Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Happy New Year - 2016!

Glad to see the end of 2015.

A year filled with tremendous highs, and the most recent low, the unexpected passing of my Production Assistant, GingerSnap. The apartment is really silent without her.

As for the highs of 2015, getting to see one of the most significant marine technology master pieces, the Dockwise Vanguard and her sister, Blue Marlin. As I wrote in a previous post, go figure the chances of seeing not one, but the top two heavy haulers in little old Port Angeles!

I first got wind of the Vanguard back in 2013, and became fascinated with the concept of a ship being able to master such heavy deck loads, and travel vast distances, without flipping over.

As to New Year's resolutions —  I say, if you want to change some aspect of your personality or behaviors, just do it! For example, dropped from 243# (17 stone) to 209#! (15 stone) this year! It was not a resolution for 2015; began paying attention to my eating habits, especially portion control!

Featured photo: Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited #14, 4-6-0, Baldwin Locomotive Works 1884. Union Bay, Vancouver Island, September 4, 1960.

Learned I could not properly start a fire in the firebox, and damn near died from shoveling coal after about 5 minutes!

Thank you for your continued support!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Passing of My Best Buddy ...

The apartment is very quiet without her.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Merry Christmas! Happy Hollidays!

I was scratching my head trying to think of something profound to write in the annual Christmas post.

Zip. Nothing.

However, I did get a chuckle when I think back to my childhood.

Christmas was nifty!

One of the traditions my folks had was to place a Christmas stocking filled with candy, nuts, the obligatory Mandarin orange, and a "minor" present on the bed post of our beds.

The best stuff was under the tree!

Back in the '50's we lived over in West Seattle. Dad built me a great bedroom in the basement of our two bedroom house, giving my sister and I separate digs.

Christmas Eve:  I heard the creaking of the steps as my Dad (Santa Clause) approached to loop my stocking over the foot post of my bed.

Feining sleep, I dared not move until the coast was clear.

Once the basement light went out, I moved into action to dump my treasures on the bed.  But "nature called." So I had to make my way upstairs to the loo.

When I returned to my cave, the sock and all its contents were GONE!

This resulted in a roar of laughter when I sat down for breakfast with the family!

I appreciate your reading the Blog, and hope you find something of interest!

This years Christmas card photograph is one of my favorites. It captures the youth and vitality that permeated the Pacific Great Eastern railway.

Negative Number D15:  Shot on November 26, 1959, at Williams Lake, B.C. We were returning to Seattle following three exciting years in Prince Rupert. I spotted the yard just down the street from where we had lunch.

And baby, it was damn cold outside!

The fellow in the white hat is the Conductor.  He chatted with me briefly before I took this shot. I was 16; he seemed to be 18!

This was super exciting for me to spot this duet of 4-cycle burblers, having all of my 3 years experience around the chanting V-16's.

The trainman, wearing a magnificent Indian Sweater, is signaling the fireman as the power pack connects to its northbound consist. (The RS-3 is the lead unit.)

•  PGE 570, RS-3, built Montreal Locomotive Works 8/53, sn 79122, retired 31 Dec 85.
•  PGE 580, RS10, built Montreal Locomotive Works 5/56, sn 81538, retired and scrapped 31 Dec 85.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Something Strange This Way Comes: Final Chapter

Friday, Dec. 11th.

A gaggle of Foss tugs moved the drill ship Noble Discoverer from her off-loading site at Everett, to Port Angles. Dockwise Blue Marlin will dry tow her to Indonesia. The trace below shows the convoy passing my town in the wee hours of Friday morning.

I watched the convoy advance courtesy of MarineTraffic, planning to drive over to Port Angeles - about 45 miles from home - as they approached the harbor.

GingerSnap and I arrived in Port Angles just as the Foss tugs completed aligning the Nobel Discoverer over the heavy lift vessel, Dockwise Blue Marlin.

This was the second time this year I got to observe the Blue Marlin in action. She dry towed the Polar Pioneer up from Indonesia, unloading in Port Angeles in April.

What a remarkable moment in history, to have the largest heavy lift vessel — Vanguard — next to the former, now second largest heavy lift vessel — Blue Marlin — next to each other in a port in the middle of No Where!

Turned out there was a lot of "waiting around" for the big float-on! You quickly figure it out that you have a better chance of watching paint dry than observe the lifting and securing of a vessel to the deck of the Blue Marlin!

I told anyone who asked, they were witnessing a once in a life-time event: The biggest and second biggest largest semi-submersible vessels virtually side by side, in the middle of No Where!

According to published reports, the Blue Marlin will depart on Tuesday, December 15th.

Tuesday, Dec. 15th

MarineTraffic shows the Blue Marlin did depart Port Angeles to dry tow the Noble Discoverer to Indonesia. Trace shows her working southwest well off Cape Flattery.

Meanwhile a gaggle of Foss tugs maneuvered the second dry tow, Polar Pioneer, over the Dockwise Vanguard. Since I had an appointment here in Port Townsend, I was unable to drive back to Port Angeles to witness the the second float-on.

But I was able to catch the action via MarineTraffic dot com! The first trace was broadcast by the Anchor Handling Tug Ross Choust. It clearly demonstrates a lot of maneuvering required to free up the eight anchors that held the Polar Pioneer in place!

The second trace broadcast was from the Polar Pioneer, as she responds to the anchor retrieval and delivery to the Dockwise Vanguard.

The third trace records the movement of tugs over and around the Vanguard. She is able to sink in place, allowing 50 feet of water (19 meters) over her deck. So tugs have no problem "running over her" to position the tow.

Wednesday, Dec. 16th.

We've had a number of weather fronts move across the Puget Sound, so I looked at the prognosis for Port Angeles, and found a lull on the 16th We (me and my Production Assistant - GingerSnap,) arrived at Ediz Hook to a gloomy and damn cold conditions.

While not the world's largest ship, she IS the world's largest heavy lift vessel. In fact, she has 50% more capacity than her sister, Blue Marlin.

To be "technically" correct, we should refer to the Vanguard as a semi-submersible heavy transport vessel (SSHTV.)

Vanguard is as long as three NFL football fields placed end to end. And the deck is 230 feet wide. Dockwise Vanguard has a gross tonnage of 91,784 but because the ship can carry loads longer than itself, the figure is meaningless other than for registration and charging purposes.

The problem you have when viewing such a vessel, is coming to grips with the sheer size!

Loading capacity is rated at up to 110,000 metric tons (121,254 tons) and the bowless design means the large structures can be loaded out from the yard and transported intact to remote offshore drilling or production sites.

Her uniquely removable bow, allow her to carry vessels and drill equipment that would extend over her bow and stern!

Vanguards diesel-electric power is generated by two Wärtsilä 12V38 engines producing 8,700kW (11,667 hp) at 600rpm and two 6L38 engines producing 4,350kW (5,833 hp) at 600rpm for the ship's main propulsion and one Wärtsilä 6L20 auxiliary engine. Wärtsilä also supplied the reduction gear system, two controllable-pitch (CP) propellers, two retractable thrusters, and one bow thruster.

The propulsion system is designed to provide a service speed of 12kt (14 mph) fully loaded and 14.5kt (16 mph) in ballast. Medium speed gensets provide power for two 6MW electric motors, each driving the 5m controllable pitch propellers in Kort nozzles. When a lower speed is required, the ship need only rely on the smaller main engines for power with the larger units put off line.

The most stunning feature is her offset navigation and crew accommodations, standing some 15 stories high!

The House  was constructed in two modules. Shown here is the rear module of the house being attached to the hull.

Read the writing on the rear section, to see how it mated with the forward module.

 Offset steering and close proximity to bow, requires specialized training to master!

She was taking on bunkers from the Shauna Kay, following her trip up from Singapore.  Olympic Tug & Barge (Harley Marine Services) of Seattle owns the Brian S and James T. Quigg. James T. Quigg has a raised pilot tower for Articulated Tug & Barge (ATB) assignments.

I did a lot of research on the Internet, trying to learn what forces are in action, that prevents these heavy lifts from flipping. Turns out to be a combination of prayer, smoke, and mirrors!

Maasmond Maritime

A fellow by the name of Piet Sinke hosts an interesting web site, Maasmond Maritime. On his site I found a series of interesting photos taken on board the Vanguard, loading a semi-submersible Ocean Patriot, similar to the Polar Star.

Vaya con Dios, Shell!

Many people — including me — are breathing a sigh of relief learning that Shell is putting further Arctic exploration on the back burner. The sheer madness of drilling for oil in an inhospitable environment, is the zenith of Republican greed. (Remember: I do NOT publish "anon" messages - they go directly to the Trash Bin!)

Always looking for a way to garner "positive press," Shell donated an estimated 15 tons(!) of food from the Polar Pioneer to the local food bank in Port Angeles, for distribution to other service agencies.

She's headed back to the North Sea — the hard way. The Vanguard is 79 meters (259 feet wide). That prevents her from transiting the Panama Canal.

That means all the way down to the Strait of Magellan.

See Also:
•  Something Strange This Way Comes: Redux!
•  Something Strange This Way Comes! 

Production Notes:
■  All Port Angeles shots taken with my new Panasonic Lumix ZS50.
■  Processing meets or exceeds the over-rated Adobe Light Room, FREE, ships on CD with camera, Silkypix 4.3SE
■  PhotoShop Elements 10.  I use it for adding photo notations and minor cleanup.
■  Contrast Master & Focal Blade (Harold Heim) LAST step in processing!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Something Strange This Way Comes - Redux!

From time to time we experience an exciting event that is etched into our memory. I am at the beginning such an event.

When I found out a few days ago that the Dockwise Vanguard would be coming to Port Angeles, I went bananas - like a 10 year old kid anticipating Santa!

I followed her all day long as she advanced inbound through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and now.

Check it out! Not only is the Vanguard heaving to, but she's a stone's throw from the Dockwise Blue Marlin!

It's a gobsmacked twofer!


Near the end of September, Shell announced it will cease Arctic exploration drilling for the near future. The announcement came after failing to make a commercial find at the Burger J Well, located in Alaska's Chukchi Sea.

The well was drilled to a total depth of 6,800 feet and although indications of oil and gas were found at Burger J, they were "not sufficient to warrant further exploration in the Burger prospect."

Further frustration was caused by Shell's inability to use both drill ship, Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer. The Noble Discoverer simply sat on its hands, with a crew of more that 100 souls, on site for three months, unable to drill!

She was prevented from drilling due to a prohibition mandated by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), requiring a minimum 15-mile separation between active drilling rigs. That buffer would help reduce the risk of hearing loss among walruses and give them safe passage if they needed to escape.

Shell, not giving a damn about the risk of hearing loss among walruses, fought the 15-mile rule. The Chukchi well sites were tightly clustered within a 300-square-mile prospect, and the company wanted to position its rigs at the two most promising sites-just nine miles apart.

Shell argued it would already be spending the resources for a second rig because, in its exploration plan filed with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, (BOEM,) Shell had agreed to have a backup vessel - Noble Discoverer - in the vicinity to drill a relief well in the event of a blowout.

Fortunately, thankfully, Shell lost the argument. 

So in the end, the Burger J well was sealed an and abandoned. At the end of September, the expeditionary fleet was disbanded.

The drill rig Polar Pioneer returned to Port Angeles and Noble Discoverer returned to Everett. But a really interesting development resulted when

the State owned (Finnish) Arctia Offshore's Multipurpose Icebreaker tugs Fennica and Nordica returned to home base at Rauma, Finland, via the Northwest Passage.

Joining the tugs, a large contingent of international scientists, to record and observe nature, Arctic fauna, as well as weather and ice.

All part of the growing International concern over climate change. The fact they could make this trip in the winter; further indication of  diminished ice.

Noble's Noble Discoverer returned to Everett on October 24th to offload equipment and prepare for her next assignment, somewhere in the South Pacific. She will be dry towed by the Blue Marlin.

Transocean's Polar Pioneer arrived back at Port Angeles on October 28th to offload equipment and prepare for her next assignment. The Polar Pioneer, which first visited Port Angeles in April and May while preparing to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, is believed to be destined to the North Sea, where she operated for 30 years.  She will be dry towed by the Vanguard.

Once in a Lifetime 

In all my years of train chasing and ship watching, few events prepare me for the excitement of what I will experience over the next few days.

•  See and photograph the final steam locomotives on the Canadian National Railways.
•  See and photograph Krauss-Maffei diesel hydraulics in Oakland.
•  See and photograph the famous Smit Singapore when she visited Portland.
•  See and photograph the last working steam tug Portland.
•  See, photograph,  and have coffee aboard one of the world's most famous salvage tugs, the Salvage Chief, in Hoquiam Washington.

So What's Next?

I recognize this as a once in a lifetime event. Port Angeles is a 100 mile round trip from home.  I've got to plan these next few days carefully.

I published an extensive article about the construction of the Vanguard, so I won't need to re-plow that field.

So now we have two famous heavy lift vessels in town. I've just purchased another new camera, so I'm going to spend some time making sure I know how to operate it - unlike learning the Nikon "on the scene" when the Polar Pioneer was first delivered to Port Angeles last spring!

See Also:  Something Strange This Way Comes!