Forever Young ARC Gloria

Posted October 25, 2013 by Kimball Livingston

Some things just never get old. At dawn today I was crowded into the bridge of the ARC Gloria with umpteen officers and men of the Colombian navy’s training ship, and the VTS channel was on, of course, and every time I heard a check-in with the phrase “bound for sea” it gave my heart a flutter.

That always happens.


To be clear, however, other ships were departing. The Gloria was arriving, or arriving officially. More on that, later.

ARC-Gloria-Coney-bridgeBar Pilot Blake Coney, right, on the bridge. Photo © KL

I boarded in the East Bay along with San Francisco Bar Pilot Number 29, Blake Coney, who had the responsibility of getting 250 feet, 1300 tons and about 160 souls transferred and safely docked, stern-to an ebb current, at Pier 17. I watched him focus, and I kept my trap shut. As whistle signals launched a cadre of cadets aloft, the yards came alive with color and energy and Coney turned aside to remark, “You can’t help but love this. It’s good for the soul.” That was Coney speaking as a man who’s had a Bar Pilot’s license for 20 years and 55 days, since September 1, 1993. He’s even worked the Gloria before.

Some things just never get old.

ARC-Gloria-climb-aloftPhoto © KL

Arriving is one more “thing” that never gets old. Whether on the bridge . . .

ARC-Gloria-flyingbridgePhoto © KL

Or the deck . . .

ARC-Gloria-portwatchPhoto © KL

For all the bodies assembled ready forward and aloft and port side for a port-to docking, there were sections of the Gloria where a man could have his privacy.

ARC-Gloria-deck-aftPhoto © KL

A training ship is exactly that, an environment in which youthful energy can be captured and channeled and stamped with memories in common. As in, esprit de corps. I saw it in action a few years ago when I rode down the coast from Portland to San Francisco on the US Coast Guard’s Eagle. Passing port after port, the CG boats came out, and the helicopters came out. To set eyes upon the Eagle. Their Eagle.

Stepping down from one deck to another, it’s hard to forget that you’re aboard the Gloria . . .

ARC-Gloria-stepsPhoto © KL

Not that you would want to . . .
ARC-Gloria-nameplate2Photo © KL

But what . . .

ARC-Gloria-whatPhoto © KL

Well, of course. Let’s just let it play . . .

ARC-Gloria-threePhoto © KL

ARC-Gloria-yellow-upPhoto © KL

It always looks as if you’re going to hit the bridge . . .

ARC-Gloria 077Photo © KL

But the deck is shipshape and dockwise . . .

ARC-Gloria-shipshapePhoto © KL

ARC-Gloria-mast-stepPhoto © KL

ARC-Gloria-platePhoto © KL

And as I recall, the way they explained this aboard the Eagle: If you don’t let go, you don’t fall . . .

ARC-Gloria-feet-aloftPhoto © KL

ARC-Gloria 104Photo © KL

Yes, they are tethered while they’re on station. But looking down feels even father than looking up. They’ll be loose on San Francisco this weekend, btw. You might see them. They’re the young people who look as if they just spent thirty-some (I think it’s thirty-seven) days crossing the Pacific from Japan, and then thirty-six hours making this big puppy shine for the public. That’s you.

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