In which the Cadets leave the tropics and steam towards the Great White North.
"Oh the places you'll go" wrote Dr. Seuss. He never imagined that after 4 beautiful days in the sun we'd light the burners and head almost due north to the snow and cold of Valdez, Alaska.
Among the ports in the history of the O.S.N.Y. are some of the eastern seaboard's finest harbors, the busiest ports in the Gulf of Mexico, and several South and Central American cities of various sizes. On our 7-week stay, however, she called at 7 ports: Barber's Point, Valdez, Ferndale, Anacortes, Tacoma, El Segundo, and Martinez.
Barber's Point, Hawaii, is the fueling station for the state. It is situated farther down Nimitz Highway from Pearl Harbor as you drive west from Honolulu. Both Chevron and Tenneco have refineries there and, consequently, offshore moorings for the discharge of crude oil. Due to the proximity of the moorings to Pearl Harbor, we saw 3 nuclear submarines, a pair of supply ships, and one frigate during our two stays there. In addition, the anchorage provided a terrific view of the ridges and valleys that are Oahu.
Valdez (rhymes with breeze) is perhaps the most intrinsically beautiful place I have ever seen. When we first arrived I was sleeping, as it was 0300 and sleep takes precedence at that hour. When I roused the next morning to begin my day, I stepped out the door into a winter wonderland. On each side of us, mountains rose thousands of feet. The sun was rising behind the berth, just beginning to cast its light on the town of 4500 people located across the port from our suddenly tiny ship. The harbor, 4 miles long and 2.5 wide, is bounded by steep mountain walls with no apparent outlet. The gray-blue water drains clear and cold (38°) from the rivers and lakes near the harbor. At the southwestern end of the port, mountains part and Valdez Narrows allows entry to the 130-fathom deep port and exit to Prince William Sound. With mountains jutting skyward leaving just half of a mile of water, this is the ultimate fjord for a 90,000 ton ship. During our short loading periods of just 18 hours we managed to get to town, which bears striking similarities to Rapid River. The main drag is a section of highway, a pair of yellow flashers warn traffic not to blink, and several gas stations line the corridor. There is, fortunately, a terrific outfitter (The Prospector) with the best darn gear I have ever seen for all things outdoors and a 24-hour grocery store and newsstand. But that is about it, apart from a few 'ma and pa' restaurants which serve up typical fried fare. It is, due mostly to its location, a beautiful town with a certain allure that you get after just a morning there but don't get why.
Ferndale, Washington, is found by taking a left at the end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca and heading north up Puget Sound until the water is just too shallow to continue. Our stay here was brief, but we got ashore and visited relatives of Anthony's in nearby Bellingham. With a day off with Anthony's cousins Audrey and Patrick, there was time to get new work boots, go for a walk behind their awesome house, and grab some Mexican food.
Just a two hour shift to the south is the tiny harbor town of Anacortes. The harbor here is tiny...Ephraim, WI, came to mind... but the place was jumping. During our 145,000 bbl discharge (9 hours) about 15 ships came, went, or remained at anchor. The approach is dotted with islands and the harbor was set off by the foothills of the Cascade range.
At the head of Puget Sound, south of Seattle, is Tacoma. Tucked away in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, this is the only real port-like place we visited. Our arrival was marked by the scent of the "Tacoma Aroma" - a mixture of paper, oil, and agricultural industries' byproduct. Our berth here was a converted tug dock, which meant very harrowing docking and undocking and a VERY small departing draft of just 12' fwd and 35' aft. The stay was quite lengthy (37 hours) as all discharging was done through a single 10" hose.
Los Angeles is the basic locale of the port we know as El Segundo. This offshore mooring was situated a mile or so off of LAX, and, despite the smog, it offered a good view of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In the distance, visible through binoculars, were the Hollywood sign and the fancy houses of Brentwood. As promised, there were seals sunning on the mooring bouys and plenty of trash in the water. Unfortunately, the most lasting impression we got of L.A. was that the bottom was sticky. As a result, when we were getting ready to sail, the anchor shackle broke, came unscrewed, and then, as the anchor cleared the water, splash....no more port anchor. In the words of the Chief Mate, "it just fell off."
The final destination on the Webb Cadet itinerary was Martinez, located in the northern reaches of San Francisco harbor. To get there, we passed under four bridges, including both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. Prior to docking at Martinez, we spent a long day at anchor in the San Fransisco Harbor replacing the anchor that we lost in El Segundo. That meant a 16 hour day working in the rain instead of going to the city by the bay. Then, in the dark of night we heaved the new anchor and steamed past the startling island that is, or was, Alcatraz. From The Rock it was 4 more hours at slow ahead to the tippity-top of San Fransisco Bay, across from the 120 mothballed ships in the California ready-reserve fleet. The dock was in the boonies - a shallow-water, swampy, marshy sort of boonies that makes a nearly 900-foot oil tanker look absolutely immense. As we drove away that afternoon, the ship seemed larger than life, towering a hundred feet over the pier - its huge black hull and white superstructure blotting out the dull gray reserve fleet.
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