Friday, April 13, 2012

Ankah Da Tankah!

When I was sailing as an AB (Able-Bodied seaman) on the cranky old steamship SS New River, the captain used to goof on my Boston accent all the time. Between me, the Chief mate and Chief engineer (both from downeast Maine), there was plenty of fodder for his work. "Ankah Da Tankah" was one of his favorite phrases while I was up on the bridge at the wheel. Always, when it came time to anchor, that meant that our schedule was going to go to hell. We'd never leave on time, or, 15 minutes after the anchor was down, it would be on its' way up again from a change of plans.

    So, yesterday afternoon, I'm making chili (!) when I get the call that the terminal slated to discharge our latest cargo didn't want it, but another one would take it early- as in right now, get underway. So, we did.
         Someone in an office somewhere decided to play games. The tug that was shoving us got told to drop us and run south for work in the mid-Atlantic, and another tug was going to meet us, so we'd drop anchor, make the switch, and get underway again. This seemed counterintuitive to me, as we were 30 minutes from the dock at this point, and it would take an hour to make the switches and get our horrifically slow anchor windlass to yank the hook. But what do I know.
    Of course, once the anchor is down, the delays make a slow march across the board, which is why I'm typing this after midnight, reheating chili. One more reason to hate Philadelphia- we never, ever anchored in New York.

EDIT- so, about 2 hours later, now. 5 minutes after posting that last entry I got word that our berth was available, and so we heaved anchor- the tug with us did a great job of swinging us into the anchor rode's sweet spot-a place in the water directly downstream and only slightly aft of the anchor itself, so the rode slipped onto the capstan with just a whisper.
As an aside: tugboaters don't use the point system for giving relative bearings- they use the very lubberly 'O'clock' reference. Friggin' shoemakers. 

       To point out an object's bearing, it's all based on your bow being 'dead ahead' but it goes like this:

This is the way of things for a good reason, besides tradition. It accounts for parallax (the error caused by the difference  in vertical and horizontal angle between the eye and the object in question) errors caused by the lookout's vs. the OOW's position, since the o'clock system gives only 30-degree increments, while the maritime relative bearings listed above gives an 11.25 degree increment. One simply has a better idea of what you're looking at.  But I digress. And no, I don't box the compass. 

 Also, while in our modern era things can be wonderfully convenient, handheld radios are not. They're susceptible to interference, static, and getting 'blown out' by the wind. Hearing every other word, which happens all the goddam time, is an issue that must be dealt with- as an example, hearing "bearing (static) points on the port bow" gives you a 45-degree arc to worry about, while hearing "it's at (static) o'clock" gives you exactly jack squat. You just get better info, at the end of the discussion. 

      But I'm certainly not going to try to teach that to another boat's deckhands. Many of them were working this area while I was in grade school.  All I can do is make suggestions, remind them to tie their shoes, eat their veggies, and call them names in a good natured way, hoping to inspire them to be more curious about the weird-ass way I talk sometimes, accent or no. I've got to admit, seeing the blank look in their eyes is fun when I say "look 2 points abaft the port beam." It's the exact same look my nephew had when he was soiling his diaper as a baby. 


Anonymous said...

it's a Philly thing ( it's in the water - don't drink the water .)

HT said...

Time is money in N.Y...get back soon!