Sunday, November 23, 2014

a little floor spice makes everything nice

My employer has 2 main classes of tugboats. The little ones are 3,000hp harbor tugs- sweet, maneuverable and versatile. Then there are the 4,200hp ocean-going tugs. Great for going in a straight line, but bred from the unholy union of a wrecking ball and a bulldozer. Too much ass, not enough rudder, really, for day-to-day maneuvering here at the Q, especially when handled by the tugboating equivalent of  being set up with a girl who's "got a great personality."

 Best tugboaters in the world would have a hard time making these pigs do what they're supposed to do. Not every 4200 driver is in competition for that title, anyhow. Some are pretty damn good. Some... not so much. Tonight's tugboat driver is an unknown. I've worked with him once before, and, the guy seems damn good.  Tugboats are festooned with rubber bumpers for a reason. They're made to be able to use the Braille method of navigation. "Am I close? How close am I? *SMASH* "OK, We're here."

 Our NY fleet is not like that, for the most part. There's some hellaciously good small boat handlers out there.

 Waiting for clearance to leave a dock, the tugboat comes up alongside us a little hard... and by a little hard, I mean it blew a large pot of soup clean off my stove and sent it 5 solid feet away from the stove before landing on deck. I checked. My galley deck looks like a crime scene, but the area around the stove is pristine.

 Anyhow, although I've been known to endorse the 5-second rule once or twice, there's no going back for about 4 meals worth of spicy tortilla soup. While there's no crying over spilled milk, there's not much choice when the living quarters' air is so spiced up that you can taste the soup just by breathing. Shit's burning the hell out of my eyes. I feel like I've been watching "Brian's Song" on repeat.

 Well, it'll be funny once the smell's gone. I got a sort-of laugh out of it. It'd be funnier if I wasn't hungry. I'm the only one awake right now... well, now I am, anyhow. I'm pretty sure that the sound of about 10lbs of soup and a 3-gallon steel pot achieving flight, not to mention 4,000 tons moving sideways about 5 ft in a 1/2 second probably wasn't something that you can sleep through.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

better and better!

Ahhhhh... back home, here at the 'Q.  Nothing, but nothing, makes me appreciate, warts n' all, HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/men's sanitorium, than time spent on another barge.

 I'm back at my home-away-from-home, and that's to the good. My week away was spent on the Career Killer, a particularly uncomfortable and unlucky vessel, though I had good company there, which made it tolerable. Really, anyone can about survive anything for a week, and I did.

 But still, glad to be here.

     To celebrate, we even got a watch off AND shore access, so I did a 10-mile walk, and bought some quality food items at a snobby gourmet grocery, because I eat super-healthy while at work, so I can eat everything I love while at home and not swell up.  Any gate, I now have a modest supply of staple items (vegetables and salad fixin's), and sore feet.

 What? I haven't walked in 2 weeks. My daily hour-walking-in-circles-on-deck doesn't count. It's an OCD behavior at this point.

Tomorrow I am bunkering the "Quantum of the Seas," the world's newest cruise ship. First time. She's leaving Monday for her first full cruise, and will become one of my regulars. She's replacing another regular,the one where people are always getting Norovirus, because having a significant portion of your guests shitting themselves all over the place is, apparently, bad for business.

  So hopefully the Quantum won't become a floating palace of Cholera like her predecessor.

the gas cap is behind the license plate. 

I dunno. I kinda want to try a cruise, but getting stuck in an office-building sized edifice, however nice, with 6,000 people sounds... awful. I know it's supposed to be nice, but I'm not 100% down with the idea of being on a boat and not being paid filthy lucre-grade money to do so.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

mariner's post: as ye reap...

We bitched, loudly, but mostly just to each other when we were ordered to only use the 'white lines,' new heavy rope. It's very absorbent and far heavier in terms of density than the polypropylene blend rope that used to be the standard. Over the last few years, before making the switch, we migrated to heavier lines, more strands (from three to eight), and then, eventually, to what we've got right now, sitting like frozen 2-ton sacks of shit on deck. This past year, polypro was banned, and we made the switch to heavier, larger, heavier stuff, which certainly gave me a sore back on a fair regular basis, and, arguably, could have set the stage for some injuries as a result. Unfortunately, in the tankering business, the folks hired by oil companies to vet us call the shots, and practicality vs. looks-good-on-paper isn't always the same thing. The new lines have more stretch, which presumably would cut down on lines parting, which they will do at times. This causes scary near-misses, and, although I've never seen it, can cause traumatic injury if someone's in the way. This seems to be rare, as we get scared shitless by parting lines  a couple of times a year.

 On the other hand, I've seen plenty of guys hurt their backs, humping rope. 

 Mariners are like seagulls: we eat, shit and squawk. Sometimes, though, it's good to know the squawking attracts attention, even if belatedly so.

 Well, recently we were able to make the switch back to a lighter, less absorbent synthetic mooring line. There has been much rejoicing.

 You see, we move HAWSEPIPER's AFLOAT GLOBAL HQ/ Pleasure Gardens constantly move- our mileau is small volume, multiple-product bunker work, which means we may moor, unmoor and remoor multiple times a day. Not being a massive ship with an entrenched local pilot, and multiple tugboats, we never have any assistance when docking at a terminal, which means that we have to physically THROW lines around bitts to a dock. And everybody but the tug captains take part in it. Hell, even the tug engineers sometimes come aboard to help moor. Very different from large ships, where the deck officer's massive case of t-rex arms precludes operating anything heavier than a walkie-talkie. And with the tugs calling the shots from hundreds of feet away, it can get pretty stressful for the ropes as we lever the unit into position, hence the gradual shift to using only slightly smaller mooring lines that we used on my old ship the 'New River' which was 100x heavier than the ol' HQ.

 At any rate, the insanely heavy, absorbent, back-straining lines we have are now frozen solid 'cus it's so dang cold out. Pretty much useless. Yesterday it poured rain all day, soaking the lines, and they didn't have time to dry out before the freeze set in.

 Yeah, losing all the weight this year means that I feel the cold more than I did last year, too. Not cool. On the upside, I can do some jumping jacks to warm up now, where last winter I'd have blown a knee out trying.

 No bullshit, this heavy white line, whatever it is,  is amazing stuff. The modulus of this shit is better than steel or spider silk when frozen. I lifted a 15-foot section that had frozen in a straight line, and it held its shape. A Wallenda could have walked across it without tying off both ends. Problem is, you've got to bend that shit around bitts and bollards, and the eye splice at the end needs to, you know, be eye-shaped.

 Not much fun out there, guys and gals. Our two new 16-strand lightweight synthetic lines are now revered aboard with the same fervor normally reserved for icons of the Virgin Mary in a Mexican household. You see, they freeze, but they're not water absorbent, so they still bend and can be thrown. I fully expect candles to be laid out around the stowed coils at some point.

 Oh, don't be offended. I'm Catholic, too. We can withstand a little light humor about how we roll.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

How the hell do I react to that?

As some readers may know, I'm a believer in delivering my message across all forms of media, whether that message is me complaining (more often of late, and wicked sorry. I'm working too much), living with being separated by time and distance from the B family, or just the day-to-day aboard the Big Metal Monastery.

 Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I have recently doubled down on social media, as we've been building a place for ourselves in a new community far from the 'burbs of Boston, and as her family, FINALLY, after far too many years, come to accept that she's not actually just visiting the US to work a few years and move home, but has actually built a life here in Nova Iorque

 Oh, an aside for folks who like to goof on how bad Americans are at Geography. Most Brazilians believe that the US consists of "Nova Iorque" (Pronounced "Nova Yorkie" "Los Angeles" and "Da Farms."  Yet I got polled within hours by Brazilians about my position on Kim Kardashian's new ass pictures. Priorities.

Since I share information on the Book of Faces with co-workers, one can find pictures of Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife posed with me as we share such things with folks back home in Boston, and her friends and family back in Brazil. For the most part, this is no big deal. I work for a company that has a phenomenally adventitious ratio of good people to d-bags. Best I've ever seen since I was taken to sea at age 7. 

    So, since last week was a rare and elusive week spent at home at our new place in Florida, we went out, and shared some photos on Facebook...

  Look, my wife is proportionally far more attractive than I am. Her dad, being a moral man, forbid her from being a model early on, and, while she hasn't had to endure recruiting attempts as much as she did at 18, I witnessed the last attempt just a year ago.  She's a Morena, so she looks exotic. Her dad was smart. That's a recipe for exploitation, anyhow. Shame on me, I'm a little proud of it, sure. My fat n' ugly ass won the lottery, but I'm a pretty well-educated and cultured guy deep under the foul language, dick jokes and occasionally explosive temper. She's a remarkable person under the beautiful exterior. Hilarious language barrier aside, it's very easy for us to sit down every night  and then realize that 4 hours disappeared  in the blink of an eye. She and I are fiercely independent people, which is part of why our marriage works. Time together is a joy. Time apart is a little lonely, but balancing for us.

 Well, I'm long since past trying to explain that she's not a trophy wife and I'm not just a green card. Between her, me, our son and my limited time spent at home, I jealously guard my family and family time, so I tend to disappear when I'm not at work.
   So it really bummed me out when a co-worker made a little quip about my wife's shirt being a little low-cut in a Facebook photo.
    Why do I care? I share those photos with friends and family. To a Brazilian, my wife's clothes would be conservative but comfortable. Brazilian women revel in being feminine and pretty. They're downright unapologetic about it. So, after perhaps taking it for granted, I realize that a co-worker, a guy I basically like, is ogling my wife but lacks the social grace to keep that shit to himself.

 Maybe I'm mixing pleasure with business too much on social media. Just as my public persona here online does not quite match my role as paterfamilias at home, or my position as a reformed scientist in my capacity as a professional mariner, the one bleeds into the other, I guess. Perhaps I should be more cognizant of that.

Me 80lbs ago, but you get the idea. The Billy Joel/Christy Brinkley Paradox. Also, damn, I was heavy.

NOW HEAR THIS: Basic Seamanship Rant

Today's lesson/public service message from HAWSEPIPER.

  When working as a maritime professional, speak like a goddam professional. Use the right goddamn nomenclature, or be prepared to be thought of as a damn shoemaker.

 It's OK to slur certain words: 'Forr'ard' for Forward,' 'Foc's'le' for Forecastle. You can be crude and vulgar and still be professional, if you're creative enough. "Foreskin" for Forepeak is a good example.

 It's probably OK to not learn how to box the compass. But you should. By all means, however, know how to properly do your job as a lookout and learn how to report relative bearings.  A ship is not "At 4 O'clock" unless the time is, actually, 0400. It's "1 point abaft the starboard beam." The extra words and jargon are used for a reason. Your watch officer can get the gist of what you're saying even if the wind mutes half your words, and it's a precise statement with no possibility of being misunderstood.

 It's not a TWIX card, a TWIC's card or anything with an 's' sound at the end. That's a goddamned candy bar's name. It's a TWIC card, and when you mispronounce it or write it wrong, you sound and look like an ignorant ass. Stop it. You don't sit on the toilet to "take a shit's" so why do you insist that you have a TWIC's?

 Oh, also, learn to use the proper hand signals for overhead work or directing a fucking crane, please. When you do weird shit like slap the top of your head and point in a Hitler salute, you're telling the guy on the crane to steal third base, not come down on the boom. It's pretty fucking simple. Thumbs for boom, fingers for the runners, palms for swing, for your basic crane. You look like an epileptic in front of a strobe light when you do it wrong. Have some goddam dignity, for Christ's sake.

    Learn to tie the knots that are required to be rated as an Able Seaman, even if you're not. Imagine being a professional mariner, and not knowing how to tie a bowline, becket bend, carrick bend or surgeon's knot. If you're a mariner and can't do these, you're no fucking mariner, so quit pretending. You're a monkey, and not even a trained one.

It's OK not to know all the jargon. You'll pick it up as you go. You should know the names of all the parts of your ship, of course, and how to report the things you see and do. There will be shameful moments. For example, I can't make a Bosun's chair. For too long, my ass was too fat to sit comfortably in one, so I never learned, and didn't even use the prefab ones. Own your weaknesses and try to overcome them, right? I haven't gotten around to that one yet, so feel free to slut-shame me for it. I know I got it coming.

 And, for Christ's Own sake, every piece of metal that is not a bulkhead, deck or hull plate is not a 'fish plate." A fish plate is a fish plate, and is a railroad term. It's been co-opted to be used to describe the steel plate (sometimes also called a 'flounder plate' I hear) at the apex of a towing bridle... and that's about it.Know the proper terms.  Knowing how to communicate is important to knowing how to do your goddamn job.

*drops mike*

Friday, November 14, 2014

nyah nyah nyah

Apparently it's snowing in my old hometown.

    I'm floating around in the Con Hook area of NY/NJ, and it's cold and windy here, though, thankfully it didn't snow.

 Just wan to point out that my wife was mildly annoyed that she couldn't drink her morning coffee on the patio this morning until she put on a t-shirt with sleeves. Moving south was wicked smaht.

One of my orchids, growing outside in November. Because Florida.