Sunday, January 15, 2012

Penn's Landing: Exploring Philadelphia's Waterfront

The Moshulu, a floating restaurant at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia.
We dined aboard this Moshulu, a Penn's Landing icon for decades. It was exceptional, but more on that later. First, we took some time to explore Penn's Landing. There is a maritime museum here, but more interesting to us were the two restored ships docked here.
The USS Becuna (left, in black) and the USS Olympia (right, in red, white and tan)

Fred demonstrates the narrowness of the sub.
The USS Becuna glided under the South Pacific in World War II, searching for enemy ships to destroy. This isn't the first submarine I have visited, so it wasn't the first time I was faced with the idea of actually living in these tight quarters. There would be no room for T'ai Chi or yoga on this vessel, but perhaps a sailor could manage to fit some jumping jacks if s/he stood sideways in the hall. One is required to have a strategy when passing through the segments, or compartments, of the submarine because they are connected by these airtight, watertight, oval doorways. (These are not as tight as the circular doorways I navigated in a Soviet submarine in San Diego earlier this year.) My strategy is to stand sideways, stick one leg through the opening, duck and put the head through, stand up and pull the other leg through. Real submariners would grab the overhead handles and throw both legs through at once.

The passage between compartments in the USS Becuna.

The 160 sailors aboard the Becuna were charged with finding enemy vessels and destroying them with its steam-powered torpedoes. This is a pre-nuclear submarine, so consider the energy situation: four huge diesel motors (two of whom were named Huff and Puff) ran the generators that powered the electric motors that ran the submarine when it was on the surface. Those diesel motors also charged giant batteries that powered the vessel when it was submerged. (Thanks to Fred for this explanation!)
One of the Becuna's torpedo tubes.
Puff the magic diesel motor.

The USS Olympia's bell.
The USS Olympia was the latest in US Navy warships when it served in the Spanish-American War, most famously under the command of Commodore George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. This was the battle that won the Philippines without any loss of American life. Visitors can explore almost the entire ship including the bridge where Commodore Dewey famously shouted "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley!" The Olympia seems luxurious after the tight quarters of the Becuna, especially since visitors see the officers' quarters first. Enlisted men slept in freely-swinging canvas hammocks. (This seems barbaric until one considers that the WWII sailors in the Becuna had to hot-bunk: when they went on duty, someone else was ready to sleep in their bunk.)

The USS Olympia: how would you like to sleep on one of those every night?

We didn't research the living quarters on the Moshulu. We went aboard that ship to enjoy a fine dinner. This beautifully-restored ship is actually the world's oldest four-masted ship still afloat. She was built in 1904 and carried cargo all over the world for the United States, Germany, and then private owners under a variety of names. She was named Moshulu by President Wilson's wife to honor the Native American Seneca tribe--Moshulu means fearless in their language. In 1975 the Moshulu became a restaurant here at Penn's Landing.

Yes, those are two people up there!
 I have been fascinated by this floating restaurant since my college days in the early 1980s, so this first meal there probably would have been a real treat no matter what. As it turned out, our food was delicious and the smoked vanilla bean ice cream I finished with has been on my mind since. The interior of the ship/restaurant was beautiful, and the nighttime river view from our window was dreamy. It looks like I'm sitting in front of a TV, but that is Camden!

Waiting patiently for my dinner on the Moshulu (with the Battleship New Jersey over my shoulder).

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