Shipspotting: follow my drift

When does a passing interest become a hobby or an obsession because I think I’m becoming addicted to shipspotting?

There’s a lot of eccentric trainspotters around who record train sightings and serial numbers, but with ships, I prefer to take photographs with the intention to draw or paint them one day.

My interest began much the same time that I visited the David Hockney Exhibition at the National Gallery last year when I started drawing on my ipad and dabbling with watercolour paints.

You see, the sea holds boundless inspiration and stimulus for both photographer and artist especially at dawn or dusk. Introduce a massive ship in the midst of wild seas, or conversely a misty morning or a brilliant sunset, and you’ve got the picture.

The two vantage spots I’m able to indulge my voyeuristic obsession is at Port Melbourne when I’m cycling along the bay where ships enter or leave the docks, or heaven forbid, the Westgate Bridge as I drive over.  Jogger Port Melb_6389Station Pier at the end of my street has been groaning with cruise liners. There can be up to four ships moored at any time as the season enters its peak. A sign at our tram stop lists ‘Arrivals’ and warns residents of the influx of extra passengers. 

At the Heads, the entrance to the bay at Point Lonsdale or Queenscliff lighthouse, you can watch ships laden with containers, cars or people navigate the treacherous Rip. I regularly see a shipping line emblazed with Cosco across its belly and imagine that it’s filling the Cosco shelves with cheap frippery from China. But a local resident dismissed my musing when he said: ‘No, it’s the name of a shipping company!’

On any one day there’s likely to be ten or so bulk carriers, containers, roll-on roll-offs, tugs or ocean liners coming or going so there’s plenty to fuel my newfound pastime. Take a look at the shipspotting App to see what ships are where in the world.  Refine it to Port Phillip Bay and you can follow my drift and become a ship spotter too.