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Summer Reading: Looking for a Ship

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  • Pacific Merchant Marine Council
    Ahoy Members and Friends, Looking for a Ship is not a new book but it looks informative. Something educational for those who have not shipped out and
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 20, 2011
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      Ahoy Members and Friends,
       
      "Looking for a Ship" is not a new book but it looks informative. Something educational for those who have not shipped out and possibly contentious for those who have served in the Merchant Marine. A sample of the text may be found at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374190771/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=.
       
      Amazon.com has well over 100 copies, hardback, paperback, and audio tape. Prices start at $.01 and shipping on all seems to be $3.99. I purchased a hardback edition in "very good condition" for $4.00 total.
       
      My personal Merchant Marine library continues to grow. Maybe you have some favorites you might suggest.
       
      We can always exchange maritime related books and magazines whenever we gather. Next getogethers July 28 in Sacramento and July 29 Coast Guard Island.
       
      Have a good read...
       
      Phelps
       
      PS Too bad about Borders Books closing.

      Return to product information

      Looking for a Ship (Hardcover)

      by John McPhee
      Editorial Reviews

      From Publishers Weekly

      McPhee joined a friend, merchant mariner Andy Chase, on a 42-day voyage from Charleston, S.C., through the Panama Canal, down the Pacific coast of South America. A gem of a book, this leisurely, unpretentious log is a paean to the United States Merchant Marine, a declining institution battered by international competition and lowered cargo rates. The ship's New England captain "couldn't find his way around a traffic circle" but manages to outmaneuver a tropical storm. Porpoises and albatrosses accompany the SS Stella Lykes on a cruise laden with much talk of stowaways, collisions and cocaine smuggling, of pirates both legendary and contemporary (the modern variety carry bolt-cutters and walkie-talkies). McPhee's ( The Control of Nature ) clean, lean prose displays his sharp eye for telling detail and arresting incident. 

      From Library Journal

      Known for his books on natural history, such as The Control of Nature (LJ 4/1/89), Basin and Range (LJ 4/1/81), etc., McPhee brings his considerable storytelling ability to bear on the plight of the U.S. merchant marine. Accompanying Second Mate Andy Chase on a 42-day run down the west coast of South America aboard the S.S. Stella Lykes , McPhee provides the reader with stories and tales of modern seafaring life and the problems of making a living as a merchant mariner. This book is both an engrossing tale of the sea, with excellent detail and humanity, and a disturbing portrait of the merchant marine--a once-great American institution that made its presence known around the world.
       

       
      Two Reviews:
       
      Found in the clearance bin of the local bookstore, the title intrigued me, so I bought it. Rarely have I had such luck resulting from an impulse buy. _Looking for a Ship_ seems to take its pace from the slow and stately progress of any seagoing cargo craft. And yet the reader feels not the plodding, monotonous roll of a modern roll-on/roll-off, but instead is a passenger on the proverbial slow boat to China. You are on vacation, with a known destination, and little to do along the way but enjoy the scenery, the daily routine, and the satisfaction that mundane tasks are complete until the morrow.

      We follow the author's first-person perspective as he in turn follows his friend, a sailor in the United States Merchant Marine, on the never-ending quest of finding work. McPhee enters a world known only vaguely beforehand, and as his adventure progresses, we learn along with him what life is to a Merchant Mariner.

      I say "adventure" somewhat tongue-in-cheek; there is very little such in this book. Do not expect swashbuckling tales of derring-do. The only scene of pulse-quickening, a pirate raid while in a South American port, has not a whit of heroism, unless one agrees that saving one's own skin is of greater heroism than saving someone else's cargo.

      Yet McPhee weaves a compelling tale from his real life experience. The people we read about are well described, fully characterized, and vital. Everyday problems still require solutions, and the Merchant Mariner must be as adaptable and wise in solving them as any of us, if not more so in the current climate of too little work for too many sailors.

      Yes, I was able to put this book down. No, I didn't lose sleep while reading it. But when I closed the back cover, it was with somewhat melancholy satisfaction, as I recognized that yet another romantic calling has died at the hand of modern technology. The book ends suddenly, almost prematurely. I had found myself very interested in the lives I was introduced to, and wanted to know more.

      After you've finished your latest powerful read, and before you begin your next, I highly recommend that you cleanse your palette with this simple and fulfilling study of the modern Merchant Marine. I doubt you'll be disappointed. An "8" rating may be high when comparing this book with some of the classics, but _Looking for a Ship_ is not trying to be a classic. Its aims are limited, yet few books hit their intended mark as cleanly as this one does. I give McPhee great credit for so elegantly doing exactly what he set out to do.

      ________________________________

      One of the characters in this book, Capt. Paul Washburn, captained the Genevieve Lykes several years before taking the Stella. My father also skippered the Genevieve, and knows most of the officers portrayed in this book. The stories he tells of characters like Dirty Shirt George Price, and of incidents at sea and in port--for instance, standing off pirates (in Vietnam) with fire hoses--mesh perfectly with McPhee's account. Anyone who is interested in the actual American Merchant Marine, rather than a romantic preconception, should read this book, and carefully. But paying careful attention to John McPhee is no more difficult than paying careful attention to a bottle of Dom Perignon.

    • ROBT ULRICH
      Hi Phelps,  I did something similar with Alibis books.  I ordered two copies of At All Costs which is one of the best books about a singular event.  I met
      Message 2 of 5 , Jul 20, 2011
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        Hi Phelps,  I did something similar with Alibis books.  I ordered two copies of "At All Costs" which is one of the best books about a singular event.  I met the author in Portland at the last National Conference held there.  Again the book costs next to nothing but shipping brings it to about $5.  I bought a couple of copies to put on our raffle table at our meeting. 
        See you on the 28th at our Monument.  Cheers.  Bob Ulrich

        From: Pacific Merchant Marine Council <pmmc@...>
        To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:22 AM
        Subject: [PMMC-NLUS] Summer Reading: Looking for a Ship
         
        Ahoy Members and Friends,
         
        "Looking for a Ship" is not a new book but it looks informative. Something educational for those who have not shipped out and possibly contentious for those who have served in the Merchant Marine. A sample of the text may be found at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374190771/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=.
         
        Amazon.com has well over 100 copies, hardback, paperback, and audio tape. Prices start at $.01 and shipping on all seems to be $3.99. I purchased a hardback edition in "very good condition" for $4.00 total.
         
        My personal Merchant Marine library continues to grow. Maybe you have some favorites you might suggest.
         
        We can always exchange maritime related books and magazines whenever we gather. Next getogethers July 28 in Sacramento and July 29 Coast Guard Island.
         
        Have a good read...
         
        Phelps
         
        PS Too bad about Borders Books closing.
      • Sam Sause
        All I totally enjoyed “looking for a ship” – I read it several years ago, bought a few additional copies as give always, gave one to my father in law
        Message 3 of 5 , Jul 20, 2011
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          All, I totally enjoyed "Looking for a Ship" I read it several years ago, bought a few additional copies as give aways, gave one to my father inlaw which I got back several years after that with the names of two or three other peeps he had leant it to. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the seafarers' life in the days of freighters and union hall hiring - a great read. I still have at least one copy left I (maybe 2) thanks for dredging up this old memory of a great read. Am thinking maybe I should read it again.

           

          Sam Sause, Senior Vice President, PMMC, Past President of Alameda Council and National Director

           

          From: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com

        • capt.ob@comcast.net
          All Hands: This is a great book!...I read it years ago!....Lykes Brothers is a sad story....Lykes was a cattle company with cattle ranches in Cuba...They
          Message 4 of 5 , Jul 20, 2011
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            All Hands:
            This is a great book!...I read it years ago!....Lykes Brothers is a sad story....Lykes was a cattle company with cattle ranches in Cuba...They started their own steamship line, and at one time it was one of America Flag's largest with over 50 ships...I retired from MM&P in 2007, and I believe there may have been only  2-4 lykes Bros ships left sailing...I sailed several,including Stella Lykes,Dr Lykes, and as a rigger, I almost lost my life rigging aboard the Leslie Lykes at triple A Machine Shop in San Francisco...I took a rigger's job off the SUP Board for thirty days( so I could stay ashore a little longer...having fallen head over heels "in lust" with a beautiful redhead with green eyes and peachy skin!...I worked the swing shift 1600-midnight, loft rigging(wire splicing) and doing "boom jobs" as on the Leslie Lykes....I also rigged the lifeboats, jumbos and all the gear on the SS Loyala Victory and the SS Batron Rouge Victory, which met a tragic fate going up the river to Saigon from Vung Tau (Cape St. Jauques)...On that terrible day, Captain Harold John Mahoney..Master of theJoseph F. Merrell(Grange Victory)(just passed the final bar in October 2010) had picked up his pilot and headed to the mouth of the river....He was told to let Baton Rouge go first, as it was her turn..but .Mahoney stood on, and with +6,000 tons of explosives, passed over an explosive charge that the VC had placed in the river..(meant for him and his ammo).then came Baton Rouge, which the VC thought was the Merrell and they exploded their charge....Captain Conrad Carlson grabbed the wheel and drove the Baton Rouge aground, avoiding blocking the narrow channel....five men from MEBA and the MFOW lost their lives..and the ship sank.....Later divers patched her and floated her, removed her cargo, and I happened to be anchored at Vung Tau when she was towed out to P.I to be broken up.....I gave the prayer at the Baton Rouge Victory Memorial, which stands on the pier adjacent to the SS JeremiahO'Brien when it was dedicated..I knew Mahoney over  46 years...I sailed Bosn with him as Chief Mate...and later when I joined MM&P we continued our friendship...he was born on May 17, 1917...I still have the crew list from when we sailed together in 64-65...we sailed to Viet-Nam, but also to Antarctica loaded with snow plows, heavy equipment....and beer...i still have pictures of when I kicked out the 50 ton jumbo at #3 and the 30 ton jumbo at # 4...we worked day and night, as it never got dark...there were no longshoremen there so we earned $2.46 an hour cargo time during regular working hours, and $3.05 during overtime hours!..As Boatswain,I earned $6,750.00per year base...an AB got $6,250, and a Dayman got 6k even...with OT we were all making over a grand a month!!!..Those were the good old days...we often stayed in port for days...and partied hearty!....The merrel ended her life  in a collission  down off the coast of socal  and got hit right at #4 hatch...she limped into port Hueneme and sank at the pier...she was an 85,000 HP  and had sailed continuously since launching-...she was a good ship, and a lucky one...untill her end....

            Captain K C O'Brien---- Original Message -----
            From: ROBT ULRICH <bulrich@...>
            To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Wed, 20 Jul 2011 15:52:49 -0000 (UTC)
            Subject: Re: [PMMC-NLUS] Summer Reading: Looking for a Ship









             

            Hi Phelps,  I did something similar with Alibis books.  I ordered two copies of "At All Costs" which is one of the best books about a singular event.  I met the author in Portland at the last National Conference held there.  Again the book costs next to nothing but shipping brings it to about $5.  I bought a couple of copies to put on our raffle table at our meeting. 
            See you on the 28th at our Monument.  Cheers.  Bob Ulrich

            From: Pacific Merchant Marine Council <pmmc@...>
            To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com
            Sent: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 8:22 AM
            Subject: [PMMC-NLUS] Summer Reading: Looking for a Ship
             
            Ahoy Members and Friends,
             
            "Looking for a Ship" is not a new book but it looks informative. Something educational for those who have not shipped out and possibly contentious for those who have served in the Merchant Marine. A sample of the text may be found at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0374190771/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me=&seller=.
             
            Amazon.com has well over 100 copies, hardback, paperback, and audio tape. Prices start at $.01 and shipping on all seems to be $3.99. I purchased a hardback edition in "very good condition" for $4.00 total.
             
            My personal Merchant Marine library continues to grow. Maybe you have some favorites you might suggest.
             
            We can always exchange maritime related books and magazines whenever we gather. Next getogethers July 28 in Sacramento and July 29 Coast Guard Island.
             
            Have a good read...
             
            Phelps
             
            PS Too bad about Borders Books closing.






          • WO Guilherme Freitas, USNSCC
            Sam, I also read the book and enjoyed it. I ordered a copy of the book for my son, Davis Freitas, and had it sent to him at the Seafarers International Union
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 22, 2011
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              Sam,

              I also read the book and enjoyed it.

              I ordered a copy of the book for my son, Davis Freitas, and had it sent to him at the Seafarers International Union Paul Hall Center For Maritime Training And Education in Piney Point, Maryland.

              Davis has completed Unlicensed Apprentice Program Phase 1 and is waiting for his ship to start Phase 2.

              Regards,

                   Guilherme Freitas

              --- On Wed, 7/20/11, Sam Sause <grandtrans2000@...> wrote:

              From: Sam Sause <grandtrans2000@...>
              Subject: RE: [PMMC-NLUS] Summer Reading: Looking for a Ship
              To: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com
              Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 10:49 AM

               

              All, I totally enjoyed "Looking for a Ship" I read it several years ago, bought a few additional copies as give aways, gave one to my father inlaw which I got back several years after that with the names of two or three other peeps he had leant it to. I recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the seafarers' life in the days of freighters and union hall hiring - a great read. I still have at least one copy left I (maybe 2) thanks for dredging up this old memory of a great read. Am thinking maybe I should read it again.

               

              Sam Sause, Senior Vice President, PMMC, Past President of Alameda Council and National Director

               

              From: PMMC-NLUS@yahoogroups.com

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