over the ships and everything else nearby, and I’m pretty sure this poor sod was still out there attempting to inspect the cables that he was traversing.

If I’d have realized that he was out there, I would have stretched things a bit… I had focal length to spare.  But he was just about impossible to see in the viewfinder at the time, and really, would I have known to look for him?

I wish I had!

Day’s End

Night Anchorage

A shot from the front porch. It’s best to click on it. 

It’s about 38F outside, but there’s no wind at all here, and there are stars overhead.  There are nine vessels in Astoria’s anchorage tonight, and five of them are visible from my windows.

No crop, no post-processing, no filters.  Sigma 105mm @ f/8, 10 seconds.  Don’t trust your meter for these situations!  Tripod mounted.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Image Yet

The rain was just too steady to try to shoot it, but the Peacock’s running and navigation lights are glowing again.

As I drove by this afternoon/gloom, it was hard not to notice the green starboard lantern and the running lights on the old boat. 

As it was, the rain sheen distorted and flared the light unexpectedly.  No way for me to shoot that, but I’ll work something out in good time.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Settling Into Place

The Peacock’s last few hundred yards of travel were the combined result of an amazing array of people, equipment and technologies.
Her last berth afloat was at the foot of 17th Street.  Her final position atop her pedestals is at the corner of 20th and Marine.  The whole operation took at least five hours… probably considerably more, depending on when one considered the job “done.”
I could only stay for about 90 minutes of the operation.
Rigging to the tug
A small tug snugged up to the stern of the Peacock and the two were carefully lashed into a single unit.
Passing the Bar Pilot's office
Mooring lines cast off for the last time, the Peacock slips past the Columbia River Bar Pilot’s office.
Into the main stream
Passing the Columbia
The Peacock’s companion vessel, the Columbia, was on hand to honor her passing.
Threading the needle
The break in the old row of pilings was just wide enough to let the tug and boat through.  Note the Arrow 2 passing in the distance. 
Inches out of the river
The pedestal cradles that had been invisible are finally apparent as the pilot boat is inched carefully out of the water.
Nearing shore
Coordinating the movements of the two cranes was painstakingly slow, but I don’t think anyone faulted the crew for that!
Old and new
The bar pilots’ helicopter made a circuit around the operation in salute to the old pioneer.  The helo is visible between the cradle cables as it begins its return trip to Astoria Regional.
Settling over dry land
It was near this point that I had to leave.  I wish I could have seen the final transfer, but the operation wasn’t completed for hours.
Settled in
I paused on 10/10/10 (the next sunny day) to make a shot of the boat in her new “berth”.
A side note:  I’ve never seen traffic on this blog that comes anywhere close to that that was generated by the previous post.  There were more hits from more places than I’ve ever seen before… well over 100 visits!  For a lot of sites, that’s a really poor showing, but for this one, it was phenomenal.
It makes me curious, though… just who are you all? 
Feel free to introduce yourselves!
Another addendum (11/27):  I found a shot of the Peacock that I made just about a year before it was placed on the pedestals.  She’d been sitting and (literally) mildewing for years, and even though her paint had been nearly fresh when I moved up here (in 2006), the neglect was showing.  Note also the reversal of the colors topside.
Addendum 3, 9 Sept., 2012:
I originally added this to the comment section, but I realize that it might not get read there:
Nearly two years after originally posting this entry, I've seen a really large uptick in visits from Germany, most of them coming from a forum on a site called .

I'm happy to see all of the activity, but I don't speak German, so I haven't registered for that site. Any of those visitors who speak English care to explain the ongoing interest in the Peacock?
I know that the boat was constructed there and has a lot in common with other designs used in the North Sea, but is that the only reason for all of the interest?
Over the last couple of years, visits from Germany have outnumbered all of the rest of the international visitors, but this last week has been really remarkable.
I'd love to hear from some of you!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Coming soon…

…to a pedestal near, well, me!

Pointing Toward The Bar

On Thursday, October 7 at 11:00, the pilot vessel Peacock will leave the waters of the Columbia for the last time and be positioned on a set of pedestals at the east end of the Columbia River Maritime Museum campus as a permanent display.

Until then, she’s at the foot of 17th Street with a spanking new coat of paint.

“No single vessel has had a more profound impact on the economy of the Columbia River basin than the Pilot Boat Peacock.” -Bar pilot Captain Thron Riggs, from the CRMM press release.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Just One of Those Things

The Splendeur has been hanging out for something close to a week.  She’s my new temporary neighbor.


Still, it’s pretty rare to have the tide, current and solar aspect collide in such a manner that I could make this shot from my front steps.  But, that’s what happened this evening.

Not Pretty, But Necessary

The Dodge Island has been (and still is) very busy in the Astoria area again. 

“Silt Happens”

The channel has to be dredged regularly, or upstream ports would be strangled off from international marine traffic.


A small bonus in this photo was seeing the Columbia River (the smaller launch hauled alongside the dredge) was afloat again.

The Columbia River was the subject of one of my (and apparently others’) favorite abstract maritime images.  The last time I’d seen her, she was being hauled rather ignominiously out of town on a large flatbed.  I was afraid that she was going to be scrapped.  But, she’s back at work, and I’m happy to see it.

Style vs. Profit?

Some weeks ago, Joanne (of The Ship Report) broadcast a series of segments on naval architecture that featured Captain Robert Johnson, a Columbia River bar pilot. 

As he described the evolution of design of bulk freighters, my heart kind of sank.  Maybe I was wrong, but it really seemed that he was saying that prettier lines weren’t profitable because “block coefficient” was the key to shipping revenue.

I had always believed that a sharp bow with rakish lines would be the best way to make headway.  But this appears to not be the case.

Pretty and Not 

The Eternal Athena (foreground) represents (to me, anyway) the look of a beautiful bow.  Fill her holds and send her to sea and the proud, angled prow will be all that you see.  The Blue Diamond (background) seems to represent the best of what the future has to offer.  I’ve seen considerably uglier ships already.  The bow’s profile gets closer and closer to plumb (vertical) as time goes on.

I’m really not looking forward to the day when all the ships plying the river are distinguishable from barges only because they have stacks and a house poking above their afterparts.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Full House

And this doesn’t even show all of it.  There are two more laying at anchor on the south side of the navigation channel.


Near to far:  Cielo di Pisa, New Spirit, Thalassini Kyra, RZS Joy, United Milos.

The Cielo di Pisa is anchored about even with 9th Street, and the United Milos is the main feature of my outside view right now… so there’s about a three mile distance between the first and last in this frame.

It’s not a really exciting photograph, I know, but given that the Chavin Queen and Splendeur are just out of the frame, it’s an encouraging indicator of the shipping volume we’re seeing these days.  Since these ships are all preparing to export goods, that can’t be bad for the economy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Suspicions Confirmed

The Sammi Crystal won't be back.

I finally found an article in the online version of the Otago Daily Times (on New Zealand's South Island) that confirmed her fate.

Sold to a Chinese shipbreaker for about $2.9 million.

I thought the article was particularly interesting in that it noted the passing of the ship because it holds the record for the most port visits there of any bulker.

Another snippet of an article that I couldn't read the entirety of indicated that the transaction occurred (or was announced) on May 17 of this year. Interesting coincidence, as that's my birthday.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Summer Dawn... Finally

OK, so there have probably been a few other dawns over here with some sun in them, but they haven't been in August.

I was out early in hopes that the fog would lift or at least thin out some when the sun came up.

It did. And then it came back, then thinned again.

More later.
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Breathless Evening…

…in the middle of winter. 


Another one taken in February of 2008.  Still waiting (less and less patiently) for a run of summer evenings like this.

I know, I know… “gripe, gripe, gripe”. 

Guilty as charged.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Think She’s Gone


The Sammi Crystal has been around for a little more than 30 years. For a cargo ship, I understand that's a very long time.

Having noted her absence for a couple of months now, I started hunting around for traces of her.

STX (her parent company) no longer shows her on the roster.

I'm no expert at these things, but I searched in various other ways to find traces of her, perhaps plying other routes.

But I haven't come up with anything.

I have a feeling that she's in the process of being dismantled and recycled somewhere.

I've written of my accidental fascination with the ship before, and so I won't recount all of that. But if she doesn't return, her uniqueness will be missed.

Who knows? Her crews might be saying "good riddance". But from here on shore, there's one fewer immediately identifiable character on stage out there on the river.

I shot this on an astonishingly calm, beautiful evening (afternoon, really) in February of 2008, before I realized that this really was the only ship on the river that looked like that.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Damn The Luck!

Last night, right around the same time, I was standing out right next to that big freakin’ tree in the foreground, lamenting that I’d missed the peak of the light.

Tonight,I was about to start cooking dinner when I glanced out the window and saw a Jayhawk hovering over the Terrapin, which is back in the river, visiting and training.


This is a severe crop from a frame taken with the G zoom at 300mm, which equates to 450mm in 35mm film terms.  I propped myself up against the front porch railing to steady myself.  Since the Terrapin was still making headway, there wasn’t much question about grabbing a tripod or monopod… had to work with the support available.

There are two humans dangling between the helo and the boat.  It’s just a drill.  Just another evening framed by my windowsills.

ISO 200, 1/250th @ f/5.6.  Massive crop.  This probably uses 1/10 of the frame.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Little Catching Up

I’m somewhat envious of Joanne Rideout’s “vacation” this week.  She was aboard the CSL Acadian as I shot this on Friday evening.CSLAcadianPilotTransfer

I shot several frames from downtown Astoria as the pilots made their transfer.  I’m surprised I’ve never really noticed this ship before.  The deck gear is unusual, maybe even unique.


We’ve had a handful of actual sunsets in July.  This is from a couple of weeks ago.  Conventional wisdom dictates that one simply doesn’t include the sun in the frame.  There are lots of reasons for that to be good advice most of the time, but not always.


The Granby is allegedly homeported in British Columbia , but I found her rotting away quietly a few miles west of Longview.

US CGC Terrapin:


Sure doesn’t look like a turtle to me! 

It’s one of a couple fast boats based in Bellingham that have been spending time in the Columbia this… almost-spring,  wannabe-summer… whatever you want to call it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Put Lipstick Behind a Pig…

…and it’s still a pig. 


Even the truncated glory of Mt. St. Helens can’t do much to mask the clunkiness of a car carrier. 

There’s a reason for all of the visual shortcomings.  With Ro-Ros (roll on, roll off vessels), mile-high freeboard and ungainly appendages (fold down ramps, ventilation stacks, etc.) come with the territory.  They’re all part of getting their job done with maximum efficiency and without killing anyone.

If memory serves me correctly, this is one of the older car carriers in service, having been in the workforce about as long as I have.

Details really show her age.  Her hull plates are buckling twixt her frames, and she’s badly in need of the attention of grinders, needle guns and paint.  But, when you hear her pass, you know her heart’s in good shape.  The thrum of her screw blades thrashing the water were backed up by the steady drone of her power plant as the threw out her formidable bow wave.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Acres of Memories

For the last several days, Joanne Rideout’s Ship Report segments have had to do with “life at sea”. 

The recollections have been very interesting (especially regarding the Marcus G. Langseth being attacked by pirates off Somalia).

They’ve also kicked the anthill that is nostalgia within me.

In the overall scheme of things, my life at sea has been pretty miniscule, an extremely small percentage of my existence.  And yet the memories loom large and far out of proportion to the time allotted to them.

Part of that probably has to do with the time of my life.  I was in my early 20s.  And part probably has to do with the scale of the job (or jobs) at hand.

This wave of nostalgia led me to Google Earth and the image shown here, snagged from an overview of the Bremerton shipyard in Washington’s Puget Sound.


Left to right, as best as I can tell (and counting only the carriers):  CV-62, the USS Independence; CV-63, the USS Kitty Hawk; CV-64, the USS Constellation; and CV-61, The USS Ranger.  (There is no doubt about the Kitty Hawk… her deck number is plainly visible in Google Earth view… the others are at least partially obscured, but I have an eye for these things)

I served aboard both the Kitty Hawk and Ranger, though for a considerably shorter time aboard the latter.  And, for a day or so, the Constellation steamed alongside the ‘Hawk while both ships were on the other end of the world in the Indian Ocean.  Somewhere in my slide archives I have a picture of the Connie in the middle of nowhere.  It was taken from the flight deck of the Kitty Hawk.

So, nostalgia abounds this evening, and even starts a feedback loop as I look more closely at the satellite image.  The two diminutive “boats” lashed between the Connie and Ranger appear to be Oliver Hazard Perry-class fast frigates… the same type of ship that I wrote about a couple of years ago in a different blog

Those aren’t boats… they’re real ships.  But they look so tiny when squeezed between the giant, retired queens that they almost disappear. 

There are four acres of real estate (minimum) atop each of the carriers.  And on the Kitty Hawk in particular, I still feel familiar with every square inch of it, even though I last saluted her standard in 1984. 

On that deck, I was fried, frozen, baked, bruised and battered and came away with a knee injury that haunts me to this day… and yet I still think of it as the most exciting job of my life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

On The Road Again


In the early ‘80s, I was deployed aboard the USS Kitty Hawk.  As we headed for open sea with Point Loma to the starboard, the song that was piped over the 1MC announcement system was Willie Nelson’s “On The Road Again”.

As I watched the Port Alice slip downstream tonight, I wondered if the crew aboard each had a particular song in their heads, or if it was just so old hat that they paid no notice.

It would be a shame to me if they paid no notice. 

It’s a job, I know, but it’s a job that’s done in and on an incredibly variable and often incredibly beautiful environment.

This evening was quite breezy, but still the warmest that we’ve had in 8-9 months.  It would have been a remarkable time to be on deck as the ship made the turns toward the bar with the sun setting nearly over the bow.


The Arrow 2 bashes past the East Mooring Basin on the way out to intercept the Port Alice.

Both photographs with the 70-300 “G” lens, ISO 100, f/8. Opening shot at 1/2500 second (-2 stops compensation), second shot 1/100 second, no compensation.  No crops, developed in ACR.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Yes, there really is an app for that…

It’s great to be able to search the web while on the run, but some sites just don’t lend themselves well to mobile (as in smartphone) computing. is one of those.  As much as I enjoy the site and can get easily sucked into looking at ship traffic and photos from around the world, it’s just hard to manage well on a very small screen.  I thought perhaps that the Greek authors of the site had come up with an app of their own, but I didn’t find one on the site itself.

The Apple AppStore came to the rescue, though.  A company called Pinkfroot offers two versions of “ShipFinder”, one free and one “slightly less” free.  At $4.99, it’s not a bad deal, as the free version only updates twice a day.

A couple of screenshots from this evening:

IMG_0071 IMG_0072

The bulker Kumano Lily is passing by the Astoria waterfront with the Arrow 2 alongside.  Three minutes later, the Arrow 2 makes its sharp turn away from the ship and heads for the dock.

The Nippon Maru Leaves Port

Plenty of activity tonight as a small(ish) cruise ship got a pull and a nudge away from the pier from the tug Betsy L, and an armed escort by two Coast Guard small boats.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Pleasure Cruise?

Well, it was probably intended to be so.  And, given the accommodations, it likely will be.  Just not an especially scenic one. 
The Remember When was an anomaly on the ship schedule today.  It’s not all that common for a pleasure craft to require a pilot’s services on the bar.
I started tracking the yacht as it passed Westport on its way downriver.  Its shape morphed out of the murk near Tongue Point just a couple of minutes after the Arrow 2 joined the bar pilot boat Columbia in pointing  their bows upstream.
It’s worth noting that on this first of June it’s been raining soft, incessant buckets.  What we’re dealing with here is not fog but pure, soaking precipitation.  There are hundreds of gallons of water between the lens and subject.  It can make whole states disappear.
The two craft never did go alongside each other for as long as I could see them. 

Monday, May 31, 2010

At Long Last

I’ve lived here in Astoria for nearly four years now and had still never seen any locally-based Coast Guard cutter except the Fir in motion.

Sunday, on my way back from downtown, the Alert was approaching the dock at 17th Street.

A couple of gulls, a cormorant and a heron hung out to watch, too.


Sunday, May 30, 2010



A crop from a frame taken in December.  I started to see it differently as a monochrome image.  The aspect ratio doesn’t work really well in the blog column.  It’s best viewed by double-clicking on it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Where do you think the fish are?

I took a few minutes after finishing my lunch today to check  I really wanted to see what was in or near the Astoria anchorage, but what was going on offshore caught my eye.


The purple symbols are “other” craft.  (Click on the image to see the larger version and legible legend)  Most of those shown are fishing boats, with a couple of pretty significant pleasure cruisers thrown in.  Were they out there for the fish?

It’s probably a good thing that the local gillnetters don’t use AIS… they might overload the system on days like these!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sapphire Princess Departure

Just before leaving the office tonight, I checked to see if there was any activity at Pier 1 in Astoria.  I’m learning some tricks there… if you click on a vessel and then click “show track”, you can get a reasonable representation of the ship’s movement.  Sure enough, just as I looked in on it, it had begun to swing away from its mooring point. 

Being a couple of miles downriver at that point, it seemed the perfect time to head out and photograph it.

I chose the west end of the Hammond mooring basin mostly because I hadn’t done it before.  When I arrived, it was clear that lots of other folks HAD done it before.  The parking area closest to the river was clotted with cars.

The pilot vessels Chinook and Columbia are homeported just a hundred yards or so from where I parked, and their masts were clearly visible as I pulled up.  It’s been my luck to find these sleek boats idle at the dock every time I’ve been here.  I didn’t expect anything different today, even though I’ve seen and photographed the Chinook in river-pilot waters.

Today was different, though.  As I was changing lenses in the car, I saw the Chinook dart out of the basin’s mouth and head upstream.  It just disappeared around the earthworks, but I (rightly) assumed that it would be back soon.

It charged back downriver, ChinookAndBridges

but then made a sudden course change and headed back toward the boat basin.


Within a few minutes, the Columbia raced out of the basin’s entrance, ahead of the cruise ship.


I have no idea what the story was… the queen bee being replaced by the junior boat seemed odd, but since I was able to capture both, I’m not complaining!

Eventually, the cruise ship made her way past my vantage point on her way past the bar.


All photos 70-300mm “G” zoom, ISO 100, shutter speeds vary, crops vary (slightly). f/8