Harrr! Pieces of Eight &c.

When fishing on Saturday, I was most gratified by a typical springtime Tokyo Bay morning: the water eerily calm, and shrouded in a pall of white mist (this is genuine condensation, as opposed to the terrible air pollution you get in summer) that burns off during the course of the day. Well as our ship struggled past the saltwater lumber stores in Shin-Kiba – the wind was right in our faces – I thought I spotted something odd in the mist ahead of us. Now I know that the sea can play a multitude of tricks on the human mind, especially on a flat-footed landlubber like me: why I have seen boats flying above the surface of the water (sea surface mirages), heard cats, crying babies, human voices (seabirds can sometimes sound like all three) and even alarmclocks (usually a very taut line rubbing against a wooden post) while miles offshore, and encountered giant flying fish that whizz past your head, and seen whirlpools and tropical storms straight out of the Odyssey, and suchlike. Well anyway, as we chugged out of Tokyo, I spotted something in the mist ahead that looked unusual; it did not look like any of the usual traffic on the Bay such as trawlers, yachts, tugs, tankers, cargo ships or military vessels, and certainly wasn’t a buoy. To me it looked like…well as a kid I was brought up on stuff like Treasure Island, the Marie Celeste legend and What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor, so to me it looked like a pirate ghost ship:

Click for closeup

In low visibility conditions on the Bay like this, a lot of vessels drop anchor or stick close to shore and there is almost no traffic in this part of Tokyo Bay. Well this is what I saw:

mystery ship

Magnification of the object arrowed in the first photograph; at least my eyes weren’t deceiving me; although in nearly five years of angling, I have never seen a tall ship on Tokyo Bay. So my mind was filled with marauding ghostly pirate craft, complete with skellington crew and a parrot on the shoulder of the peg-legged skipper bawling out mimicked obscenities as the 8-pounders were charged with chain-shot, the swivel-guns with grape and the boarding party rattled their demonic cutlasses.  Well as we drew closer I was glad to see that the ship was in fact of this world, and a fairly impressive tall ship at that. I know of only one such ship that is permanently based in Tokyo Bay – at the fisheries college in Koto-ku – and it is quite unusual to see such a vessel anchored in the middle of the Bay.  I think the Yokosuka base has some kind of tall ship festival every year and maybe she was part of that.  Anyway, this is the ship at closer range:

tallship2

One response to “Harrr! Pieces of Eight &c.

  1. The imagination of an artist or a writer, I’d say!

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