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|The S.S. Lane Victory|
One Day Cruise Aboard The S.S. Lane Victory
Words and photos by John Clayton
If you're looking for the most thrilling one-of-a-kind tourist attraction, it's a one day cruise aboard the S.S. Lane Victory – and while I could certainly write "just a story" about a trip aboard this unique ship, the best way is to do it with "mostly photos" and some words explaining each picture.
The S.S. Lane Victory is a fully restored WW2 merchant ship that, in the months of July, August and September, re-creates portions of a WW2 convoy. The ship is shown here at Berth 94, in San Pedro harbor, just under the Vincent Thomas Bridge – right by the Catalina Cruise Terminal. This one day cruise (it's usually the middle weekend of each of the just noted months) is from 8.30am on Saturday and Sunday, returning at 4.30pm, and there is nothing else like it anywhere in the world. The Lane was one of 534 Victory ships built during WW2 and, including the earlier Liberty ships, 674 merchant vessels were lost to enemy action, sending 6,795 seamen to their final resting place in Davy Jones Locker. In December 1950, the Lane rescued over 7,000 men, women and children from North Korea and took them to safety in the South. In 1991 the ship was designated a "National Historic Landmark." She is 455 feet long, has a 28 foot draft, and checks in at 10,750 dead weight tons. Her 19 diameter propeller powers her along at 15.5 knots.
World War Two Re-Visited!
You may wonder, looking at this photo, if you're "seeing things." I mean what are all these WW2 uniforms (and the folks wearing them!) doing on the Lane? These are what are called "Re-Enactors" who dress up in WW2 outfits so that passengers can see how (some of) our military uniforms looked in those days. And yes, they'll be happy to pose with YOU for a photo!
A Moving Moment
One of the most emotional moments on the cruise comes with a solemn shipboard ceremony that honors American merchant seamen who lost their lives in WW2. A "Mini Memorial" service is held at the ship's side and the names of seamen lost on these ships are read aloud and, with each name, a flower is tossed overboard. When the last name has been called, a floral wreath is also thrown into the ocean. As you can see from my photo, there is a US Navy Honor Guard - in this instance, provided by the US Navy Sea Cadet Corps.
The Lane has a really fascinating nautical museum that's filled with marvelous ship models, tons of paintings, old newspapers from the 40s and the WW2 era. Anyone interested in almost anything connected to the US Navy, the Merchant Marine and their colorful history, will find new information and memorabilia about it, in this one-of-a-kind museum. While you're there, be sure to stop in at the ship's interesting gift shop.
You can only do THIS on the Lane Victory!
Tours of the engine room are not usually allowed on cruise ships, but you can do it on the Lane. And it's fascinating! When I went down these steps I couldn't believe the enormous multitude of pipes, ladders, dials, tubes, wires, gaskets and the very loud noise. And yes, incredible heat! You can also take a tour of the bridge; talk to the captain and, if you're very lucky, you might even be able for a few moments to actually steer the ship.
A Trip Back Into Yesteryear
A one day cruise on the Lane Victory takes you back to the atmosphere and feeling of the 30s and 40s – including the sounds of that colorful time with music of "The Swinging Years." You'll find yourself tapping your feet and joining in singing some of the captivating songs to those now long forgotten times. As one happy passenger whispered in my ear, "those were the days when music was relaxing, heart warming and you could understand the lyrics and tunes. They were the tunes you could remember."
"I Surrender!" I was totally surprised when I saw this "Nazi" airman on the deck of the Lane, but the ship's loudspeakers' said he'd been "rescued" by the ship, and that he knew someone on board. So, they paraded him all over the Lane looking for who he supposedly knew. I think, when you take this cruise, you'll find out as I did, that he was bluffing – but hey, I did at least get my photo taken with him – as can you!
Are YOU ready for lunch?
As the Lane sails lazily along the coast of Catalina Island, the Lane serves up a delicious buffet style lunch – it's included in the cost of your adventure. The day I sailed there was a really tasty chicken entree with all the trimmings, some very California type salads, and yes, a delicious dessert.
Soon after the buffet style lunch was served, the passengers aboard the Lane were told that the "Nazi" spy had indeed managed to contact the Luftwaffe, and that some enemy fighters were on the way to "attack" the ship. As you see in this photo, the guns' crews made "ready for action" as they searched the horizon for enemy aircraft. The tension on board was high, and everyone had their cameras ready so they could capture this incredible moment of the cruise. During WW2 it was the US Navy Armed Guard who manned the guns on all Victory and Liberty ships.
"We hit her!"
A loud cheer goes up from the crew and, of course the whole ship, as passengers loudly cheer as they see one of the "attacking" aircraft "hit" as seen by the belching smoke from a hit by one of the Lane's guns. I found this to be one of the most exciting moments on this action packed cruise. Although all the guns on the Lane open fire, they use only blanks, but the noise and real excitement of everything is truly thrilling.
A Final Goodbye!
As soon as the "enemy" aircraft start attacking the ship, two American fighters come to the ship's rescue. When the "attack" is over, all the aircraft (they are WW2 AT-6's) do a formation flyover of the Lane Victory. As you might be able to see in this photo, the last two aircraft have US markings – the other 4, are all from the "Luftwaffe." I should also mention that due to the possibility of foggy or overcast weather, this attack only takes place "weather permitting." (you can contact John Clayton at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Especially for Kids!
So that youngsters get an idea of what it's like to be aboard a Victory ship, the Lane has a wonderful program for kids called "Be A Third Mate for A Day and Deliver the Goods." This is all detailed in a little booklet that's given out as you board the ship, and it allows kids (of all ages really!) to take an Interactive tour of the Lane, and shows them how sailors lived and worked at sea. I thought it was a very clever sort of "Disneyland at sea idea" that captures the kids' attention – and yeah, it's also a most interesting look at the inner workings of a ship like the Lane Victory.
Movies that have featured the SS Lane Victory
If you think you might have seen the Lane Victory in a movie or TV show, you're correct. Hollywood has featured it in hundreds of shows including Titanic, Murder She Wrote, Thin Red Line, MacGyver, JAG, Outbreak Baywatch, NCIS and many others.
Making a Reservation, prices and other information
If you're in the Los Angeles area, and would like to enjoy this cruise yourself, the ship will do a cruise on August 21st and 22nd, and then again on September 25th and 26th. Adults are $130 and Youth (15 and under) are $80. Tickets can be purchased online at Lanevictory.tix.com or call 1-800-595-4849. If you're interested in putting a group together, call (310) 519-9545 for information on rates. The ship also takes Money Orders as well as the following credit cards – Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover, as well as checks and (of course!) cash! There are no refunds or cancellations, and ticket exchanges are based upon availability for the desired cruise, and are subject to a $25 per ticket handling charge. Checks and money orders should be made out to: USMMVWII. The ship is open year round in San Pedro, and their website is LaneVictory.org.
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