Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 5)

Portland-OR-6It’s Rose Festival Week here in Portland, Oregon.* This means ships come to call at the waterfront. Ships! What’s not to love about ships?

The Willamette River* runs smack through downtown, placing the nautical display right in our urban living room. For hardy souls who brave long lines, there are free tours.

On Friday I went aboard the USS Spruance, a US Navy destroyer put into service in 2011. I was impressed, for she is sleek, well-equipped, and ship-shape beautiful. Make no mistake, as a weapon the Spruance is intimidating. To think that a monster this size can appear on radar as a small fishing vessel boggles the mind.

Hats off to the Navy for bringing the fleet’s flagship helicopter to display on deck. None of the others sport the spiffy ‘wolfish’ paint job. The tall, boxy edifice you see behind the boarding gangway (photo, below right) is the hanger.

USS Spruance-20

Who better to tour with than Frederick Wentworth, Captain? Forgive the American flag at the stern, sir. And although other senior officers were piped aboard, you were not. Even so, I bet you’d think that helicopter was awesome.

Strike the bell for Frederick Wentworth, Captain!

Ahoy, Frederick Wentworth, Captain. Watch-stander, strike the bell!

For forty minutes, I walked in a sailor’s shoes. As instructed, I saluted the officers stationed on the quarterdeck when I boarded, I strolled the forecastle,* navigated ‘knee knockers’ and steep ascension ladders, and basically had a lovely time.

The USS Spruance at sea

The USS Spruance in action. Twelve-foot seas greeted her at the mouth of the Columbia River. A treacherous spot, that.

I came away with photos and a scorching sunburn, but that’s another story. Hey, can I help it if we’re having July weather now? It’s supposed to be drizzling! Gah.

See, around here complaining about the weather is like a sport. Unless it’s 77 degrees with a light breeze and humidity at less than 35%, we gripe. True confession: At home we do not have air conditioning. (I know, that’s insane. But for two weeks of heat it’s hardly worth the expense.)

*Pronunciation Guide and two more photos:
Willamette River = “Will-LAM-it”
Oregon = “Or-a-gun” (not “Or-ee-gone”)
Forecastle = “fok’sl”

I know, right? Oregonians can’t pronounce words as they’re spelled.

And neither can sailors, bless them.

I practically grew up on a sailboat, but the ascension ladder to reach this upper deck was STEEP.

Okay, so I grew up on a sailboat, but the ascension ladder to reach this upper deck was something else. Next time I’m bringing Frederick Wentworth, Captain’s author, Susan Kaye. She LOVES heights, waiting in line in the sun, and climbing stuff.

A famous old Portland local landmark, the deer

I’ll finish with the waterfront’s famous landmark, the White Stag deer sign. At Christmas he sports a red nose.


4 thoughts on “Sisterhood of the Traveling Books (Episode 5)

  1. Susan Kaye

    I’m sure the Captain had a rollicking time putting his cyberized feet on the deck of a ship again. Someday when we’re rich–I don’t care about famous–we’ll have to sail on her:

    The Lady Washington


    1. Laura Hile Post author

      High tech deck surface would catch him by surprise. That deck was so roughed up, you couldn’t slip if you wanted to. But if you took a fall, major tearing ouch!



Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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