Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Last watch, and how I got kicked off yet another facebook page.

Well, we're loaded pretty deep, waiting on our tugboat to ease us into the Kills, and head for Port Elizabeth NJ, where we'll transfer some 3,500 tons of fuel oil to a waiting ship. At some point after we get all fast, I'll be relieved, and can go home. Looking forward to it.

 Before I go, I have to share the absolute and definitive sign of the End Of Days:

STUDY: Fossil fuels contribute to ‘petro-masculinity’ 


  • Professor Cara Daggett, who teaches classes on politics and global security at Virginia Tech, is warning that fossil fuels are contributing to a warped sense of “masculine identity” and “authoritarianism” among men.
  • Writing in response to the 2016 election, Daggett coins the term “petro-masculinity” to describe what she sees as a convergence of “climate change, a threatened fossil fuel system, and an increasingly fragile Western hypermasculinity.”

  •  Don't click on this unless you like feeling that Armageddon would be a relief right now. 

     Folks, you can't make this shit up... Well, obviously you can, because this is shit, raw and unrefined, and also made up.

     It also got me kicked off a Facebook page for my having made fun of the people who provide this retarded shit a platform.

       I shouldn't be surprised. This is from the same people who brought you studies retardsplaining how "Farts are sexist tools of the Patriarchy" and from this same 'author,' "How Unmanned Weapons Queer the Experience in War."

     I have to wonder why the hell Jesus died to save these particular people, and if he regrets it now.


           You know, on reflection, though, in this case I think the author is right? I mean, I am pretty petromasculine.
    What if she's REALLY on to something? Maybe there's something to all this feminist/pussy male PC bullshit.

     I really did become quite a bit more masculine after I started working on oil tankers. Prior to my first job on a ship, I was a pretty quiet, introspective and somewhat shy person. Not at all the way I am today. Working with oil did make me more masculine... so, petromasculinity is now a thing, and I will embrace it.
            Everyone knows that these days, when I walk into a room with my bulging petromasculinity oozing out of my every pore, every woman in the room spontaneously ovulates, and soyboys start lactating explosively out of shame and fear.
    So let me petrosplain something to you:  If you don't like it then you're petrophobic and should check your cispetronormative privelige. Petrophobia is now also real and also a thing, and you should be ashamed of yourself if you have it.

     Petromasculinity is here. I'm going to have to apply to one of these Asshole Concentration Camps they call liberal arts colleges so I can get Petromasculine assigned one of the 99 new genders that these shitbiscuits are trying to tell us are also real. I mean, it's way cooler than being a Furry, at least, and the ladies love it, once they get over the smell of sulphur coming out of your pores the first night home at least.

    Saturday, July 7, 2018

    I got wood- AND NEW BLOGS!

    I mentioned before that I've spent a fair bit of money in the past few weeks, replacing and upgrading some tools and buying some additional hardwood stock for raw material.I took a BIG gamble.

        I've been living in south FL for 4 years now. I still don't know the area as well as I should. As such, I know of a few places where I can get specialty wood for certain projects, but not much.

          Purchasing hardwood is a process, and it's an intimidating one for the non-professional. I guess I stand at the educated amateur level there. I know what I need and what I want, but I have to think about it. It's not second nature to me. If you've never bought wood at a hardwood supplier, it's certainly not like Home Depot. You have to ask for what you want, specifically, there's weird nomenclature and a lot of math, and the prices are just... really high.

     Fortunately, I know how to build and fix small boats, so I have a slight leg up, because otherwise I'd just be utterly lost instead of somewhat lost amidst the stacks.

     So I saw a good deal online on some walnut planks, and while I was there, the price on rock maple was decent too... but I'd be buying sight unseen, which is never a good idea, especially as neither I nor my neighbors have a planer, so any misshape, knots or such are going to make the wood undesirable.. but the rep of the seller is good, and  so I'm taking a chance, and if it pans out I've got a new resource.

     I really don't want to buy a jointer/planer until I buy a new house and expand my shop space next summer. They're expensive and take a while to dial in, moreso because I've never owned or used one.

     One advantage to having dicked around with wood boats is that curves don't scare me near as much as they perhaps should. Spherical trig is a thing in carpentry, just not taught much outside of boatbuilding.

     So I've got a couple of little projects to knock out this time, and I'd like to experiment with some joinery using interlocking curved pieces of hardwood with greatly contrasting color, like the white of rock maple with the deep brown of walnut. Still, I need to start off simple, like dead simple.
     The cost of wood being what it is, and my monkey ass being a rank amateur at joinery, I'm going to make some stuff with pine, and if I like it, remake it in more interesting and useful wood. I've been putting off making a stepstool for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife to use in the kitchen and also outside, as a low seat when she's messing about with the potted plants. Being only 5' 3", and my kitchen having 9' ceilings and tall cabinets, she is at a disadvantage when she has to get rarely-used stuff off the top shelf, so a 2-step stepstool in wood would be a lot nicer than the folding Wal-mart abortion that currently clogs up space in my shop 'till she needs it. I'm going to make that in just pine, using scraps from my scrap bin, I think. Might need to get a 1x8 at the most.
          I've been hemming and hawwing for a while over it, but I also need a fresh set of chisels. Mine are just beat to hell. I spent too much time tapping on them with a framing hammer and beating the steel through the handles. Where my hands are so goddamn shaky all the time (and always have been, for some reason), chisels represent a Rubicon in skill for me, something I don't lightly cross. Think of a surgeon with Parkinson's, and you'll get the idea. Truly fine woodworking might just be beyond me, but hopefully I'll find out.

    I've been watching a fair number of boatbuilding and carpentry videos for a while now, and I've edited my blogroll. It's been great watching true professional artists and some amazing amateurs, too.  Among my new favorites are:


    Tips From a Shipwright :  Louis Sauzedde is a master shipbuilder from Bristol RI. He owns a shop there, and makes small boats, including skiffs that he draws out and builds piece by piece online via Youtube.  Along with having the ability to explain a damn-near mythical lost art of wooden boat building, he's also down-to-earth and a great teacher.

    The Sea Dreamer ProjectFollows an upper-state NY carpenter, a not boatbuilder who is building a 41' trawler yacht out of wood using designs and methods drawn up by the late George Beuhler, a well-known marine architect who dedicated his career to making boats for regular people to build. 

     Sampson Boat CoLeo is a young British shipwright who moved to the US to buy and restore a rotten ancient sailboat, the 'Tally Ho' and helps underwrite the costs by filming and producing weekly videos about the whole process, including his time off, when he works on other peoples' boats to help pay the bills.

     General Carpentry

    The Wood Whisperer: Marc is a master furnituremaker whose easily-accessible youtube videos have made a carpentry superstar out of him. Funny and clear, his stuff is really worth watching.

     Check them out!

    Wednesday, July 4, 2018

    Patriotism and New Americans

    This isn't my story to tell. This year, on July 4, I am at anchor awaiting a berth for our next cargo. After dark I'll have a great seat to watch the NY Fireworks, hopefully.

       No, this Independence Day, it's Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife who is celebrating.

        When I called home to say goodnight last night, my wife told me that she got into an argument with one of her closer friends about politics. This friend is also a US citizen, like my wife, and also Brazilian. On failing to come to agree with her friend's view, my wife was dismissed with a 'I forget, you're American now. You wouldn't understand."

     It was an interesting story. We both know this was meant as an insult, but it wasn't received that way at all.

          When we were newlyweds, after about a year of processing, my wife received her first green card. She had been living here on a visa, but overstayed. By 10 years. The occasional brush with local law enforcement for getting pulled over, or what have you, just required undoing a button on her blouse and a smile, and she'd shortly be  on her way. Perks of being Inappropriately Hot, I guess. Still, she was VERY aware of how tenuous her existence was. One female cop, or one hardass, and her life would be a mess in short order.  

     On the day we had the immigration interview, when the USCIS agent asked us questions to see if we were really married, she was issued residency. I'll never, ever forget the ride home.

     We were driving south on Rt 93, coming out of the Chinatown tunnel in Boston, headed for the suburbs.  The reality had already set in. The happy yelling, the jumping up and down, all the hugs and kisses had been dealt out before we got back to the car to go home and celebrate. We were just talking happily, holding hands as I drove.

    The Big Dig, Boston's massive construction project, was still going on. I took the HOV lane to cut down on traffic.  At the HOV lane entrance, a Massachusetts State Trooper waited, looking to pull over anyone who was driving solo. Traffic slowed to a crawl, and my wife slunk down in the seat by a full foot, just trying to make herself smaller, less visible, less noticeable.
         Realizing what was going on, that cops to her represented great danger, I squeezed her hand, smiled and said "Hey, relax, honey. You're a resident now. You're allowed to be here."
          Instead of the reaction I was expecting, I got a shaky smile and then she burst into tears.
         I had no idea how much living in fear had been eating away at her.

        In due course, the week after she qualified three years later, she applied for citizenship. But a funny thing happened.

            Becoming an American Citizen doesn't mean much to many immigrants, especially the ones who solely reside inside an immigrant enclave, like the insulated miscellaneous Latino communities in Massachusetts, where being a monoglot with no English presents no problems. There's no interaction there, citizen or alien, legal or not.

     Somewhere along the way, my wife started listening to me, and reading about American history a bit, ostensibly as a way to familiarize herself with the citizenship exam... but she took it to heart.
     Despite having been here for over a decade, my wife knew little about the American culture. She very much still had both feet in her parent culture... but this started changing. She finally had one foot firmly planted on the day of her Citizenship ceremony... since she had dual citizenship, however, she didn't feel very American yet. Even so, during the Ceremony, it opened a door in her mind about what it actually means to be American... and she realized she still didn't really know, but for the first time, she really wanted to find out. Better late than never, I guess, but I think this might actually be pretty common. So few immigrants actually want to integrate and learn that becoming American comes with pride but also a sense of responsibility, that citizenship isn't a license to take free shit, but a license to trade- to give back and receive in equal measure- to earn a place and recognize that some things must be worked for. At the citizenship ceremony, my wife wasn't Americanized, but she became a patriot.

    "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

    Citizenship Day

     Of course it being Massachusetts, my wife was heavily pressured to join the Democrat party before we even made home that night. It didn't take, despite the hard sell tactics. As she explained it later, the allure of the party of All The Free Shit is absolutely amazing to people who grew up in the third world with so little. So she was registered Democrat for a while until she actually wanted to vote, when she went Unenrolled so she could vote the person and not the party. 

         In he runup to the last Presidential election, however, things changed. Our lives had changed, and my wife was now more invested in America. She's got a claim staked here, a dog in the fight, and her politics changed as a result.  Somewhere along the way, she started arguing with her friends who got concerned regarding the steady supply of All The Free Shit. Somewhere along the way, she Figured It Out, what it actually means to be American, and that as an immigrant, regardless of her political opinions, her vote was no longer for sale in exchange for Free Shit, and the act of trying to purchase it cheaply with stuff was actually a pretty grievous insult. 

     Somewhere along the way, her friends calling my wife an American as an insult lost its' sting and became something to be answered 'I am. So?"

     So today, along with a bunch of other Brazilians from her community, they're getting together to celebrate. They have good reason to. They've seen, and lived under a different system, and choose this one, not for the Free Shit, but for the freedom.

    Monday, July 2, 2018

    stocking up for time at home

    Even though I've got another week to go on here, I've been stocking up on wood and woodworking materials online, setting up delivery for the day after I get home.
         I got a line on some balsa and basswood planks in a size that should help with some planking issues I had with my current model boat project. I have been destroying plywood by trying to bend it past it's maximum bending modulus in order to get it to conform to the shape of the upper bow section on my boat hull. It just wasn't happening in one piece. Essentially, I had a 90-degree twist to take over a relatively short run, and even my standby tricks- soaking the ply in Windex and then using a steam iron to melt the adhesive glue at the spot where it always snaps the plywook... well, short answer, it wasn't happening, so I'm going to plank the hull. In doing that, this also means I need to restock sanding and shaping and fiberglassing supplies, so I had to buy that too.
     And then Amazon had a deal on plunge routers, so I got one of those too.

        The Coast guard issued my new credentials with my new higher-tonnage mate's license, so I'm done there, and with everything renewed recently, I don't need to go to the CG until I have the 360 days at sea to up from my higher-tonnage mate's ticket to Master. So I should have almost 2 years until I have to deal with the true rigamarole, although I will be messing with them again this fall when I have to take a leadership and management class. But that's another day.

     It's hotter than hell this week, with air temps in the high 90's and lots of sun. Pretty much the same as at my house, although my house will have higher humidity, I'm sure. But my house also has beer, wine and whiskey, so that's nice, those things being lacking here.

     I've been watching "The Wood Whisperer" a lot this week. I'm feeling creative.

    Saturday, June 30, 2018

    Brazilian TV is ...different

     From commenter Jon Spencer, who in a just world should receive many blessings for sharing:

    (Warning: SFW, but risque)

     Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife does watch some Brazilian TV at night when I'm home. Not much, to be honest. We usually spend the evening on the patio if the weather's good, although this past spring with all the rain, we discovered the TV show 'Flip or Flop' which we both took to for some reason. With my schedule, time together is at a premium, so we don't watch TV too much. We tend to shut the rest of the world out.

     That being said, Brazilian TV is still something else to see, when she does watch TV and I'm otherwise occupied. My wife will call me over to look at the ladies.

     Brazil's most popular show is probably Faustao,  named after a sort of a male-version of Oprah mixed with America's Got Talent. The titular host introduces a variety of topics focused on people. He also has beautiful professional dancers who stand in the background and dance a number or two every show, and for the audience during commercials. And, wow. Look.

     As I mentioned to my wife during a particularly forgettable interview with some Brazilian musician "I have not idea what they're saying, but I gotta say, I really like this show."

    After Faustao  comes a bevy of other shows, and soap operas, although the comedy shows often enough transcend the language barrier. Think Benny Hill at his best, but without the British reserve, and with a lot of beautiful women who often end up getting wet for some reason.

     One of the most popular shows last year was one where professional dancers and celebrities try to hold on to a stuffed duck while going down a Slip N' Slide set up on a very steep hillside with a ski-jump at the end. While wearing bikinis, of course. And the judging is Olympic-style, but the judges are in workboots, and often drinking.
     Riveting stuff.

    Of course, for the ladies, while it's not as blantant, the ever-popular novellas always feature male models in situations where their clothes get torn or are somehow absent. Equality.

    Monday, June 25, 2018

    Collecting Curses- The Short Transfer Kabuki

    You know, you'd think that after so many years of working on the water, I'd be immune to being called a thief or a liar by foreign engineers... but sometimes it actually does get to me. Not often, but just sometimes. I have yet to lay hands on anyone, and I don't think at this point I would, but I have kicked people off my deck and chased someone to a pilot ladder before. Older, wiser, maybe just getting old and lazy (I prefer to think of it as 'mellowing'), I try to keep my reaction to such things under control, but I don't have the kind of spirit that brooks being insulted to my face.

        I am very aware that in much of the third world, fueling a boat is a wonderful and time honored opportunity for theft and graft. Shipping being global in nature, and the Americas having the benefit of a moat to keep much of the third world out of walking distance, the reality of that isn't a big thing here. We're actually really honest when it comes to fuel transfers, and when you're buying 4,000 tons of fuel, a couple of pennies on the dollar of graft would turn into a hefty sum. We avoid it, and our infrastructure is controlled such that it's actually REALLY hard to commit graft and not get busted here. All to the good.

     But to the rest of the world, from Singapore's unwavering support of bunker theft and dirty tricks, to Eastern Europe's Buy Back tradition, fucking the other guy is a much beloved institution.
              So this week I had to put on my big-boy pants and be nice after being called a liar when I said I had transferred the correct volume of oil to a ship. I mean, right in my face, and not even in a politically-palatable way  ('deliberately incorrect' or something).  At this point, all I can say is a quiet 'You need to be very, very careful who you call a liar, mister,"  which is about as impotent a warning as I'm capable of giving... and after, I always feel like a bit of a pansy for not going up one side and down the other of some odious nobody giving me the moral (but not legal) justification of baptizing him forcefully and repeatedly in the galley toilet. Paul the Baptist. Heh.
     Oh, I still fantasize about it, but it's not in the cards.

     You see, short bunker Kabuki is also a tradition. You go back and forth without getting personal and throwing insults, and negotiate a final volume to put on the paperwork. +/- 20 tons, say. That's what the rest of the world does.
     Here, the volume is the volume. No negotiating. We worship at the alter of the decimal point when it comes to precision. The numbers are the numbers, and if you don't like it, take it to arbitration, and let a legal team decide. "We don't negotiate with... (pause for effect)... anyone."
     I guess that's just so foreign to some folks they can't handle it, and then a certain type will get into the personal insults. And, so long as I don't get called a thief or a liar I'm OK. Call me a prick, asshole, ignorant, Fuckknuckle, blockheaded, whatever. It's OK.  But certain words are out. There might not be much fighting, but there are still fighting words.

     And, after so many years of the same shit, I'm actually getting pretty tired of it. I've been cursed at by engineers from almost every nation on earth, and I don't even get to respond verbally in the way I'd like, which, like a physical response, is giving back about tenfold what I received. Being nice is not always easy. I dunno, maybe on the day I suddenly decide to swallow the anchor, Paul the Baptist can save a soul in the basin of the waters of the Swirly River.

    Thursday, June 21, 2018

    REEEEEEEEE, inc.

    Ego autem non sum, non curo

             Fun fact of the day, that was a little bit of graffiti favored by certain unimpressed citizens of Rome back in the day.

     "I was not there, I do not care."   Honestly, I forget the context as to what it was often enough in relation to. Another favorite (though bastardized at this point) is Nil Illigetimi Carborundum, or 'Don't Let the Bastards Grind you Down."

     They might have been on to something.

     No one comes here for political analysis, thank God, but I'm more and more wishing to disengage from the modern Infomation-Liberal Media complex. The shit that leans the other way, too, to a lesser extent. 
      I'm a bad citizen. Sometimes, after a day or two without a steady diet of media, I forget who I'm supposed to hate. Who was it again?

        I'm currently having fingers wagged at me on Facebook for not caring hard enough for immigrant children. Last week, what was it, pussy hats? No, that was last year. Hell, I forget what I was being scolded for. Obviously I care so much about these things.

       Without tooting my own horn overmuch, the problem I find is that I am often enough not well-informed, as it's hard to find media information that isn't couched in bias and bullshit, and the keywords there are so obvious, that I stop reading as soon as some c-list J-school nobody mistakes a newspiece for a soapbox. Once that happens, I'm out.
     Having spent about 10 years learning about bias and critical thinking in scientific reasoning, the retards in media make me want to suck-prime a shotgun.

     Have you ever read  the news about something local to you, or read an newspaper article on your job, or have you ever been interviewed?  If you have, you know, and if you haven't you'll find out: the media ALWAYS fucks up the story.  I've been interviewed as a lobsterman, a boat captain,  fisheries biologist, a neurophysiologist and a man on the scene. EACH AND EVERY TIME, a key point was gotten utterly wrong somewhere.  I was identified as a captain of the US Marines, I was misquoted slightly, whatever, it always contained fuckups.
     One exception: I was interviewed for a Japanese documentary about how animals navigate. I was researching how lobsters integrate chemical traces and water flow signals into tracking behavior at that time. Well, really we were creating the program algorithm for a bomb-sniffing underwater robot, really, but I was doing the modeling using lobsters. Science, bitch.
    They got everything translated well, I'm told. I don't read or speak Japanese, so I'm hopeful this was so.

     Anyhow, my point is that the media is NOT made up of particularly bright people on the whole. I don't trust them, as a rule. It's impossible to figure out who'se stupid vs. who's an asshole, and I'm not up for choosing between the two.

    I'd like to boycott media entirely. But I'm not there yet.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2018

    Someone fetch me a fainting couch, I gots the vapors!

    Holy cow, did I get a pleasant surprise yesterday!

          So, in my last post, I lamented some bumps I've been having in the process of increasing tonnage and updating the endorsement expiration dates on my Merchant Mariner's Credential, the passport-like document that we use to document our bona fides , or, perhaps more accurately, that Port State Control and the glorified tax farmers that we also deal with use to DISqualify us for insufficient enthusiasm when it comes to loyalty to The Party, kissing ass and paying fees  performing proskynesis, fellatio and other niceties to prove our loyalty to the IMO's STCW code. Which is a fancy way of saying that maritime regulators have found a way to collect indirect taxes, create a layer of administrative hurdles and play Ultimate CYA by shifting blame to mariners and training issues when their awful policies kill or fail to address problems by requiring more training instead of providing practical solutions.

     OK, rant over. For now. Sorry. I was gettting all frothy for a minute there.

     At any rate, I had a problem recently in how the US Coast Guard evaluated my certificates and papers after I had submitted them, and I noted that despite the majority of my shipmates always having similar issues, I had had good luck until this time.

         Well, butter my balls and call 'em biscuits if I didn't get a call from the National Maritime Center (The Coast Guard's merchant mariner administration center) asking for clarification and did I want some help in resolving my issues?

     Coulda knocked me over with a feather. They called me.

     A very nice lady named Kim went over my application, asked directly what, exactly I wanted, and then, after going over some papers, found that 1) They did indeed already have much of the paperwork that they had asked me to resubmit, 2). that while I didn't ask them to actually renew my credential for another 5 years, since I am halfway to my next renewal, they'd go ahead and renew it for me instead of just raising me in grade, and 3), they did want one extra form from me, which I actually did not submit, in order to not take away one of my endorsements which I was apparently not using but would presumably want to keep. In addition, Kim also reinstated my MED-PIC (Medical Person-In Charge), which had been downgraded to MED-PRO (Medical Care Provider) for some reason last time, and which I hadn't noticed until this latest round of submissions.

     So overall, huge Attaboy to Uncle Sugars Coast Toasties for trying to help me navigate the horrible system they've created, at least. Personal service is NOT something that the Coast Guard does anymore. Or didn't.
     Anyhow, it sure soothed the burn of having to spend half Golconda on being able to just keep doing my job.


    Saturday, June 16, 2018

    Stuff and Things

    I've generally had pretty good luck with submissions to the US Coast Guard for my merchant mariner's documentation.  Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case with my current submission.

        I applied to up the tonnage limit on my captain's license after passing the exam required to do so, and submitted certificates of completion for some required refresher training (Advanced Fire Fighting and Basic Safety Training), stuff I had to pay out-of-pocket to handle, to the tune of about $1,000. Along with this I also got a physical, which I have to do and submit paperwork for every 2 years ($200), proof of holding a Transportation Worker's Identification Credential ($100, renewed last year), and a letter from my employer stating that I'm involved in a random drug screening program, have been handling liquid cargo transfers (so I can also renew my Tankerman Person-In-Charge rating), and have some 2,000 8-hour equivalent days at sea in the past 5 years (I get extra credit when my work hours are 12-hours/day or over, which is pretty much every day at sea), and do weekly and monthly fire and boat drills as part of my job on board an inspected vessel.

          Unfortunately, the Coast Guard evaluators, in their wisdom, failed to look at anything but the medical documentation, and requested the paperwork I had already submitted.

     Well, so it goes. I resubmitted everything today, which will take a few weeks to process. I'm not in a huge hurry, thank God, as my current credentials are not expiring soon and the one thing that I needed on a time-basis was the med cert, which was completed and mailed.

           Well, try again, anyhow. It seems like almost everyone has headaches with the Coast Guard's onerous paperwork requirements. Guess it was my turn.

     Father's Day is here, and I already received my socks and underwear from Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, who took a running joke between us (every holiday, when asked what I want for a present, I ask for socks and underwear, but never receive them), and actually gave me some fresh socks n' skivvies in a nice gift bag before I left. First time.
        Well, since July will be the first month where I don't have student loans anymore, I took my now unneeded student loan payment and bought a new band saw. Godamn I know how to give gifts. Can't wait to get home and set it up and use it. I already have some projects in mind.

     I started to write something poignant and nice about Father's Day, and my own father, but it ended up being a little too much of my private thoughts exposed, and very sentimental besides, so I deleted it.
     Hell with it. Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!

    Friday, June 15, 2018

    I didn't have as much time to tinker in my shop as I wanted this past month, but I did get a couple of  hours here and there to work on my little boats.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2018

    Damn it, I'm back

    All good things have a beginning and an end. Today marks both. Good, in that I get to draw a paycheck after a gloriously long and full time ashore, and bad in that I get to draw a paycheck after a gloriously long and full time ashore because I’m going back to work.
          In my off time, there wasn’t much off time, if you get me. I had been studying for the last several months to up the tonnage limit on my captain’s license, and took a 5 day prep class this time prior to sitting for the exam. So that is done and once Uncle Sugar’s Sea Scouts meditate over my paperwork and withdraw their pound of flesh, and provided I maintain the Mandate of Heaven, I’ll hopefully have my new Merchant Marine Credential in my hot little hands in a month or so.
     But wait, there’s more. I also got to take refresher classes in Basic Safety Torture Training and Advanced Fire Fighting.   I’m ambivalent there, because the refresher training was actually very useful and knocked the dust off some rarely-used skills that involve muscle memory. I forgot how miserable swimming in a survival suit was. Same with Fire Fighting. Watching a flashover, well, flash over my head and relearning how to attack a nasty fire was also illuminating. Paying for this shit was not illuminating one bit, either, but what can you do? Aside from the confidence that I once again am sufficiently afraid of emergencies but better prepared and aware in dealing with them was well worth the price of admission.
     So the other 2 ½ weeks were also damn busy. I started off in Boston, closing the sale of the B Family estate, which was both more stressful and less strenuous than I had expected. I was, apparently, well prepared to deal with the emotional aftermath of being the sibling among my siblings who was entrusted to pull the pin there. So that got done and some long-standing issues were resolved in the process. All to the good. And I got to say goodbye to Boston in a more permanent way, which was nice. I am a southerner now. Well, I live in Margaritaville, so I’m a hemidemisemi southerner. Good enough. My grandkids will say ‘y’all’ one day maybe.

           Aside from several long-term projects coming to fruition, there were the usual small fires to put out and some other weirdness to be dealt with. I went to a Brazilian Quincenera a 15th birthday party for a friend’s daughter, which was a trip, and I bet would have been an absolute blast or all had the family involved not been among the holiest of holy rollers. Well, there was good food, anyhow, and I took the opportunity to arrive a day early and leave a day late, so we could go to Disney.
         2 days at Disneyworld= 5 days in any other vacation site. Holy shit it was pricey.
     Also, I really, really don’t like crowds or amusement parks, but the fam had a blast and I survived, so… mission accomplished I guess.

         I did get 2 half-days to work in my shop on my little model boats, so that was nice. It was probably the most relaxing time I had overall. I got in some time with my own nuclear family on non-Disney grounds where I could have a good time, too, and that was wonderful, but there wasn’t enough of that overall. Maybe next month when I come home.

         So, after 3 ½ weeks, this has been the longest consecutive time I’ve had ashore in over 10 years.  I had hoped to be more relaxed, but such things aren’t always in the cards for me, given my hyperactive nature. Am I relaxed and ready to face another month of being chief bottle washer aboard a floating metal gas station? No. I’m not. But I’m going anyhow. I might feel a little frazzled, but I planted the seeds for a new path to open up for my future. I’ll have to decide what, if anything, to do with it while the paperwork and such is hashed out. It’s nice to have options. If you’ve noticed, my posting has dropped off, and this is in line with my enthusiasm overall while I’m at work. I feel as though things are about to get interesting again for me for the first time in a long, long time. I’m not excited yet, but I’m keeping a weather eye out for excitement in the future.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2018

    Gimme more!

    Blogging is going to be light for two more weeks, as I'm still at home, enjoying the longest break from sea I've had in 10 years.

     Not gonna lie, it's been nice.

         Since I'm in school mode, I signed up for some refresher training over the next two weeks. Advanced Firefighting and Basic Safety Training recert classes, specifically. It takes a lot of classtime and money to maintain even relatively simple merchant mariner credentials. Le sigh.

     Unfortunately, I can't justify renting another Jaguar for a pair of one-day classes a week apart. Also le sigh. I'll be using the family mommobile I'm sure.

    Something else, something huge, something awesome happened. On Saturday, I made my LAST STUDENT LOAN PAYMENT.    After just under 20 years, my student loans are paid off.
     I barely know what to do with myself.

    Thursday, May 24, 2018


    It's been a busy week. I've been in school for the first time in years. Tomorrow I sit for a higher-tonnage captain's license than I currently hold. I'm looking forward to getting that. The first few days were rough, not gonna lie- I really noticed how much I had forgotten. But between homework, a good program, a damn good instructor and some skull sweat, it's coming back. Tomorrow I am pretty confident that I'll be able to pass all the modules in one shot.

     I like the feeling of feeling competent. In conversation with fellow students, and in going over the material, especially the stability and cargo calculations, the tankerman math I do at work really made things easier, especially density problems and free surface effect calculations.

        Azimuths and Amplitudes have always been intimidating to me. They require dozens of repetitions to ensure that the right values go in the right place. I knew how to do that once. Sin D over CosL yadda yadda yadda, it came back, and the instructor we had made it easier to undertand than my original instructor years ago.

     Oh, since I'm driving an hour each way to school, and I had a credit at the local car rental place from a colossal fuckup on their part a few months ago when Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's car got beaned by someone's nana... well, long story short, I've been driving a 2017 Jaguar this week.Thing hasn't even had its' first oil change.

     Driving a Jaguar on the highway is like wiping your ass with silk. OMG.
     I'm gonna hate to give it back tomorrow night.

    Saturday, May 19, 2018


    Made it home today, and much of my to-do list has been done. My time won't actually be my own until next week, but there will be time for time, I'm sure.

               It's been not nearly as emotional or stressful a few days as I've expected. All's pretty well, actually. I credit much of that to being too busy to worry about minutia.

    Sunday, May 13, 2018

    One Last Visit Home

    Well, I'm down to my last couple of watches on this cut-in-half voyage, which is cool.

     I haven't been writing much. I'm getting ready to sit for a higher-tonnage captain's exam at the end of next week, and studying. On top of that, I'm tooling up to work on a small but complex fiberglassing project that will take about 30 hours to complete over the course of a week or two after I finish a woodworking project when I get some free time.

    It was  Mothers' Day yesterday and this is the first one without my mom. Hard to believe that she's been gone for 6 months already. I sort of kept to myself yesterday. Not that I was feeling bad, just feeling the changes going on around me, I suppose. A somewhat introspective day. 
     Oh, and I'm 44 today, though I look older and have the emotional maturity of a 15-year old, courtesy of a lifetime spent on the water and in the sun while being a ginger. I weigh 60 lbs less than I did a year ago, and while I have a way to go to get to an ideal weight for me, the end is in sight. I'd kill a man for a cheeseburger, though.

    With both my parents passed away now, and none of my siblings interested in living in the B family home, I decided to sell the house a few months ago, and have spent pretty much all my lunch money on making the place ready and appealing to new owners. The house sold after just 3 days on the market, but the intervening processes (inspections, code enforcement, etc etc) has been a shit show to deal with, though I'm given to understand it was actually very smooth compared to the norm in MA.

     At any rate, the closing is in a few days, and I'm tired AF of dealing with it, as are my siblings.

    With almost 50 years of memories, the decision to sell the family home was easier than expected, though it certainly has been emotional at times. Without my parents there, the home became a house, and it was a fantastic home to raise a family in... but despite the enormous sacrifices and hard work to keep the house, it turns out that the years of love and warmth didn't transmit into the walls for any of us. Home was the place where my parents were, not the house they were in. Now that they've gone ahead, home for me is where my own nuclear family is, not where it was, if you understand me.  Perhaps one day my son will feel the same way. I've been too busy to really dwell on the impact of selling my childhood home, a place I dreamed of buying for years, to keep it within the B family.

          ... But dreams grow and change with us, and despite my deep and abiding love for dick and fart jokes, I have actually grown and changed. I've always been a person who looks to the future with optimism and makes plans to enjoy it as best I can. 'Itchy feet,' my mom used to say, where I couldn't stay in one place for too long, as I always had something in the works and was anxious to work at it.
      I haven't outgrown my childhood home, but I have changed, turns out. I'm aware that I stand on the shoulders of giants, and might not be as good or fine a person as my parents (but good enough for them to be proud of me some of the time, which is about all any son could ask for), but they gave me a foundation and the confidence to build my own life. The 4 walls of that home contained what I needed, but to live in that house todaywould run the risk of confining me.

     So I don't know what will happen when I hand over the keys in a few days, or the night before, when my brothers and sister and I walk through the house one last time and talk about a half-century of memories. I don't know exactly what I'll feel when I turn off the light, or lock the door on a house that never had working locks until a few weeks ago. I don't know if it'll be a 'goodbye moon' moment or a nervous-making off-come-the-training-wheels moment. Maybe all of the above.

     But you know, I'll have my siblings there. We won't have the house, but we'll still have everything.

            I still sometimes call Boston 'home' in conversation. I don't think of myself as a Floridian yet. But in a few days, my last physical tie to the area will be gone, and several of my siblings are going to follow me south, I suspect. Regardless of how difficult or emotional the next few days will be, my itchy feet have already carried me towards new plans and dreams, and while I'm sure I'll have the odd pained thought about the sale, I also know that I'm not one to spend a lot of time looking over my shoulder. I tend to look ahead.

    The old neighborhood

    Thursday, May 10, 2018

    The Joy vampire is on Vacation

    Thus far, one of the most significant changes in my job this year has been that we no longer get much shore access in the 4 weeks we're on board.
         While this is not a big deal in and of itself, we don't have cold storage for 4 weeks of grub. I mean, after a week, which is the time limit for about as much fresh stuff as we can store, I can eat dry goods and frozen foods, I suppose, although it's pert near impossible to do so in a healthy way. Food is morale, as every sailor knows.
              Shore access was the jewel on the crown when I started working in brown water sailing. Being able to change the scenery, get away from routine makes for a much more pleasant work environment.

     Unfortunately, the reality is that the area where I work is oversaturated with equipment, and the response my employer chose to tighter carriage rates was to decrease lay time by laying up some barges, which means we work more hours per month with cargo than before, which makes sense financially. The downside is that there is less time for maintenance and painting and such, but we get by OK and part of my employer's strategy has been to keep newer tonnage to reduce downtime from maintenance issues. End result has been a more efficient fleet I think, but there's no damn berths open to get ashore, which makes getting fresh grub a logistical exercise.

         Now, as far as such things go, this is manageable. It's definitely come at a cost, but having a paycheck is nice, and if the cost of doing business gets too high, people will vote with their feet anyhow. We're managing.

        What got me thinking about this was that this week has been exceptional. We had TWO daylight sessions with shore access at a real lay berth! I got to go for two long-ass (9 mile) walks, and get groceries and generally just not be a lump for two afternoons, and it was great.

     That used to be normal, but you know, I appreciate it a lot more now. Hell, it made Brooklyn a lot more pleasant to walk through, too.

    Friday, May 4, 2018

    Doubled down

    So, last week a co-worker had a sudden-onset cardiac arrest while bunkering on his barge. I was home at the time, but I got a call from one of my shipmates who was deeply upset. The gentleman in question was someone I knew by name and face, but hadn't really spoken to, but my watch partner knew him well.    Poor guy pulled an Elvis, lost the number of his mess on the seat of ease.

     At any rate, I've been losing weight steadily for the past few months, and this gave me the incentive to double down on my exercise routine. I'm ashamed to say that I am damn sore from simply using 20 and 40lb dumbbells and doing pushups, along with an hour's walk every watch.

     It's just as boring as I remember, but as the weight comes down, my tolerance to heat increases, too, which bodes well for me at work and at home. We had a 2-day heat-wave here in NY this week. It was 92 on deck, and I spent much of the day outside and dealt with it ok. Mildly toasted by the sun is all.

    Tuesday, May 1, 2018

    back to the oil mines

    "Well, you're back, then."

        In 1997, those were the first words said to me in the town of John O'Groats, in Scotland, where I was visiting for the first time.It's a quiet place. Desolate, to the outsider.

      I only spent a few days there- unlike most of Scotland, I just couldn't find a companionable group of people to hang out with in my travels, and the local pub was closed, it being Easter weekend. Couldn't find a fishing boat to work on either, which I did (for free or for pay) a few times in the 6 months it took for me to work my way up and down the coasts. So it goes. Other than being kicked out of the city of Inverness for disturbing the peace (I got punched in the back of the head while taking a leak in the men's room of a bar, beat the bag off the kid who did it, whose friends then proceeded to return the favor with interest), I never felt unwelcome as I did in John O'Groats... and it wasn't as though I was unwelcome so much as a feeling that nothing was quite right at the moment. I ended up meeting some great friends at my next stop, and made some money fishing and drinking my way into the Hebrides. But I always remember the man I passed as I got off the bus from Thurso (or was it Wick? Can't remember).   You see, it would have been discourteous for him to have not recognized me if we'd met before, so he was being safe... I immediately returned the greeting with an "I am, and I hope you're well, sir."  "Ach, aye, the cold and all but good." And that was it.

             So, flying back into New York after a super busy two weeks at home,  I didn't feel like I was supposed to be here... not in a bad sense, just an uneasy feeling that my head wasn't in the zone, you know? And it wasn't. It took a few hours on board the HQ before I felt like I knew what was going on, to get my head in the game. The Uncanny Valley feeling did pass, eventually.

             Selling the B family home has turned into a stressful, gigantic pain in the balls for the whole fam. Someone always wants something, whether it's paying the local fire department a ridiculous sum for coming down and testing the fucking smoke alarms and giving me a certificate that they work (seriously, this is a thing in Massachusetts. Jesus Christ), or one thing and another, every day for the first 10 days at home required between 1-3 hours of phone calls, emails and getting the right people the right information... not to mention my poor brother and sister, who live nearby and have to stop what they're doing to deal with things I can't do over the phone. It's been a shit show, and the disturbing thing is that by Massachusetts standards, its going smoothly.

     Well, enough bitching. Almost there, anyhow. I'm just not suited to doing normal people stuff.

     I did get plenty of time with my wife and kid, and that was awesome. I had to work at not letting my annoyances become distracting enough to take away from our good times, but I think I did ok, absent a few hiccups.

     I even got a 2 full days and a couple of half days in my garage, which I spent expanding my workbench (it's now 15 feet long) installing the Radio control gear in my little model tugboat, and building the not-really little new model boat, too.

    Sunday, April 22, 2018

    Finishing touches (not in the naughty sense)

    Well, time is flying by now that I'm home, of course. The sense of 'never enough time' is strong as it always is, but it's been great to be home.

             I am well into the process of selling the B family home up in Boston. The million little things that everyone complains about really are worth complaining about. What a pain in the ass it is to sell a house! Still, another few weeks and if all goes well we'll be closing the deal and that will be one less pain in the balls for me. The implications of selling my childhood home is an issue to be dealt with after the work is done at this point. I'm mostly just sick of dealing with it, as is the entire B family, I'm sure.

             Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's cousin and her kids were visiting my home when I got here. I got to spend about a day and a half with them, which isn't a lot, but it was nice to see family, anyhow. When it was done, we spent 2 full days completely cleaning and rearranging the house. Not that the family was messy- kids are kids, and that's no problem there, but the opportunity was there, so we went all-out and two 14-hour days later, my house is looking beautiful. I declared by eminent domain that I needed more space for my hobbies, so I doubled my shop space- I have a 2 car garage that is more like a 2 1/2 car garage, which is now my personal ManTown.
      I've been opposed to having a man cave. My home IS my man cave. Part of being a neanderthal patriarchal pig that I am, I refuse to be relegated to a single room in my own home. But, truth is that I really only want my garage to be my space.
      At any rate, I extended my workbench another 7 feet, so now I have 14 feet of bench plus a 3-foot wheeled bench that I can scoot where I need. I also added shelving to keep my wood supply out of the way and some under-bench shelving for paint and such. Our bicycles and such got wall-mounted, too, to free up storage space. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife can still park her car in the garage when I'm gone- everything can be easily stacked and rolled well out of the way, so she's content enough. The last few days have been a nice distraction from the stresses of life. This morning, after church, I made a huge breakfast, and this afternoon my kid and I are going to an open house at one of the high schools in the area that he wants to check out.

     Domestic bliss? Pretty close.

     Oh, the little boat... I have everything I need with the exception of the electronic speed control to make the boat an r/c unit.  I fine tuned the reduction gearing, pulled the drive shaft and loaded it with lithium grease (waterproofs the shaft), installed a u-joint and the steering servo, and bought the ni-cd battery packs I wanted. I have to pick up 50lbs of lead for ballast, and finish wiring everything once the ESC comes in, and I can take the boat out for a spin. My neighbor is also a giant geek, and he has an rc speedboat. Since we share frontage on our pond, it's not like we have far to go.