THOUGHTS AND COMMENTS FROM AN AMERICAN Merchant Mariner
Monday, January 26, 2015
Well, it's started. We're hunkered down at our lay berth, hopefully here to ride out the weather. High winds and a storm surge are forecast as well, so all mooring lines are doubled and the eyes dipped on the bollards. I suspect this is gonna suck when it comes to shovel time. Otherwise, we're snugged up in a decent spot, to windward of the nearest shore, so no fetch to give ma nature room to make wind-blown chop. Other than maintaining a vigilant watch on our mooring lines, we're hunkered down and ready to close the watertight hatch on the quarters when it really kicks in.
See you all on the other side! If you're in it, get out of it, and be safe, regardless...
...and if you have a moment, spare a thought for the docs, nurses, service industry folks and public safety peeps who have to be out in this shit for the sake of your well-being. If someone needs a couple thousand tons of oil to get their ship out of this weather today, I'll be one of them, but otherwise, it's time to do my first shoveling in a little bit. Not the last, I suspect.
The mayor of New York, who's a real asshole anyhow, induced panic by announcing that tomorrow's storm would be 'historic' (his words). So, of course, on the ONE day we get shore access during business hours, there are hundreds and hundreds of panicked New Yorkers at all the local grocery stores... like nothing I've ever seen. No riots, but at the shitty Pathmark where all the poor people shop, close to my company's docks, there are people fighting over shopping carts and parking spaces. So we tried a COSCO. No dice. Full, line down the street just to get into the parking lot.
The high-end gourmet grocery store in Red Hook, was a little better. Hard to find parking, and it wasn't all rich women, hot babes and hippies, the usual customer base. There were poor people braving the hoi-polloi to get at the ingredients to make French toast, which, apparently, is required when it snows, judging by the dwindling stock of milk, bread and eggs. The Free-range, GMO free Quinoa and Arugula displays were in ample supply, though, so the hippies are taking it down a notch, man, and not getting their dopamine fix via thoughts of the Vegan delights of the table.
I picked up some pate, (Hey, I like ducks to look at AND eat, and hate to see a good goose liver go to waste), diet soda and sushi... you know, stocking up for the storm. My tankerman got his staples, as well. Then we settled in for the hour's wait in line at the register. There's a damn good reason to go to Fairway- better quality people. Even the unwashed masses were on their best behavior. I only had to scream "Hey, I'm walking here!" once as I made my way across the parking lot.
But yeah, we're hunkering down. Shovels laid out, mooring lines doubled up, everything stowed shipshape. 24-36 inches is forecast. This is gonna suck, no doubt, but we're in a good place. I topped off our own fuel supply this week, and serviced the generators. Generally my company likes to give us a couple of really small cargo parcels during supremely bad weather, to be sure we earn our paychecks and can't get indoors. I'd like to get a large cargo fixed that requires us to fill every tank, warming the decks... that much less shoveling to do, you know? We'll have to see.
Apparently a heavy, oversized bag that got shoehorned into an overhead bin fell out and bonked him in the head, causing a pretty severe neck injury.
I flew Southwest just about 4 weeks ago, and it was a good reminder of why I'm more than willing to pay a little more to NOT fly Southwest. It's a flying leper colony staffed by unwashed, hung-over-smelling folks who look like they combed their hair with a firecracker.
Seriously, Southwest can eat a dick, and so can the shitty people I had to fly with. I guess Southwest is the official airline of housing project residents.
I usually don't carry a checked bag when I'm flying. I keep a full wardrobe of oily, shitty clothes aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/House of Style. I fly with my laptop bag and a small gym bag containing my ditty bag, a decent pair of loafers, and a change of clothes. That's it. Meanwhile, everyone around me was stuffing hockey bags and full-sized suitcases in the overhead bins. It was total bullshit, as, since it was the holidays, the flight was full, and Southwest does cattle call random-ass seating, and the stewardess, herself sporting dandruff, a touch of B.O., and wearing a stained, wrinkled outfit that she had obviously slept in, tried pretty hard to get me to check my bag. Rather than make a scene and get fingered by a TSA agent for a second time (I figure one rape-style handjob from a dude per flight is enough), I politely said no, the bag contained medication, and would fit under my seat just fine. But seriously, I guess since I was the only one not sporting prison tattoos on my face and neck, I was the one who was going to be asked to check a bag.
Well, at any rate, we left the gate only 25 minutes late to handle last-minute maintenance. I guess doing that shit ahead of time like the other airlines do must be too expensive. I got where I was going, eventually, and the car service my company uses sent me a driver who I know a little, and is real nice, so I didn't lose my shit or anything. If anything, it made me happy(ish) to arrive at the Q and settle into work.
Still, I cringe whenever I have to fly Southwest. I can handle the sardine-like density, the miniature armrests, the stewardesses who need to go to rehab. It's the passengers that truly kill me. I'm becoming a snob. I swear on Sting's flying metal codpiece from 'Dune' that I'll do all in my power to not fly them again.
Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is a stay-at-home-mother. Now, she regularly sends money to her mom in Brazil. When we were dating and first married, my wife worked about 60 hours a week.
These days my wife is a stay-at-home mom. I got my patriarch on, and said that my kid needed his mom more than we needed the extra money. And my wife's brother wasn't exactly killing himself sending money to Brazil, so it was time to step up anyhow.
This was a sea change for my wife, who had been working since she was 12.But it's absolutely borne fruit. My kid went from an A/B student to all A's, is a genuinely happy, nice kid, and is 11 going on 40, maturity-wise...and it's good for both of them, with me being away on the water 2/3 of the time.
Am I bragging? Maybe a little.
But damn, I do miss that extra money. Worth it, though. I'm grateful for having the skills, affinity and opportunity to do something I enjoy and be able to support a family pretty well on it as a sole breadwinner.
Anyhow, read the damn article. It's thought-provoking.
EDIT: also, it's wicked shitty outside. There's about 4 inches of slush on deck, which I'm about to fix by loading half my tanks with 120-degree black oil. While black oil smells like satan's bung, it's warm and melts slush, which is a good thing.
I've been trying to understand why I've been so soggy and hard to light the past few days. I can be short-tempered at work. Incompetence makes me apoplectic, regardless of whatever else happens, and many foreign-crewed ships employ short-bus seat warmers as crew just to fulfill manning requirements, so I do get worked up a lot. So I haven't been MORE short-tempered than usual, but I haven't been bouncing back quickly, which is my usual M.O. The other day Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife asked me if I was having my period, so there's some bleed-through happening I guess.
All the cool people went to the SHOT show this week. I missed out, and that's a shame. Instead, I'm sitting at a lay berth in Newark, NJ, waiting for a ship to come in and take the last of our oil from us, so that we can immediately go back and load more after. Oh, and it'll be snowing and sleeting here shortly.
I guess I answered my own question.
I'm also starting to push potential visitors to come down and spend some time in Heaven's Waiting Room, my new home. I've still got about 10 more days here before i go home, and no visitors this time, as we had one last time I was there, but I've got March and April covered, hopefully, between friends and family, so if we're friends or family in meatspace, and you're thinking about visiting, May would be lovely. After that, it gets a little warm down there. Bring bourbon.
Red wine for meat, white for fish or chicken, blue for tasty vomit when it comes back up.
The Union of Unemployable "Scientists" has again moved the doomsday clock two minutes closer to midnight. Those fuckheads have been doing that on a regular basis for 40 fucking years, and we're still not there. Where the fuck did they start from? Also, in 40 years, no one still has managed to give a shit. So... situation normal.
One of our regular visitors here at the 'Q is a deckhand off one of our tugboats, a guy I'm trying to recruit to the darkside, and make a tankerman out of him. He seems weird enough to fit in. Slightly misanthropic, good conversationalist, super neat, a good cook, and he can count above 11 without taking off his shoes or unzipping his fly. Pretty much our target demographic for recruiting someone to work with oil.
This guy's a healthy person, and has shown me some real support with my efforts in 2014 to get my health in order once and for all. But he only recently saw my big-ass salad.
The Big-Ass salad is my staple food while I'm on board HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/home for neurotic OCD enthusiasts. It's what I eat for my main meals about 80% of the time. It gets a little dull, but it's a nutritionally-balanced protein-laden and filling meal that keeps food from being the keystone to my happiness while I'm at sea... you see, that's part of the problem. I love to cook and eat. My salad is good, but unexciting, and I don't have the overweening need to sleep after I'm done eating. Instead, I walk or do maintenance, or, God forbid, sometimes even stand watch and work. I tend to have more energy AFTER I eat, which is good if you're someone who worked 100-hour weeks all through his 30's and still managed to stay overweight.
Only downside to the salad is that I have to get to the grocery store once a week. Buying greenstuff in our home port is an exercise. Getting ashore is a challenge all alone. In New York, greens turn into browns very quickly, so fresh food isn't fresh long. But anyhow, here it is.
The salad is made in 2 large 1+gallon tupperware bowls. Chicken is my base protein, but there's always beans. Calorie count tends to run around 630ish per bowl. One bowl lasts one day.
1 to 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken breast, skin off
large green (or red or orange) pepper
large zucchini or spaghetti squash
1 handful baby bella mushrooms
2 heads of romaine lettuce
6 cornichon pickles (small pickles, or whatever's at hand)
1 15oz can of black, red, pinto or navy beans
handful of green beans, chopped
8 beet slices
8 medium green olives (I prefer garlic stuffed, but whatever)
1 large tomato
3 oz shredded cheddar cheese
4 celery stalks
1 large cucumber
1 packet of Goya "Sazon" seasoning with saffron
2oz olive oil
3 oz fat-free Italian dressing
Cube chicken, slice onion, zucchini, mushrooms, pepper. Add 1oz oil to a frying pan, and throw everything in the pan. Season with black pepper and sazon.
While that's cooking, cut lettuce, carrots, celery, tomato,pickles and cucumber, half to each bowl. Split beets, olives, beans (rinse well under cold water first!), cheese and cilantro between the bowls, as well. Add 1.5oz Italian dressing to each bowl. Add cooked chicken and vegetables, half to each bowl. Toss thoroughly, cover and refrigerate.
And that's it. I usually mess with the chicken to change the flavor. Sometimes I cook it in soy sauce, Worcestershire or add a little ginger and honey while it's sauteing. Just shaking things up a little, you know?
At any rate, since I started eating like this 9 months ago, I've lost 85lbs, so it works along with exercise and a daily walk.
I am Paul B, and I spend most of my life at sea. Ships, Science, the life of a mariner, biology and (mostly) true stories of life among the best and the worst people in the world, the United States Merchant Marines. You'll find it here, maybe. You'll definitely find rants, raves and discussion on life aboard a merchant ship. Come back and see the Brazilian girls, too, who show up fairly regularly.