Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Home! Week 1

I've been home for about a week, and it's been great. Warm and sunny. No rain, which is great for the most part, but my pond is a little low right now, so ospreys have been picking off the fish. Not sure what that will mean for my occasional drunken fishing derbys on the back lawn.

 The little boat is coming along well. The hull is planked, which took about a week. I snapped a couple of the planks, trying to cover the fantail, but eventually made it happen without steam bending. Tomorrow I'll start fairing it down. Pictures, eventually.

 At any rate, it's all good down here in Margaritaville.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Gentle reminder

We got about 4" of snow yesterday here at the Afloat Global HQ/Sanatorium for Those Afflicted With Channel Fever.  It was absolutely a fine reminder of why I moved to south FL.

 I woke up at midnight to find that the young tankerman who is filling in here for Big O had shoveled the entire deck perimeter, the working areas around the crane and main pumps, and also shoveled pathways to our tank tops and ullage ports. Altogether he cleared about an acre's worth of deck.

 It really pays to have a 22 year old Marine out here sometimes. I wasn't dreading doing my part, per se, but it's really nice to not have to. I'm very grateful and impressed with the kid's performance. He came here half-trained by an absolutely rotten tankerman, but the kid's sharp as a knife, so I've only had to show him some of the basics- calculating a load, how to blend 2 disparate cargoes to make up a blended load at the correct volume, and the legal issues that we deal with in terms of compliance. He spent a year or two on board my employer's oldest, most rotten tug, since gone to scrap, so he knows marlinespike seamanship and safety already.

 All that and he busted his balls while my lazy ass was sleeping.

          I wish I were a more patient man, and could train some of these green tankermen, but I'd grow tired of washing the blood off my coveralls and hiding the bodies. It's not just the horror of having to explain cargo handling, but having someone underfoot and constantly needing attention and teaching. I can do that shit for a bit, but an hour or two, and I need to be left the hell alone, and we live at close quarters already here at the HQ, and I get distressed and stressed at spending 90% of my waking hours with a strange man in my personal space. It's supremely stressful for a basically introverted guy like me. I just don't like talking that much and it takes time and effort and a lot of luck to find shipmates with whom one can share a comfortable silence. I think that's part of the affinity that our current permanent crew has. We can talk for hours, or not talk for hours, but when that changes, and one or both of us wants to gab or to be left the hell alone, it's an easy transition- no hard feelings, no discomfort. That kind of rapport is rare and precious.
 FWIW, the new tankerman that's on here this week can share a comfortable silence, but it can be strained, with both of us aware of it. He comes from a similar enough background to me that we had good rapport right out of the gate.

Friday, January 6, 2017

picker upper (semi NSFW)

Well, in the last days of this tour, I'm really slogging through it. I got sick in the middle of things, with a lovely cough/cold. Coming out the other side now, though, just in time to go home and be healthy, wealthy and wise. Well, healthy, anyhow.

      So, just like the best way to make a bad day better is passing it to someone else, so it goes with good things, too, so here's this month's ladies from Brazil.









Monday, January 2, 2017




 Not feeling inspired lately. Dunno why. Male menopause?


Friday, December 30, 2016

welcome to the shit show

It's been a busy few days. We've got some end-of-year accounting being done, because there's plenty of ships trying to get fueled with those suwheet 2016 dollars, and also plenty dragging their feet, running on fumes, trying to get the next fuel bill to show up in 2017.
      Our oil suppliers are throwing their inventories out there, which means that we're blending fuels in our tanks, making up the correct specifications for the customers. This represents a couple of extra steps and some calculations on our part- no problem for experienced hands, but new to new guys it's a new level of risk, a taboo magic to be feared and loathed. Takes a year or two to get comfortable with it.

 I've got a green tankerman filling in for my right hand man this week. Poor kid has the permanently-startled look of someone who is working way over his head what with the pressing workload and the doing things he has heard of but never actually seen done.
 I'm handholding where I can, but ultimately he'll be fine... except for last night, when a borderline abusive Black Gang (engineering crew) on a container ship really just shit all over him and then made a hash of his paperwork.

       New guys can either be mild as milk or explosively temperamental when  dealing with a hostile situation with a foreign ship crew. My new guy is a marine, and can control his temper. He'll have to learn with time when to be a bear.

       End result though, the guy had a brutal night, and I don't like learning that my people have been abused. Abusing my people is a right that I reserve exclusively for myself. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

I missed that too, dammit

Welp, halfway today. I'm midway through my latest tour here on the Big Metal Monastery, and that's a good thing.

 The newest member of the B family, the son of my oldest nephew, was born a few weeks ago. He's the first of the newest generation of the B family. Although my mom was traditionally the MC of the B family get-togethers, her frail health and advanced age have brought my oldest brother and his wife into the forefront, taking over. It was my oldest brother's firstborn who is the new dad.
 Anyhow, Christmas Day, my mom was well enough to travel to my brother's for dinner and presents, and to meet and hold her great-grandson for the first time.
 Not a dry eye in the house. I certainly was dealing with a suddenly dusty room when I saw the pictures. My own branch of the B family is up there this week, taking part in the festivities, too, so the whole group has time to see each other.

 I'll make my way up there again come Feb, God willing.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016!

As I write this, I've got a 'virgin hot toddy' steaming next to my mouse, and, while it tastes as vile as it's alcohol-laden-counterpart, I can attest that it does knock me on my ass and make me sweat and crap my brains out, as does its' more traditional counterpart. Hopefully, along the way it works towards ameliorating my cold.

 As I write, in a warm office, with my computer, which I use to keep in touch with the entire world, I'm feeling pretty fuckin' blessed. 2016 killed off some nice folks, some bad ones, too, but for me, it's been a good year. Some folks are dealing with the 'what do we do now?' feeling of knowing that next year they don't have much of a voice within the federal government. It feels shitty to acknowledge that. I spent the last 8 years hiding my light under a basket, I empathize. Today, being the loudmouth that I am, while I'm an admitted small r Republican, a Reagan republican with libertarian leanings, I'm optimistic for the corrective measures that seem to be in place. We have an opportunity to have people who actually DO represent my interests in our government, and, God willing, they might get some things done. Let's hope, anyhow.

           So, tomorrow's Christmas Day, and, while I am working, we've got a decent schedule. We've got a small cargo parcel to load at 0200, and hopefully we'll be done by noon, and can sit and cook a massive and coma-inducing Christmas dinner after. Discharge isn't until sunup on the 26th. I've been eating healthy for a few weeks now, and am looking forward to ruining that temporarily.

          My first missed holidays started when I was 18, when I was pumping gas on Thanksgiving and Christmas days.  I was 18 and single, and the manager of the gas station rightfully put me on there 6am to 6pm, as I was single and childless. Still sucked though. I missed Christmas Day the next year too, although I caught Thanksgiving, and after all, I was home that night after 6pm sometime.
        3 years later, I spend Christmas in Blue Creek, a Mayan village deep in the rain forest of Belize, one of the last communities to make contact with the modern world. It was inspiring, and made me appreciate the true spirit of Christmas, as our day was focused on the people around us, and the meaning behind the season.

 Over the intervening years, I've missed probably 2/3 of my Christmas Day celebrations with family. I don't begrudge it. In my 20's and early 30's I was single, and, being childless, it made sense for shipmates to have the time to be with their loved ones. These days, older if not wiser, and with both wife and Child, I have a good job, but I only get Christmas with my family once every 3 years. On the upside, next year is my year, and when it does happen, I make a very big deal about it and enjoy it, and, in the 'off' years, my nuclear family celebrates when we can. Whether it's early December or mid-January, we have another Christmas day for us, and we enjoy it and make it work. This year, we did Christmas 2 weeks early, and, although my wife and kid are now with family up north to celebrate the day itself, I got to enjoy my Christmas, and got to church and confession and all that when I could, early on, exchanged presents (well, most. I always reserve some things for them to open on the day itself), and generally, made it work for us.

 So, tomorrow I plan to eat myself into a coma, and while I can't be with family or get to attend mass, I'll have a nice day, God willing, and that's enough for me. On ships and tugs, it often falls to the captain to ensure that Christmas is still special, even if it just means a good dinner. I was lucky enough to have a good example set by my early captains, who always ensured that there was a wrapped present for everyone, decorations, a tree and a massive dinner.


Our Bosun, Christmas 2008, aboard the SS NEW RIVER


Whether you're at home or at work, at sea or on land, I wish you all a Merry Christmas.