Sunday, September 23, 2012

This is how the world ends: dredge boat sailors

When I was taking the prep class for the FCC's GMDSS (Global Marine Distress and Safety Systems) radio operator license, our drill instructor teacher used to drill in our heads the necessity of using proper radio protocol when speaking over VHF/MF/HF SSB radios. Using naughty language was especially singled out as a one-way ticket to jail forever, according to the instructor, who really had a thing about not using cuss words. Really, asking a sailor not to cuss is a stretch, but most of us do a surprisingly good job on the radio.

 That being said, slips happen, both in person and on the radio. After my first 4-month voyage on a ship, I remember distinctly asking my mother to 'please pass me the fuckin' salt, ma?' Greatly entertaining to the family, and even to my mother, who allowed a little leeway under the circumstances, but who would not hesitate to climb on a milk crate so she could stand up high enough to slap me silly had I done that intentionally.

     So, for the most part, we do OK in making nice on the radio, even in New York harbor. There's a distinct difference in language used by ship's officers and tugboaters, of course, with the latter being a lot more salty, language-wise. The dredge guys, however, are below the bottom-rung. Dredge men are already the Untouchables in the imaginary hierarchy of sailors, which is ironic in that dredge tug operators are among the best boathandlers on earth. However, Jeezus Pleezus they're foul people, from what I can tell over the radio.

       We share a house channel (a company-wide VHF traffic channel) with some dredge operators here in New York. Mostly, our house channel communications are terse and to the point. If someone talks on the radio for more than 30 seconds, someone else is going to make kissing noises or 'shhhhh' sounds. The dredge men carry on long conversations, however, mostly consisting of complaining about the people who are off watch, using foul langauge. As a sailor, I appreciate creative uses of cuss words. I'm something of an artiste in the genre, myself. However, generally, it's viewed as low-class to swear, whine and generally be a little bitch over the radio. No one cares about the problems of a stranger, first off, and it can be a little grating to hear an adult male work up a good tantrum over minutiae. In the meanwhile, however, I can honestly say that while I swear too much at work, I don't do it over the radio. I'd certainly like to hear one of these radio tough guys get beaten like they owe money to a pimp. There's no excuse for broadcasting to the world that you're an impotent dick who can't handle anything more complex than a shovel handle. What's worse, they team up- it's like having to listen to two Yogi Berra's trying to read Proust.
 At any rate, I guess what I'm getting at is that all dredge operators in New York should be required to speak like humans over the radio, like their moms were listening... or surrender their vocal cords at the start of watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good one,

I called a dredge and asked what kind of CPA he needed. He told me "just don't scratch the paint when you go by.