Friday, March 20, 2009

la Vida Nostra

Wow, that doesn't even look like me. I got a buzz-cut.


So far, so good. We started off at the relatively civilized time of 0630, shifting at the dock. When we arrived here at the lay berth, we had tied off to the outboard side of another barge which was itself tied to the dock. This morning, however, the other barge had a job, so we had to shift off the dock- essentially, a tug took us on the hip, and swung us out into the river whilst the other barge took on its' own tug, cast off and got underway. We simply laid to against the dock and tied up. By then, it was time for breakfast, and that's about it for now.
One of the most significant differences between being an Able Seaman on a tanker and a Barge Mate is the autonomy and responsibility. Being responsible for a 300-foot barge vs. following orders from on high, I guess.

Anyhow, here are some pictures for you. I should mention here about my camera- in order to take pictures whilst on the deck of a tank vessel, I use one of Kodak's Intrinsically-safe cameras. This is a no-nonsense machine designed to document accident photos and creating evidence-quality photo records. It's the Dodge K-Car of cameras, except that it's explosion-proof, which is absolutely necessary out here.











Living quarters, outside view- obviously, we live on a half-deck, recessed into the hull of the barge.

Manned barges are a little rare nowadays, but there are great advantages, not least the insulation from distractions. This layout allows the tankermen to do their job without too much interference from the tug captains. The barge and tug crews work together during maneuvers, which seems to be a nice arrangement. The atmosphere on the tug allows for a degree of freedom, as there aren't conflicting priorities. The tug pushes and pulls, and the barge operates within the Byzantine framework of regulations governing the movement of oil on the water. I find it difficult to believe that a man can be a tug captain and also maintain operational responsibility for the health, well being, efficiency, operation and legal compliance of a tank barge and her appurtenances. For that reason, I am under the impression that separate co-management of a tug and a barge under a 'barge captain' and a tug's master is the way to go, when the tug and barge aren't made into a composite unit, anyhow.






Aren't these the cleanest-looking tugs around? The angular design isn't as pretty as the classic curves of a traditional model-bow tug, but the beefy, rugged and beamy hull has it's own pleasing look.





















View from the house- one of the most pleasant discoveries I made is that the valves are high-quality and the wheels are ergonomically-designed. Makes it a LOT easier to turn than what I'm used to.






Anyhow, I won't be including much in the way of photography from the barge from here- Explaining to numerous well-meaning parties that my innocent-looking camera is actually quite safe to use takes too much effort.

5 comments:

Rich said...

What happened to the AHL/3rd mate plan? Any info on job opportunities - 2nd mate and up - with AHL? Good luck with Vane Brothers - their equipment looks exceptional!

paul the pirate (Yar!) said...

They are a top-notch company, no doubt about it. My plans are on hold until I get a license, anyhow. I'm burnt out on being away from my family for so long, and my son has some medical issues that I want to be home to deal with. Plus, the pay is a lot better, and that helps. I have an opportunity to balance things out here whilst I advance my license.
There are 2nd mate jobs out there with AHL, but you'd likely have to work once as a 3rd to get yourself known- it's easier that way, although for convenience' sake, they do sometimes fill 2nd's jobs off the board.

PG said...

good stuff, much of it is greek to me, but it's all good. Laughed hard at the K-Car reference. My first car, you may recall was a K-Car!

paul the pirate (Yar!) said...

Hey, the K car saved Chrysler back then. If they could do it again, they might survive, but the outlook is bleak...

paul the pirate (Yar!) said...

Hey, the K car saved Chrysler back then. If they could do it again, they might survive, but the outlook is bleak...