Thursday, November 5, 2020

Swiftly doth daylight flee...and other seasonal thoughts

 Most ships coming and going from Halifax tend to align their movements with the normal working day of longshoremen to avoid overtime rates if they can. Now that we are back to Standard Time it will be dark for many ship arrivals and departures until February, making it difficult shooting for this shipwatcher. Fortunately some ships vary from the norm by spending less than a full day in port - nevertheless the days are short so it is essential to take every opportunity. So it was that I was poised for the midday departure of the autocarrier Swift Ace.  (Why Swift? - not sure!)

Despite yesterday's record 12 cm of snow, today's temperature rocketed back up into the teens with a warm but stiff wind, melting away most of the white stuff. One die-heart sailor was out for a sail from Shearwater [see off the ship's stern] but for the rest of us, it is a reminder that winter is nearly here.

Swift Ace, remarkably, is owned by Snowscape Car Carriers SA, and managed by MOL Ship, the operations arm of Mitsui OSK Lines. It was built in 2008 by Minami-Nippon, Shitanoe, and measures 56,685 gt, 18,865 dwt, with a capacity of 5,220 Car Equivalent Units (CEUs).

My regrets about the fading light of dusk are aptly summed up in the first stanza of the ode Landlocked by Celia Thaxter, written as long ago as 1861.

Black lie the hills; swiftly doth daylight flee;
And, catching gleams of sunset’s dying smile,
Through the dusk land for many a changing mile
The river runneth softly to the sea.

O happy river, could I follow thee!
O yearning heart, that never can be still!
O wistful eyes, that watch the steadfast hill,
Longing for level line of solemn sea!

Have patience; here are flowers and songs of birds,
Beauty and fragrance, wealth of sound and sight,
All summer’s glory thine from morn till night,
And life too full of joy for uttered words.

Neither am I ungrateful; but I dream
Deliciously how twilight falls to-night
Over the glimmering water, how the light
Dies blissfully away, until I seem

To feel the wind, sea-scented, on my cheek,
To catch the sound of dusky flapping sail
And dip of oars, and voices on the gale
Afar off, calling low, — my name they speak!

O Earth! thy summer song of joy may soar
Ringing to heaven in triumph. I but crave
The sad, caressing murmur of the wave
That breaks in tender music on the shore.

(After the first stanza, the rest of the poem describes the poet's feeling about life in landlocked Massachusetts after growing up on Isles of Shoals in the Gulf of Maine, off the Maine/New Hampshire border, where her father was light keeper.)

The camera tends to flatten the appearance of waves, but the ferry Viola Desmond en route from Halifax to Woodside had its own method of ironing out the surface.

Note the yellow marker leaning into the breeze. It has been placed to warn shipping away from the demolition work at the Svitzer (former Foundation Maritime) pier.


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