Where Boats Go to Die
Results 1 to 10 of 10
  1. #1

    Where Boats Go to Die

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...


    W.B. Yeats


    And sometimes, things must be torn apart.

    Every day I commute by ferry to work, then take the bus across the shipyard. A few months out of the year, it's still light enough to see the activity as The Yard comes to life. The other half of the year, the shipyard is a patchwork of darkness split randomly by sickly yellowish colored flood lights. Everything seems irregular and chaotic, at first glance.
    It's a incongruous mixture of old and new, clean and dirt. Activity and death.

    The masonry buildings built a hundred years ago are always undergoing some seismic retrofit. Their aged, dark red facades are latticed by steel scaffolding. Bricks are missing, windows removed. Large green dumpsters are staged conveniently nearby. Most of the asbestos was removed long ago. So we are told.

    Along the docks, huge cranes cast their imposing presence over those working below. They move slowly along specially designed tracks, looking much like a mechanical version of beasts from millions of years ago. But instead of lifting vegetation from the swamp, these creatures swing crates and pallets of machinery.

    My bus stops by one of the newer buildings. It is an ugly grey and glass edifice, with all the character and charm of 1950s Soviet architecture. The office workers get off to take station at their cubicles. I know most of them are high-level GS workers, and make a lot of money. Some may have a nice view of The Yard. Perks of being in the Politburo. Still, you couldn't pay me to work in a hamster cage like that.

    As my bus bounces along, I can just barely see the reason we're all here. Next to the cranes, behind the old buildings are big holes in the ground. These are the dry docks.Their operation is quite simple. A ship floats in, water is pumped out. The vessel rests on giant blocks / stands and scaffolding is constructed around it. Work begins.

    We don't build ships where I work. Folks over on the other coast do that. We are responsible for routine maintenance, periodic refits, repairs and upgrades.
    And decommissioning.

    The Navy calls vessels that sail ON the water ships. Those that sail BELOW are boats.
    Never call a ship a boat, it tweaks those squids something awful.

    The carriers and support ships rarely get decommissioned at our yard. The big carriers do get alot of TLC. Their silhouette dominates The Yard when they are in port. The carriers fly their colorful signal flags, and their numbers are lit-up brightly on their structure. Like an all-seeing eye, their radar masts spin high above our heads. The thousands of carrier sailors clog the poorly maintained parking lots and roads. The carriers are the Belle at The Ball, awaited on diligently by their attentive court.

    The submarines, in contrast, sit low in their dry docks. You don't even see them unless you're right next to the boat. They are surrounded by pallets, forklifts and assorted machinery. The overall appearance is undignified chaos. Most times, The Navy uses this thick white plastic wrap to cover sensitive areas being worked on (almost always the propeller 'screw' is covered). Jarheads (Marines) are stationed at strategic locations, their rifles at the ready. You can't miss the Marines. They're the only ones in green, next to the friendly signs reading "Use of Force Authorized".

    The dry docks themselves serve multiple functions. Sometimes they're your local doctor's office for vessels. Other times they are urgent care. Quite often, they are the emergency room. Then they are hospice and the morgue. Euthanasia for the most deadly machines ever created.

    I never know which boats are going to die. I'm just a supply guy, and it's not in my job description to know such things. However, I do see them every day. It's hard to place the exact moment when I can tell that the sub won't be leaving again. The screw is removed from the stern. Those are Top Secret national security... things. Usually, I know the End is Near when you see those flashes of the cutting torches. They're not bothering to hide behind that thick plastic sheeting anymore. It's all over, but the cutting.

    It takes a long time. Month after month, crossing season to season. The boat gets smaller. It is meticulously gutted, with all that "sensitive" stuff catalogued and shipped-off under armed guard. The grey paint on the exterior fades and oxidizes. I know at some point, a "Decommissioning Ceremony" is held. The former Captain and officers bid adieu. They get a plaque and a flag. They already have their memories.

    I've known a few submarine crewman. It's a helluva life, definitely takes a special person. They develop a love-hate relationships with their boat. The sub is an unforgiving mistress. Sometimes a bitch. You never take her for granted. 'Till Death Do You Part.

    Eventually, the sub no longer resembles a machine, but the carcass of a Leviathan. The curved metal support structures look like ribs supporting sagging skin. The workers that crawl over it, seem as ants dismembering road-kill. It's hardly recognizable as a vessel any longer.

    After the radiological and chemical geeks give the "all clear", large segments of what was the sub are lifted out of the dock and placed on rail cars. That premium grade scrap will be unceremoniously carried off to somewhere, where it's new owner will make a tidy profit. Building and maintaining killing machines isn't cheap, and neither is the process for scrapping them. Trying to re-coop a few bucks only makes sense.

    Riding my motorcycle to work one day, I saw a chunk of sub sitting on a flatbed by the Main Gate. Someone told me later that the piece was being sent off to a playground somewhere. For kids to play on. Instead of "bringing home the bacon", some Congressman was brining home a hunk of old steel and titanium. That housed ICBMs. Cool, but at the same time, creepy as Hell.

    I'm on the bus again, and the dry dock is now empty. But it won't be for long.
    I hear that the "City of Corpus Christi" is next up for the torch. The most ironically named boat in history.
    And soon it will be history. As will we all.

    Enough bus rides and we're not watching the cutting torch any more. We're in our own dry dock. Newer, better models are launched every day. Gotta make room.
    Things fall apart, or are torn asunder. And anarchy is loose once again... just beneath the waves.

    "I'm just here for the Szechuan sauce..."

    Rick Sanchez


  2. #2
    Great story, it has special meaning for me, having grown up in Maine next to the Bath Ship yard that retrofit frigates or at least they used to.
    God hates a coward Revelation 21:8

    “Good writin' ain't necessarily good readin'.”

    Ken Kesey,

    To encourage and facilitate "me"

  3. #3
    A very good essay taking a total stranger on a tour of a working shipyard. Not pretty, but then such places are not pretty, but sometimes striking when viewed from just the right angle. Overall, a good read, I thought.

    I spotted some questionables (blue), and some definites (red), to look at -
    Quote Originally Posted by Winston View Post
    My bus stops by one of the newer buildings. It is an ugly grey and glass edifice, with all the character and charm of 1950s Soviet architecture.

    We don't build ships where I work. Folks over on the other coast do that. We are responsible for routine maintenance, periodic refits, repairs and upgrades. ><
    And decommissioning.

    Those that sail BELOW are boats. ><
    Never call a ship a boat, it tweaks those squids something awful.

    The big carriers do get alot of TLC. Their silhouette dominates The Yard when they are in port.


    It's a helluva life, definitely takes a special person. They develop a love-hate relationships with their boat.

    'Till Death Do You Part.

    Trying to re-coop a few bucks only makes sense.

    Instead of "bringing home the bacon", some Congressman was brining home a hunk of old steel and titanium.

    I'm on the bus again, and the dry dock is now empty. But it won't be for long. ><
    I hear that the "City of Corpus Christi" is next up for the torch. The most ironically named boat in history. ><
    And soon it will be history. As will we all.

    Enough bus rides and we're not watching the cutting torch any more. We're in our own dry dock. Newer, better models are launched every day. Gotta make room. ><
    Things fall apart, or are torn asunder. And anarchy is loose once again... just beneath the waves.
    I put 1950s into the questionables because it comes down to whether you mean Soviet architecture of the 1950s, or you are saying that such architecture is a definite and known label of type. If the former, then really there should be the mark of ownership on the era: 1950s'

    >< means either one line return too many, or too few. Either way, it makes me wince.

    Their silhouette dominates
    You might have got away with this one, except for the preceding sentence which clarifies that more than one carrier over time is the reference: silhouettes dominate

    a love-hate relationships
    This one, however, is simple inconsistency - whether a collective singular or multiple individuals, it must be one self-consistency or the other: a love-hate relationship; or love-hate relationships (without the indefinite article)

    'Till
    Till (an old word meaning "to", not a short form of until), or 'til (which is the short form of until), but never - never - burn it into your brain - never the bastard hybrid. It is not accepted under any established style guide.

    re-coop a few bucks
    I know you do not mean that people try to force male deer into chicken pens ... again. Even in America, the word you want is recoup - blame the French - it goes back to the 17th century.

    brining
    This would have been a great word, and very appropriate, if it was not a typo: bringing
    "I don't know ... I'm making it up as I go ..." - Dr I Jones

    Nature abhors perfection - cats abhor a vacuum!

    "Faith can move mountains - she's a big girl!" (unknown/graffiti)

    If I act like I own the place, it's because I do.





  4. #4
    My apologies for interjecting myself. I just want to say Yeat's line does describe America today:

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

    I must remember it. Thank you. I enjoyed your write, as usual. Sas

  5. #5
    Thanks for the read, folks.
    Cran, I appreciate the critique. It's a little embarrassing how much simple stuff I failed to catch. I need to practice more, it's just that damn Real World and it's issues.
    I also felt like my piece needed more detail. But I wanted a shorter, more compact write. To me, it's soup. It's easier to add than try to remove a flavor once inserted.
    Sometimes, you just serve, and hope no one chokes Thanks again.

    "I'm just here for the Szechuan sauce..."

    Rick Sanchez


  6. #6
    This brought forth vivid flashbacks of shipyards and naval bases. I've never worked on one, but they're so imposing and interesting. As I read, I remembered the smells, sounds and sights of Bremerton, Norfolk, and Long Beach. As an utter amateur in writing, I am envious of your prose. I'm struggling to write flowing imagery like yours into my military WIP, but such writing is alien to me. I enjoyed it!

  7. #7
    This piece made it through the October writer of the month vote!
    It didn't take long to realise
    The safest place was not her arms, but her eyes
    Where she can't see you
    For her gaze, it blisters;
    Grey skin to cinders





  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Winston View Post
    Cran, I appreciate the critique. It's a little embarrassing how much simple stuff I failed to catch. I need to practice more, it's just that damn Real World and it's issues.
    Good for me, though. I make my meagre Real World living catching others' simple stuff.

    I also felt like my piece needed more detail. But I wanted a shorter, more compact write. To me, it's soup. It's easier to add than try to remove a flavor once inserted.
    Sometimes, you just serve, and hope no one chokes Thanks again.
    To prevent choking, sometimes you need to strain the solids and add water (or wine). But the flavor is always important.
    "I don't know ... I'm making it up as I go ..." - Dr I Jones

    Nature abhors perfection - cats abhor a vacuum!

    "Faith can move mountains - she's a big girl!" (unknown/graffiti)

    If I act like I own the place, it's because I do.





  9. #9
    Truly the work of a writer! The pictures you describes are vivid, and I was captured by the words. The analogies and vocabulary were fantastic, and I'll definitely read it again.

    I've only been to the harbor once or twice and wasn't a huge fan as everything was overpriced and there were so many people--which your poem and story covers--but the picture that this paints puts it on my top favorite works on these forums! The sprinkled in bits of humor were a necessary addition and the way that you described the boats as if they were humans really shows the logic and reality of the relationship the Navy develops with these ship--excuse me--boats.

    My only suggestion would be to use longer sentences in some areas of description; there is a certain writing style in using short sentences that definitely adds character to your story, but try not to overdo it. But this is just a suggestion and it's fantastic either way.

    If you're ever looking for a book to read to inspire you or just for enjoyment, you would probably like "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr; you two have similar writing styles, and reading your work was almost, if not as good, as his book.

    Keep up the good work; you certainly have a talent for writing, and new posts will be eagerly awaited!
    Last edited by AwkwardWriter; January 3rd, 2018 at 02:21 PM.

  10. #10
    My bus stops by one of the newer buildings. It is an ugly grey and glass edifice, with all the character and charm of 1950s Soviet architecture.
    I flag this because it reads as though it is Russian architecture of the 1950s, rather than, in character and charm resembling a ...
    I take Cran's point about the possessive, 1950s’, however, as I understand American usage takes a decade like that as an unusual plural and writes 1950’s. I think it is starting to happen in English English as well.

    Regarding boats and ships, generally boats are small, ships are large (MTB versus SS). The definition I have heard from merchant sailors is 'You can put a boat on a ship, but you can't put a ship on a boat." (lifeboats). Originally submarines had a very short operating distance, so they were taken where they were needed on a ship, and became boats. It stuck even though some are now huge and capable of circumnavigating.

    You have a habit of sticking a short phrase on the end, Activity and death, So we are told, Work begins, It's all over, but the cutting, 'Til Death Do You Part, As will we all. It is effective, but be aware and careful not to overdo it, of course they are not really sentences either, but I wouls take the stops and capitals as 'stylisation'.
    Visit my website to read and connect to my 'soundcloud', where you can listen to stories songs and more
    http://www.oliverbuckle.com/

    A thread of links useful to writers wishing to learn
    Piglet's picks. http://www.writingforums.com/threads...Piglet-s-Picks

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
This website uses cookies
We use cookies to store session information to facilitate remembering your login information, to allow you to save website preferences, to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.