Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I got gas...

EDIT: at 2:30 this morning, we rigged this boat up and they pushed our butts to the closest anchorage, where I blissfully passed out for 5 hours. There is NOTHING like a good sleep when you're reallyreallyreally tired.

mmm. classy title tonight. We moved off the dock bright and early this morning, and I have been plinking away at a series of checklists necessary to advance into my new job here. Loading cargo has been a bit of a treat, as it's comforting to do something familiar on board. What's cool, to me, is that there isn't a loading computur here hooked up to hundreds of sensors to let me know everything that's going on. What is happening is that this barge gets manually guaged using rules-of-thumb and old-fashioned tankerman skills. I was able to get some practice doing fast rate calculations and load planning, and it's a relief to see that I'm equal to the task. I do miss having the eyes in the sky of a mate on watch in front of a computer a la my regular ship, but here, it's also nice being the man on the scene, in command.

And here's a familiar feeling: I'm a little fatigued. First time since I started. I'm going to sleep like a baby later on when we've finished loading.
Anhow, it looks like we'll be busy for the last week of this hitch. In 7 days, I'll be heading home. We've got a couple of evolutions scheduled between now and then. I'm really looking forward to seeing a tow get built, especially. Eventually I'm going to have to be a pro at that stuff, I suspect.
Here's something for you to look at also. Today's Braziliera, courtesy of my wife's TV coverage of this year's Carnival in Rio. They have a thing for headdresses, apparently.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I've fallen in with good company, certainly. For the past few days I've been living on a fuel barge on a tributary river to the Delaware, basically in the heart of Philly. I've had time to get familiar with policies and procedures for my new employer, and I've got to say, I'm pretty happy here.
The barge I've been living on is designed for two people, and I'm the third man, so it's damn close quarters, but those quarters are nice, as are the guys I've been living with. I'm in a bit of a unique situation; the barge captain and mate have gone to a particular effort to make this place home; good food, very nice amenities, and a comfortable atmosphere. I haven't had to do any cooking, which is making me feel guilty, but I bought the junk food, (don't tell my wife) that keeps us going.

I've got to say here that I don't know much about tugs, except that they require exceptional shiphandling skills to do some of the things that they have to do. Last night I watched some seriously impressive handling. We're currently made up to a dock, and there's a big gap between us and the next barge on the dock. Another tug and barge, with the tug made up on the hip of the barge, shoehorned himself into that gap, with only about 20 feet on either side of the barge, bow and stern. How the hell he got a beamy barge to move perfectly sideways is a bit of a mystery to me.
Anyhow, all is well.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Better and better

Yeah, so... nice day.

As predicted, things are looking up. I met my messmates at the new job, the two guys I'll be working and training with... you want to talk about a tiny living space, though. Shoot. It's small, but it's very nice, and very well laid out. I am living on a manned fuel barge, and sitting in the Delaware river. It's good to be working again.

I know it's been a while, so here's a nice picture to remind you of why it is that I want to move to Brazil. Carnival starts this weekend, so there should be some nice pictures for you soon. Very tasteful.

rant for breakfast

Wow, hard day yesterday.

So, it's not going to be difficult for today to be better than yesterday. The day was what it was. The drive from Boston to Baltimore was memorable for the three traffic jams that cost me about an hour. New York and New Jersey, of course. What can you do?
Anyone else reading this who has to travel down 95 between DE and NY? Mein Gott, the tolls! In the span of 15 minutes, I had to cross three toll booths, at $9.05, $3 and $4 respectively. In 17 miles! Hey, it could be worse! The northbound ride home costs me $15 more in tolls.

Anyhow, my real reason for writing is to ponder the Highway Hotels of America, and their take on breakfast.

You've all been there. Continental breakfasts, comprising cold bagels, untoasted bread, coffee served in dixie cups and such.

Well, the company I'm starting with today went more upscale, and the place I'm in had a full breakfast buffet.
TWO kinds of bagels. Plain, and raisin plain. A toaster was there! Glory! The ubiquitous mini-muffin tray was on hand. Two flavors: yellow, and yellow/brown. I tried the yellow, and it tasted like, well, not so much. All to the good.

The silverwave was funny. Prepackaged plastic 1/2 size knife, fork and spoon. Wasn't a spork, anyhow. Worked out well for me. The tiny fork couldn't hold much, and hey, I'm trying to watch my weight.

There were eggs on hand! Scrambled eggs, swimming in butter-flavored something. Tasty and real, but I had a tiny portion. My heart was seizing up just looking at that stuff.

Anyhow, compared to your average greasy spoon breakfast, it was mighty meh. Not so much. For a Best Western? Damn better than expected, and believe me, my expectations are LOW.

Gastric disturbances aside, today looks to be busy. I'm meeting some office folk here in Baltimore, than it's off to Philly to meet more folks and get on a boat.

Oh, of course, I always forget one thing, every trip, and remember the next day: I forgot my winter coat. Going to be a little chilly for Yers truly.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

again with the packing

So I woke up in a shite mood. My fault. Today is travel day. Late this afternoon I will be driving down to Maryland, some 7-8 hours away. Tomorrow I'll meet my new employers. I am taking another tug and barge job. Everything's in flux. Projects half complete, wife half relieved that I'm going (I get irritable when money gets tight), and The Boy is still under treatment for a variety of maladies. In other words, it's a normal day for most all of you, but for a delicate flower like me, unused to domestic stress, I'm going bonkers. Perhaps a little sea time is exactly what I need.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

It's what's for dinner

I've always said that regardless of the circumstances, there's no job that I consider beneath me.

...turns out, there is one.

So, here at the Pirate family residence, buckles have been tightened. I'm due to go back to work soon, but there's some legal stuff going on that requires my presence here through the Glorious month of February into early March. Good things, so I'm happy there.

Tonight was what the teens would call an 'epic fail' for yours truly.

Here's the skinny: With my presence both required and encouraged on the home front, I attempted to procure a temporary bullshit job for a few weeks so as to stretch the family dollar.
I answered an ad for a driver, as this is something that I can do; when I humped the dog and ruined my hip accidentally back in 2000, I took a job driving a truck whilst I worked the kinks out of my bum wheel. I thought I was answering an ad for a truck driver's job.

Nope, it was an ad for a dinner-delivery job.

OK, I can be the Domino's man, right? Not domino's, though. It was some high-end WASPY restaurants that deliver to the Brahmins of Boston. Ummm...

Digging deep, I attempted to keep an open mind. Then The Jacket made its' appearance.

The Jacket they wanted me to wear was bright orange. Not like Safety Orange, but more like Felony Orange, or Kill-A-Papist-Mick Orange. Seriously, it was that kind of an orange. I was expecting a march and orders to throw rocks at catholic school kids to break out.

I'm sensitive to this stuff. 800 years of ancestral unrest and some first-hand knowledge of families with kids murdered for the crime of being poor, Irish and the wrong religion. So Orange? Not my color. And not their problem, really, but mine. But still, The Jacket was a big X on the board.

Next I met the guy I was to shadow for the evening:

Slappy McDingleberry attempted to be a harsh schoolmarm, but came off as a true-blue hardon. I got lectured and I got the drill-instructor-style introduction to the harsh world of being a delivery boy to snobby Old Money. Slappy really tried to project his personal power, but alas, being the best of the best of the Sub-Sandwich lunch delivery subset just held no allure for yours truly.

Also, the guy, pictured here, you know, the one that always rides Will Farrell's coattails? I've always wanted to push him in front of a train, you know?

Anyhow, I am sitting in Slappy's subcompact, and I suddenly get the urge to Get Gone.

My friends know this one: a few times in my life, I've suddenly just said 'Huh' and walked out of my life, my job or the situation at hand (once it was an otherwise very nice woman's boudoir), without offering any of the usual pleasant banalities. Just walked out.

So, with my truck on the far side of Boston, and rush hour in full swing, I open the door to slappy's subcopact, throw my jacket on the seat, and say "Return this for me, yeah?" and walk out into traffic and onto the sidewalk.

Now, I'm in Boston, and it's time to get a rush-hour cab. Luckily, I look like a fairly well-fed office drone in my outfit, so I get a cab pretty easily.

The cab ride? Oh, the smells I smelled. The driver smelled like a dead goat. The guy smelled like a Bible Story, and not a good one. The windows? Broken. The heat? On. Thank you.

The driver gets lost repeatedly, and I'm trying to direct him back into Brighton, where my truck be, and the guy can't stay on the right fucking road, and I'm getting heated, so now I'm sweating, with the effort of not vomiting and the wondering of just where I can burn these clothes I have on that are now impregnated by this guy's funk. The guy wanders into a McDonalds parking lot in the general direction where I'm pointing. "You see that big truck all alone in front of the Staples? Go there. No, not Fucking McDonalds! Staples! "

So we go to the McDonalds parking lot, and the guy goes down the drive thru THE WRONG WAY. Cars beeping, total gridlock, and the guy won't go in reverse. He goes up the bank, and the cab is now driving on two wheels, with the other two up in a snowbank, and the whole smelly vehicle at a 30-degree angle. We survive.

The cab comes to halt, and the guy wants almost 30 bucks. I say, very politely, that he turned a 5 mile ride into a 45-minute, 10 mile ride, and he's getting 20 bucks.

I get into my truck 20 dollars the poorer, and I've lost half a night.

Amazingly, I am no longer worried about living off of our savings. It could be worse. I could have stayed.

Friday, February 6, 2009

table manners

Couple of observations:

1) My table manners are awful, and I blame shipboard life. I scarf, and then I relax. Eating like a civilized human now requires concentration; shame on me.

2) While I was in the very nice and absolutely semi-formal dinners at my union HQ/training school, I noticed a perfect litmus test that allowed me to pick out all of the working mariners vs. the continuity captains and bench warmers at dinner: look at how a sailor sits as he eats dinner. The dust-gatherers and can't do-ers sit at ease. Junior officers and active sailors who have recently served on ships or served relatively recently on ships with a somewhat lively motion sit in an entirely different manner: one foot under the seat, as is proper, and the other cocked out to one side, on the outside of the chair legs, braced against the deck, and placing tension on the legs, just waiting for the inevitable roll. It's all very unconsciously done, and when I pointed it out, I got some nods and acknowledgments, as well as a few adjusted seats.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Good to be home. Running errands, being with the fam... I'll get back to you when something happens.