Sunday, September 13, 2020

Will this go on my permanent record?

Something interesting happened, but I keep wondering if I should talk about it. 

 We had a 'near miss,' an incident caused by equipment failure that wasn't anyone's fault. We call it a near miss because no one got hurt, there was no loss fiscally, and no damage to the environment. 

 But I spent 18 hours on deck unfucking the matter, so that sucked, and another 12 the next day, too. 

          Things are so messed up in our trade that I don't wish to see my employer look bad for something that isn't their fault, though. I had good support, and got the help I needed to see the problem solved. It sucked to go through, was likely unavoidable, and I'm sore as hell, being unaccustomed to the work I was doing. 

   So it goes. Makes me appreciate the quiet days when everything works. 


Saturday, September 5, 2020

I may have to be put down

I'm gonna call Dr. Kevorkian if this shit keeps up. 

 I don't care if he's dead. 

      The other day, I bit my tongue. I'm eating healthy and every 3 days or so I throw 5oz of steak on top of my rabbit food or whatever healthy shit I'm eating. 

 I got a bad, chewy steak, and managed to bite the ever-loving shit out of the side of my tongue. I bled like a stuck pig. It was almost a 'I need to put a stitch in this' bite, except it was too broad. I took like a 1/8" furrow off of about half my tongue. Why? Because I am an idiot.  And also because I blame that steak. Somewhere in Kansas there's a farmer scratching his head and wondering why he's got an extra cow but is missing a horse. 

  Still, I don't think I did even this this bad as a kid. 

    The day before I got a canker sore in my mouth. I've been eating a lot of spicy, acidic foods. I haven't had one of those in at least 5-10 years, either. So between the two, I'm hating life. Turns out I must move my tongue a lot in my sleep. I know this because ouch. 

I drool a lot. I'm sitting on an oil barge I don't know with a second man I don't know, and he's trying to talk to my while I'm drooling as I talk back, or just sitting there, like a mastiff, dampening my shirt. So there's a lot of respect there, I'm sure. Excuse me while I change my bib. 

the Harbor Whore returns

  Well, it's been a week, for sure. 

        I got moved. Again. 

        Look, I don't do well with change. I do best, and am at my best, when left in place, like an ivy vine, or asbestos. 

        Unfortunately, the temporary HQ was pulled out of service, being optimized to transfer fuel to cruise ships, which aren't working during Covid. Admittedly it made little sense to spend money on keeping the HQ crewed with no work in sight. 

      So off I go to... where I'm at. I'm on board the new new temporary HQ. I'm trying to find a name for it. The Obstacle Course, maybe, or the Pakistani Hospice. I'm trying to focus on the positive. It's work, after all, and it's poor form to be critical of the folks who are trying to keep me working. But it's not an environment I like. 

    The new new temporary HQ is a hodgepodge of pipelines and obstacles that make getting around on deck an issue. My clumsy ass is certainly going to be falling down a lot. There's not a lot of open space. The upside to this is that the barge is versatile, capable of handling a lot of segregated products. 

          Well, focusing on the negative won't get me anywhere. It's something to get used to, and it's work, like I said. There's a fair number of layoffs have happened around the area in our trade, and of course, in general there's little grace to be had in complaining overmuch that things are not as nice as they were a few months ago, given the state of the world. 

      Am I happy? No. Heck no. But so what? I'm working, family is fed, and usually some positive things come out of disruptive change. I'm not a roll with the punches sort of person, but maybe I should be. 

         So, trying to be positive. Some positive things:   I'm friendly with the senior guy here, whom I relieved this week. He'll come in in a few weeks, when it's time for me to go home. Nice guy, someone I've worked with in the past a few times. One of the brand-new generators on here cratered and is being rebuilt in-situ, so I am at a dock with shore access and no cargo for the weekend, which means that while I can't avail myself of the local restaurants, being on a diet and such, I can go for some long walks for a few days, which is good for the diet and also good for the mind. Plus, I've got like 10 days to go and I can go home. That's always good. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

The hammer-to-head method

 So after a few days on board, and in between cargoes, I felt more than a little put out when I got the call to pack my shit and move for a few days on a temporary transfer. 

 I basically went to our largest bunker barges, which I have never operated (I did spend 2 weeks on one 10 or so years ago, though, when it was just a seagoing barge), filling in for a crewman who had to go home. It's my job to go where the company tells me, after all. I had a little mild butthurt, in that we have guys who have done fuck all or next to fuck all for the past 6 months who got to continue dicking off while I was continuing to work, but with time came a moment's grace where I realized that with the slowdown, I better be grateful to be working, and also grateful for the opportunity to make myself useful.  It's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer; it just feels so delightful when you stop. 

 It was busy, it was hot, and I am happy it ended. I've since returned to the HQ-in-exile, and wonder of wonders, my days away did great things for my attitude. I'm far more grateful to be here and standing by for cargo orders than I was. The work will come. We're at the tail (ish) end of the summer slowdown, and with Sep 1 approaching, warehouses in the US will begin stocking up on cheap crap from China, although I'm sure it might not be in the volume we had last year, but even so, the container ships will be making more port calls here in the fall than they did in the summer, God willing. 

I'm approaching the halfway point of this voyage already. Not much opportunity for shore calls, sadly, but the mornings are cooling off, becoming pleasant. We're coming into the best time of year in the northeast. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

1 week down

 First week at work has passed. It was a weird mix. First few days were pretty nice. No cargo, did maintenance, had a couple of little projects and got them done. I got transferred to our largest bunker barge for a few days, though, and got my ass kicked. It was a real slog, not least because I didn't know where anything was, and everything, EVERYTHING was bigger and more challenging to deal with than on the current HQ. Having to spend 10 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the floodlights while worrying about sucking air on an almost-empty cargo tank, things like that, office calling, ship calling, things like that, the stresses are individually small, but additive. 

 Oh, there was a breaker panel in the generator room, behind the thermal oil cargo heater where there was no reason to be or to look. I found them, kicked the lights on, jogged up forward to the tanks being pumped, swung the valves shut just in time, then promptly vomited, since it was 90 degrees out and no wind and literally running around while overheated is stupid. Luckily, I had practice, since I had barfed the watch before, too, for being overheated. Unfamiliarity led to a lot of extra moving around. 

 So after that, I was awful happy to return back to the HQ-in-exile. After rehydrating and actually eating a meal, I found that I lost a pound a day, since I was too nauseous to eat more than an avocado and 2 hard-boiled eggs a day. Barfing up a bellyful of water was a loss each time, for sure. I sweated through my clothes so much that I think I peed once a day over there. The guys regularly assigned there go through the same shit, I'm sure, but with familiarity comes an economy of movement, since they not only know where things are, they also know the time sequences and can anticipate where they need to be. 

 At any rate, as the saying goes, the best part about hitting yourself on the head with a hammer is when you stop.  Getting back to the HQ was a treat, and today I am feeling much better. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Mixed feelings at crew change

 It was a heck of a time home. Drama, action, excitement, illness, productivity... all in there. I lost a lot of time just recovering from strep throat, which was odd, as I recall being younger and just muscling through it while on antibiotics, but needs must, I supposed, and I didn't have need. I actually was pretty productive. Got some projects done- bought a new car, and a lovely surprise when my AC unit crapped out, too, so at well over $4,000 that was a nasty shock, and not so timely. But I also got a good shipment of wood boards in, so I had stuff to play with. I built a barn door for the Mrs., who wanted a barn door to block off the hallway between my bedroom and master bath, so she got what she wanted, and I got to learn how to do something new- the door was easy. Bolting in the steel track was more work than anything else, mostly because I was working alone. Anyhow, got it all in. More than anything else, though, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I were glued together at the hip, near enough. We had a lot of time together. I don't think she likes seeing me sick or weak- it's not something she's used to seeing, so she was helicoptering around me, and yet we had a good time, and once I was back up to speed, a great time. 

         the night before crew change, I got hit hard by a sense of loss. After so much time with my family, and seeing some projects done (I cleaned and reorganized my shop, which was a project in itself) I felt very reluctant to leave- moreso than usual. I know things at work are unsettled as we try to get through these odd times, and that's part of it, but I suppose I got a more candid look about what I give up to do what I do- time. Lost time. 

We went to bed about 10:30pm, and I didn't sleep much, just held on to my wife. I was up at 4 to shower, and took a cab to the airport so my wife could sleep. 

 As often happens, by the time I'm in the air, I feel better. 


Monday, August 10, 2020

Yes! I have strep throat!

 It's strange times indeed when I am relieved and gratified to have strep throat. 

 Yesterday morning I started running a fever and getting a sore throat. By last night I had what felt like a golf ball in my throat and was sucking down tylenol to keep the fever under 101. 

 I went to the doctor today. Of course I got tested for corona, fever and sore throat fit in with that, but I also tested positive for strep bacteria in my tonsils. So I have tonsilitis rather than Covid, which is a relief. 

 It's also killed my plans, but what can you do? losing 2 days rather than 2 weeks is a victory.