Friday, October 27, 2006

Hello fellow bloggers,

Here are today's Listener Questions/Answers 10/27/06:

Q: More on a question from last week about the speeds ships travel at sea, and travel times between ports.

A: This is from Capt Robert Johnson, Columbia River Bar Pilot:

• How fast does a ship run out at sea?

The speed depends on the ships. Most bulk carriers and tankers make about 14 knots if the weather is under force 4-5. As the weather increase the speed goes down. Car carriers normally make 17-18 knots although the newer ones are a bit faster, up to 20 knots. Container ships are 21 to 23 with some of the newer ones up in the 25-26 range.

• How long does it take to travel by ship from the Panama Canal to the mouth of the Columbia?

It is about 3,870 miles to Panama from Portland so an 11.5 day voyage for bulkers. We get some panamax ships loading wheat here for Egypt that go down and through the canal. We have one container line that goes to the Med and they would make the trip in about 8.5 days but they stop in California and Mexico along the way.

• How long from Japan to Astoria?

It is 4,590 miles to Kobe, which is sort of the middle of the Japanese ports. For a bulker that is almost a 16 day voyage and especially in the winter it will be one or two days longer due to weather. The car ships will make the voyage in about 12.2 days and the container ships in only 8.6 days. During a westbound voyage they must advance the clocks 5 hours and the retard the day when crossing the date line. That means a bulker has a one hour clock change every two or three days. For container ships they must change the clocks every day plus some. It makes for a very tired crew. It is especially bad when eastbound as then you lose sleep with each clock change.
Q: Most people in Astoria have seen the river pilot launch the Arrow 2 – she’s the lovely green and while boat that takes pilots to and from ships passing downtown Astoria. Where is the bar transport pilot boat berthed?
A: Thought this would be a good opportunity to do a quick overview of area pilot facilities and equipment:
• The Columbia River Pilots Astoria HQ is at the bottom of 14th St. on the waterfront. Their main home base is in Portland. The Arrow 2 is berthed at that 14th St. location. You can see her from the Riverwalk to the right of Baked Alaska when she’s at the dock. She takes river and bar pilots to and from vessels as they pass Astoria. The reason for this is the river pilots’ jurisdiction extends upriver from approximately the Astoria Megler Bridge, and the Bar Pilot jurisdiction goes from the bridge to the bar and beyond.

• The Columbia River Bar Pilots are an entirely separate organization from the River Pilots. Their HQ is upriver a little, to the left of the CRMM. Both organizations use the River Pilot HQ facilities to get on and off the river. Up until recently, both organizations shared the 14th St buildings.

• There are two pilot boats that are used to take bar pilots out to sea to meet ships and assist pilots in getting off ships that are leaving the river. Those two boats, the Chinook and the Columbia, are berthed at a separate private dock next to the Hammond Marina. Right now the bar pilots are investigating replacing the Columbia, the older of the two boats, with a newer, faster boat. The Chinook is a state of the art fast boat that is self righting and propelled by jet drive. She’s fast but not nearly as cozy and atmospheric as the lovely Columbia, which has wooden brightwork and comfy accommodations.

• The other, newest component is the bar pilot helicopter. That operates out of the Astoria Regional Airport in Warrenton. It’s the one that doesn’t look like a Coast Guard Helo. The Pilots won a safety award for having this aircraft.

One often overlooked aspect of bar pilot operations is the incredible support crews that make all this happen behind the scenes. The pilot boat operators and deckhands, and the helicopter crews, are very impressive unsung heroes in this operation. I’ve been out at sea and on the river on the pilot boats, and gone up in the helicopter -- and these guys really know their stuff. I’d trust them with my life anytime.

Next week...more on gypsum, cool shipwatching spots, and a great book recommendation - a good read about a famous maritime disaster...

Thanks for listening and blogging!


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