Saturday, April 18, 2015

guess what?

30 minutes after started a cargo load, orders changed- cargo volume to be loaded got cut by 75%. Reason being, one of the receiving ships isn't going to be in town for a week yet, so there's no point in loading oil that has to be heated to flow until the receiver is ready to take it.

 It blows my mind that there's so much disorganization in oil tankship logistics that last minute changes are a common thing. Seriously, that ship is bringing in a quarter of a million barrels or more of something to one of our local terminals, and then is getting tanked up with our stuff before going to the next port... and chartering these ships ain't cheap. 10 years ago, Citgo was paying $38,000 a day plus fuel to charter my ship, and that was with the discount for doing a 2-year charter. Even so, there were many occasions where we'd be sailing up or down the East Coast, and the destination would change... sometimes we'd even turn around. Once I remember sailing from Corpus Cristi, TX to New York, dropping the anchor in Stapleton Anchorage, sitting for a day, then suddenly raising anchor and sailing for Lake Charles, Louisiana.

 I guess you never know. I'm not complaining- our workload got cut in half, after all... but I was loading tanks for a larger parcel of oil, so in cutting it all short, I've got slack tanks- tanks only partially filled, which will cool off fast, and also prevent us from taking on more oil for another customer if the need arises while we're waiting for our receiving ship to arrive in town.

 So it goes. Screw it, I'm going home in a couple of days, anyhow. S'all good.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tug Life

I may have to rethink my position that harbor tugboaters aren't 'real' merchant mariners.

 Overheard between two tugboat deckhands:

       "Why are they trying to sell that to me? I can't go ashore, and when I'm home, if I can't drink it or f*ck it, I'm not buying it."

Makes me think about the old saw about the second thing a sailor does when he gets home.

 He puts down his seabag.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

we're all going to hell

Visualize actually saying this out loud, and then...profit.

Monday, April 13, 2015


Well, I'm failing to engage this afternoon, and feeling pretty good about it.

    Current cargo discharge is a mess. The ship in question is one of the new breed of super size container ships, and they've hired a cargo surveyor with whom we already have an antagonistic relationship, because, well, the guy's a fucking idiot.

 Anyhow, start off with a French company with a French cadre of officers on their ships. After immediately surrendering to us when we came alongside the ship, we knew that the job would take double the normal time. While these guys have fabulous hair, showcasing obvious access to high quality hair products, they're passive-aggressive in that they insist on not multitasking. If the surveyor is measuring oil in their tanks, they can not connect a fuel hose. If the 4 guys connecting the fuel hose are working, no one can sign paperwork. If someone is looking over papers, a messenger can not answer the radio... well, you know how it goes.

 Anyhow, all this is lead my Mr. Potato Head, the only cargo surveyor we actively loathe and mistrust in the NY/NJ area. When I woke up after lunch (I was up all night), I heard his voice, then my #2 guy's raised voice in return, with increasing volume but only on my guy's part. Mr. Potato head is an expert at failing to engage, too, although I'm pretty sure the guy's too autistic to understand why he's an ass AND an idiot. I guess you can't blame him. Potatoes gonna potate.

 Still, it's a truism that people will rise to the level of their maximum incompetence. Expecting Mr. Potato head to get himself fired is a mistake- the guy's older, and obviously has run that gauntlet.

 Anyhow, it's already cost us our next job, so there's no use yelling about it. Although I will, I'm sure. Gotta please the townspeople, and if I don't shame someone for being slow, incompetent or deficient in some way, my head will explode.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mr. fix it

I pride myself on being pretty handy around the house.
Watching my dad (a former ships' electrician) mess with wiring, and my brother with carpentry, auto repair and pretty much every other form of home ec for men, I've got a good handle on being able to handle a lot of tasks on my own around the ol' casa.

But shit like this past weekend make me awful happy that I'm not a marine engineer.

 You see, our deck crane shit the bed the other day.

     Another cargo load, at one of our regular stops, and I'm at the base of the crane, swinging our 100' heavy fuel oil hose over the side, and as I'm swinging the hose over, there's a big boom that leaves my ears ringing, then a smaller boom, and then the crane stops.

      The swing motor assembly is no longer working. Well, the swing motor, a compact hydraulic motor, is working fine, it's just that nothing is happening. Turns out the gearbox for the swing motor is Pining For The Fjords.

   The gearbox is the size of a shoebox, weighs about 150lbs or so, and is bolted to the turntable on the crane.

 We end up finishing the load, get the hoses back aboard (more on that later), sail, and spend the night lying to at my company's HQ dock, to await repair before the scheduled discharge.

        Between rolling in chop and swinging heavy, awkward, sometimes very unbalanced loads at high angles for years, turns out the main gear that runs between the gearbox and the turntable gear (the base of the crane IS a giant gear) sheared right off- a very stubby 2-inch thick solid steel cylinder, sheared right off. That's a LOT of force to be able to do that.

 Anyhow, getting the damn gearbox switched out was an exercise in awkwardness involving a smaller crane, chainfalls, and working at close quarters with another man. Very awkward business, trying to get a 150lb shoebox out of a space that's 4 feet in the air, or just tall enough where you're working to lift something at waist height, and bring it up to eye height while reaching inside a space inside a cylinder with steel obstructions everywhere, and all of it just tall enough to make it impossible to lift with anything but your forearms and lower back, with the only handholds being just large enough to use two fingertips for leverage.

     I don't know how our engineers and shoreside mechanics do it day in and out. By the time we got everything buttoned up and working again, I was feeling pretty grumpy and had grease in my hair and down my shirt.

 There were some pretty scary/funny moments, though. Getting those hoses back aboard at the end of the load was an all-hands effort, and even the dockmen helped. Without the swing gear in place, the crane swung in the breeze, and, when I first asked the dockman to let go the hook that was dangling on the cable, holding the hoses, the crane took off like a rocket- there wasn't anything holding it in place anymore, and it wanted to feather into the wind, which was quite strong. Well, with a 60-foot arm, plus another 40-feet of cable out, we basically had a 100-foot diameter propeller with a 120-lb wrecking ball (the hook) at the end. Unable to control the swing, and in fear of wiping out pipes and light towers on the dock, I did the only thing I could think of to make the swing circle smaller: I raised the boom.

      Well, centrifugal force being a thing, when you decrease the swing radius of a turning object, you increase the angular momentum, so the higher up the crane went, the smaller the swing radius, and the more force applied, so it looked pretty dramatic, the crane swinging in circles until I could get the boom up and the cable reeled in.

 Getting the hoses back aboard was a simple matter of recreating the old boom-and-stay rig, and using the #2 cable as a power block, to heave the crane around. We were going to attach the #2 hook to different objects and use it to haul the boom around, but it turns out that with a couple of warm bodies available, we could just muscle it into rough place, lift the hoses vertical, one at a time, then everyone on the #2 hook dragged the whole crane assembly around and the hoses came back aboard. I grease the ever-loving shit out of that crane, so the bearings are smooth.
 Anyhow, Flintstones power carried the day.

Friday, April 10, 2015

In which our patience is tested.

Oh, Lord, protect me from the good intentions of idiots. Please, Jesus, God and St. Jack Daniels, I wish you were here right now.

           But it's up to me. I've got a chief engineer who is... well, challenged, who went from zero to potato in 3.6 seconds, bypassing Full Retard in the process.

 Honestly, my day thus far has been like a Laurel and Hardy routine.

 I really want to call our dispatcher and say "This is another fine mess you got me into."

 But that's kind of his job.

     Anyhow, a first today. An engineer playing the 'you didn't give me the fuel you said you did' game, which is usually the opening for negotiations on discounting his fuel, is playing in the wrong country. The deal is the deal, and we do not negotiate. We calculate.

 Anyhow, it takes a special kind of potato to claim that I held back more fuel than the ship actually ordered.

 Seriously, this is what I get presented with.
 "Sir, I am showing that we are short 200 metric tons of fuel oil"

Me: "Chief, you ordered 170 metric tons. I gave you 170 metric tons."

 "Yis Yis, We are showing 200 tons less."

Me: "Chief, you received 170 tons, yes?"

"Yis yis. One Seven Zero.  But we are showing 200 tons short."