Friday, April 29, 2016

More great luck

This was 1987. The old timer is on deck, and me in blue, and my old roomate Johnny Sparks were up on the bow. This was a few years before he sold the ALGIN II, before she was revamped, modernized and renamed into the ISHMAEL

   You can see more of her here from yesterday's post.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Great luck

      This was a reminder of one of those good but tough to truly explain life lessons that my son and I have talked about: finding your passion, and deciding what to do with it.

        For me, it came when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. My friend's father bought a new boat to go lobstering. A semi-retired businessman, lobstering was something he loved to do, but he had his businesses to run (gas stations, an auto body shop and he sold tow trucks, too). I knew the moment I first saw the boat that I wanted to work on the water. In the 33 years that have followed, I've been a commercial fisherman, a marine scientist, and a merchant mariner, but catching lobster was the best job I ever had. It just didn't pay well, and having come of age after my dad (another life-long professional mariner) was already disabled, I have a deep fear of having to struggle financially, so I try not to.

    My son is very creative; I am not. He can draw, paint, cook, and is raring to try sculpting. He also enjoys puzzles, and, at age 13, is already part way through high school math. He and I have been talking a lot about figuring out what he wants in life, and balancing desires and practicality (and when not to!). He's got a good headpiece. While he enjoys outdoor sports like shooting and fishing, he's not passionate about it like I was- and that's very good, in my opinion- he's his own man already in that regard. I'm very proud of him. I hope he'll pursue a career to capitalize on his ability with math and logic puzzles, but I hope more that he'll have a good balanced life and be happy.

   So, what brings on this sort of deep thinking at 7am on a Thursday? A no-longer-young man who I once worked with put up some pictures of his boat on Facebook.

 I remember Mike's very first day on the lobsterboat. He was 13, I believe (EDIT: he was 17, and too many years have passed- I should have remembered that he went full time just a year or so later after graduation), and he loved it, and was already a good junior sternman (the crewman on a lobsterboat) by the end of his first day. I think that was  16-18 years ago.

 Let me backtrack. When I was 16, I had already been working on the ALGIN II, my neighbor's boat, for 8 years, I believe. The old timer had his youngest son, who I was friends with,  late in life- he was in his late 50's I believe. At any rate, he was in his 70's when he finally gave up fishing. The last few years, we just went out twice a week for a few hours. He was well-to-do. Without much time or money from not fishing too often, I ended up also working for one of the teachers at my high school, who had a smaller boat, but worked more intensely, and after school and on Saturdays, we fished. I never could love his boat, though. Small and narrow beamed, I was intensely seasick when a wind got up, like it does 5 days a week in the fall in Boston, and the captain enjoyed explaining in great details to his classes, which contained some of my friends from school, just how I barfed over the side all day, and half the time the wind eddied and blew it back all over me.
 I hated that fucking boat, truth be told.

 At any rate, the old timer sold his boat to my teacher, who I called Mr. D, or just D. He modernized the boat, changed the rigging around a bit, and added GPS and a color sounder, which was new to me at the time.  And, being an English teacher, he renamed the boat ISHMAEL.

       I fished with D through high school and most of college. Mike joined us at that time. He fished alone with D when I was traveling or working elsewhere. I cried like  a bitch on my last day fishing, the day before I left for grad school. Embarrassed myself at the time, but now, no. I truly loved that boat, enjoyed most every minute with the people I worked with, and the job I was doing, for that matter, and I was leaving it behind, I thought, forever.

 I made it about 3 weeks before I was fishing again, 2 boats down on the MARTHA E for Chuck Z, another townie. Just one day a week, but I was driving 2 hours each way to go. Couldn't give it up. Eventually, I realized that being a scientist or lobbyist just didn't tickle my pickle, and I went mostly full time back to fishing, staying with Chuck for a year, giving it up to design and build a tilapia farm for a few months, and ending up on the RITA C and with the Notorious B.O.B, for 6 more years, fishing April-Jan, and sailing on a tanker in the winter.

 The other day, Mike, who is in his 30's and is captain of his own boat, (being a small world, his boat was built by the Notorious B.O.B.'s older brother), plus still working with D, who is still the captain of the ISHMAEL, and now the same age as the old timer was when he swallowed the anchor and gave up fishing. But D's still going. Man's a machine- missing organs, had more bypasses than Tom Brady has Super Bowl rings, and he's still getting up and out at a job that is the most physically demanding form of labor I've ever experienced.

   The ISHMAEL is now 33 years old, and looks better than ever. She's small, with a hard chine (makes for a bumpier but more stable ride), and a very deep keel for her length, and built heavy. She could be good for another 33 years. How the hell did I get this old so fast?

Launch day

Springtime- setting the first 60 pots for the new season.

They'll repeat this 12 or 13 more times before a full load of gear is in the water. Up to 800 pots and 15-20 miles of rope. 

Like a Timex.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

On Limits

I'm running up against an intellectual wall here.

          Across the board, I'm starting to hit my limit on being able to intelligently comment on issues of economics, current events, and even subjects that are more esoteric but closer to my heart, stuff I don't share here for professional reasons. I'm not talking about my work on the water, but things I am sometimes paid for or politely asked to look over and discuss, in the VERY few issues upon which I'm a legitimate subject matter expert or competent analyst.

 I'm being superannuated, as I'm not in the mix so much anymore.

 I was in a discussion about the role of surface:volume ratio manipulation as a function of conserving energy in stressed chloride cells as fish transition from fresh to salt water.

 Esoteric, yes. But important if you like having fish be a thing. Lots of them do that, transition from fresh to salt water, or the opposite, in the course of their lives, and it's important midway in the food web, where feedstocks for higher animals need to be available for there to be higher animals.

 Anyhow, I was talking about the ecology of the internal environment of cells and issues of programmed energy conservation and terminal depletion (programmed death; so it can burn 100% of its' energy store and die off, but not until it reaches its goal).

 A young kid just blows my argument out of the water by citing research about which I was unaware. I withdrew my argument until I could read up on the citations. Which I never did. I ran out of time, interest, what have you. I don't WANT to change my opinion. I liked the one I had. And that shit ain't cool.

 I'm running into my limit in understanding the economics of international shipping, too. Granted, lots of people are spouting nonsense, as ever, and lots of economists are among that number. The fusion of an understanding of economic processes and an awareness of mitigation tactics that have been or could have been fielded helps, and not everyone has that down... and, now, that number includes me, as well. I'm seeing processes, but I no longer see patterns.
I formed an early predictive model for measuring the changes in impact on local economies over time as resource-harvest industries globalized. I used this in looking at salmon farming in isolated rural communities, but it could be applied to fishing, mining, just about anything where you take from the local economy (you can define ecology as an economy. Energy flows like money, if you want to keep the analogy simple), as it was a great meat-and-potatoes model. Nothing cutting edge, just a nice way to reduce uncertainties.  Anyhow, the results have held true, 15 years later, and they weren't nice, so nobody cared, but it's nice to be able to say "I told you so" to folks who pride themselves on appearing smarter than you sometimes. That may be why I present myself as I sometimes do. Hmmmm.

           At any rate, I'm getting to the age where I don't like arguing for arguments' sake, and I'm getting tired of keeping up with the cutting edge discussion in the fields where I once was a more dominant personality. My world is getting smaller, and I'm OK with that, for the most part, but in letting some of this shit go, I'm also saying no to educating myself, and that means I need to pipe down a bit, which I find hard to do at times.

        I'm watching what's going on in international shipping, which is the downstream end of globalized trade. I don't like what I see, as there's so much instability and the end results look good for the surviving companies and bad for everyone else, especially consumers... and you know, I can't articulate why I'm feeling so bearish about it, and that's weird. I'm not one to accept emotional arguments when there's science available to frame questions... and yet I'm OK with doing that here, because it's too complex for me just now to get into. I need a deeper understanding of economics than I currently have. Do I have the energy and desire, and hell, the raw ability, to further my education?

 Maybe. But I'll be home in a little over a week, and there's my family to enjoy, and guns, and fishing, and beer and whisky too. Economics is none of those things, and probably won't be addressed.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Being Virtuous

I feel as though I'm putting too much political material up in my FecesBook entries.
     I can't help myself, sometimes. Facebook is a crock of shit, for the most part, and like a drunk passing by his favorite bar, it just calls out at times.

     Anyhow, I'm trying to dial it back some, get back to my roots. You know, dick and fart jokes and the like. For the people.

          We're continuing a mid-season blitz, which I attribute to a drop in local bunker prices. It's certainly not the regional economy, which is about as healthy as a Pakistani hospice. The workload is not staggering- it's strange, in fact, how some little differences are present and notable, yet I can't explain why they're occuring- there's less advance warning about work than ever- where we used to get 24-72 hours' warning about a cargo being assigned to us, now we're lucky to get 16 hours' notice. It may be the larger ships we're working with as container vessel sizes increase, or the suppliers are attempting 'just in time' delivery to minimize the charter rates for bunker vessels working the spot market. I dunno. Human factors?

 What I do know is that I've been trying for over a week to get some fucking green stuff, and it ain't happening. No matter how expensive the gourmet market you shop at in NY, your greens turn to browns rapidly. I'm thinking that the logistical processes that get lettuce from farm  to fridge are more involved here than in smaller markets. Whatever the result, it's playing holy hell on my digestion. My popularity is waning on board.

On the upside, time is passing fast. 10 days to go, and I can go home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The slowdown ends

       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.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

"...whether you like it or not..."

That quote above is pretty much what is going on.

      I turn 42 in a few weeks. God help me, I really had hoped that I would be more mature at this point, but there you go. The stars are in alignment- cognitive development, parenting skills, emotional stability... and yet I feel about 12 years old between the ears.

 Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife love celebrating birthdays. Some native-born Americans are like that too, but Brazilians do love to find a reason to have a party, so birthdays are a great opportunity for them.

      I'm an American guy in his 40's, from a quiet WASP'y town in New England. The Calvinist is strong in this one, even if I'm neither an Anglo-Saxon nor a Protestant. So much frippery.

 If left to my own devices, I would mark my birthday by going to the gun range, enjoying time with my family, and splitting a bottle of champagne on the patio with my wife after my kid goes to bed. Pretty much what I already do all the time when I come home from work.

 So, of course, I have to find the right hotel in the right city in order that we spend money to sleep on a bed that isn't my own, which I already do 4 weeks out of 6.

 You'd think that after enough years together, as a husband and father, I'd be used to not doing what I wanted or getting what  we want? I mean really, of the fathers out there, how many of us actually want 'just socks and underwear' for Christmas? Yet that's what many men ask for. Because if you're going to have a heart attack come February when you see the bank balance, you really don't want the hospital staff to see you in an old pair of color-coded skibs (yellow in front, brown in back!) when they're reaching for the paddles.
    Seriously, I want a better table saw and a better radial arm saw. Not socks and underwear. But hell, some new Froot o' De Looms are a hell of a lot cheaper.

 As always seems to happen, though, after the fact I'll realize that I had a nice time on my birthday, doing what she wanted to do.

... anyhow, I've got some fresh drawers from Christmas on standby, just in case.

Friday, April 15, 2016


I woke up Big B by accident this afternoon.

 He heard me yell "Oh No! Ahhhhhhh!" and scrambled out of bed to see if I was having a heart attack.

 No, I was just having lunch. I had put too many jalepeno slices in, and picked 6-8 out when they drowned out the taste of everything else.

... which was fine, until I got an itch and picked my nose a couple of minutes after finishing my lunch. Holy shit that was a mistake.

 That shit stung, and my eyes are still red. I look like I just stumbled out of a Grateful Dead concert.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

welcome to erf

The last two container ships I ran fuel to were visiting the US for the first time.

 The first one was a real shit show because they had a non-standard size fuel connection for their diesel fill, so the 250 tons of diesel they wanted wasn't so easy to get to them. "It's metric" they said. We have metric fittings available for those savages that insist on them. That's OK. I'm fairly sure some recent graduate from the U of Karachi (The Yale of Pakistan!) Vo-tech and BBQ Chef School bolted an international shore connection on the diesel manifold. Which would be great if we were using fire hoses to transfer fuel.

 Well, we fixed that and everyone went home, if not happy, than fueled and paid, anyhow .

       Today's fueling went fine. It was everything else that was a mess. The Chief engineer, a jolly Russian (really. They do exist. Rare and treasured like a FabergĂ© egg) told me that it was their first time here. I said the usual spiel "We don't cheat, and we don't steal, and we don't like to fight," which he told me he already had been told by coworkers who had taken on fuel here.

 The 3rd assistant engineer, a Pakistani gentleman,  was slow to get paperwork to and from the engineer's desk, but we got there eventually. Afterwards, we ran into a brick wall.

      The US is INSANE when it comes to the idea of putting oil in the water. Something about some young kid crashing into Alaska 25 years ago, and the captain taking it in the seat, after.

 As it happens, I hate oil on my deck, because it leads to oil in the water when it rains, which leads to wailing, gnashing of teeth and the coast guard getting all soggy and hard to light. We make a practice of cleaning up any oil on deck, and trying to keep it in the tanks instead.

      So, after we finish, when the 3rd engineer finally gets around to rounding up some lower-caste sailors to disconnect my fueling hose from his ship,  I kick our hydraulics on, and swing the cargo crane next to the hose, where it can be connected and used to bring it back aboard. Meanwhile, the crewmen are unbolting the 8 bolts from the connection, and rebolting the round blank at the end of my hose so it won't leak oil. Heavy fuel oil is thick and dense, and cools rapidly when there's a thin skin of it on the inside of an empty hose. That shit will drip for hours if not blanked off. A well-emptied hose, say 60-feet, held up and left opened, will drip another couple gallons of fuel over the next hour or two.
        So, the guys are 20 feet or so over my head, up on their lifeboat deck, and after an unusually short amount of time, the engineer waves to me to take the hose back on board.

 Too fast. No one, not even me, can bolt down a hose blank in 2 minutes. It takes me 4-5, and ship's crew 10-15, so something's up, and as soon as I swing the hose end to where I can see it, I see the problem, and immediately swing the hose back in the crew's faces. This is significant because the blank and hose flange weighs a lot. 100+lbs in the first 4 foot of that hose.
 I'm not yelling yet. I tell them that there are 4 bolts, not 8, in the flange, and they need to install the other 4. I can no longer see the hose end, but the engineer says that he was going to send the bolts down to me.
      Without being pedantic in the details, I told the guys, still sort of calmly, that this is not the 3rd world, (where you are from, and where lazy, slothful work is acceptable, was the unspoken but obviously received dig), and oil will not be allowed on my deck or to leak from the hose, so they need to use all 8 bolts, and those bolts will be properly tightened.
       I listen to the clinks of metal on metal as a ratchet turns, and a few minutes later, still fast for East Indies sailors, the 3rd assistant engineer motions me again to take the hose. I swing the boom until I can see the end of the hose- the 8 bolts are there, and none of them are tight. A little patter of black droplets are falling down as oil rains out of the hose, and I again, whip the end of the hose directly into their teeth again.
   This time I am not so pleasant and my voice is not so modulated. I was arrogant before, maybe, but now the asshole is arrived and in fine form. I damn them, I call them unprofessional low-end fools who aren't even civilized enough to know how to operate hand tools, and point directly at the 3rd assistant engineer, say "You!" and ask him if he knows what will happen if one drop of oil went in the water. I tell him that if my bolts are not properly tightened in the approved star-pattern (like lug nuts in a car rim) to make a sure seal, I will report the ship, and him, specifically, to the US Coast Guard and refuse to sail until they are aboard to witness the quality of his work. I then look for the oil that went on deck, and tell them to get somebody to wipe up the 4 droplets of oil on my deck in the next 2 minutes.  It gets done.
     The hose comes back, bolts appropriately tightened, a few minutes later and I swing the hose over. A cargo surveyor takes our paperwork up to the ship for signatures, and all goes well.
 But the paperwork usually takes about 10-15 minutes to get run by the chief engineer and surveyor for signatures and stamps, and I wait 90 minutes.
 That 3rd assistant got his revenge. He was the go-between between the surveyor and the chief engineer (Note to self. Describing the effect of caste and class among East Indian mariners on the chain of command would make an awesome post.).  He dragged his feet. For an hour and a half. Fuck.

     That's a good lesson for me right there. It felt nice to speak my mind about the inferior work those men performed. I probably should have shared it with my people, not theirs.


Monday, April 11, 2016

immigration in the eyes of a teen

Another 'debate' online. I was writing about practical issues dealing with illegal immigration.

        I see a dichotomy between visa overstayers and wetbacks, or border jumpers, or whatever you want to call them.  It might seem esoteric, but visa recipients undergo a cursory screening process. Very cursory, admittedly, but better than nothing. These are the folks who come and stay too long. They tend to keep their passports current to their home nation, as most of them are here to work, slip under the cracks, and return home when either they've achieved a financial goal or when scooped up by ICE. Once caught or repatriated, for having overstayed, the visa gets revoked. This is a misdemeanor crime, visa overstaying, apparently.
    Wetbacks just come here, and sometimes deportees who got booted for visa overstay join them. This is a felony. They get forcibly deported when caught, but often jailed first, when caught in the commission of a felony.

 So on the issue of repatriation, I jokingly mentioned this:

not my picture. But funny in a dark way.   

...and this brought up the issue of the cost of enforced repatriation. It certainly wouldn't be cheap. I can't help but think that a lifetime of free emergency medical care, such public benefits that are doled out, and enforcement and policing of the lawbreakers among these folks is probably more than the cost of a ticket home. Granted, it's an annuitized cost, I suppose.

   After reading about the recent kidnapping and rape of a child by a pair of latino illegals I suggesting this as a means of repatriating felons:

cheap and effective

    Now, that's also a joke, but not everyone thought it was funny. I was called names. And that's OK, I'm a big boy.  When asked if I'd ever imagined what America would be like without illegals to perform our cheap labor, I noted that in the future, at age 14, my kid wouldn't be competing for a minimum wage after school job against 45 year old Guatemalans who look like this and might take a machete to the competition.

My kid would hate that- he hates being taken for hispanic because he sure as shit looks like one. He doesn't speak spanish, and refuses to learn because well-meaning teachers always try to translate shit for him, and his school sends home letters in spanish, too, which pisses my wife off to no end. They speak Portuguese, being Brazilian, though my kid much prefers English, but we try to ensure that he doesn't lose his ancestral tongue, like me, who only knows maybe 200-300 words in Gaelic.

       Anyhow, a country with less illegals means more jobs for our kids to do.  My kid busts his balls for cash at home when I think to put him to work and pay him for it. We walked into a McDonald's one time in our hometown, after talking about working and the difference between minimum wage and the ability to command a higher salary, and my kid looks at the employees, neck tattoos, everyone frowning, two 400-lb African women screaming at each other in their own language, and my kid says that he'd rather never work there if it could be avoided. Who can blame him? It was like an international trailer park in there.
 Naturally the cashier asked him what he wanted in Spanish. This was the first time I saw him confront someone over it, which is why I remember it. He responded in Portuguese. Hearing something that is almost familiar but nonsensical, the cashier gets a look like a dog hearing a strange sound.

"What the hell is that noise coming from your mouth" is pretty much what he said, followed up with a dignified "I don't speak Spanish," in English.

     At any rate, I don't think my kid will be working at Mickey D's. And that's too bad. I worked after school and on vacations at Burger King at 14, when I wasn't fishing. I learned a lot about the value of labor, and more importantly, how to interact in a job environment that didn't include grabbing a 10-lb live codfish by the tail and swinging it like a baseball bat at someone's head as motivation to work faster.

  My kid, being first generation and having a mom who is an immigrant,  is going to grow up with the right balance of empathy and self-preservation when it comes to dealing with this issue. I can be pretty vulgar here- it's not an act, but I do have a dichotomy when it comes to how I discuss things at home. I tend not to swear so much or rely on hyperbole. My boy grew up with his mother's stance on immigration, which I've since adopted, too. It's our (the citizens', I mean) fault, and no illegal immigrant takes jobs from citizens- the jobs are given away by citizens who hire and employ illegals as a means of avoiding paying taxes or competitive salary. If we want to blame the right people for the immigration disaster in the US, we need a mirror to do so... but that doesn't exempt us from taking responsibility by protecting us and our own, and failing to enforce existing law is the root cause of all this.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Some days are like that

It's the bad jobs that are the most memorable, not the good ones.

 One thing for sure, of all the shitty jobs we've done, this last one was by far the most recent.
   I'm going to be a bit pedantic here because our last cargo was a good example of how hard it is to recover a bad day once things start going south, and show, too, how important it is to keep the 'tomorrow's a new day' attitude.


         There's always the moment when things go to shit. Load or discharge, on a tank vessel, there's that moment when nothing is going to go smooth from there on out, and it's always obvious when it happens.

 We were late getting off the dock after loading the oil, as the tide wasn't favorable, there was a large barge blocking half the channel out, and it was a blustery day. So we lost 4 hours waiting just to leave the loading dock. But that wasn't the moment when I knew things were going to be bad.
          We get to the ship, and get all fast. I already have a bad feeling- Russians, or maybe Ukrainians, doesn't matter, are running the ship. Taciturn, argumentative, unhelpful and unpleasant. That's the nature of Eastern European engineering officers, at least when it comes to dealing with your average goofball American mariner. Perhaps on their own they are better human beings than they appear. When you're next to a ship, drifting in a swirling current, trying to get them to throw you a heaving line so you can get made up to them all snug, Russian engineers will sometimes look at you, and will not help with mooring or even call anyone to help with mooring. They just stand there and look, chewing their cud. We're just bouncing off the fenders, and the tugboat captains are trying to tread water without having an incident. Having an audience who refuses to throw you a damn rope is really obnoxious, especially when you're there specifically to work with the company who is employing these sorts of champion human beings.

     So the engineers are chewing their cud, ignoring us, not calling the bridge or deck gang to get us moored. Still not that moment, though.
          When some Indians and Filipino sailors come along, and cheerfully work together to throw us heaving lines, and lift up our heavy mooring lines, things are going well- people are laughing, working hard, and we're getting somewhere. Shortly after the Filipinos show up, we're all fast, and the tugboat breaks away from us to go do something else...
     and then the engineers tell me that their diesel connection is 50 feet away from their fuel oil connection. BOOM! That moment arrives. This is going to suck.
 My crane, at 65 feet, is already at max reach just getting to the fuel oil manifold. A tug will have to come back after we finish pumping their fuel oil, and guide us as we slide 50 feet backwards so that we can give the ship their diesel. This sucks because instead of giving them both oils at the same time, we have to do one at a time, so a 4 hour job becomes a 7 hour job, plus moving time and such.
      I send up a sheaf of papers and a walkie-talkie via a 5-gallon bucket on a rope. They fill out the forms, which include tax stuff, a contract, and the exact specifications and volume  of the oils that they're taking today. 1,500 tons of heavy fuel oil and 250 tons of diesel- an average job, now no longer so easy. This is an important point, as it's how the receiving ship double checks the quantity and quality of the oil before we start, and as such, the ship's crew has to sign to acknowledge that they've read everything.
     I load the heavy oil, finish loading it, and get relieved at the end of my watch, and go to bed just before we shift backwards to deal with the diesel.
         8 hours later I wake up- and we're still alongside the ship. Fuck. We should have been done for hours, even with the delays. Nope. The ship has a weird ass connection manifold for diesel.  Nothing we have for reducers and fittings matches this shit. This has NEVER happened to me before. Ever. I always make sure we have every possible permutation when it comes to reducers and connections.  My relief called all across New York's waterfront, trying to get a fitting to be able to connect our hose to this ship. It takes 6 hours to find one that fits, another hour to get it to us, and it's a hodgepodge of shitty fittings, but it works. I've seen this ship before. Either they've never taken diesel, or they've never used this particular manifold connection in the US. Either way, it's frustrating.
 The ship doesn't trust the adapter we supplied them with, so instead of it taking 2 1/2 hours to pump the diesel to the ship, it takes 6.

 Pumping slowly, we're a little more than halfway done with the diesel, and the engineer calls. The ship is full.Now I'm angry. First time. They're suddenly claiming they only ordered 100 tons of diesel. I show them the orders from the company, and note that they've already taken 50 tons more than they ordered.
    I handle it diplomatically, noting that the ship's owners will be paying for all costs associated with transporting us to a terminal, including all the costs associated with the tugboats and assist tugboats that will be helping us into and out of the terminal, and the terminal's own fees for pumping back the remaining fuel. I further noted that it would be cheaper to take the diesel if he has somewhere to put it, otherwise whoever made the mistake will be paying a lot extra for not a lot of fuel.
        Engineer stands firm. It's a remote but extant possibility that he's not lying. Generally, it's the engineer who orders too much fuel.  It's a stereotype, I know, but Russian and Ukrainian engineers tend to be pretty good at math and bad with drinking, so who knows what actually caused this.
          Well, regardless, we sign off on the papers, our tugboat comes alongside and we cast off, head for the therminal, there to spend hours to pump off a tiny bit of diesel, 100 tons, which takes all of 30 minutes to pump back to a shoreside tank using our big electric pump. We lose another 5 hours at the terminal for paperwork and waiting for them to line up their pipelines in the field to pump back.
      So now we're well into the next day for a job that should have been finished just after lunchtime on the day before. The sun is up, and it's time to leave the terminal. Another 2 tugboats come, yank us out of there, and we're off to an anchorage to wait until the next job at oh-dark-30 tomorrow.
     On the way to the anchorage, I open up the hatch to our after void space, a watertight compartment in our stern that holds our potable water tank and the MSD, our septic treatment system. The compartment is pretty whiffy, smelling of ammonia, which isn't right at all.  Shit tank is leaking into the void space. So that needs to be addressed later today, and later this week we'll need to have that space sanitized and vacuumed out at a special facility not too far from here.
     And by we I mean me. I'll be down there with a vacuum hose, a fire hose, tyvek suit, respirator and a giant spray can of bleach after. So that's really a shitty discovery to end a shitty day.
 Addressing the problem with the shit tank is actually easy. A little blast of compressed air and whatever clogged the discharge side of the system is back down in the bottom of the tank where it belongs. Cleaning the aftermath will not be fun, of course, but that will happen when we get a break between jobs during the week.

       So, having spent a few minutes addressing the shit tank, and inhaling the ghosts of BM's past, I get back up on deck in time for us to moor. The tugboat casts off, and as I'm throwing hawser lines back down to the tugboat. The bowline has a short 20-foot long heaving line attached to it, so I can just lower the heavy eye of the tug's hawser back to them. The little heaving line has a heavy butt splice at the end of it, to make it easier to throw. As I'm passing the bow line back to the ship, slipping the line through my hands, this heavy little 6-inch piece of braided rope comes flailing up and hits me directly in the pills. Not hard enough to go down, but hard enough for me to double over and be nauseous for a few minutes. One last hit to the balls after a day and a night of only metaphorically being hit in the balls. 

     Now, 8 hours later, I'm showered, slept well, and things are looking brighter. I have a watch free to tidy up and make everything ready again for our next cargo, which will happen after midnight, when I'll be happily asleep. I'll wake up to finish loading, sign papers and get us underway again to try to do it a little better. In the meanwhile, though, I'll putter around, make ready, and try not to get hit in the marbles again.

Friday, April 8, 2016

speaking truth to power

Reading the news, there's so much glee out there at the outrageous behavior of everyone.

 One side is freaking out that Mississippi and North Carolina want people to use the shitter based on their biological sex rather than their notional one. Bruce Springsteen is no longer going there, as is Paypal, and a slew of other companies, who, based on their business practices, don't seem to have the same beef with making money in places like Saudi Arabia, where the folks whose bathroom privileges are at issue would simply be thrown off a building or have their throats cut simply for existing.

 Ah, virtue signaling.

 On the other side, we've got folks who blindly endorse the status quo, where those in power aggregate power (and money), and those who are not, well, tough titty. "Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them," says the bible, and so obviously it's above our pay grade to worry about such things.

 From the way things sound, we're supposed to choose either Karl Marx or Ayn Rand, and woe to those who fail to give the loyalty oath. 

 I've never been shy about noting that I'm a conservative and usually vote Republican. Usually. Watching the Donald Trump show this season has been interesting. I'm uncomfortable and fascinated by the guy, but I'm so very disappointed by the actions of the Party of Stupid, my fellow Republicans, who are reenacting the Vichy French in every single way. It's obvious that no one among the Democrats represents my interests, and I can't find anyone among the Republicans who does so, too, at least not since the days of Reagan, a fire-breathing classic conservative  who didn't have his party's hand elbow deep up his ass running the show.

 I see a one-party state, where only the power brokers win- I don't think it's about money- that comes later, after the power, after all, if it wasn't there in the beginning. 

    Well, whatever. I don't love Trump, but if the Republican vox populi wants him, the Republican party better deliver what the people want, good and hard. I foresee the Republican power brokers preferring to lose the election in order to keep their jobs. There's no certainty that the Vichy Republicans would survive a Trump presidency, and, frankly, I'd rather they didn't. I'd rather see them cast out into the wilderness for their sin.

    Some snarky assbags have suggested I move to a libertarian paradise like Somalia, which is missing the point. I'm not a real libertarian, either, because I haven't lost hope in our ability to work for the good of all without erasing individual liberty. 

      Black Lives Matter is fertilizing the ground for a counter racial-identitarian environment. THAT's going to be a disaster. So far, only Bill Clinton has had the balls to stand up to that hate group, and he's being roasted for it as I write. 
       I've got a big mouth, but no soapbox, which is probably a blessing. 

John C. Wright, one of my favorite sci-fi writers, noted recently about the Cowboy Code.

Gene Autry’s Cowboy Code from 1939:
1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.
3. He must always tell the truth.
4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.
5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
6. He must help people in distress.
7. He must be a good worker.
8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.
9. He must respect women, parents and his nation’s laws.
10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

   I love this moral code. 

 Had I a larger platform, one mainstream political party would be crybullying the hell out of me for this awful list. The following words would be used repeatedly for my crimes. Privilege, Patriarchy, White, Colonialism, Male Cisgender, Neo-, Power, Literally, Afraid, LGBTBBQ-EIEIO... well, you get the idea.

 The other political party would shout "Us too! We love these things, too! Vote for us!" while voting in opposition to all these things in order to secure support for those who already have power and money to accrue more of each.

 Ultimately, as someone who tries to be a patriot, and thinks that the US Constitution is among the greatest achievements of humanity, I shake my head and light my little candles in the darkness.

 ...and quietly buy more ammunition. I don't trust any of these fuckers.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Now with More Sensitivity

 Trigger warning: contains eggs, gluten, patriarchy, dem feels, rape culture and references to "Nacho Libre" ...and was prepared in a facility that contains nuts. 

Well, I've been back on board the HQ for about 12 hours now. Crew change was fairly routine- I moved my stuff in, made up my bunk, and racked out, woke up at midnight for watch. Quick turnaround- by the time I was up and about, we were almost finished with the job, so I just had to wrap things up and see us sailed to our mooring buoy out in the harbor.

       The cold was something of a shock. After just 2 weeks in the warmth and sun of south FL, I was nonplussed by the 32-degrees-and-gusty day. Ah well. By the time I see my house again, it'll be roasting hot at home, not the sunny and 75-80 that I truly love.
           My last days at home were unusually slow- some of my wife's family was visiting, and since they were all nattering away in their language, I left them to it as much as I could.
         I had some fun trolling a young lady on an acquaintances' FecesBook page. Said young person got mortally offended that I used the term 'pussy' as an insult, and then I (gasp) refused to apologize for it. What followed, off and on for the next 6 hours was her ranting and insulting me (I don't know this person. Said acquaintance is a musician who went to college with a friend 20 years ago, and we're on the periphery of each others' social circle based on a couple of mutual friends. At any rate, I was getting insulted left and right, called all sorts of choice names for not immediately being penitent for using the word pussy, because wrongthink.

 It was precious. I even said so. Great stuff to get a giggle out of while sitting on the toilet and taking a break from packing my seabag. Anyhow, it helped pass the time. I really am getting contrary in my middle age. Young kids, northeastern WASP girls especially, are so sensitive and preachy. I feel like it's not my fault at all for antagonizing the poor young lady. You don't dangle a damn steak in front of a lion and blame it for interpreting it as being lunchtime, after all.


        I made a point to visit HMF , an amazing bar in Palm Beach, FL, this time, too. I don't go there every time I go home, because appetizers for three and a pair of drinks each runs around $200, but if you ever get the chance, it's worth going. It's one of the hotel bars at The Breakers hotel, one of the most elegant and unfortunately, expensive hotels in the US. My wife and I go because, despite the rather steep price, walking the grounds, gardens, beach and the hotel's marble first floor is a great way to spend an evening. I keep hoping to see Sofia Vergara there (she got married there, and apparently the hotel is one of her favorite places), but so far all I've seen is some of the Saudi royal family, the guy who was in "Burn Notice"  and Christopher Walken. I could give two shits about some arabs, but seeing Christopher Walken was damn cool.
 But, yeah, after, we totally have to wind down on my patio and have a snack to avoid going to bed hungry. Best sushi I've ever had, and I love sushi, but those little shits are pricy at this place.
     Anyhow, I've got some stuff to share over the next few days, so I'll be back.