Art School: Semester 5, Week 13

Official Langara College Mascots (not)

Greetings everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of Vancouver Harbour News, your one stop shop for the exciting world of shipping related happenings in and around Vancouver Harbour.

I probably ought to rename this blog that way after this post. I am sure you’re all sick of this stuff by now, but I am one of those weirdos that finds many things fascinating, and regularly crossing the harbour in the SeaBus means it winds up on my radar. Well, it (the harbour) and all the ships in it. Read on at your own risk.

But that all comes in the photos section, I think. Who knows. I sure don’t anymore. Here’s an example of how well I am doing:

See that blue travel mug on top of my locker? I wondered where it was on Sunday morning when I left for school. When I arrived I opened the locker and noted it up there, exactly where I had left it the night before, after setting it out to take home. Whee.

As for actual class stuff, I think the light I noted last week is proving to be the end of the tunnel — not a train — but there is more to come that will prove (or disprove) that particular theory. Details below.

Oh, and for the record I am still using the awful keyboard. I have used a tool called xmodmap to switch the caps-lock and control keys around, which is a part of the problem (and which should reduce the copy/paste errors) but it’s still mushy and the keys are spaced out a bit differently, so it’s still not a nice thing. Thus the typos will probably be plenty thick once again. Get out your (logical) red pens and note them all, then send me those notes so I can fix them, please!

And with that…


This class is breaking down into two groups, I fear. One group has their wood cut and has time (before next Tuesday) to sand, assemble, and finish their projects, along with prepping all the stuff for the display the instructor wants to setup during next Tuesday’s class.

The other group… let’s just say things are difficult.

The CNC router continues to cause problems. It still randomly glitches and sets the X/Y origin to something other than it was supposed to be. That has awful consequences, but most students have cut their wood as of Friday. (How the rest will manage to do that on Monday I have no idea, let alone sand, finish, and assemble.)

Amusingly, the last round of router software problems also revealed that a screw was loose and another had come out of the router. The screws in question held in the wheels on which the gantry moved in the Y direction. As a result the movement in that direction was a bit “uneven”. (That’s the polite way of putting it. I am certain you can imagine the way at least some of us talk about it.)

Anyway, my stool is done. Sort of. I’ve assembled it and put a coat of shellac on it. (Why shellac? Because I had it available and wanted to use it up.) Alas I did this outside (to avoid fumes in the studio) and it’s been sunny, so it dried very quickly and thus preserved all the brush strokes. One job this weekend is to sand the top and attempt another coat up there to smooth it out.

Photos you say? Sure:

If I had more time and better options for the finish, I’d be happier with it, but we are at the end of the term and trade-offs abound. Plus I have to admit that wood finishing is not exactly my area of expertise.

A question, dear reader: I really like the top, but do the fins/supports scream 1968 to you too? Just checking.

Aboriginal Carving

This class is almost done, for me. I turned in the bowl I have been working on, and that leaves only a final quiz and a final (in class) project next week. The week after is an “extra” class that we can attend to work on projects that aren’t yet done, or other things. I will probably be there to sharpen my new hook knife.

Pictures, you ask again? Sure! Here are a couple of the bowl:

and here is the knife:

In class this past week I finished up the foot of the bowl and worked the lip. I also thinned down the rest of it a bit more.

Once the bowl was done I shaped the handle of the knife and epoxied in the blade. The tape you see will come off (sort of) and I will use cord to whip in the blade as well, and then I can spend the time needed to sharpen it. That’s all likely to take place in the “extra” class for me, since the final project in class this week is still a mystery.


As always this term, here is where the time goes. (I must have said something almost exactly like that last week as well, didn’t I? I am repeating myself. I just know it. Sure sign of dementia. Great!)

Anyway, this week all that happened was I sanded the sculpture smooth. It’s ready for wax, or will be tomorrow, once it is dry. Here are two pictures from the weekend and Friday afternoon:

As always, disregard the orange colour. I hope to have better photos of it next week after crit. I should be able to move it to somewhere that has real (non-orange) lighting.

As usual with me, I sanded it all the way to 3000 grit, which means it’s pretty soft to the touch on the exterior. The interior is still rough and sharp, and the openings are only smoothed with a coarse diamond file, so there are nice contrasts to the work as well.

That said, here’s a secret that my instructor is not allowed to see yet:

What happens with that will only be revealed next week. Or, alternatively, if it is a total flop, it will be forgotten completely.

More amusingly this week, I found this in the sculpture studio one morning:

I had to smile and take the picture. Jess has been working hard (as have all my fellow sculpture students) and I hope to have a nice set of pictures of all their works from crit next week.

Other School(ish) Stuff

The plastic recycling project went basically nowhere this week. Most of the parts for the shredding chamber arrived, and we went to a show where a number of research projects (including this one) were on display so we could all talk about them and learn from each other. It was fun, though I was technically there for two different things: the plastics project and the port authority/heat islands project from last summer. It was amusing to be in demand, as it were.


As usual, nothing here. Once the term and the grad show are over, perhaps that will change. Sorry! As usual, though, here is the Art School Post Index, So you can see these stories in order if you want to.


It’s been a weird time in Vancouver Harbour activities.

If we look back a few weeks, we had the collision of the ship and the crane at the port. But that’s all been cleaned up and is old news. Seriously.

Then we had the collision of two ships in the harbour, once of which was the Pan Acacia. I have shared photos of it (and the hole through its hull) here recently. This past week, though, I was on the SeaBus and noted it was moving. The water at her stern was frothing up as her props started turning, and three tug boats surrounded here. But the photography was crap that morning, and I got nothing until a day or two later, when…

At the right edge of that photo is the bow of the Pan Acacia. She’s in a drydock run by Seaspan and they are (at least in theory) working on repairing the damage she sustained in the collision. She’s a big ship, and doesn’t really fit in the drydock, but there she is.

During this past week I heard from a friend that the circumstances of the collision with the Pan Acacia weren’t actually the result of negligence on the part of the pilot on board the ship that did the hitting. And this news story confirmed it. The Pan Acacia was at anchor and being pushed around by the wind when the Caravos Harmony hit her. The Caravos Harmony appears to have had an engine cut out, and was fully loaded with corn when the collision happened. Apparently they couldn’t restart the engines quickly enough to avoid the collision, and if that is the case at least the pilot isn’t at fault.

There is some question here about what this kind of port accident means given that something called the Trans Mountain Pipeline is being bitterly fought over here in BC. That pipeline carries crude oil from Edmonton, through Jasper National Park, and then on down to Vancouver harbour where it is put on tankers to go who-knows-where. The pipeline exists now, but the expansion project will nearly triple its capacity, and that has implications for shipping traffic. Depending on who you listen to, I think I have heard it will add everything from “one more ship a week” to “ten times the shipping traffic currently in the harbour.” I honestly don’t know what it will do, but you can bet the people opposing the pipeline expansion will seize on the collision of the Pan Acacia and the Caravos Harmony to imply the port should not have more oil tankers in it. It’s a contentious issue, I know, and the differences in approach between BC and Alberta don’t help. The whole “resource extraction based economy” that Canada has (and keeps coming back to) haunts us all during conversations about this stuff.

Anyway, it’s complicated. But that’s not all that is going on. Oh no. Look again at the photo above. The red and white ship in the middle is another story altogether.

That’s the Sir John Franklin, a coast guard ship that Seaspan has been building for some time. I’ve seen her in that drydock for a long while now, but didn’t know the name, and only picked up on the fact that she was a coast guard vessel relatively recently. Then, very recently, she was launched. For some time the drydock you see her in was empty. I didn’t know her name and wasn’t aware of anything until this past week, when I was told that a new coast guard vessel had run into a breakwater during trials. And once again the news confirmed it.

I didn’t think much about it, though, until…

That’s from Thursday morning, and what you see is four tug boats returning the Sir John Franklin to the drydock she launched from so recently. Apparently she has damage to her prop and rudder, among other things. Oh, and Seaspan is very late delivering her, and that only holds up the delivery of the next two ships that were ordered from them as well.

What was most interesting to me about the operation of getting the ship back into the drydock is that the large, blue corners of the drydock actually move. They are way out into the water in the photo above. The tugs sail between them as they move the Franklin into place. What happens then I cannot say, as the Seabus was on the other side of the harbour and I was probably on the train to school (or even in school) by the time things changed. But it seems to be that the four corners of the drydock somehow close up on the ship and retract back to the shore. It is possible as of Friday to get closer and get a better picture, but I have yet to have the time. Maybe over the weekend.

You might think I was done with harbour news, but not so. On Friday morning as the SeaBus pulled into the Vancouver terminal, the course was odd. It was like the captain had started to pull into the wrong dock and then corrected at the last moment. I didn’t know what was happening, but it seemed strange. I’d been on the left (port) side during the trip, and hadn’t noted anything, but as I disembarked…

Ah, cruise season is back. That’s the Emerald Princess, and as far as I know she’s the first cruise ship to arrive in Vancouver Harbour this season.

Anyway, while a surprise (since I was looking out the wrong side of the SeaBus and didn’t note her presence) she still didn’t explain the weird manoeuvre the SeaBus made as she was docking. But a turn to the right as I was looking out the window from the terminal and…

Ah! See that large black thing in the water? That’s a tree trunk. They are kind of deadly to ships that run into them, as you might imagine, and the captain clearly went around it as he was bringing the SeaBus in to dock. Now I understand the strange path we took.

So… just how safe is Vancouver harbour? I wish I could tell you, but I am no expert, and I really don’t have a clue. But I do know that in much less than a year I’ve seen or heard about a collision between two ships, and between a ship and a crane. And other issues have come up in the harbour (and nearby waterways) as well. Can the harbour actually handle more oil tanker traffic without significant risk? I am too stupid at this point to answer that question, but it is interesting to ponder.

And In Conclusion…

A good friend of mine from years ago tells me this: “Did you know Carnegie Libraries were not designed to support heavy bookshelves in the center of the room? They were designed only to have the weight around the exterior walls or in some cases the shelving was self supporting from the basement to upper levels in continuous stacks. It’s very difficult and expensive to reconfigure a Carnegie Library to use the central floor space for shelving.”

I had no idea, but as usual with me I am fascinated by the truths of the world. Thank you, Sarah!

And one more thing. A while back I shared a video from PhilosophyTube about suicide. That video still haunts me, and I hope you watched it. This is another from him, but it is a bit less serious. Definitely worth a watch.

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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