Posted by: Brad Nixon | April 28, 2018

I Cover the Waterfront … Looking for a Blog Post Idea

It was Friday afternoon and I was bereft of blog post ideas, weary of staring at the screen. I headed downhill to the Port of Los Angeles, figuring there should be something worth writing about.

A One-Hour Walk Along the Harbor

Here we are at the Port of Los Angeles. Hey! A tugboat, just leaving the dock, turning and heading up-channel. Nothing better than seeing the big working boats.

Tug Veteran Brad Nixon 1816 sm

That’s “Veteran,” out of San Francisco. Not certain what brought her to L.A.: maybe hauling something here and back, or simply called into service here to fill in during a busy period. Built in 2014, 100 feet long, 40 feet wide with two diesel engines generating 6,800 horsepower, it can carry 70,000 gallons of fuel.* That’s a serious work boat.

Notice the two green gantries across the channel on Terminal Island. The cranes that sit on them are being dismantled, perhaps being replaced. Something I’ve never seen before. Normally, they look like this, in a photo shot from nearly the same place on a previous harbor visit, with a local tug in the foreground.

LA Port Brad Nixon 7180 400 (640x472)

Those shots show the port’s main channel, between the city of San Pedro and Terminal Island. At that point, the channel’s 1,200 feet wide.

Next Door to the Tug Berth

Immediately to the right of those photos is a place that, despite living three miles away, I’ve never visited, never written about in 18 years.

LA Maritime Museum Brad Nixon 1813 sm

I will visit the Los Angles Maritime Museum during visiting hours some time and post a report.

Meanwhile, the building itself is worth a comment. It sits smack on the edge of the Main Channel of the Port of Los Angeles, at Berth 84 and houses a few waterborne operations, primary among them the boats of the Los Angeles Harbor Police. The building opened in 1941 as the Municipal Ferry Terminal Building, the mainland terminal for a ferry that crossed the channel, with a similar terminus on the Terminal Island side, now demolished. Terminal Island was quickly changing from one of the busiest fish processing and canning locations in the United States into a naval shipyard in support of WWII, with thousands of workers. There had been only private ferry service to the island before the municipal ferry opened in ’41.

Streamline Moderne and Art Deco architecture are recurring themes in this blog, and here’s another example. The architect was Derwood Lydell of the Los Angeles Harbor Department and it was built by — no surprise — the Works Progress Administration. The double-decker ferries carried people and vehicles until the first bridge connecting Terminal Island with the mainland was built in 1963. The Harbor Department used the building for offices until a community effort restored it and it opened as the museum in 1979. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

That ship’s propeller on display is from the USS Canberra (CA-70), a U.S. Navy cruiser, later a guided missile cruiser, that served in WWII and the Vietnam War before being decommissioned in 1970. One of four propellers on the Canberra, it weighs 8.5 tons.

That Bridge

A scenic walk north (up-channel) from the museum takes you though a pleasant public park, past LAFD Station 112, home of Fire Boat 2; the Battleship Iowa and a large cruise ship terminal until you reach a reasonably good vantage point for the bridge that brought an end to the ferries.

Vincent Thomas Brad Nixon 1824 sm

That’s the Vincent Thomas bridge, 1,500 feet long with approximately 185 feet of clearance to the surface of the harbor (depending on the tide, of course). It carries four lanes of traffic. It’s the fourth-longest suspension bridge in California. Route 47 crosses the bridge and continues east through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and deposits you right onto Ocean Blvd. in downtown Long Beach, unless you have business at any of the myriad berths, shipping operations or maritime enterprises along the way. The bridge was named for Vincent Thomas, a long-serving California Assemblyman from San Pedro who spent 20 years campaigning for it.

There: an hour’s walk instead of an hour spent staring at the glowing screen. Not bad. Hope you enjoyed your walk along the harbor. Thanks for joining me. You may not live next to a port, but there’s something just down your own street worth seeing, guaranteed. Enjoy.

The Los Angeles Maritime Museum is at the foot (east end) of 6th Street in San Pedro, California at the intersection with Harbor Blvd. To drive across the Vincent Thomas, your easiest route is to take the Harbor Freeway — Interstate 110 — south from Los Angeles until just before it ends. Also reachable from the southern end of Interstate 710, the Long Beach Freeway, from the eastern end.

Some of the photographs in this post and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

*Veteran Tugboat information courtesy

© Brad Nixon 2018


  1. “There are [many] stories in the naked city …” I enjoyed this one of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wondered about the name of the USS Canberra, and found this in the venerable Wiki: “Originally to be named USS Pittsburgh, the ship was renamed before launch to honor the loss of the Australian cruiser HMAS Canberra during the Battle of Savo Island.” By the time I finished skimming a non-Wiki article about the battle, I was ready to pay homage to that propeller.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for that, and for your curiosity. The plaque at the museum explained that it’s the only U.S. military ship to bear the name of a foreign city.


  3. An interesting excursion, Brad.
    I would note the enormous green construction on the first photo. I have seen something like this in the port of Valletta, Malta. Like from fantastic films.

    Liked by 1 person

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