Late one night a few years ago, just before Christmas, my friend Theron and I walked out into a small harbor in Singapore and boarded a medium-sized industrial fishing boat. This boat looked similar to one I would see growing up near Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. But all the fishing cranes and nets were removed. A large square palette lay in the center containing enough food for 18 merchant marines for two weeks, and the two of us.
The first hour was quiet. We passed some illuminated cruise ships in the distance. But once we crossed into the O.P.L. (Outside Port Limits) during the second hour, a city of tankers and container ships lay anchored, slowly tilting back and forth. Our small boat weaved through these massive ships. Theron and I had no idea what size of vessel we would board. We were only given information to be at the Singapore Harbor just past midnight for a three-hour journey to a vessel called Hupohai.
After another hour of navigating around these massive ships, the engine eased. A fishing trawler, not nearly the size as other ships around, was at anchor in front of us. As we inched closer and closer, the driver slowly turned our boat to the left and gently circled around the vessel. What was anchored behind was a large bulk freighter ship that had just come from China.
While approaching this ship, the engines turned off and we slowly drifted toward its tall vertical red and rusty wall. Bright spotlights gleamed down on us, in back of many silhouetted heads that moved back and forth. They were shouting something to the driver of our little vessel but the strong winds and our boat grinding against the side of the massive Hupohai made it hard to understand their voices. What they must have been discussing was how we were going to get aboard, because within a minute, a rope ladder rolled off from the top of the vessel.
The ladder was both frightening and comical due to its crookedness in its makeshift sizes of wood used to make each step. I wanted Theron to go up the ladder first so I could film his ascent, or maybe it was more to test the strength of the wood.
After boarding, thoughts of this enormous man-made machine floating in the deep, dark water, and soon setting sail towards its demise, made my heart flutter. At that moment, I could not comprehend why we were there, or if this space really existed. A few hours later at dawn, the Hupohai would lift its anchor and set sail for the graveyards of Bangladesh. This is where Scrap Vessel begins…