Thursday, July 6, 2017

sailors are gross

It might surprise you to learn that most professional mariners are clean and tidy people at work, unusually so. 

One thing that remains universal, though, is that it's never difficult to find a sailor who is unhygienic.

        I've worked with several sailors who are dirty, dirty people. Officers, too. I can think of several officers in my current employer's stable who smell like feet and onions every time I encounter them.
    I know of at least two that had to be called on the carpet because they were foul, loathesome dirty motherfuckers- not because they were bad people, but because they were just dirty and had disgusting personal hygiene.
        Funny, though, I've never had to deal with that with an unlicensed sailor... wait, I lie. We did have that once on a ship I was on, but the cook's helper, a pleasant African guy with a booming voice and endless optimism for everything, threatened to put a padlock in a sock and beat the man in question at mealtimes if he showed up in the galley with B.O.

      Sometimes the direct method is best.

            There's more to being a pleasant shipmate than wearing deodorant, of course, although that is a great start. I have, in the past dragged a mattress out of the house on my barge and thrown it on deck, or in the case of working on a ship, thrown it over the side, because some filthy son of a whore slept on it without putting linens down.

 Pillows are different. I hand them to the person and tell them to carry them to the trash ashore and replace them. No fuss.

      When we inherited the HQ 5 years ago, we inherited the bestest, most wonderous mattresses I've ever slept on. I don't know how that happened, but the HQ got some Posturpedic mattresses that are like sleeping on the tits of an angel. Better than the $1500 mattress I have on my own bed at home. Just, you know, a lot smaller. Obviously when we have guests or fill-in crew, we visually inspect their bedmaking skills before letting them lie down. Discreetly, but 100% of the time. I have, on several occasions, and with a fake but present smile, wordlessly handed a full set of linens to a visitor and stood in the doorway and chatted until the person in question got the idea and made up their bunk properly. Whatever, I sleep better at work than I do at home, at least when  I go to bed sober at home but we're guarding those mattresses like Smaug the Dragon watched over his treasure in The Hobbit.

 Dick move? Maybe. No fuckin' way in hell my employer would ever replace our mattresses with something of equal value. No, if we lose them, we're getting the Dreaded Prison Mattress.

     The Dreaded Prison Mattress is part of the reason why tugboaters and tankermen go out with shoulder injuries. Imagine a sheet of plywood lined with a double layer of cardboard. That's the prison mattress. I've worked for at least two companies who swear by them. They swear by them because they are $54 each, and they're fireproof.  They even say 'FIREPROOF' in a repeated printed pattern on the gray covering of the mattress.
    Now, no one actually cares that the mattresses are fireproof. They care that the mattresses are $54 each. Having had to hear "yes, but they're fireproof!" on many occasions, like that's a selling point, I've never bothered to order anything other than the prison mattresses after the first time I heard that old chestnut get dragged out. The bosses kinda have a point. Too many guys will just sleep on them, sweating and drooling and peeling and farting away blissfully, no linens in sight, to invest in nice mattresses all willy-nilly.
       I do know a few men who have called in favors and gotten nice mattresses special ordered. It shouldn't be that difficult to get a hold of them... but maybe, come to think on it, it should. Some of the dirty ass people I've worked with here would sleep on a dead chicken, if you threw it in their bunk.
    As I alluded to before, the Dreaded Prison Mattress exacerbates shoulder problems. I know this firsthand, having strained a shoulder on several occasions at sea. Basically it doesn't heal until you don't sleep on a Dreaded Prison Mattress for a week or so. Until that happens, you've got a big useless chicken wing on one side.
   I recently spent 2 weeks on a Dreaded Prison Mattress. My shoulders really, really sucked. I hadn't injured them, thankfully, but after a couple of days, I lost a good 1/3 of my strength, and they were sore, not in the healthy way a tired muscle gets sore, but in a 'oh, fuck me, it hurts to raise my arm up to pick my nose' sort of sore.
      I got back on the HQ and into my bed and two sleeps later, my shoulders were fine. My partner out here felt it too. I can't actually blame shipowners, either, in wasting money on mattresses when an unusual percentage of men who should know better just filth them all to hell and gone.
      Why do some men live on board a boat like they're camping out? Eschewing daily showers, manners, the niceties and basic courtesy, not to mention public health? It's an answer I can't give, not really. I know, without a doubt, that many of these assholes would beat their wives wholesale if they came back to anything but fresh linens at home... which they have to be nagged at in order to use them at all at work.

     A few years ago, we landed rough against the side of a ship, denting it slightly. The captain in question had the nickname Edward Throttlehands for his docking style, which consisted of pinning the throttle wide open and just using the gearshift to control the tug's motion. I called him Special Ed or Pigpen, myself, at the time. Dude had a mullet and wore daisy duke shorts with no shoes, pretty much year round looking like an extra from the set of  "Deliverance."
    As it happens, we had sat for 48 hours prior to this at anchor in a spot where the seagull population was explosive.  The deck edges of the HQ were caked in about 3/8 of an inch of dried birdshit. It was awful.
    Well, after we were all fast, Throttlehands came up on deck to check out the ding we put in the ship, which was thankfully very minor. I noticed that he had no shoes on, and tracked right through the guano.
 Later that night, on sailing, I asked the deckhand if the house on the tug had a lot of white footprints. He told me it looked like one of those "Family Circus" panels where Billy's track runs around town. The tug in question has black tiles inside the house, lol.  I then asked if inside the house had a weird, dusty smell tonight. It did. I had to let the guy know that he was inhaling seagull powdered BM of course, and I did so tactfully, by which I mean pointing and laughing like a donkey.
  That deckhand didn't seem to cry much after Throttlehands moved on. 

           The last fill-in we had here on the HQ was another one who didn't like wearing shoes inside the house. I had to order him to put his shoes on in the galley. I took his picture while he was lounging in the rack with the bunkroom door open, startling him. I sent the picture of him and his disgusting filthy little bird claw feet to the guy whose bed he was sleeping in, and explained why I was doing it to the man in question. A little slut-shaming works. Dude wore shoes the rest of his time aboard.


Bob said...

"Edward Throttlehands," LOL.

Judy said...

Food for thought - One way to keep those mattresses clean is to buy bed bug/dust mite covers. We also bought water-proof mattress covers when moving a small child out of a crib.

A little hygiene goes a long way.

Rick T said...

Did the tug have some kind of variable-pitch propellers or cyclic drive system?

Otherwise I'd expect a lot of gearbox damage pounding between forward and reverse without feathering the throttle, enough he'd have been beached enough to break him of that habit.

davey jones said...

You would think that.........

Anonymous said...

I used to bring one in my luggage when I had to work from remote camps.