In the late afternoon on Saturday, all was quiet at the T-pier. Three men were working across the top of Port Alice's load, checking the firmness of the tie-downs.
The access gates were closed, the big log-loader machines asleep out in the parking area.
The man in the security shack said she was scheduled to sail at 5PM, so I came back at 4PM, parked where I had an angle view of the bow, and waited. Other watchers came and went. Ships came and went, some quite large. Polar Discovery came in off the Strait, anchored in mid-harbor; her tug Garth Foss left her there, and the fueling barge Brian S. came across to bunker her. Waited some more (finished reading a Paul Levine mystery, started a Kerry Greenwood). A loud horn blasted me out of the car thinking I was missing the magic moment, but no, lines still tied her to the dock. The pilot boat made a run across the harbor, presumably to deliver the pilot. The tugs Valor and Response appeared, and aligned themselves with their noses to the starboard side of Alice.
Waited some more. We have tugs, we have a pilot, isn't it time?
Three crew members made their way to the bow. A forklift came along the pier, delivering some dockside guys to release the lines. The tugs were waiting. One by one the lines slurped up through the holes in the bow. It was 7:20PM, and I'd been waiting more than three hours.
But then. the tugs. TUGGED.
Worth all that waiting to see it with my own eyes.
Away she ever so slowly went. Valor and Response kept her clear of the buoy near the pier, and helped her steer her way around Polar Discovery in the temporarily crowded harbor.
And off she sailed, heading for Taicang, north of Shanghai. I went home, hoping to spot her out on the Strait from my kitchen window as she sailed across the horizon of H Street; but the outbound shipping lane is far to the Canadian side of the Strait so she'd have been small by then and lost in the dusk, and anyway I was cooking dinner.
This is a working port in its very small way. Big tankers fuel up here, have maintenance done at Terminal 1, shelter from storms. And the log trucks come in from the west end, and the ships are filled with logs from the holds to the top of the stanchions. I've been watching the logships load, and whole forests sail away, and then tracking them on the shiptracker sites, for a couple of years now. Have hoped for a long time to catch this part of the process. Port Alice hadn't gotten far yet this morning; she was heading due west when she went off the tracker websites, though surely she'll veer north for the great circle passage through the Aleutians... Bye bye, Alice, bye bye.