Breakwater News : Out & about
In my short time on Island, I have become protective of my sheltered world here, and more and more adept at finding reasons to remain put: painting the boat, rebuilding the generator, and seeing to the myriad of issues that, if not dealt with in the comfort of longer warmer days, would become much more of an issue as winter approaches.
But there are angles of coercion that will inevitably get me on the ferry. I am a sucker for Cirque du Soleil, and when my wife, Laura, got tickets, we got on the boat.
I am always amazed by the capacities of the human organism. I have had to heal issues that were in doubt of potential recovery. I have abused organs beyond what those who purportedly know better think advisable. In my youth, I got away with things that as I got older seemed at best unadvisable and have advised against them to the next generation of hair-brained youngsters. So when I go to see Cirque du Soleil, I can revel in the death-defying hi-jinx of performers who, if they were not trying to kill themselves while entertaining me with their unbelievable acts of gymnastics and endurance, would probably be stealing the Hope Diamond from the Louvre.
The return trip to Martha's Vineyard proved interesting as well. The Island Home was going to Oak Bluffs, and Laura, always vigilant, noticed the Governor loading and suggested we hop it to Vineyard Haven. As we boarded, I asked one of the Able Bodies if there was a possibility of my getting a tour of the ship. He explained that since 9/11 the rules had changed and there was no passenger access, but I insinuated my press credentials and somehow ended up on the Bridge with Captain Arstein Tviet. He was accommodating, and when I revealed I was not an investigative type, very forthcoming.
The Governor was built in 1954, originally named the Crown City, plying the waters of San Diego where her open deck configuration was enjoyed by the denizens of that temperate city until 1969. She was then bought and moved to Seattle, working for Washington State Ferries as the Kulshan until the Coast Guard purchased her in 1982. The coasties renamed her Governor appropriately enough, using her as access from NYC to Governor's Island.
In 1994 the Steamship Authority bought her and over the next few years gave her the twice over to bring her up to working standards for New England coastal use.
Over the course of the early summer I noticed her unique countenance coming and going and became intrigued until the Sankaty took her schedule. An opportunity to ride her was not wasted.
The Governor is a Diesel-Electric propulsion ship. That is to say, she is driven by two fore and aft mounted 1200 horse power electric motors energized by any of three Caterpillar 398 diesel generators that produce Alternating Current (AC) and then converted into Direct Current (DC). This is technology developed in the 1930s to propel submarines and gives a smooth quiet ride and more importantly, burns less fuel than any ship in the fleet.
The captain and the engineer's mate assured me that if this technology were implemented more widely, consumption of fossil fuel would be greatly reduced. I refrained from asking the inevitable question, as these were not the men making policy. But I could not help but come away with a much larger conundrum in mind. In this day and age, when we are debating the use of wind generators as a viable alternative to energy needs, the major contrary argument being aesthetic, when we are exploring any and all alternate sources of power, and resources are being exploited globally as never before, why would we not consider older technology that has stood the test of time and proven to be more applicable now than ever?
It occurs to me that this is perhaps the most enlightened globally conscious community I have ever lived in. If there is anywhere in this country where this kind of technology might benefit and be recognized, it would be here. I think of the gent who is driving around Martha's Vineyard in an electric truck he built here in his shop. I am constantly impressed by the imagination shown by the common everyday tinkerers with whom I come in contact here. If this is the place where these kinds of ideas can be implemented and proven to be useful in defusing some of the global strain on our remaining resources, then we are well on our way to solving problems rather than creating more.
See what can come from going to the circus?