“What’s the Channel 7 helicopter doing?’
We went out onto the balcony and there, behind the red and white Spirit of Tasmania ferry which is always there in the morning, was a towering white ship. The first cruise ship of summer, the Dawn Princess, had come in silently overnight and berthed on the other side of Station Pier. It was about twice the height of the Spirit and longer, a white, floating apartment building.
So! Not the first swallow of summer but the first of many summer season cruise ships which appear in the morning and are gone by the evening. They are a clear marker of summer in Port Melbourne.
Later, I walked down to the pier, and realized that there were actually five ships jammed around the pier. There were two small Navy vessels rafted up against the wharf and a black and white lighter tucked up against the Dawn Princess, a lamb next to its mother.
I’d seen the Navy boats coming up the Channel yesterday but had thought nothing more of them. But seeing them today made me realize that they were possibly part of yesterday’s Commemoration of the 100 year anniversary of Australian soldiers sailing off to World War 1 from the next pier along, Princes Pier. Suddenly on the TV news last night, Princes Pier had flashed up on the screen in the background of a ceremony honouring those soldiers of 100 years ago.
Outside the fish and ship shop, a group of people sat with large cases in front of them. Others were striding off down Beach Street wheeling their cases and more were piling up at the 109 tram stop trying to make sense of a transport system new to them. I suppose they’d already bought their Myki public transport swipe cards from the IGA because there were large blue temporary Myki signs stuck up on bigger signs and fences.
Yellow taxi after yellow taxi crawled up the road towards the ship and a taxi bus from Traralgon was parked awkwardly waiting for its passengers to take back to Gippsland. Huge fuel trucks and garbage trucks joined the stream.
I turned around from photographing the traffic and looked straight into the grey, hairy trunk of a palm tree. It was a happy surprise to look closely at something natural after all the traffic and bustle.The diamond pattern of its crisscross strips of bark and the fraying strands escaping from it were a satisfying combination of the simple and complex in one structure.
Later that afternoon, I was writing this piece and got up to check the size of the ship. And there it was , sailing away down the channel already. Well, that was quick!