On the water

We got together fairly early to take the Osprey Port of Brownsville Tour, a 4 hour cruise in the inside channel. The first hour is just boating upstream. It was really windy, and the wind made it fairly cold, but Jenny, Kris and I stayed outside to watch for dolphins. Since this is open water, there were a some around. They like to show off a bit for the boats; these three were diving in sync.
Then we saw a couple of dark ones on the other side of the boat. They looked black to us, but the guide said there are no black dolphins, just very dark grey ones. Same difference to me!
The Port of Brownsville, the only deep water port on the gulf, is home to a fleet of about 130 shrimp boats. There used to  be twice that number, but hard times have reduced the fleet. The boats here are not for show - these are working shrimp boats, and they show the wear and tear of their profession.
Our guy had a little trouble hooking up to the pier - it took him 4 tries to lasso the post, but eventually he got it. Then he had to haul us into place, along the dock. 
We didn't get off the boat; instead a guy walked out on the pier and gave us a quick talk about the history of one of the major shrimp companies. He told us that last year they set a record of 60,000 pounds in a single shrimp haul. That was done by this scruffy little boat, the Fiesta Cruise.
Then he passed over a cooler filled with cooked, chilled shrimp, and after we cast off from the dock, the boat crew passed out a couple of shrimp to everyone.

Our boat went further up the channel to the Port, and at this point, no pictures were allowed. The first boat we passed was the USS Flint, active from 1972 through Desert Storm. She was decommissioned in 1995 but operated under Military Sealift Command until she was deactivated in 2013.

Next to her was the Comet, which was part of Iraq initiative. She was in the process of being dismantled, with big sections already cut off. The Meteor was next, in a more advanced state of disassembly. According to our host, the Meteor was the only ship of her 1964 class. She was part of the Iraq war too, ending her career in 2003.

Next was a big repair and refurnish area, followed by a "Jack up" rig. It was setting 30 or 40 feet out of the water, jacked up on rails with teeth, like a tire jack. There were giant cranes everywhere, some in use, some not. A huge double dry dock area was open, available for the next big thing that needs to be out of the water. Behind it stood a tall oil rig, completely covered in sturdy blue material, because it's scheduled to go somewhere mighty cold, like the Arctic. And there are several big storage tanks for oil, jet fuel, lubricants, etc. 

We passed the Saratoga, nicknamed "Super Sara". In a row of big ships, this one was really big. She held 70-90 aircrafts, 500 officers and 5,000 enlisted men. Her career stretched from Vietnam to Desert Storm. She was docked in 2014 and already looks like an abandoned mess. 

The SS Yellowstone is here, too, as is the Shenandoah. ESCO bought most of these ships for their recycling business,  before going bankrupt. The process is to cut the ships apart, send the material to China for processing, and China sends (sells) us back steel. I think the idea is that China can process the material cheaper because they don't have air pollutant rules. 

At this point our boat turned around and headed back. The USS Ranger was docked on the other side of the channel. After a military career that started in 1957, she had quite a Hollywood career, appearing in Top Gun, Star Trek IV, and several TV shows. 

At that point we were close enough to the exit that we could take a few pictures. I got so excited that I completely missed the guide telling us about this thing! But it looks like another Jack-up rig.
But I do know that this was an oil derrick.
And then we passed the Flint, again. Such a pretty ship, I hate it that she's going to be cut up!
The yellow strip on the water around her is a containment boom, which keeps contaminates from drifting out to sea.

As we pulled away from the port, I looked back, and there was everything: derrick, cranes, shrimp boat, Jack-up rig and decommissioned ship.
Our boat returned a slightly different route, so the bridge swung open to let us pass through.
As part of our ticket, we received vouchers for a meal at the Shrimp Haus, where I had fish and chips and Randy, who is wiser than me, got the salad bar. And later that night we went to the movies, to see '13 Hours', a really good movie about a really bad event. 

No comments:

Post a Comment