Small boat sailors on the Bay know the looming presence of big ships. They drift along the horizon like thunderstorms, and are almost as big. Like bulls in a big pasture, general rule is stay far away as you can, and keep watch over your shoulder. It’s a good thing if you never see one up close.
It was different when I lived in Savannah. There the harbor is a narrow river that runs like a wet boulevard right through the city. Oceangoing ships the size of office buildings glide right along the waterfront. I’d hang out on River Street and watch them go by, blotting out the sky. Close enough to hit with a baseball, you could see details – strange markings, battle scars, seams and rivets – that under normal conditions remained beyond view.
I came across an article this morning that explains what a lot of these symbols mean:
Signs and symbols on the sides of ships tell stories about an industry few outsiders understand.
A ship’s markings may look like hieroglyphs, but to industry insiders they tell an important story.
Source: The Secret Language of Ships | Hakai Magazine