Tuesday, November 18, 2014

mariner's post: as ye reap...

We bitched, loudly, but mostly just to each other when we were ordered to only use the 'white lines,' new heavy rope. It's very absorbent and far heavier in terms of density than the polypropylene blend rope that used to be the standard. Over the last few years, before making the switch, we migrated to heavier lines, more strands (from three to eight), and then, eventually, to what we've got right now, sitting like frozen 2-ton sacks of shit on deck. This past year, polypro was banned, and we made the switch to heavier, larger, heavier stuff, which certainly gave me a sore back on a fair regular basis, and, arguably, could have set the stage for some injuries as a result. Unfortunately, in the tankering business, the folks hired by oil companies to vet us call the shots, and practicality vs. looks-good-on-paper isn't always the same thing. The new lines have more stretch, which presumably would cut down on lines parting, which they will do at times. This causes scary near-misses, and, although I've never seen it, can cause traumatic injury if someone's in the way. This seems to be rare, as we get scared shitless by parting lines  a couple of times a year.

 On the other hand, I've seen plenty of guys hurt their backs, humping rope. 

 Mariners are like seagulls: we eat, shit and squawk. Sometimes, though, it's good to know the squawking attracts attention, even if belatedly so.

 Well, recently we were able to make the switch back to a lighter, less absorbent synthetic mooring line. There has been much rejoicing.

 You see, we move HAWSEPIPER's AFLOAT GLOBAL HQ/ Pleasure Gardens constantly move- our mileau is small volume, multiple-product bunker work, which means we may moor, unmoor and remoor multiple times a day. Not being a massive ship with an entrenched local pilot, and multiple tugboats, we never have any assistance when docking at a terminal, which means that we have to physically THROW lines around bitts to a dock. And everybody but the tug captains take part in it. Hell, even the tug engineers sometimes come aboard to help moor. Very different from large ships, where the deck officer's massive case of t-rex arms precludes operating anything heavier than a walkie-talkie. And with the tugs calling the shots from hundreds of feet away, it can get pretty stressful for the ropes as we lever the unit into position, hence the gradual shift to using only slightly smaller mooring lines that we used on my old ship the 'New River' which was 100x heavier than the ol' HQ.

 At any rate, the insanely heavy, absorbent, back-straining lines we have are now frozen solid 'cus it's so dang cold out. Pretty much useless. Yesterday it poured rain all day, soaking the lines, and they didn't have time to dry out before the freeze set in.

 Yeah, losing all the weight this year means that I feel the cold more than I did last year, too. Not cool. On the upside, I can do some jumping jacks to warm up now, where last winter I'd have blown a knee out trying.

 No bullshit, this heavy white line, whatever it is,  is amazing stuff. The modulus of this shit is better than steel or spider silk when frozen. I lifted a 15-foot section that had frozen in a straight line, and it held its shape. A Wallenda could have walked across it without tying off both ends. Problem is, you've got to bend that shit around bitts and bollards, and the eye splice at the end needs to, you know, be eye-shaped.

 Not much fun out there, guys and gals. Our two new 16-strand lightweight synthetic lines are now revered aboard with the same fervor normally reserved for icons of the Virgin Mary in a Mexican household. You see, they freeze, but they're not water absorbent, so they still bend and can be thrown. I fully expect candles to be laid out around the stowed coils at some point.

 Oh, don't be offended. I'm Catholic, too. We can withstand a little light humor about how we roll.


Jill said...

I'm glad to hear you got some good lines. Do you really think it was the result of your 'squacking'?
If so, that's a good thing. It's nice to hear SOMEBODY might listen sometimes. ;-)

The Big Guy said...

Sadly, decisions like that are usually made by someone who has never had to do the job for a shift or a season.
A popular adage around our sites:
"Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself."

Be safe...