It’s over three weeks since she appeared in St Mary’s Bay. “At anchor” maybe two miles off Dymchurch, an empty vessel, making no sound, by night its lights twinkle as a reminder of its presence. The Michigan Highway, or “Shoebox” as she has become known, has become a long-term visitor. Some people think she isn’t the prettiest of sights.
Last year a similar ship capsized in the Solent. The “Hoegh Osaka” was carrying hundreds of luxury vehicles, Land Rovers, Porches, Jaguars and a Rolls Royce for good measure. The vehicles sustained varying amounts of damage. It was thought that rather than face bills for mechanical defects that might have occurred in the future, it might be cheaper to scrap the lot (worth around £30 million) and cut losses.
There was even talk of scrapping the entire fleet of car transporters as this was not the first accident of this type. The “Hoegh Osaka” was eventually towed to Falmouth and repaired. On January 9th she was off Lands End (vesselfinder.com) making her way up the English Channel, so there’s a happy ending, for the ship at least.
Back to the Michigan Highway. There has been much discussion on Streetlife and Twitter this week. Where did she come from, why is she parked up in our bay? She’s not the most attractive ship, but is designed for functionality. She’s angular, boxy, shoebox is an apt description.
What I like about her is, she’s an example of minimalist shipping. From Dymchurch seawall she often presents full length, at dusk in the sunlight she is a block of warm sandstone, in the morning light, she’s granite. When she faces inland the bow appears massive, she’s empty and high in the water, so you can see a lot of her. She dominates the Bay, you can’t help but notice her. Some people have described her as unspeakably ugly, an artist friend said to me not even the most talented watercolourist could make that look good.
I beg to differ. Not only does the Michigan Highway have an imposing and some say brooding presence, she is a constantly changing spectacle. There’s something to be said for quiet contemplation, subtle changes in shape, colours and lighting. The fact that she is built to carry Chelsea Tractors and toys for the super rich should not cloud our judgement. To me, less is more and the super functional Michigan Highway is a thing of ever evolving beauty.