Sunday, August 26, 2012

Victory at Sea

Built in 1945, the S.S. Lane Victory delivered cargo to battle sites during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. A designated national landmark, the Lane Victory now serves as a local naval museum that also sails to Catalina Island several times during the summer. Tim (former Navy) must have had a hankerin’ to go to sea, because he suggested taking a daylong cruise this weekend. I agreed, desperate to get out of the miserable heat that’s plagued L.A. the past few weeks. We made reservations to sail aboard the Lane Victory yesterday.

The ship was leaving port at 9AM, so I got up early and packed a bag: blanket, sweatshirt, camera, magazines, water, baguette, and a big slab of cheese. The trip included continental breakfast and lunch, but one can never be overly prepared for such occasions. We both grew-up watching Gilligan’s Island, after all.

We arrived at Berth 46 a little before 8AM. We could already see hundreds of people crawling all over the ship. We boarded and staked our claim for a place to sit—well, actually lean, as there are far fewer seats (i.e., folding chairs) than there are travelers, so it’s first-come, first-served. Since we were among the youngest people there, we decided to stand. We got a firsthand look at the tugboats as they guided the ship out of the harbor and watched as the pilot debarked. By 9:30AM, we were on the open sea.

Waiting to launch

Our tug arrives

L.A. lighthouse and jet-skiers riding alongside

Heading toward Catalina

We’d done the cruise before. Still, it’s fun to climb up and down the ladders and poke around in the various rooms that are open to the public. A swing band and Andrews Sisters cover group performed most of the day, so we settled in near them and joined dancers who were dressed in 1940s outfits. We arrived at Catalina just as the sun was starting to break through. The island looked tempting, but we stayed outside its small harbor, moving in a wide circle while everyone ate lunch.

Land ho! Catalina straight ahead

Beautiful Avalon harbor

Lunch is served!

We were relaxing and enjoying the cool sea breeze when suddenly a voice came over the ship’s loudspeaker, warning that a German spy had been captured in the boiler room. A few minutes later, our ship was under attack by WWII German airplanes! American planes were in hot pursuit. An exciting dogfight ensued as Lane Victory gunners shot at the enemy. A small boy standing next to me wondered why, with all the shooting going on, the Germans hadn’t crashed into the sea. His older brother patiently explained that it was just a show, but the boy didn’t seem convinced.

German spy is captured

German plane is hit, but doesn't crash!

Lane Victory model

After the Germans were subdued, the ship headed back to L.A. We spent some time below deck, looking through the WWII artifacts in the museum, and then danced. We were back in port by 3PM. It took a good hour, however, before the gangplank was lowered and we were allowed to leave. By then we were famished. Thank goodness for our cheese and baguette!

Home: Port of Los Angeles

Enjoying the sea aboard the big white steamer
to Catalina, early 1970s

40 years later

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