Tall Ships Tacoma-I

mast
The Maze series has been pretty heavy-duty, and there’s more to come (sorry to say)–but I thought we all needed a break, to ponder things more graceful and elegant. So put your pencils and pads in your desk, and let’s go for a little boat ride.

Never let it be said that I rush into anything–in truth, I put the “pro” in procrastination. Last summer–just before the July 4th weekend–I had a wonderful opportunity: to be on board one of the sailing ships in the Tall Ship Festival in Tacoma.

It was a spectacular adventure on a spectacular day–the the type of day you dream about when the rain and the darkness settle over Puget Sound like sodden tarps during the endless dreary gray of a Northwest winter.

The morning started out like many here–even in the clear warmth of summer–with a low fog over the Sound, quiet and muted in tone, the haze rendering depth deceptively and desaturating colors, its damp coolness belying the coming heat of midday sun.


Our journey started from the Port of Tacoma, a busy industrial harbor which handles one of the largest volumes of container ship traffic on the West Coast, due to its proximity to Asia and excellent rail access.

container ship
We took a ferry from Tacoma to nearby Quartermaster Harbor on Vashon Island, were the tall ships had anchored, each arriving over several days from many remote ports of call. Upon entering the harbor, the effect was magical: sailing ships large and small, their masts rocking slowly in the gentle swells of passing craft. Surrounding them, in growing numbers, were countless smaller boats, power and sail, dinghy and yacht, clinging like pilot fish to to their ancestral predecessors. Signal flags fluttered, Old Glory flew grandly on tall masts, and boat horns sang celebratory as their klaxon call echoed off the tree-lined shores surrounding them.

My assigned boat was the Zodaic, a two-masted gaff schooner home-ported in Seattle.

Built in 1924 for the heirs to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, Zodiac was designed to epitomize the speed and beauty of the American fishing schooner. She raced from Sandy Hook New Jersey to Spain–finishing fourth–a short-lived flash of glory, as the Crash of 1929 forced her sale to the San Francisco Pilots Association in 1931. Renamed California, she served forty years off the Golden Gate as the largest schooner ever operated by the Bar Pilots. She was manned by a Naval crew during WWII, guiding warships into the bay through the narrow straights, and was finally retired in 1972, the last working pilot schooner in the United States, subsequently falling into disrepair through disuse and neglect.

In the late 70s, a non-profit corporation was formed to operate and maintain the schooner, whose maiden name was restored to Zodiac. Drawing on an experienced crew of sailors and shipwrights, many of whom have worked on other tall ships such as the Adventuress, Sea Cloud, Eagle, Lady Washington, and Robertson II, the ship was restored to her former beauty and sailing strength. In 1982 she was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Zodiac
The boat has been magnificently restored, its brass trim and shellaced hardwood woodwork providing a glimpse into a world 75 years past.

Zodiac
A view toward the stern.

Zodiac
The helm.

Zodiac
The compass, a glorious composite of glass, brass, and hardwood.

The wait seemed interminable–several hours, in fact–as people were transfered by skiff and powerboat to the many waiting tall ships, prior to the grand parade from Quartermaster Harbor back to the Port of Tacoma. Finally, with all aboard, we began to slowly motor out of the harbor, amidst a remarkable flotilla, a sea of small pleasure craft and sailboats–no trivial feat this, as the limited visiblility and the manuverability of a sizeable sailing ship like Zodiac made collisions with small craft a constant risk.

But at last–the fog now cleared and a brilliant, clear Northwest day upon us, the crew began to hoist the sails, and our short but glorious sailing parade began.

Zodiac
I’ll be posting lots of pictures of the tall ships and other historical boats in the near future, so stay tuned.

The Two Towers X:
Compacting the Cable

Previous posts on the new Narrows Bridge:

  1. History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges
  2. The Two Towers I: Intro
  3. The Two Towers II: Concrete Thinking
  4. The Two Towers III: Anchor Management Classes
  5. The Two Towers IV: Out & Down
  6. The Two Towers V: The Struts
  7. The Two Towers VI: To the Top
  8. The Two Towers VII: Stairway to Heaven
  9. The Two Towers VIII: Spinning Beginning
  10. The Two Towers IX: Wheels Over Water

 

For those who may be new to this series, I am blogging the construction of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. See the above posts for more information on the Narrows Bridges, the engineering challenges, and a recent first-hand tour taken of the construction site.

cable

It’s been a few months since my last post on the bridge construction, but as you can imagine, the project has not been standing still. The spinning process–laying down over 8800 passes of 0.5 cm steel wire, in 19 bundles, joined end to end into one continuous wire–has been proceeding along without a glitch. Well, almost without a glitch–both cables were being spun at approximately the same rate, until someone noticed that the newer spools of wire coming from the warehouse had a small problem: corrosion. Oops.
Continue reading “The Two Towers X:
Compacting the Cable”

Happy New Year

Narrows Bridge at nightHere’s wishing all my readers, and your families, a happy and prosperous New Year. May you all be blessed with good health, optimism, peace and prosperity this year.

The new Tacoma Narrows Bridge has been decked out for the holidays, with colored lights on the catwalks, Christmas trees on the towers, and even colored construction cranes. Here’s a shot I grabbed last night — one of the few nights without rain in the past few weeks.

Back soon — God bless and stay well.

The Two Towers IX:
Wheels Over the Water

Previous posts on the new Narrows Bridge:

  1. History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges
  2. The Two Towers I: Intro
  3. The Two Towers II: Concrete Thinking
  4. The Two Towers III: Anchor Management Classes
  5. The Two Towers IV: Out & Down
  6. The Two Towers V: The Struts
  7. The Two Towers VI: To the Top
  8. The Two Towers VII: Stairway to Heaven
  9. The Two Towers VIII: Spinning Beginning

 
For those who may be new to this series, I am blogging the construction of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. See the above posts for more information on the Narrows Bridges, the engineering challenges, and a recent first-hand tour taken of the construction site.

Spinning wheel

In the previous post, I discussed the history of cable spinning technology, and looked at the wire spools and spool feeding mechanism on the East end of the bridge. Now we’ll examine the tram itself, and the “traveler” wheel or sheave.
Continue reading “The Two Towers IX:
Wheels Over the Water”

The Two Towers VIII:
Spinning Beginning

Previous posts on the new Narrows Bridge:

  1. History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges
  2. The Two Towers I: Intro
  3. The Two Towers II: Concrete Thinking
  4. The Two Towers III: Anchor Management Classes
  5. The Two Towers IV: Out & Down
  6. The Two Towers V: The Struts
  7. The Two Towers VI: To the Top
  8. The Two Towers VII: Stairway to Heaven

 
For those who may be new to this series, I am blogging the construction of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. See the above posts for more information on the Narrows Bridges, the engineering challenges, and a recent first-hand tour taken of the construction site.

Bridges at dusk

The engineering beauty of modern suspension bridges lies in the graceful catenary curves of their cables. Starting out as near-gossamer threads of steel wire–no larger than that which you could purchase at your local hardware store–their massive girth and strength support almost unthinkable weight across impossibly wide chasms. Taken for granted as we drive across such majestic spans–perhaps more drawn to the views of water or wilderness they afford–one rarely ponders how such muscular steel sinews are created. It’s a fascinating process–and it’s just begun on the new Narrows Bridge.
Continue reading “The Two Towers VIII:
Spinning Beginning”

The Two Towers VII:
Stairway to Heaven

Previous posts on the new Narrows Bridge:

  1. History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges
  2. The Two Towers I: Intro
  3. The Two Towers II: Concrete Thinking
  4. The Two Towers III: Anchor Management Classes
  5. The Two Towers IV: Out & Down
  6. The Two Towers V: The Struts
  7. The Two Towers VI: To the Top

 
For those who may be new to this series, I am blogging the construction of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge. See the above posts for more information on the Narrows Bridges, the engineering challenges, and a recent first-hand tour taken of the construction site.

Birdcages

Quite a bit of work has transpired since my tour of the construction site in April 2005. The birdcages–enclosed structures used for work on the towers themselves–have been removed (see above), the top struts completed, and the saddles for the forthcoming suspension cables have been placed at the tops of both the east and west towers. The concrete pours are complete, and the concrete plant has been disassembled. It’s time to start spinning the cables from shore to shore.

So, how will they string the suspension cables from both anchorages on shore and across the tops of the towers?
Continue reading “The Two Towers VII:
Stairway to Heaven”

The Two Towers VI:
To the Top

Previous posts on the new Narrows Bridge:

  1. History of the Tacoma Narrows Bridges
  2. The Two Towers I: Intro
  3. The Two Towers II: Concrete Thinking
  4. The Two Towers III: Anchor Management Classes
  5. The Two Towers IV: Out & Down
  6. The Two Towers V: The Struts

 
For those who may be new to this series, I am blogging a tour of the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge construction taken recently. See the above posts for more information on the Narrows Bridges, the engineering challenges, and the first parts of the tour.

Tower

When viewed from below, the new bridge towers are impressively tall. Unlike a tall building, there is nothing surrounding the towers to detract from their majestic height: one’s insignificance in the face of an engineering miracle is readily apparent. Seen at the top are two square enclosures, connected by a narrow walkway. These are called birdcages, and this is the destination of this final part of the tour. I suspect that vultures live therein, to feast like mythical harpies on their prey–those foolish enough to ascend to such absurd heights.

Elevator view-1

If it was not apparent already, this final leg of the elevator ride brings you really high above the water–550 feet high, to be exact. Viewed from within the elevator cage, you can see the west bank of the Narrows, with the new road construction and the Key Peninsula stretching beyond. The elevator cage–once a terrifying prison–now seems a rather cozy and secure refuge as we reach the top–and step out.
Continue reading “The Two Towers VI:
To the Top”