Last month was damned slow here at HAWSEPIPER’s Afloat Global HQ/ adult day-care center. The weather was crappy, so our usual time-filling activity- maintenance- could only get done on the odd non-rainy/non butt-ass cold days.
Seriously, that’s the slowest I’ve ever seen us operate in 7 years. I know that my own anecdotal experience doesn’t equal data, but I don’t figure that the business model accounted for us to be sitting around for days and days, in New York of all places, waiting for a cargo.
And it wasn’t just us. Speaking to dockmen at the two terminals we visit most often, everyone was very aware that there wasn’t much oil moving. The small terminal that we most like to visit has just one dock, and averages 2 barges a day, and they were going 4-5 days between barges. The insanely busy and ridiculously slow-operating terminal that we hate to visit wasn’t insanely busy. Ironically, they were still slow.
And then suddenly the logjam lifted somewhere upstream. In the past two weeks we’ve been pretty damn busy. It feels hectic, because we just sat on our thumbs for a month.
We’re actually relieved it’s over. When I first started with my current employer, there was 1/3 of the boats and barges that we have today. In Philadelphia, where I was working, we bunkered 3-4 ships a week, and sat around at least 3 days of the week. Being actual working mariners, everything was maintained and freshly painted, always, and there was a certain competition between crews as to whose barge was the best-looking and best-maintained.
Growing pains- these days, 3-4 barges a week is pretty damn slow, it’s all we can do to ensure that everything gets painted at least once every two years, and rust is a thing that we can only address sporadically, trying to keep down the worst of it until the 5-year shipyard period, when everything gets torn down and addressed. We’re a workhorse, you see. Courtesy of Coast Guard regulations and what I assume is a desire for versatility, my company is building Swiss Army Knife equipment (which can do everything, but is awkward and ungainly to use well), last gen tonnage like the HQ is a good reflection of the crew on here- we don’t WANT to pry rocks out of horse hoofs and there’s no wine opener, but damn if we can’t cut rope and meat, which is what a good knife does best.
We’re busy, we’re moving, and while I no longer live aboard the nicest kept vessel in the company, far from it, we’re workmanlike and, if not Bristol Fashion, Shipshape, at least. And it is good, sort of, to be back working busily.