Sunday, December 16, 2018

Someone's gonna pay

   The penalty for tool theft is to have a knuckle drilled out with a 1/4" drill bit.

 But this is aggravated tool theft. Someone must die.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


Well, F me with a broken broomstick.

       Someone else's unfortunate bad luck just killed my Christmas. And that of my family.

            I haven't been home for Christmas in a few years. This was supposed to be my year. Unfortunately, Christmas falls the day before my crew change this year, which means I'll miss it.

 So, a friend was going to come in early, on the 24th, so I could go home. His kids are all grown up. An unfortunate circumstance, he came back early, and is already here working, so basically I'm fucked. I am going to miss Christmas... again. Given my schedule, if I make no life changes, I'll go 6 years between being home for Christmas.

 I'm... not willing to do that. It's too late this year. I changed my flight last night, and that $700 for a frigging one-way ticket HURT. I've been home for a grand total of THREE Christmases since I joined this company 10 years ago.

 I am happy to be working, drawing a salary. I am feeling  a bit sorry for myself today. The ass-chewing I got when I told my wife was well-deserved.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Comms and the Brown Water Sail Life

One of the biggest draws of moving to brown water work to me when I was sailing blue water jobs, was the ability to stay in touch.

 My dad's days, you didn't talk to your loved ones while you were on ship.
When I was a teenager and fishing commercially, you could call the marine operator on the radio and they would connect you to your loved one via a collect call. Everyone could hear, but you could talk to family on your VHF or SSB radio.  This was for emergencies, as it was expensive. There were a few guys I fished around who put HAM radios in their kitchen at home. so they could check in with their wives.
In the domestic trade, you'd grab a roll of quarters and get in line at the dock. Almost every terminal would have a payphone on the dock. I called my parents once a month like that for my first few years sailing.
 If you were sailing international, you could call WLO or another store station by MF/HF radio and they'd do marine operator duty if possible. You could also order flowers delivered through them. Handy.

 Cell phones changed everything. Some guys invested in Sat phones, but for shlubs like me, a cell phone was more than enough.I got my first cell phone while sailing on the West Coast one winter. Getting my ass kicked for 4 months was made more tolerable by being able to call my family when I wanted, and later when I met a nice Brazilian girl who I liked enough to keep around, we could use what limited skills we had in each other's language to say hi once a week or so. I thought we were living like the Jetsons when the Gulf of Mexico's oil rigs were wired for cell phone service. This is back before nationwide service, of course, when you'd pay by the minute for 'roaming' charges outside your home region.  Back then, Petrocom (the company who owned the cell service out there) had deals with the cell phone companies, until one by one they started charging a premium for using petrocom's service.

 The Panama Canal Zone was a local calling area, for some reason. Nobody got hit with roaming charges down there, and I called many friends during transits there. I wonder if that's still the way of it?

 Today, well, it's a lot easier. I sometimes miss the joy and anticipation of knowing that today's the day I get to check in, but I also remember the anxiety of wondering about unanswered questions, and the mental effort required to put the things I couldn't answer in the back of my mind so I could focus on doing my job. Funny, when I think of that, of the mornings spent getting ready for watch or daywork in the days before cell phones, I think of the smell of the engine room of a steam-powered ship- that light gear oil and slightly musky hot-seawater smell from the evaps, not at all unpleasant. I guess I associate that smell with being able to let go the cares of the shoreside world... something I do miss being able to do at times.

     After dinner last night, for example, my wife in Florida sent me (in New York) some pictures of the healing incisions from her surgery and we talked about the wound care instructions her surgeon had given her. I then forwarded the pictures to the surgeon (In California today) with a couple of follow up questions. When I woke up at 2300 for watch tonight, the surgeon had sent both of us a video message discussing my questions,  giving advice and further instructions until her next check in.  I'm supremely grateful to be able to be connected, to receive advice and updates, and offer them too. Under normal circumstances, it probably would have been easier for me 25 years ago to leave that behind me when I got aboard, but fact is that it's easier on my wife to have me available by phone while she's not at her best, which isn't as good as being there, but still better than having to wait a week or more between calls.

 So, since we're free tonight and I've already handled the paperwork and projects I needed, and we're at a nice lay berth, there's little left to do beyond making rounds and the rest of the time is hopefully mine.  Sometimes these quiet night watches are a real treat.

Reduced Calorie social media diet

We've got a watch off today, and shore access too, so in another hour when the stores open up and it warms up a bit, I'm headed ashore for my routine walk/grub run- a 5 mile walk ending in a visit to the grocery store. It's been a while since I was able to do this, and I'm happy for it.

  With life getting in the way, I've had almost no time to browse social media the past month. And you know, I don't really miss it.  This blog isn't what it once was. It reflects my own sense that barring a therapeutic upheaval, my career has gone stagnant. Fecesbook, news and other distractions that can't be consumed while looking at my phone and sitting on the toilet have been pushed back or ignored... and I've enjoyed the peace. Well, not peace, really. There hasn't been much of that. But the conflict, pessimism and nihilism that makes up the bulk of the tone of our broken-hearted culture has been great to avoid. It's really helped in keeping the temptation to indulge my rosy fucking disposition somewhat at bay.
       I've been herded into a reset mode, I guess. I have been watching boat restoration and other creative videos online, and fantasizing about buying some very high-end tools that I won't be able to buy for another year or so.Without the time to devote to my hobbies or interests, there has been a sort of zen, of aligning my priorities with my available time, and social media... well, most media, has gone right out the window... amazingly enough, the world keeps on going anyhow. 

     BUT, I'm back at work, and I have the time to indulge my own curiosity and my own desire to tell people when they're wrong, and on trying, it lacks savor now. I think that's a good thing.
 Screw it, I'm going ashore or a walk before my head starts to hurt.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

setting all aright

Well, I'm back on board. Goddamn, what a challenging few weeks!  It's been tough, not gonna lie, but everything appears to be moving in the right direction.
          As unlikely as it is, for the first time in our 8 years as shipmates, both B and I had to have unscheduled time off at the same time. We've literally never spent more than 3 weeks apart since the day we met. Unfortunately, this resulted in HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ being manned by... not us, for a week.  My relief is an experienced tankerman who works under my friend Big Chocolate, so he's rock solid. Nice guy, too. He's staying on another week with me, and I like what little I know about the guy. Great rep.

... the other guy? Well, I tried to be as polite as possible, but I might have referred to him as a 'fucking mongoloid' to my boss.
         I work over a lot, filling in on other guy's turf.   You try to work within their routine, not reorganize too much, and ensure that they come back to a workplace that is more or less the way they left it, if they left it in good shape.
        The fill in guy who left today was clean, and a cleaner. That's wholly positive. He also reorganized my office filing system, paperwork management system, and absolutely fucked with our deck layout for mooring- shifting things around, breaking shit, throwing away things etc. etc... nothing too bad, I mean, it was a matter of 4 hours and I had everything back to where I want it, and the house itself is minty fresh inside, which is rare for a fill-in guy to do a bang-up job cleaning. But there's also a line to cross where you're just shitting on the carpet when it comes to messing with the system by which we do the actual work that we get paid to do.

 So I had a bit of a mad on when I was getting things back to nicenice, and the fill-in guy was a big help. He hasn't seen the HQ being operated correctly, so I feel as though I ought to show him that I'm not Captain Shitshow of Turd Harbor. And I'm coming off a pretty intense time at home, so while there is still much I have to do by phone in terms of helping keep my wife on the path to recovery, I hopefully can enjoy some modestly-lower stress days later this week too.

Sunday, December 2, 2018


Well, I'll be flying out tomorrow. Time to go back to work. Taking extra time off a month before Christmas was a serious pain in the wallet, but worth it, and I am BEAT. Sleeping 5-6 hours a day for 3 weeks after a month of the disruptive sleep that is normal on a workboat isn't a recipe for feeling good. Still, I anticipate being able to get some more rest and I hope to come home recharged and ready for an enjoyable holiday season.

 Today is my last real chance to chip away at the domestic BS that we all do before going back to sea with a little added this and that.

Monday, November 26, 2018

at home

This is the first morning in almost two weeks that I've been able to have a quiet start to my day. Having a bagel and reading the news has never felt so good.

             With Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife suffering and heavily medicated with limited mobility, it's fallen on me to handle the hundred household tasks that she normally takes care of. Along with tending to her and the indignities that come with being helpless, the sequelae of a seven-hour surgery- risk of anasthesia-related pneumonia and blood clots requires that we be up every four hours and have her walking, plus medications that have to be given 3, 4, 6 times a day, so every two hours I have to wake her up for a couple of gulps of a protein shake and a handful of pills. The challenge here is that she can't be doped into insensibility, because she's got to be able to walk, so pain is a constant companion.

At night, I can't sleep deeply- bathroom breaks, and moving in her sleep or rolling over and she's pulling at surgical incisions, which hurts, so who can sleep when they hear their wife wake up with a yell?

 I say this not to evoke sympathy- for better or worse, right? And this is temporary. She'll recover and is already starting to do so.  No, this opened my eyes to what my brother went through for TWO YEARS with my mom, all while dealing with his own spinal injury and constant pain. I'm bitching after two weeks. I mean, fuck yeah, it's hard work. But my brother did this for two fuckin' years. He lost 50lbs, and his hair went gray. Guy's a goddamn tank, though. I knew he was doing heroic duty, but given daily exposure, I didn't recognize him for being a hero at the time. He is. Absolutely is.

 So, regardless of my bitching, there's been some great stuff too. My kid has also been kicking ass helping me and his mom every day. I'm as proud of him as a hen with a new egg.

 My challenge this week is to prep for Christmas around the house- decorating is a big thing for us, and normally, other than hanging lights and bringing a tree home, that's not my department, but I'm now on decorating duty along with cooking, cleaning, laundry, maintenance and healthcare. The good news is that I'm mildly hyperactive in my obese way anyhow. I tend not to sit.

 I'll actually be looking forward to getting back to work and getting some sleep in.