‘B’ is for Boats. Really BIG BOATS

Portland Headlight

Portland, Maine – From the working fishing wharves of Old Port where lobster are sold fresh every day to the island ferry boat rides to the shipping channel for cargo and crude oil, our port is a busy one. It’s one HUGE adventure to small boys… and mom… and dad.

But the first time my four-year-old and I saw one of the huge oil tankers leaving port for the open Atlantic, we high-tailed it to Portland’s iconic lighthouse to watch it pass.

And as it approached just a couple hundred years from us, a tsunami of questions began building in the backseat.

And this App had the answers.

Marine Traffic App

It’s called “Marine Traffic.”

It tells you where almost every ship in every sea, river or ocean is at that very moment. And it tells you each ships’ length, last known port, next port of call, what the ship is carrying, etc., etc.

And it provides pictures of the ships in different ports and out at sea with huge waves crashing over the bow.

New England Tanker Stats


As we talk about the statistics and factoids regarding a paticular ship, ‘C’ is picking up math skills, engineering skills and starting to get the idea that this world is a really, really big place. This is also an opportunity to talk about the basics of the economy like how goods are moved around the world and why.

Flipping through New England tanker pics

Often we use a ship’s next port of call as a jumping off point for our exploration of other countries and cities.

And now we are starting to recognize the ‘regulars’ in our port as soon as we see them.

If you need a great view? You can always rely on a great submarine or a pirate ship! Check out the view from Portland’s Head Light by following this link to their web cam.

In the Maine, whether you are land locked or looking at the ocean, this app must find a place on your smart phone.

Anchors aweigh!



  1. Math – length, width, speed, dead weight, etc.
  2. Science/Engineering – how can something so heavy float? Compare tidal charts to ships arrivals/departures
  3. Geography – where are the world’s boats/ships right now? And what about those places, anyway!
  4. Economics – shipping routes,types of goods transported, supply and demand, etc.
  5. Research – looking at a ship is one thing, but using your iphone/tablet/computer to find out more – now you are an investigator.
  6. Vocabulary – learning shipping/marine lingo is like learning a secret language. It’s a fun way to expand their vocabulary (and mine too)!