Friday, October 21, 2016

From The Department of Want Want Want

Here's a cool link on framing and planking a wooden boat hull.

 George Buehler's boats are pretty and rugged old-school full displacement yachts.

The whole 'I love you' thing

A lesson I got from my father, years ago, was to make sure that the people I love know that I love them.

     It's not an unusual lesson where I grew up. A working-class town where everyone's parents were born poor and spent time in immigrant neighborhoods before moving out to the peaceful, safe and relatively quiet suburb where I grew up. Most everyone's father was a veteran, and most of those had been in combat in Korea or Viet Nam, which probably had a lot to do with it.

     The way my father told it to me, he never wanted to deal with a situation where he didn't say the words in his heart simply because he didn't know when he was talking to someone for the last time.

 It's a lesson that stuck with me, and, turns out, with my brothers, sister, and friends, too.

  I had to go to my familial home up north this past weekend for some very heavy family stuff that I just don't want to blog about. While I was there dealing with B family business, some old, old friends lost their father.

 I spent the whole weekend with people I've known since Kindergarten, and their parents, too. It wasn't a fun reunion. Between learning why I was home, and dealing with friends who had lost their parent, it was a chance to reconnect with people I haven't spent much time with since leaving MA.

 At differing times, and with differing people, I'd meet with folks, and I think every lunch and dinner I was with differing combinations of friends and family. Each time, it'd end with hugs and I love you's, or 'Love you, man.' perhaps said more gruffly, but certainly meant all the same.

 We got a funny look for it once at a local restaurant. I was with my old roommates Johnny Sparks and Spinach, guys I lived with back when I was lobstering and sailing as AB on a tanker- guys I went to grade school with, and went to church with, and have known since we were all 5 or 6. Not guys you expect to be hugging and saying terms of endearment in public, you'd think, right?

 Wrong. In my experience, it's the guys who are big, gruff and often reluctant to talk about emotions that are the most comfortable in expressing them under the necessary circumstances. People are pushing their kids to be more sensitive, but they're conflating emotional weakness and fragility with sensitivity. Sensitivity is a middle-aged ironworker, the type of guy who won't stop working to get stitches unless he's going to pass out from blood loss, a guy who normally doesn't finish a sentence without swearing at least once, who drops everything to rush and be with a friend who is in need of emotional support.
     And don't get me started with elevating crying to a sacrament. You'd think that the shit is mandatory for any boy now. My wife nearly killed me when I said "quit that or I'll give you something to really cry about." to my kid when he cried about something minor. I felt like an unbelievable shitheel when I did that, but it was an important lesson, and a good one, for both of us.
He jokes about it today with me. He's a sensitive kid, more than I was at his age, and I was a sensitive kid, and that's a good thing. He's also emotionally mature for his age, and no pansy.
    I cried a couple of times this weekend. So did my brothers, and most of my friends too. Shit hits you at odd times. My brother welled up in a 7-11 parking lot. I got hit while taking a piss at one point.
   I've said "quit being such a pussy" to all of my friends at some point, and meant it at the time. I've had it said to me, too. There's a time to emote and a time to try to bull through it. People overcomplicate it. Mostly pussies, in fact.
          All the same, there we were, hugging, saying I love you, in public, and one of us crying slightly. Nothing shaming about it, and it happened more than once. That's what good friends are about. 

 My son, he knows, and I hear him saying it to me and his mom, when it's time to say goodbye.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

embracing the routine

Well, I'm back on board, and getting back to my routine. I'll be here a few more days before heading home for an abbreviated time off.

  It's been a hell of a few days.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

when life happens

Some of the most common and difficult parts of life are unavoidable, like saying goodbye for now to those people who you love most in the world.

 Blogging will be light for a while.

Sé do bheath' a Mhuire, atá lán de ghrásta, tá an Tiarna leat.
Is beannaithe thú idir mná agus is beannaithe toradh do bhruinne losa.
A Naomh Mhuire, a mháthair Dé, guí orainn na peacaithe, anois is ar uair ar mbás. Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Shart Life

 I always get a kick out of those goofy 'salt life' stickers that many shoemakers get all juicy over and put on their vehicles. I think it's great that people get out on the water and enjoy it, even if most of them are a hazard to everyone around them, including themselves. I wonder if this is how Hell's Angels feel when they pass by a goof on a scooter with a lawnmower engine?

Oh, for crissakes. 

Well, here's a picture I took a couple of hours ago. We're in Gravesend Anchorage, outside New York Harbor, a somewhat exposed spot that I hate visiting. See that tiny 1-foot gap between us and the ship on the left? There are special foam bumpers that we use specifically for wedging in between us like that- expensive little shits, too. The smallest ones, which are about 2 foot long, run about $2500 each. The medium ones, which are mounted on special sleds and hydraulically lowered, are closer to $5,000 each.  The bigger ones for the next size up are even more expensive, and actually come with rubber tires chained to them to reduce wear. You know, like soles on sneakers.
     At any rate, it takes a tugboat operator with mighty brass ones to play bumper cars at this scale- operating where inches count, relying on a deckhand with a walkie-talkie to relay distances a few hundred feet away, this sort of work requires great spacial orientation skills to do well. Between wind, current, momentum, and the 3-5 second delay between the gear lever and throttle and the response, I have deep abiding respect for a good tug operator. Bad ones? Well, I try not to be too much of a dick about it, but I figure if you can't do your job well, you shouldn't be there.

 So tonight, with a modest swell running, we transferred a couple hundred tons of diesel and another couple hundred tons of heavy fuel oil to this tanker, for their own use as bunkers. The 100-foot hose you see there is the heavy fuel hose, a 6-inch (internal) diameter hose that is made like a car tire- steel-belted radial (mine is made by Goodyear. Go figure), and we'll transfer the oil at 50-100psi, about the pressure of a fire hose.

    The problem here is that the ship had a fuel manifold connection just forward of the house, but under the bridge wing. Normally, I'd position us a little further forward, and point my crane aft so as not to get in the way of the bridge wing of the ship. For several reasons, this wouldn't work tonight, and there being a swell and the chance of us banging into each other strong enough to compress the bumpers (figure 20-30,000 tons coming together at a high speed, not much CAN stop that short of a tractor trailer-sized bumper), our first focus was on safely mooring in a good position. We used 9 mooring hawsers at various angles to control XY motion in the horizontal plane.
      At any rate, when it came time to transfer fuel, I had to position the 60' deck crane within inches of the spotlights, pilot shelter and other hardware bolted to the ship's bridge wing. While three guys were wrestling the VERY heavy fuel hose into position to bolt it in place, I had to jockey the cable and swing controls so as not to whack the ship with my crane and sort of keep the end of the hose in the right  neighborhood for the guys working, too. The end of the hose is too heavy for 3 guys to hold at chest height, but the more you choke up and put the end of the crane cable to the end of the hose, the more likely that the hose will be damaged by any heave or roll once the men start to bolt the flange to the manifold.

 If it sounds complicated, it's not, it's absolutely not. It's one of those things that, if it can't be done safely, I just wouldn't do it. No big deal... well, it is, but not to me. The ship would have to be moved to a more protected anchorage to get their fuel, which would require a pilot, and all hands being called, etc, etc. Not my problem, and if  there wasn't a good safety margin on both sides, that's what would happen. I did the fine work with our crane because I can, and also because I spent 8 years on a ship similar to the one in the photo, and crushed fingers, pulled back muscles and worse are not uncommon when doing less-regular activities like bunkering, and I don't want anyone to deal with that.
   Ultimately, tonight's job was one of those ones that really showcases that ship-to-ship oil transfer does not have to be a particularly complex evolution, but the difference between doing the job safely and doing the job safely and well, is a small one that comes down to managing details and sub-acute risks. It was a low-danger job, and while the sea state made it marginal for go/no go, it was never iffy and I always had backup and backup to the backup. The tug driver sat in the seat and got his ass kicked for hours just in case he was needed. I had my second man to hand, and the guy I mean, if we were rattling the dishes from the swell and bouncing off the ship, imagine what a little tugboat was going through. Probably rattled some fillings loose on the crew. Managers talk about risk management and JHA's and such, but that's just formalization of what should already be happening. It keeps someone working I guess, to tell us how to do what we already have to do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Changes are coming

I'm shaking things up here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Home for the criminally underappreciated.

 No, my career as the world's first middle-aged plus-sized male underwear model is still not taking off.

 I'm changing how I consume media and interact with the world a bit... which is a fancy way of saying that I'm joining some new sites and going to start backing off of others.

     I was never a fan of Twitter. I quickly discovered that Twitter is mostly a platform for actors and people with a lot of free time to show off their great success at getting by on minimal IQ.

 Not that I'm bragging about my IQ. If I was wicked smaht, I'd be working from home, not on a floating metal sausage cart.

 I started using Gab, an uncensored, apolitical improvement on Twitter. I say 'apolitical' but it does skew conservative, as that is the political bent of people who seem to get kicked off of and have 'technical' difficulties with Twitter. And so far... I like it a lot.

   I'm also using Infogalactic, a wiki that is in beta development with the goal of reducing poltical bias and openly labeling opinion and bias where it exists.  So far so good there, too, but its' dependent on evolution and the quality of editing as time goes on.

 Early days, yet, for both, yet both look good to me.

Sunday, October 9, 2016


Well, we dodged a bullet at home with Hurricane Matthew. Very little damage in my town, none at my house.

 Many of my friends and coworkers have not been so lucky. I have friends from the Carolinas and Georgia who got absolutely fucked up by this storm. I hope that the ones I haven't heard from yet are also fine. There's a rural area around Fayetteville NC where quite a few shipmates come from, and EMS is fishing them out of all sorts of bad places by boat and copter.

 Have to wait and see.