Like we say it home "It's the summa!" We've been in the middle of a heat wave here at work- nothing like you'll read about elsewhere, but still, it's hot. And slow!
Running a bunker barge is a service job. I'm not that different from the home heating oil delivery truck. In the summertime, there's still work to be done, but business slows down.
The Port of Philadelphia is a pretty busy place. The majority of the maritime traffic comes from fruit and refrigerated cargo, though, and the summertime sees a sea change in the infrastructure. From what I can tell between observing ship traffic and watching rail traffic wherever I may be, rail traffic perks right up as shipping traffic slows in the summer. This makes sense to me- perishables from the square states to our west are starting to produce. Oh, the cocoa bean trade seems to be humming right along- I don't think there's a busy season for chocolate, and Hershey, PA is only a short train ride from here, so the floating hoopties are still rolling in, looking for the most part like a floating trailer park, and smelling distinctly of feet and ass, which is the signature scent of cocoa beans.
So, with business slowing down, it's a great time for maintenance and beautification. Anyone who knows me from work knows that I have a deep affection for freshly painted steel. I'm a big fan of sitting on a boat or barge that looks good. My view is that since we go to the effort to keep everything working 100% all the time, we might as well look the part.
In the last week we've really sunk some serious cake into this tub. A new generator (Tier II compliant!), some new valves deep in our black oil tanks (along with much cursing and hand gestures to go with the black-oil footprints all over my formerly pristine cargo deck), and new winches on one of my cargo booms. It's unnerving, to me, that we can't start immediately earning mad money to pay for out new goodies, courtesy of the season, but they're there, anyhow.
Next week will see a big change here in the Hawsepiper afloat HQ. I'm getting a new crewman, to replace Scotty Doesn't Know, my last tankerman. ManRay was on here when I first came aboard to familiarize myself with this place last summer. I replaced him as tankerman, briefly, before getting kicked up the ladder, and he transferred to another barge. He's coming back now- I'm not too proud to beg, and he and I became friends before he left last summer, so he agreed to come back. It's been a long time since I worked with anyone but Grumpy, so I'm looking forward to being able to have a conversation.