Ever since I moved from southern California to Seattle as a wee lass of 14, I’ve always been fascinated by the Seattle Shipyards and Port. There’s just something captivating about them for me. These massive ships, bound from exotic locations, laden with mysterious cargo in massive containers. It’s all just a feast for the imagination, isn’t it?
Brand-new propeller. This thing was the size of my kitchen table, and so shiny!
Earlier today, I had the incredible opportunity to meet with the head of the Seattle Shipyard, Jon Hie. I was ecstatic to find out that not only is he knowledgeable, affable, and generous with his time, he’s worked in shipyards around the world and was able to answer all my questions. He even answered questions I never knew I had!
Shipping containers are surprisingly big in person. He had a funny story about the supposed “unduplicatable” nature of customs forms that made me laugh a lot.
He took me on a tour of the shipyard that comprised everything from the dry docks (which I got to explore all the way up to the top!) to the container yard (where we discussed how one might smuggle something onboard a cargo ship), to the construction area where they were building a brand-new firefighting ship (brand new boats look beautiful, by the way), through the metal and wood shops, and then onto an actual tug boat where I got to visit the engine room and learn everything I needed to know to sound like one of those really smart thriller writers who actually knows what she’s talking about.
These future propeller shafts were MASSIVE. Solid metal all the way through, and weighing more than a full-grown elephant apiece.
It is nothing short of amazing what they do there. The ingenuity of the dry docks alone was enough to impress me, let alone watching someone hand-paint the name onto a boat while someone else used an acetylene torch to weld something. All those skilled people, I had to restrain myself from asking too many questions!
The chains they use to restrain cargo ships. Each link weighs between 50-70 lbs. I tried to lift the clip that clips onto these and I couldn’t even manage it. Unreal!
My favorite part, though, was discussing possibilities with Jon. We came up with ten different ways to explode a ship and make it look like an accident, and let me tell you, that is an awful lot of fun. (Note: This was an imaginative exercise. No one is planning any kind of violence whatsoever, NSA, so stop worrying.)
This is one of the engines in a tug boat. According to Jon, the engines in a massive cargo ship stretch 1-2 stories high and are 50 feet wide. CAN YOU EVEN CONCEIVE OF AN ENGINE THAT BIG?!?!?!
And of course, I got to wear a fetching orange hardhat and safety glasses the whole tour, but I was so busy looking at everything around me (and trying not to either trip and/or fall to my death) that I never got a picture of myself. So here’s a picture of a crane who watched me rather judgmentally while I parked my car.
This heron is tired of putting up with my crap, apparently.
I can cross this item off my bucket list, but don’t worry, I’ve got lots more. I have the feeling the longer I write thrillers, the longer and more unique that list will get. Now, if I could just get the CIA to give me a tour of their headquarters we’d really be talking…