: views from the Hill

Monday, January 10, 2005

Even the merchant seamen are tourists

His nibs likes to watch boats, which is one of the reasons we live where we do.

Because San Francisco made some decisions back when, the city isn't the hub of container ship and other commercial ship traffic in the Bay. The city with that distinction is across the Bay: Oakland.

We still can watch the merchant ships come in, though, because the Bay is deeper on this side of Yerba Buena than the other, so the ships come through here, about midway between Yerba Buena and San Francisco, duck under the Bay Bridge and turn toward Oakland.

Sure, we still get some cargo ships that off-load down south of Pier 68, but our commercial traffic is mostly cruise ships. In fact, there is work progressing to improve/increase the availability of cruise ship tie-ups in town by developing the James R. Herman International Cruise Terminal at Piers 30/32. Currently, the only cruise ship tie-up is Pier 35, which is near Fisherman's Wharf and all the sightseeing things everyone wants to do.

Besides the cruise ships, the floating traffic on this side of the Bay includes the ferries, the tugs, the sailboats and the dinner cruises.

Yesterday, a Hanjin ship came in, sailing far closer to the Embarcadero than usual.

"Maybe it's going to dock down south," we said. That sometimes happens. We haven't given up all of our merchant shipping.

We could see a couple crew up at the bow watching the traffic on the Bay, enjoying the view. A bit later, someone, the Captain we guessed, came out on the bridge and was snapping photos of the shoreline. The ship slowed down before it got to the Ferry Building and inched along as the crew gathered at the side and took pictures. Dusk was coming on and we could see their flashes going off as they passed the Ferry Building. The ship slowly moved past the view.

"How nice," we thought. "Even the merchant seamen are excited to be here."

We didn't know the half of it. After the ship passed under the Bay Bridge, it hung a very sharp left and headed over to Oakland. The ship had sailed close-in and out of the usual routes simply so the captain and crew could get a close-up view and photo op.

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