Once each year, Bay Shipbuilding opens a portion of its 55-acre yard to the public as a fundraiser for the local Rotary Club. Tours are conducted by Rotarians and at each stop, retired shipyard workers talk about equipment, procedures, and the ships built and serviced at the shipyard. Access is certainly prescribed and ships are off-limits but it is nonetheless a golden opportunity to see the mysteries behind the chain link fence.
And, you are guaranteed to learn amazing things, but you need to listen carefully. I was puzzled when our guide told us we were on our way to the “gravy dock” (company cafeteria? “Belly up to the roast turkey bar, boys.”) until I finally tumbled that he was saying “graving dock.”
Graving dock. Ahhh…
The blue gantry crane that I’ve shown you many times is the largest in the U.S. The operator is 135 feet off the ground, reaches his perch via elevator, and there is no bathroom up there. Someone asked the gnarly old shipyard guy about how fuel reached the engine, located on top of the crane.
“Five gallon gas cans,” he said solemnly. “”Every time someone goes up, they bring a can with them. As you can imagine, it’s a slow process.”
He could only fake solemn for ten seconds before he broke down into a gnarly old guy chortle.
No one can gnarly-chortle like an old guy.
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This is the Arthur M Anderson, a 767 foot long Great Lakes freighter built in 1952 as a part of the US Steel fleet. The Anderson‘s claim to fame? In 1975, she was the last ship to be in contact with the Edmund Fitzgerald and the first rescue ship on the scene.
Let’s close with a little Gordon Lightfoot and The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Tomorrow: Shipyard “Found Art” and a Wabi Sabi tale of woe.