Friday, April 30, 2010

The rare and elusive early day...

5 days left of vacation, and I'm finally getting caught up with my workload and responsibilities.
Very, very important meeting happening later today. My boy is going to break in his very first baseball glove.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

All is well. I'm not posting much because I'm at home with family, and my dad has had 3 heart surgeries in one week. The final one was today, and he did very well. It helps that his surgeon and electro-physiologist who oversaw his care both invented and performed the very first of these same procedures. One nice thing about living in the Boston area is that we have the highest concentration of medical centers in the world, and the best medical school in the world, along with the teaching staff, is within walking distance.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

the immigration debate

OK, I'm going to get up on my soapbox later on, some time. In the meanwhile, my conservative, tends-to-vote Republican-but-not-always self is going to collect my immigrant wife and go visit my descended-from-immigrants-family and think about what this all means.

Oh, and a little momento, not from Arizona, but right here from the City Of Boston...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Big props to 'Davy Jones' for correctly guessing the steaming engine in the last post was a steam winch, specifically the one mounted here. I dealt with this gracious lady for my first few voyages. Note the mooring lines laid out, implying either fair weather and a short voyage, or, more likely, the prospect of a docking the next 24 hours or so...

I love the jewel-blue color of open water in the Gulf of Mexico. I miss it, too.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In which our hero ponders the infinite...

Gary Busey once said "Preparing for the inevitable helps prepare for the evitable."

I love Gary Busey. I'm glad that there is 3,000 miles between us; mention his name, and, of the people who know of him, you will see a large percentage just start giggline, waiting for what you'll say next.

It's that kind of day. I've been able to stand down, do paperwork, and bake some eye-talian bread in the meanwhile. There is nothing better aboard a floating oil can than being able to be caught up with the distractions and the paper tornado that tends to pile up when cargo orders finally stop piling up.

By far the most pleasant surprise these past four weeks has been the impromptu stand-down time that we've had these past few days. After setting a record for the busiest tour in living memory during the first half of this voyage, we proceed into a doldrum, a time where I think our regular clientele, the cargo liners and bulkers on voyage charter, are all mid-voyage, and the next job for us has loomed just over the horizon, always at least 24 hours away.
Now, on day 3 here at the dock, we're making ready for our next cargo: a double load that will test a little bit of my mad phat math skills. If the next two grades of heavy fuel oil are the same as the last products we've received from these two refiners, I'll be able to stuff my barge full of oil and diesel, loaded to her marks and with the tanks at about 94% full, spreading millions of dollars worth of joy and sulfur fumes to all the good people for the next few days. After that, there's only enough time for one more job, maybe, before it's time for yours truly to head for home.
In the meanwhile, I have to do an evaluation for an up-and-coming trainee who wants to join us here on the floating asylum that I call my workplace. Should be interesting. High up on the laundry list of reasons why I'm going to miss my current tankerman, Scotty Doesn't Know, is my bigoted ageism... the fact that we're both in our mid 30's, and neither of us wants to lose everything and end up in jail if there's a spill, all for the sake of saving 30 seconds on deck and not lashing a valve, or placing a hand on a pipe to see if it's warming as cargo flows.

Wow, I'm getting old, I guess. I was just about to write "These young kids today..."

But these young kids today, they don't realize that one cut corner can make the difference between a job that is done safely, or, even when an act of God occurs, turn a shameful oil spill into a felonious shameful oil spill. Unfortunately, it's hard to believe that I'm not exaggerating when I say that the punishment for being responsible for an oil spill can be more harsh that that of mowing down a pedestrian while driving drunk.
I was 8-feet-12 and bulletproof, too, when I was 25. I'm just not 25 anymore.
Ugh, I'm just feeling sorry for myself. Visions of lying sleepless in my bunk, listening for the succession of whirrs, thumps and whines that sound like oil moving safely. Until I know that I can sleep soundly, when my new mate will be able to stand a safe watch and we've established trust and proof of competency on his part, restful sleep will be fleeting.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

pictures from the hard drive.

Can anyone tell me what this is? It's found on the deck of old ships, and is very important at the start and end of a voyage...

Photo taken with a disposable (non-flash) camera using chemical film to comply
with safety practices aboard.
You might not guess it, but it was about 15 degrees and windy that day. I was freezing my nuts off. That's a bumblebee in my hand. I was buzzing rust and rotten steel off of the frames that support cargo pipelines. The scary thing is that I can name every pipe, valve and bracket in this picture.

I am overweight, but this picture shows me with a Homer Simpson body. I think most of that is the sweatshirts under my boilersuit. Mostly.

Lightering. We were transferring about 150,000 barrels of cargo into the barge 'Massachusetts' in NY harbor. Again, I can name every valve, piece of piping and protrusion on both vessels... because I worked on both of them.

The Tug 'Paul T. Moran' is massive and powerful. I rode her from NY to the Bahamas, then round FL to the Gulf of Mexico, and up the Mississippi river. Awesome voyage, great people.

Some days it's just better to stay inside.
(Photo courtesy of the World Wide Web. I am not badass enough to be in THAT)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

it's all relative

So, when talking to Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife tonight, she tells me that it's 'muito cold' back home. She tells me that she needs to get her winter coat back out.
I looked at the weather. During the day it was t-shirt weather for me. My wife has a jacket and scarf on.
This makes me concerned in that we talk sometimes about relocating to her hometown in Brazil, where, in theory, I could commute up north for work when it's time to go to sea. My wife tells me, however, that she finds December 'very hot.' at home, but otherwise the weather is lovely.

Now, for a woman who finds 50+ degrees to be cold, I'm afraid to ask what too hot means. But I do, and she tells me that anything over 40 centigrade (about 103, I think) is hot. Under 103 is apparently pleasant. 42, 43 degrees is too hot. I'm pretty sure that 44 degrees is where my pasty ass of Irish genetic decent would burst into flames. I'd melt. I'd look like the Pillsbury doughboy egg timer that I put in a frying pan when I was a kid . (You know, my parents were very accepting of my early 'scientific experiments' providing that I not fill the house with noxious black smoke)
Yeah. It gets over 90 and I start picking fights. Maybe relocating isn't for me.

now hear this!

The government of Iran has been making an all-out effort to reflag and change identities of ships controlled by the state shipping arm,IRISA (Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines). As you should know, US sanctions have caused Iran's shipping lines to be blacklisted and US assets of IRISL have been frozen. IRISL was targeted for special US sanctions because their vessels were used in the trafficking of arms and possible nuclear material. The following is a list as of March 17th of the ships and their new identities

New name Name when sanctioned Present owner Present ship manager Present flag IMO number
Abba Iran Matin IRISL IRISL Iran 9051624
Accurate Drifter Sackville Holdings Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320169
Acena Iran Kermanshah Acena Shipping Co. Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Cyprus 9213399
Acrobat Devotional Partner Century Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309684
Admiral Dais New Synergy Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309696
Adrian Delight Sandford Group Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320133
Adventist Iran Madani Kingdom New Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309622
Aerolite Delegate Logistic Smart Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320121
Afflatus Developer Ideal Success Investments Ltd. IRISL Hong Kong 8309660
Agean Dynamize Insight World Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309634
Agile Decorous Concept Giant Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309658
Ajax Iran Ghazi Sino Access Holding Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309672
Alameda Iran Dolphin Advance Novel Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320195
Alias Devotee Alpha Effort Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309608
Amitees Iran Jomhuri IRISL IRISL Iran 7632826
Amplify Diplomat Smart Day Holdings Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309701
Angel Dapper Neuman Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309646
Anil Dandy Trade Treasure Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320157
Anoush Iran Azadi n/a n/a Iran 7632838
Apollo Iran Navab System Wise Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320145
Aquarian Dignified Great Method Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309610
Assa Iran Entekhab IRISL IRISL Iran 7632814
Atlantic Dreamland New Desire Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320183
Atrium Iran Hamzeh True Honour Holdings Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8320171
Attribute Diamond Best Precise Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Hong Kong 8309593
Bai Handelas Mir Damad Bai Handelas Ltd. Transatlantik Denizcilik Ltd. Malta 9148491
Bai Lal Mir Emad Bai Lal Ltd. Transatlantik Denizcilik Ltd. Malta 9148518
Barsam Iran Shariat IRISL IRISL Iran 8107581
Bluebell Iran Gilan Gomshall Shipping Co. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9193202
Chastity Shaafi Ifold Shipping Company Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9386500
Chimes Vaafi Jackman Shipping Company Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9387786
Daffodil Eleventh Ocean Eleventh Ocean GmbH & Co. Martime Germany 9209324
Dandelion New State Logistic Smart Ltd. Hafiz Darya Shipping Co. Malta 9209336
Dandle Twelfth Ocean Twelfth Ocean GmbH & Co. IRISL Germany 9209348
Danoosh Iran Bagheri n/a n/a n/a 7428811
Decker Fifth Ocean Fifth Ocean GmbH & Co. Hafiz Darya Shipping Co. Malta 9349667
Decretive Sixth Ocean Sixth Ocean GmbH and Co. Hafiz Darya Shipping Co. Malta 9349679
Despina Iran Kolahdooz IRISL IRISL Iran 7428809
Dinna Iran Broojerdi IRISL IRISL Iran 7502722
Gabion Seventh Ocean Seventh Ocean GmbH and Co. IRISL Germany 9165786
Galax Ninth Ocean Ninth Ocean GMBH IRISL Germany 9165798
Garland Lucky Man Kingdom New Ltd. IRISL Malta 9165839
Gladiolus Tenth Ocean Tenth Ocean GmbH & Co. IRISL Germany 9165815
Goldenrod Lucky Lily Insight World Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9165827
Gomidas Iran Esteghlal IRISL IRISL Iran 7620550
Hootan Iran Sepah IRISL IRISL Iran 7375363
Horsham Iran Bam Horsham Shipping Co. Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9323833
Kijea Iran Baghaei IRISL IRISL Iran 7502734
Lancelin Iran Yazd Lancelin Shipping Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Cyprus 9213387
Lantana Ocean Candle Neuman Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9167253
Lavender Pretty Sea New Desire Limited Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9167277
Lilied Sea State Sackville Holdings Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9167265
Limnetic Sea Flower Partner Century Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9167289
Lodestar Sea Bloom Irisl Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9167291
Margrave Iran Brave Best Precise Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9051650
Marigold Brightness Concept Giant Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9051648
Markarid Iran Deyanat IRISL IRISL Iran 8107579
Mulberry Brilliance IRISL IRISL Malta 9051636
Pantea Iran Adl IRISL IRISL Iran 8108559
Parmida Iran Afzal IRISL IRISL Iran 8105284
Sadaf Poshtiban Iran Hormuz 26 Darya Fan Qeshm Industries Co. Darya Fan Qeshm Industries Co. Iran 8422084
Sakas Iran Piroozi Ashtead Shipping Co. Ltd. IRISL Iran 9283007
Sepanta Iran Ardebil Farnham Shipping Co. Ltd. IRISL Iran 9284154
Sepitam Iran Ilam Effingham Shipping Co. Ltd. IRISL Iran 9283033
Sewak Iran Fars Cobham Shipping Co. IRISL Iran 9283021
Shere Iran Tabas Shere Shipping Co. Ltd. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9305192
Silver Craft Iran Kerman Kerman Shipping Co. Ltd. Hafiz Darya Shipping Co. Malta 9209350
Silver Zone Iran Bushehr Bushehr Shipping Co. Ltd. Hafiz Darya Shipping Co. Malta 9270658
Simber Iran Yasooj Dorking Shipping Co. Ltd. IRISL Iran 9284142
Tabak Iran Amanat IRISL IRISL Iran 8112990
Tongham Iran Birjand Tongham Shipping Company Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9305219
Tuchal Iran Tuchal Fifteenth Ocean GmbH & Co. IRISL Malta 9346536
Uppercourt Iran Bojnoord Uppercourt Shipping Co. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9305207
Visea Iran Zanjan Byfleet Shipping Co. Ltd. IRISL Iran 9283019
Vobster Persian Gulf Vobster Shipping Co. Soroush Sarzamin Asatir SSA Malta 9305221
Zaven Iran Takhti n/a IRISL Iran 7602194
Zawa Iran Azarbayjan IRISL IRISL Iran 9193185
Zoorik Iran Teyfouri n/a n/a n/a 7602211

Thanks to for reposting the compiled data above.

This list is now a month old. The US Treasury, which is in charge of seizing and accounting for the blocking of trade with companies listed as not being allowed to trade in the US, has neither made any public statement or notification on changes to the status of IRISL assets. Talk about asleep at the switch! In the meanwhile, IRISL may happily trade with US entities despite the presence of trade sanctions under the embargo.


Now, what the fuck is the President doing down there in Washington? I know that Iran gets about 45 seconds' worth of attention each week, but considering the slow march towards Iran becoming a nuclear power, I've got to say that any attempt at claiming that the Obama administration is even vaguely interesting in truly restraining Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal is now completely ludicrous. This isn't a new development. Iran has been reflagging its ships used in the transfer of weapons since 2008, shortly after IRISL's assets were frozen in the US. Since then, IRISL has been trading with impunity. Wonder where Iran and North Korea keeps getting those nifty Centrifuges?


So, one week from today, when I get to go home (long may the seven mad gods of the sea live, long may they shit light on the heads of the damned), my number two guy, Scotty Doesn't Know, will be transferring to the Clean Oil group, there to languish dockside in his spacious new barge most of the time, with everything but 72 virgins bestowed upon him. Scotty is leaving the dread Black Oil Group to go back to a more humane 14 day on/14 day off rotation. This makes him the smarter of the two of us.

In the meanwhile, I will be home for 14 glorious days, before returning to my place as the beggar king of the bunkering squad. I say glorious mostly because my bed is easier on my now somewhat tender back.

In the meanwhile, three things of note have happened in the past few hours.
1) We've got orders for cargo to be loaded this afternoon prior to a 4am discharge. This is exciting and nerve-wracking for me mostly because this will be my first cargo load post-injury, and as my back already kind of feels like ass already, I'm a little nervous. I'm thinking that the ass-like feeling comes from the yoga poses I had to do last night as part of a strengthening regime that I've had foisted upon me. I can only imagine what a passing tugboat would say if they saw me doing Dead Bug and The Warrior on my back deck. Probably call my company and request I be tested for meth.
2) I made scones. First time. they came out well, but mildly bland. It's too warm today for tea, and what are scones without tea?

3) Visitors. I've had a steady stream of well-wishers from the office staff of my employer. Kind of nice. As I've mentioned, I feel asinine for having allowed myself to be hurt, but there it is. Everyone else seems OK with how things worked out.

Monday, April 12, 2010

what really happened...

So, as I mentioned the other day, I had an unscheduled vacation.

It seems that I managed to pull a muscle in my back. This is neither important nor exceptional for the most part. What happened is that it occurred during an exceptionally busy time, and with a VERY busy schedule. I worked a long and hard day on deck, and there was some frustration- a Russian ship with an untrained, stupid (or belligerent) and lazy crew... making extra work for me, as well as a narrow window of opportunity to get a berth at the oil loading dock we needed to... anyhow, end result is that I started my day with a moderate backache, had no anti-inflammatory drugs aboard, and, 12 hours later I could barely walk.
I discovered my employer's system for dealing with such things, and I'll say this: it was impressive and fast-acting.
Now, mistake #1 on my part. Being hurt near the port of Camden NJ. Sitting in a world-class trauma center with a very sore back is misery, and it's also an invitation to sit and wait. A menagerie of misery bypassed me at triage- gunshots, overdoses and knife wounds and such. Every time the doc or a nurse stopped by my bed, another damn bloody mess showed up and made the doc go away. I wanted to complain, loudly, but considering that I had no holes, tears or psychotic hallucinations, I had to wait my turn.
Anyhow, I was eventually treated, and released, and sent to recover ashore at a well-situated motel. And by well-situated, I mean with a diner on one side and a Denny's on the other.
Now, fast forward three days. My back feels better, but I probably ate my way into a triple bypass, at least in comparison to the somewhat stark vittles I have been eating of late.
I am heartily impressed by the system that my employer has in place for treating sick crewmen. That being said, I felt like a total dong in being part of a safety incident.


Also, everyone say hi to Halley. She's pretty much my polar opposite. Wicked smart, feminist, cute, and rapaciously liberal. All things I am not. She's also going to yell at me, I'm sure, for taking part in some sort of gender-based stereotyping because I said she was cute in my introduction. But it's true. She is. If she was unattractive, I probably wouldn't mention it, but that's because I'm polite, but since I'm also a caveman, I speak my mind. This is my house (thumping hairy chest vigorously).

Saturday, April 10, 2010

It's all fun and games (2)...

...until someone pulls a muscle in their lower back and pinches a nerve 'cus of the swelling. I'll get back to this when I'm not doped to the gills.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

be careful what you wish for...

so, a few days ago, I was all orgasmic over getting some anchor time, a little time to breathe, restock stores and not be running around like a one-armed paperhanger. We had a job delayed after loading hot fuel oil into our unheated tanks... and then the delay was extended slightly... and then more... in the end, it's been 3 1/2 days since we loaded that cargo, and the hot oil has cooled and congealed.
With the extra anchor time, I was inspired to work out a little harder, and having pulled something in my lower back the other night, it turns out repeatedly bench pressing to failure probably isn't the way to care for a sore lower back. As a non-regular weight lifter you'd think I would grab onto an opportunity not to move heavy weight up and down, but no, dumbass that I am, I am now hobbling away up and down my deck as we slowly dribble tepid black oil into a rotten old reefer ship. In fact,a passing tugboat with a friend at the wheel was inspired to ask me if I 'hurt my back or shit myself,' based on my crabwalk. I suppose that my stuttering walk could be mistaken for the walk of shame, the walk of the man with, ah, buttered bread, so to speak.
Anyhow, the sad news is that my mate, Scotty Texas, is moving on at the end of this voyage, in two more weeks. I'm getting a new mate, a man who apparently is a dead ringer for the late Bob Marley. Should be interesting.
Anyhow, I'd give my left testicle at this point for a couple of Alleve. The tylenol isn't cutting into my backache at all, and, frankly, I need to save my liver for when I get home.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book review: SEIZED, by Capt. Max Hardberger

When I was asked to write a review for Max Hardberger’s Memoir, “Seized: A Sea Captain’s Adventures,” I was both excited and flattered to be picked to receive an advance copy. In retrospect, based on what little I know about marketing, I believe that I was a clever choice. Ships’ libraries are in decline, but the lending and passing of good reading material while at sea is still widely practiced. Rarely have I ended a voyage with the same books I started with, and, among the mariners I call my friends, Capt. Hardberger’s works have been universally well-received.

If you’ve read Hardberger’s books “Freighter Captain” or ‘Deadweight: Owning The Ocean Freighter,” you know that Captain Hardberger doesn’t easily back down in the face of opposition. A writer-turned-mariner, Capt. Hardberger is a man who has built his career in the labyrinthine and often startlingly corrupt world of merchant shipping. In “Seized,” fans and new readers finally get an inside look at Hardberger’s eyebrow-raising and sometimes exceedingly dangerous business as a professional ship extractor, a sort of re-repo man who returns illegally-seized ships to their owners under cover of darkness, from ugly, lawless places in the developing world.

Hardberger’s early books hinted at his well-developed sense or right and wrong coupled with a propensity for retrieving stolen property, even when the thief was, say, the trigger-happy government of a Caribbean nation. An expert on shipping matters (the author is also a shipping agent, maritime lawyer and port developer for hire), especially in places like Haiti and other ungoverned busy ports where rule of law either exists only in theory or not at all, a lifetime of experience in international trade has allowed Hardberger to carve out a niche as a ‘fixer’, a man with the personal network to get things done.

The first time I ever stole a ship out of port was on the sturdy old bulk carrier Naruda, lying at anchor in Cap Haitien Bay, Haiti, at the end of 1987. (Click here to read an extended excerpt from Chapter 1)

”Seized” is written matter-of-factly, in a manner which non-mariners can easily understand, but the author also introduces the language of merchant seamen, so that by the middle of the book, even the most lubberly of readers can hear and understand the Caribbean patois and salty language used by mariners the world over. In the process, even master mariners learn just how frequent and extensive corruption, bribery and illegal actions exist as part and parcel of the regular course of merchant shipping. It’s a dirty world out there, and Capt. Hardberger tells it like it is, from his own experiences as a ships’ captain, but also as a man who must use the tools at hand to get the job done. Whether it’s hiring hookers to distract security guards, or hiring out an entire brothel to create an impromptu block party to cover up the noise of starting up and sailing a ship out of port without anyone noticing, or dealing with port officials that must be bribed in a bidding war with other parties simply to load or unload cargo, or befriending a witch doctor and underwriting the costs of a voodoo ceremony to keep port officials away from the one place they can make phone calls, Max displays the mental agility that keeps him in business in places where prison or a back-alley execution are only a phone call away.

The events described in ‘Seized’ focus quite frequently on the people who make up Hardberger’s extensive network of personal contacts in the shipping trade. His warm descriptions of the friends and associates involved in these affairs only allude to the depth of friendships and alliances- the loss at sea of a friend whose career was jumpstarted by Capt. Max is only mentioned briefly, but the terrible personal impact of the loss is not lost to the reader; Hardberger’s understated style of writing is part of what makes this book a gem. And no surprise, perhaps; coming late to the maritime world as a career, his experiences as a crop duster and high school English teacher are mentioned only briefly. The story of how a geeky kid from the Bayou ends up in grad school in Iowa, then in the middle of Guatemala during a revolution could be another book in itself- this book is about living and working in the dirty corners of the world where maritime business is mostly conducted, and how Hardberger has managed to free up ships illegally seized in foreign ports where possession is the only rule of ownership.

“Seized” contains episodic stories from the author’s long career, and these stories span the globe, taking place mostly in the places where fortunes can still be made and lost by those looking for fast money- the developing world, the Eastern Bloc, and the chopshops where stolen ships are given new identities, or where shipowners with troubled histories or high debts can sell their ships back to themselves miraculously free of encumbrance.

The stories told in this book are too crazy to be anything but true- The memoirs of Hardberger’s early maritime career, (when restoring stolen ships to their owners was a hobby rather than a career) seem to display the basis for Capt. Max’s philosophy of working a dozen projects at any one time, but focusing on just the job at hand. Although “Seized” is billed as Max Hardberger’s memoirs, the ending hasn’t been written yet.

If you're like me and don't want to drive around an unfamiliar seaport, you can order the book from right here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


If our level of activity is any indication, foreign trade is picking up in the Northeast. We've been running nonstop for the past 10 days, loading oil and bunkering thirsty ships of all types along the Delaware river. It's been a real zoo. Luckily for yours truly, tonight's job was delayed for 18-24 hours- not really long enough to go start another job, so we're anchored just a stone's throw from our customer's ship, waiting for them to finish discharging their cargo before we load. I'm not sure what they're working on, but I suspect they're doing heavy lifts and don't want to recalculate stability and trim figures to account for the fuel in their tanks... such things being necessary when unloading ridiculously heavy items like train locomotives or refinery cracking towers and such.

Anyhow, I woke up tonight at 7pm to the pleasant surprise of a quiet night at anchor. And it's a beautiful night. Cool and calm, one of those nights when lights reflecting off the water reflect like beams of light, where the cityscape is reflected in a mirror image writ large on the surface. Nice.

I got to go for a walk, which was nice- usually I do little loops in a circuit around the deck edge while we're working, here and there throughout the day. I actually got to walk uninterrupted for an hour. Our weight bench on board only has 150lbs of weights available, which is a light load for me (not that I lift weights regularly, though I should), so I alternate every 1/4 mile walk around deck (2 loops) with 20 quick bench presses, going for speed rather than heavy lifts... this is something that I should be doing every night, trying to get my heart rate up and work the bugs out of my shoulders, but I don't like the regular muscle soreness that comes with bench pressing, because every now and again when I actually need to use 100% of my strength, I want to have it available...

Two people in my life, both men, both overweight, and both my age, have been rushed to the hospital with chest pains in the past month. Both were suffering anxiety attacks at the time. I'm doing the math. I have a very strong Type A personality, internalize everything, and am carrying around 60 extra pounds. Bad cardiac family history, too. I'm waking up. Controlling my diet has been the first step. Now that I'm eating a little healthier, it's time I tried to do the things necessary to live to see retirement. Unlike my friends, I can't take anti-anxiety medication and do my job. I'm pretty sure that no one wants a dude who's baked on Mother's Little Helpers to be responsible for a floating oil can... and I hear that exercise is the best treatment for anxiety. So be it.

Friday, April 2, 2010

hey, it ain't just me!

So, while I was home last time, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a beer with a good friend and his dad. This particular father is a professional mariner himself, and, point of fact, a higher-up in a ship-repair company.
He hadn't read my article on the forum on bunkering access and ship design.

In a twist of irony, for unrelated reasons we started discussing one of the ships that inspired me to write that article.
This ship had her bunkering point above the bow flare of the ship, where it was right awkward to secure another vessel.

(Correction: The former photo here depicted another class of vessel)

You hate me. Why do you hate me?

As it happened, this same ship, when she was going in for one of her first drydockings, presented a similar conundrum for the shipyard. Pumping off bunkers when the pumping station is 800 feet away from the damn pump connection requires some innovation, and, I'd imagine, a whole lot of hose.
The funny thing is that our conversation started out in a discussion on the fate of the Quincy, MA-Built ships. All of us there, me, my friend, and his dad, all grew up in the shadow of the Quincy shipyard.
Funny how small the maritime community is. Admittedly, it was nice to talk shop while I was at home, too.

In the case of the above ship, neither of us could come up with a reason for putting the bunker connection where they did. The ship itself is purposebuilt, and rather remarkable in capability- from the Federation of American Scientists webpage:

The MPS are organized into three squadrons, each commanded by a Navy captain. MPS Squadron One, usually located in the Atlantic Ocean or Mediterranean Sea, has four ships; MPS Squadron Two, usually located at Diego Garcia, has five ships; and MPS Squadron Three, normally in the Guam/Saipan area, has four ships.

Each MPS squadron carries sufficient equipment and supplies to sustain 17,000 Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force personnel for up to 30 days.

I'm going to assume that the US Navy had a reason for putting the bunker station where they did. But it's still an assumption. It's still very possible that the location of the bunkering station was added as an afterthought, as seems to be the general practice in shipbuilding.