Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Ship Spotting


The Panama-flagged Cargo Ship Ken Ei, Bound for Sacramento

When I biked home from Mt. Tam the last time (see the bottom of this post) I enjoyed watching a large ocean vessel as it cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge, although I was a little disappointed to learn it was just a tanker ship and not a research vessel (talk about confirmation bias, or seeing what you want to see; it didn't even almost look like a research vessel). I learned what it was by looking it up on -- what else? -- Vessel Finder. The only reason I knew that such a thing existed is because an artist friend got interested in ships several years ago and made a few excellent paintings.

Anyway, when I looked up the tanker vessel I noticed it didn't have any pictures showing it from above. The photos they had on Vessel Finder were all side views from sea level. I figured it might be fun to add some "aerial" ship photos to their web site so people could see the deck. So on Sunday morning I decided to pack my FZ80 and bike over to the bridge. I hit a minor setback when I found that my rear tire had gone flat overnight. The tiny sharp stone that punctured the innertube looked so harmless, especially compared with a couple other things that have given me flats recently (two of which I've saved in my patch kit). I often just replace the whole tube, but I was feeling frugal that morning and decided to patch it, and I was soon off and rolling.

As I approached the bridge I realized I would be on the west-facing side since that's where bikes go on the weekends, with pedestrians having full use of the city-facing side. A ship had just emerged from an offshore fog bank and was steaming for the bridge just as I got there. I didn't realize how lucky that was until later, when no other ships appeared. 

I was glad I'd over-dressed for warmth because there was a chilly wind blowing in. I found a good viewpoint on the north end of the bridge where I could see incoming vessels as well as any that might be coming from the east and heading back out to sea. I don't know if it was a Sunday thing, but no commercial vessels were out and about. 

I was glad to see some San Francisco wallflower (Erysimum franciscanum) growing on the chert cliffs next to the bridge, but I eventually gave up on seeing anymore ships that morning and headed home through Sea Cliff with a stop at China Beach, then found a path behind the Legion of Honor Museum that took me along the coast to Land's End.

On the way home via Ocean Beach and Golden Gate Park I was riding past Stow Lake when my rear tire blew. Arrgh! Two flats in one day. At least it didn't blow while I was cornering, since I'd likely have crashed. I wondered if my patch had come undone, but I soon had the tube out and was shocked to see that it had basically exploded. The patch was solid, but the tube itself must have been made of some kind of super-cheap rubber. I had a spare tube of the same brand, Serfas, so I installed it and put my wheel back on, only to find out the Serfas mini bike pump I'd recent bought with the tubes wouldn't work! My back-up was a CO2 cartridge inflator, and that too either malfunctioned or just had very little compressed air in the brand new cartridge, but I at least got about 10 pounds of air in the tire, enough to get home. 

I felt that I couldn't really trust the bike shop that sold me those crappy tubes and pump, so I ordered quality replacements, including new tires, online. I'd like to have gone to a local shop, but the ebike shop I bought my bike from (Motostrano) went out of business. My local bike shop just down the street (Everybody Bikes) closed during the pandemic. And another local bike shop I've used (Nomad) closed a few months ago when its owner passed away.

Anyway, I look forward to photographing more ships from the Golden Gate Bridge as soon as I get the new bike parts. Even if no ships come in, it's still a nice ride.

[UPDATE] Check out this link I just got from my brother-in-law about a photographer named Jake Ricker who has been doing a street photography project on the Golden Gate Bridge for several years.

Good Vantage Point, Slightly Out of the Wind

San Francisco Wallflower

Nice Place to Have a Flat
(There was even a pretty good guitar player on a nearby bench.)

Baaaaad Tube!

Flat-makers: The Screw, the Shark Tooth Glass, and the Tiny Pebble
(with a Hawaii quarter for scale)

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