Monday, September 22, 2014

Screw Change Day

Well, today is Crew Change Day here aboard HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Center for Mood Disorders. I'm getting off today, but not going home. As I wrote about earlier, the situation requires I stay in NY and work over, whore myself out to other vessels for the next 2 weeks before coming back here for 4 more weeks subsequent to that.

 So it goes. I haven't exactly made peace with it, as 2014 looks like another 10-months at sea year despite best efforts, but I'm more at peace than I was.

 Expect blogging to be light for a few days. I'm just not feeling it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pushing back on diminishing boundaries

When in the middle of an extended hitch, my world tends to get smaller. I think of it as 'pulling in,' where I start to tune out the world, forget to return phone calls and generally allow my horizon to dwindle down to the confines of the vessel I'm on. I hear that guys in prison do the same thing to keep from losing their shit.

 And that's the goal: maintain. I don't want the reminders of what I'm missing. I start to catch up on my reading, my conversational skills perhaps don't get exercised so much, too... as a tugboater told me this morning "Well, you're gonna get real ugly."  And that's true too. I'll get temperamental, at times. Moody. That's just how it is. On paydays, I'll be cheerful, as the big checks start rolling in and I see a return on my investment, but that's about it.

       Today I had the morning free, and to combat ennui, I went for a 10-mile walk through Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and the Fulton Mall area of Brooklyn. Beautiful day for the walk, too. At first it was a grind. I had no patience for all the damn people. I was expecting to be a little more alone on Sunday, but it wasn't to be. After the first few miles, I perked up, and started to look around. I got some decent news when I stepped on the scale this morning- I'm about 70% of the way to my goal, as far as my ideal weight, from where I started, and the few nice clothes I have here that actually fit are pretty comfortable for this time of year. So that helped keep me of good cheer and also from eating anything I shouldn't on my walk.

 At any rate, a 3 hour walk did me a lot of good, as a way to try to keep my horizons from shrinking down too much. There's a larger world out there, and, as much as I don't really care for New York, it's an interesting place to visit. Shame I can't try out the bars here, as there's plenty of them, but even when I'm off the clock, I'm on the clock.

 So later I'm going to take that walk again. This time there's a sandwich in my future. I actually MUST have 900 more calories for the day at a minimum, or risk losing muscle mass. Considering my battle with keeping a healthy weight, that's a nice problem to deal with.

Friday, September 19, 2014

probably too personal

Well... shit.

        Some bad news from Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's family in Brazil has thrown a massive spanner in the works. Yours truly is about to do something stupid. Looks like I won't be home for another couple of months, so that I might pull someone's fat out of the fire yet again and pay for a needed surgery.

 Brazil's a fucked up place. I've mentioned that before, I believe. If you don't have cash on the barrel when you step foot in a hospital, you are wheeled outside and placed at the conveniently located bus stop bench there.

     Anyhow, there's crazy drama, and I'm in an unenviable position. I've never in a thousand years imagined that I'd be a person to divide a family. When I see or hear of brothers who don't talk to brothers, of bullheaded people who refuse to forgive, it makes me sad, or even sometimes disgusted.

 And yet here I am. The side effect of doing this not-going-home shit is that the man who's mother I'm saving is dead to me. Any asshole who turns his back on his flesh-and-blood because it's expensive to keep them alive is not welcome in my life. I've made it clear that I'm not making decisions for my wife, that I'm not going to push her into abandoning anyone, despite the fact that they've already shown their willingness to do the same... still, I don't live in a vacuum, and the cost of sharing a roof with me now is that  there are certain people no longer welcome in my life and in my home, which is also hers, of course, and she'll have to live with that.
 Anyhow, it doesn't sit well with me, but I suspect that this may very well be exactly why it's the correct decision. Who needs more bastards in their life?


Anyhow, on a happier note, here's some pictures from New York's waterfront, taken last week on what was the prettiest day of 2014 thus far.






   

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Beating the hell out of the Queen II: The Queen Strikes Back.


 As I mentioned in the last post, on Sunday I bunkered the Queen Mary II, the most dreaded job among us bunker bastards in Nu Iorque. It has been almost 18 months since the last time I drew the short straw, and in that time, they actually managed to make it even more difficult to moor alongside! Is that even possible? Other tankermen wondered. Turns out, it is.

We had to moor backwards, or heads-to-tails, my stern to their bow.  I had to shackle together two of my strongest and heaviest hawsers to stretch the 400-500 feet from my bow to the closest mooring point on his stern, then the ship stretched out one of their bow lines another 300 or so feet all the way to my stern, heaving it tight. Only then did we hump two lengths of ultralight synthetic hawser (still weighed about 150lbs each) from my bow to the quarter so that we could moor to the ONE mooring point they provide on the parallel midbody (the side) of the ship.

 As I was saying to the trainee deckhand who was helping us out that day, sometimes it takes a truly pain in the balls job to bring up the creative thinking that allows you to up your game when it comes to normal pain in the balls jobs.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Beating the hell out of the Queen

Well, I copped it this weekend.

 In a little while, we're off to load bunkers for two cruise ships. First one is a visitor from the Euro trade, and no big deal, hopefully. Second one is the God-damned Queen Mary II.


Photo courtesy of Sumdood

 When the weirdly-accented pointy heads from the EU designed this ship, they, as they often do, forgot to think about how in the name of Christ they'd fuel the thing. They failed to add mooring points low along the hull, which is the standard means by which bunker vessels moor to cruise ships. Instead, there's one Panama chock (an attachment point) in a very inconvenient spot, and we have to kiss some Limey booty and get them to open up their watertight hatches in the hull and moor to the ship's internal framing using massive shackles... but these hatches are also not conveniently located.

 Luckily for us, they put the bunker hatch in the right spot, anyhow. Well, one of them. The other is high as hell up in their bow, where we can't possibly get to without holing them in the process, and yet EVERY. DAMN. TIME. they open this unusable hatch and say that we must use it and it all goes according to script.
Following is the script, as exchanged in full-throated yells.

Indian Oiler:  "Here Here!" (Makes the sign of the cross for some reason)
Me: "No Good! I can't moor here safe. I need the after bunker station."
Oiler: "No aft bunker station. This only one."
Me: "Get me an engineer, you fucking liar."

Officious Junior Engineer: "You must bunker here,"
Me: "I can't, chief. Nowhere to moor and I'll drive my timberheads through your bow if I come alongside. I need the aft bunker station."
Officious Junior Officer: "That's not possible. We're lined up to fuel from here"
Me: "Sorry. It's not safe. Aft station only"
Officious Junior Officer: "Well, we can't do it."
Me: "OK. You can't have your oil today. Call your agent.  I have other ships who will take your oil. See you next time!" I then wave goodbye, turn and make theatrical finger-across-throat gesture while pointing out to the harbor. (And the Oscar goes to...)
Officious Junior Engineer: Blank look, then wide eyed: "Wait! Wait one." (Talks on handheld radio.) "OK, we're opening the after bunker station door."
Me: "And the watertight doors midships."
Officious Junior Officer: Blank look. "..."
Me:  "I need to shackle in. You don't have any panama chocks for me."
Officious Junior Engineer: Sighs. Goes inside.

 Scene.


 After we're all fast and have connected a fuel hose, it's time for the pre-bunker conference, when we'll talk about what's going on, go over paperwork and the ship's engineer will gauge the tanks and look confused because we use the English system of cargo measurement, and, despite them being English officers, they use the metric system. 

 After all, there are two types of countries: Those who use the metric system, and those who put a man on the fucking moon.



Thursday, September 11, 2014

afk

Well, it went from pretty quiet to total effing zoo relatively quickly. Last minute dicking around with cargo orders and trying to handle routine inspections and vettings and such on board has meant that there hasn't been much time for sleep here on board HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global Hq/center for sleep-deprivation studies.

 Here's something to look at while I wait for inspiration and enough goddamned free time to get a nap.









Saturday, September 6, 2014

Karma is a set of teeth fastened tightly to my left buttock

Shoe's on the other foot. Give me a minute and I'll explain why.


 We've got a fruit fly infestation here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Vivarium, and I can't find the source.

***************************

   In the far off year of 1997, I was in my junior year of college, and dead-ass broke. I was pumping gas at night, lobstering on Saturdays, and my department at school quite mercifully and illegally hired me twice under two names as a work-study student, so that I had at least 20 hours of work in the labs to help make ends meet while school was in session. In between semesters I was hired full time, which also helped.


    One of my least favorite jobs came once a month or so, when I had to clean out the genetics lab's fruit flies.


 In Genetics 101, students track the heritability of mutations across generations of cross-bred fruit flies. The damn things have a life cycle measured in days, so it's an easy way to observe how animals inherit traits and how breeding affects that... and the vials, once examined after a week or two (to let a generation pass and measure the passing on of traits before selecting the next generation, which is moved to a new bottle), are left to ferment, in which case they quickly contain thousands of flies in a very small space.

 Well, my job was to dispose of the vials of flies. I would gas them then autoclave them, cooking them in steam and throwing the resultant sterile melted pile of plastic and organic matter in the trash.

 Anyhow, they look like this:

Well, I had about 300 of these vials, and they were old, containing several generations of flies. I figure about 5 million or so.


Now, I've told this story before. My department was on a floor that had an atrium corridor on one level between two buildings, which connected the Biology department with one of the floors of the university's law school one of Boston's most prestigious one of those awful places, in fact. And the law students, much like escaped animals, got everywhere, constantly underfoot, which really sucked for yours truly, who, virtue of being 6' 240lbs, was used for moving furniture and heavy lifting of noxious and frequently open-topped bulk vessels of various unsavory liquids. I ruined a lot of shoes, not always mine, is what I'm saying, getting bumped and diverted by these a-holes.

 So I did what any other poor yet annoyed students would do. I used the Law School's bathrooms exclusively, never flushed, and spoke loudly using my wicked strong south-of-Boston accent and colorful fisherman's vocabulary where I could. I made a habit of saying "Hey, how the fuck are ya!" a lot when there were visitors.

...and then, finally, the fruit flies. It happened when a goddamned parcel of WASP's got into my hangout, an unused room full of lab tables that my friends and I had taken root in. And they wouldn't leave. I solved that by depositing a dead cat soaked in formaldyhyde directly on the slate table they were using for their study session. I mean, I slapped that fucking cat down with a body slam. No tarp, no dissection tray, just threw the cat down, sat in the vacant chair, ate my sandwich, drank a soda, belched loudly and said "Hey, sorry, I gotta practice neutering these things here."

 If you don't know, formaldehyde smells like ammonia, ass and oil. It's nauseating.

 Well, they left post haste, and I returned the dead cat to the barrel of dead cats n' formaldehyde and cleaned up, but I was still feeling resentful. And the department head then asked me to dispose of the fruit flies. Just a shitty day... but then I was inspired. I quickly anesthetized some vials full of flies (you pump CO2 in there to knock 'em out, then uncork the vial and put a drop of ether in there to put them to deep sleep.), combined them into one vial containing a million or more of the little bastards, pocketed the vial, walked to my favorite bathroom at the law school, and upended the flies into a neat pile behind a toilet, and then walked out.

 Well, it worked out well. The flies woke up later, and caused a fuss, somewhere between distracting and infuriating, and I went back to work feeling much better.

 But, right this moment, right now, as a goddamned fruit fly is running back and forth across my computer screen, I'm wondering if this is God doing his version of a Wet Willy to me.