requiem for a lady…

yesterday, November 17, 2007, they sent my ship to the bottom.

built at Sparrows Point, Maryland and originally completed as APA-103, the USS Queens, she served in the Pacific from December of 1944. she was at Iwo Jima and carried occupation troops to Japan itself. the Queens was awarded the American Campaign, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign, the Navy Occupation Service, and World War II Victory ribbons for her service. decomissioned in 1946, she was laid up in ordinary until 1948.

queens.jpg

in 1948, she was sold to American Export Lines with three of her sisters, who had them rebuilt as passenger-cargo liners. renamed the SS Excambion, she, along with her three sisters, replaced American Export Lines’ original “Four Aces,” three of the original Aces having been lost to enemy action during the war. serving ports on the east coast of North America and in the Mediterranean, the new Aces were the first fully air-conditioned ships in the world. on March 12, 1959, the Excambion completed her last passenger voyage. after ten years of service, with violence in the Middle-East growing and jetliners making trans-Atlantic voyages faster than ever, she was once more mothballed.

excambionsm.jpg

but in 1965 she gained a new lease on life – as a training ship.

for thirty years she served as the USTS Texas Clipper, carrying thousands of cadets to ports around the world – she made Blue Nose cruises and Crossed the Line several times.

clipper_color_sm.jpg

473′ 1″ L.O.A., 8000 shaft horsepower, and a little under 18 knots (almost 21 mph). she was the single largest and most powerful thing i’ve ever driven.

though the Clipper (or as we sometimes called her, the “Crasher“) was a grand old dame by the time i was on her she still rode like a dream, even in the heavy winter seas of the South Atlantic. she was the oldest of all the school ships in the US training fleet, the oldest vessel in the US merchant fleet, and showed it. there was no longer a swimming pool, and the last remaining teak decks had been painted over years before. but she still had her gorgeous lines. and there were many places where you could still see the glamour queen she had once been: the grand staircase, covered in linoleum; the outline of the swimming pool on the deck, with the pool itself converted to training space for damage control; and the battered elegance of the afterbar, which remained in service as the students’ lounge and social area.

i think it’s telling that the Texas Clipper II barely lasted ten years as a school ship, and the original Clipper spent longer as a school ship than her replacement spent in commission. well, hopefully the Clipper III will be more like the first…

i wonder if she’ll be mentioned at Aggie Muster next year. i think she deserves it. and, though it’s sad to see her go, it’s wonderful to see her go for something so useful.

quote of the day:

I am fevered with the sunset,
I am fretful with the bay,
For the wander-thirst is on me
And my soul is in Cathay.

There’s a schooner in the offing,
With her topsails shot with fire,
And my heart has gone aboard her
For the Islands of Desire.

I must forth again to-morrow!
With the sunset I must be,
Hull down on the trail of rapture
In the wonder of the Sea.

– Richard Hovey, The Sea Gypsy

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