Sunday, September 21, 2008


CLIMBING THE HAWSEPIPE is a euphemism for promotion from the rank-and-file to an Officer's position on a merchant ship. In the modern US Merchant marine, this is a very difficult task. I am about 3/4 of the way through that task. I started as an Ordinary Seaman, an untrained set of hands, and eventually learned to steer a ship and was rated "Able Bodied" after taking an exam and jumping through some hoops set up by the Coast Guard. Now, with almost 1080 days at sea as an Able Seaman, I am taking 6 months worth of classes, a few weeks at a time, and will, eventually, sit through a grueling examination to verify my test-taking, I mean knowledge of navigation, safety and ships and shipping. So, you're going to read about my complaining when I spend the next four months here on my ship, and then spend five months at school, taking classes and prepping for the exam. Sorry. I'll try to keep it to a minimum.

My dad's former ship, the USNS TRUCKEE, is on the bank at the breaker's yard, 40 years after my father's time on her. That's a pretty good service life for a ship.


Ever since my employers discovered my blog, my shipmates have been throwing suggestions at me: "Hey, Paul, put this in your blog!" "Paul, talk about this in your blog!" . Etc. etc. The thing is, these psuedo-serious issues come not from my messmates, but from the superior officers. This says a lot to me, as in some folks might think that this is a fine way to jam my opinion down the throat of my employers using the force of public airing of grievances, and this departs from my mission, which is to talk about the good and bad, the ups and downs of my days at sea.

Yes, we get bad food sometimes, as I have said. Take the steaks, for instance. The provisioner sends us the cheapest steaks possible, and collects as much as he can for it. That's business. The fact is, the supply chain has enough wiggle room that it's damn near impossible to stop at least SOME crappy freezer-burned meat from getting through. One thing is for certain: based on what I can tell, every month some farmer in Ohio is scratching his head, wondering why it is that he's got an extra cow but is missing a horse.


We've been getting a lot of new crew coming over from the now-scrapped Asphalt Commander. So far, they seem like good guys. Dinner in the crew mess has become a lot more lively. Of course, with Juan, our steward, everything tastes good, which goes a LONG way towards keeping people happy. Call me a bigot, but there's nothing like an Italian in the kitchen, and Juan's Italian heritage, coupled with his Argentianian upbringing makes for a nice combination. My Irish heritage is a real impediment in that direction. My culture believes that there are two ways to cook: Boil and Burn... also, there are only two ways to flavor anything: butter and/or salt. Period.

And so ends one full week at anchor in the Mighty Mississippi. I got some time off the ship last night, tagging along with Juan to the grocery store. This involved a ride in the back of a pickup truck in the rain, as well as a boat ride, also in the rain. I was able to secure a few cases of diet pepsi, so my caffeine crisis is, for the moment, over. Cancel the apocalypse. I'm hoping for one more nice quiet evening, so I can blow some shit up in DOOM 3 with the volume cranked.

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