Monday, January 11, 2021

grubbed up, tied up

After a busy week, we had a rare thing happen: shore access. With about 30 hours between jobs, I used up some goodwill and got our towing dispatcher to put us at a lay berth rather than sit out in the middle of the harbor on a mooring for the intervening period. 

    Shore access used to be a lot more common. These days we end up out in the middle of New York harbor or tucked in a corner somewhere in Port Elizabeth NJ. No shore access either way. 

    B and I used the time to go to BJ's and stock up on heavy crap- bulk stuff. A fortunate tide made it possible to get our haul onboard very easily, with just maybe 10' of lift- a good thing for a degenerate canned soda and energy drink junkie like me. So, as a thank you to B for driving us, while he was sleeping this morning, I went out and got him some fresh bagels. Of all the negatives to being in New York on any given day, the bagels and the pizza are pretty amazing. Being on a healthy eating kick again now that the holidays are over, I will be grumbling into my zucchini and salad, bagel-less, though. 

 Today is a day for maintenance, since we both have shore access AND have a little time. While it's lunch time now, we've had engineers coming and going, and I've been doing oil changes and running around with a grease gun all morning. At midnight tonight, we'll be headed out for another load. 

 I'm not sure what will happen in the short term with our workload- Christmas is over, and the unprecedented rush of container ship traffic last month has tailed off, but our workload is still pretty high. Our dance card has been pretty full, though not breakneck as it was last month. With the cold being not yet too cold, heating oil tanker traffic hasn't been unduly high yet, although we ourselves seem to be sending more oil up the Hudson river, upper state NY being a pretty damn cold place. 

Oh the homefront, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife caught Covid last week. She had a touch of a dry cough and lost her sense of taste, and that's it. She'll retest at the end of the week and see if she can go back to work. FL has a pretty decent system in place for advice on that sort of thing, although she had to arrive 90 minutes before the testing center opened in order to get a reasonable spot in line. We are fortunate, in that respect, as a friend recently lost his perfectly healthy 27-year old son, which has been a horror for the poor guy. I haven't taken the coof too seriously, myself, and only now has it sunk home that the random rare fatality in healthy younger people may be random, but not necessarily rare to us. 

 It still feels weird not having Facebook, although the peace is still nice. I made the right call, getting out of that. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Between weather

Well, winter's here for me, finally. Had to put on long johns before watch today. It was butt-ass cold out. And by that I mean my ass was cold. 

     The world has gone insane, and for a bit there, I was part of it, keyboard warrioring all over the place. I even got into it with a niece of mine the day after the chimpout at the capitol building. Because of that I missed 90% of the best sunset I've seen in months. 

     The next day I deleted my facebook account. I've been on it since myspace was around, and it's become too much of a habitual activity... and it brings me almost no joy. I can count on one hand the number of people I'll miss from there, and it's miserable, makes me unhappy, and... yeah. I'm off. Mark Zuckerberg can eat a dick. 

 I'm not going to miss any more good sunsets. 

 So today I ran into Bill the Lube Oil guy. 

      I have no idea how I became friendly with Bill. He runs a lube oil tanker that occasionally rafts up to us and pumps hundreds of gallons of lube oils up to ships at the same time I'm pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel oil to them. But I haven't seen Bill in 2-3 years. It was nice to catch up while we were working. We lamented the loss of the Jones Act ship trade, and Covid, and getting old, and generally did what sailors do when meeting across gunwales... complain and laugh about complaints. It was a nice way to break up a cold, blustery day. 

 So, yeah, aside from about doubling the pace at which I read and beating the hell out of the solitaire app on my phone, time for a new timewaster... maybe one that won't leave me seething half the time. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

back to it

 I've been back aboard for a little over a week now. Back in the groove I guess. My time home was wonderful. Coming back was less so, but I'm not yet enough of an asshole to get paid to stay home. Gotta work on that. 

          It's been an odd mix of off-hire time and balls to the wall running around. We had Christmas day off, and that was great- we ate like kings, as I had shopped specifically for all the fixins while grubbing up for my first 2 weeks aboard anyhow. So Christmas and Boxing day, which was also free for us, were notable for the massive and satisfying meals. Big E, our new partner on here, had bought a turkey, and B had made a tray of cornbread dressing for us before he went home on the 23rd. 

  Actually, I have to say that I had the Christmas Spirit this year. 2020 was a pretty tough time for so many people, I am deeply blessed to have had less struggle than most, and self-aware enough to be greatly appreciative for it. With such a poorly-timed crew change as Dec 23rd, I was predisposed to be grumpy, seeing as I got snowed out and missed Christmas through bad luck last year and it'll be 2022 before I get another chance... but Sunday  the 20th, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I made a giant dinner, and my brother, sister and nephew came over, and we exchanged presents. It was truly a great day. I cooked a prime rib for only the second time, and holy cow it came out perfect. I was fit to burst with pride. 

    I mentioned before that Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife bought me a monster bandsaw that prompted me to actually lay out a real shop space in my garage shop. So that's on for the next few months. But I won Christmas this this year for sure. Not only did I get an amazing present, I gave an amazing present. 

      Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is somewhat vain, being, well, inappropriately hot in that South American latina sort of way. Back in October I commissioned a portrait of her to be done in oil on canvas, based off of a couple of photos I sent to the artist. It was a gamble- although his work was amazing, I was afraid it'd be cartoony or not capture the light in her eyes and animated persona... and my wife's her own worst critic when it comes to her looks. I got my son involved in November, when the first proof came back, and we conspired to make a few minor changes, and those made all the difference. After my siblings and nephew went home, we opened presents under the tree, and I was as nervous as a one-armed paperhanger when she opened the box and saw the framed portrait. No need. She was absolutely floored. Huge, shocked smile, and then she burst into tears. Happy tears, mind. I've never seen my wife cry out of happiness, and I think that moment was something I'll remember forever. So, good memories this Christmas. 

   Christmas night, after dinner but before presents, we hung out in my back yard, as it was a pleasant night about 70 degrees.  Still a novelty for me, as a transplant from the north, but fun. I had fired up the jacuzzi in my back yard, and we hung out in there for a bit, which for my poor brother, who has spinal damage and fairly constant pain, was a present in itself. It was a good way to let dinner digest. 

      So, after an amazing if not relaxing time home (I stressed over getting the lights up, the presents, being a good host, etc. Lol. Ass.), I find myself back to work, and among other things, undoing the holiday weight gain. Back to eating healthy since the 27th. I'm in what I hope is the tail end of the carb flu period, where I've had no energy for the last 2 days, and hopefully some time today or maybe tomorrow I'll feel better. The heavy feeling in my guts has almost passed. I attribute that to burning off what was probably 3-4lbs of glycogen in my liver as well as whatever ghosts of excess were in my guts too. Either way, I'm feeling less logy... which is a good thing. 

The last few days were crazy busy. We went from sitting around for a couple of days to running at full speed, and with a complex series of segregated cargoes... 3 fuels blended from 4 shoreside tanks, each proportioned differently into 2 parcels each in 2 of my tanks, for a total of 4 tanks aboard, and two wildly varying-sized tanks at that, my smallest and largest paired, which had to get the exact same proportion of the 3 types of fuel in each tank. I killed a couple of trees working out the blends. In tankerman language, we had two segregated triple-barge blends of Ultra Low Sulfur Fuel oil, from four shore tanks... and then in the same load we also had a large parcel of Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil, and also a couple hundred tons of Low-Sulfur Marine Gas-Oil, which got segregated into my dedicated VLSFO and MGO-LS tanks, as well.

   The HQ 3 point-something being what it is, we were able to fit everything on board, with most of the tanks being only partially-filled in fact, but given the odd mix of products, we sailed from the loading terminal with absolutely abominable trim and list. We were down by the head by two feet and had a modest port list. Luckily, one of the two segregated blended cargoes went to a ship that was only 3 miles from the loading dock, and the second ship only a short hop from that, a car carrier that took our VLSFO and MGO. This solved out list issue, but not the trim, being still down by the head. Then back to load more ULSFO at a different terminal, a tiny parcel that was blended from 2 shore tanks, and had to be put in just one of my cargo tanks. The first portion only put 18 inches in the my tank, but it was pumped aboard through a heated pipeline from the terminal, which I didn't expect, and came aboard at 150 degrees, scorching hot and belching so much steam that I was blind and the vapors were obnoxious enough that I wore a respirator. The shoreside staff had to handle metering the correct volume to me, which I hate to do. They aren't as anal as I am about accuracy. Luckily, the second, larger aliquot of fuel came in at ambient temp, and did away with the steam, and I got a good blend, but we came away from the dock with a ridiculous list from having filled that one tank. We pumped off that tank in short order, and then pumped off the last of the previously-blended ULSFO, which, ironically was the first parcel we had loaded 2 days before. 

       Of course, the last job went hard for us. The ship's crew was... well, retarded, and made for a trying time. I have to credit the 3rd party surveyor they hired for unfucking much of the process, which isn't his job, but between the engineer who was practically eating the microphone of the handheld VHF I gave him to handle comms (seriously, it came back with the hand mic leaking saliva out of the plastic grate) and sounding indecipherable, like Charlie Brown's teacher, and his helpers who didn't know how to run their bunker crane or how to operate the accomodation ladder, and who kept asking me to jockey the throttles on my pumps. Some days are like that, though, and we got the cargo off and away from the ship in time, and there, gloriously, to a lay berth just across the street from the Newark airport, where at the moment we are expected to have New Year's eve off. 

 Well, I'm happy to see the ass end of 2020, and I hope I and everyone else have a better 2021. Hopefully there isn't a civil war before first of spring. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

A moral compass pointing due south

 I've got to brag up my wife here. 

 I'm still at home. Christmas dinner is tomorrow (Sunday) and I'll be heading back to work a few days before Christmas, so we're putting the dog on with the southern part of the B family. 

    Although my wife is an evangelical whereas I am a cradle Catholic, we're both disgusted with the administration of our respective churches, and have pledged not to tithe or give one single red cent until the corrupt bastards in both groups get their shit right. 

 So I discovered today that my wife in conjunction with a good-hearted relative back in the old country gave a bunch of money to an orphanage in Brazil last week, to buy shoes, clothes and a little present for every single kid there. Money that normally would have gone half and half towards paying for the legal defense of child predators, or a nice new jet for the already-wealthy suits selling salvation, instead went to people who actually needed it. I was near fit to burst with pride when she let the cat out of the bag.  

 The picture of those kids... Jesus, that in the past I wasted that money and gave it to the bloated Perfumed Princes of Rome. At least this year it went to the right place.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Never enough time

 Halfway through my time off, and already I'm running out of time. It's been another world-class trip home, with lots of fun, family, and Christmas spirit to be had. Since I live in Florida, one of the free states of America, there are no restrictions on celebrating Christmas properly. We've been out to dinner, had family over for visits, and decorated, attended church... all those things that the serfs in the Occupied Territories up north are not allowed to do. 

 And since I work up there, still, when I work, it makes me appreciate that people here had the fuckin' balls to say 'no' to the evil fearmongering tyrants. 

    There is a shitpot full of retirees and old timers in Florida. This is Heaven's Waiting Room, after all. On a state level, the odd attempts by would-be dictators are ignored, while the more conservative factions including our governor, note that there are resources available for at-risk people, but those of us in the low-risk cohorts are allowed to carry out our daily economy according to the tenets of the US Constitution, not the extralegal exhortations of fear-mongering assholes with power. 

  I started a major redesign of my shop space in between all my other projects. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife bought me a monster bandsaw that is still waiting for a place to be put in. Thing's 7 feet tall and somewhere north of 500lbs. Gonna be the centerpiece of my shop for sure, but no way I can rig the thing to be on a mobile base as I do with my other larger tools. I'm going to need a few months, but it's time to put in a full series of cabinets and a more ergonomic workbench along with better tool storage. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Making money

 Well, we've been running around like a one-armed paperhanger here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ and Floating Prison. It's busy. The Christmas rush is here. 

     I'll say this- we absolutely didn't have this much ship traffic this time last year. The container ports are running full, New York harbor has NO spaces in the anchorage. It's full. I have never seen that before. Some of that is the 4 day gale that has been very slowly slacking finally this past day or so. It wasn't as intense as that storm that passed through last week, but a Nor'easter formed up and passed us by, slowly, offering a glancing blow that just kept going on and on. Inland New England got pasted worse, and we got 'lucky.' For values of luck. No snow, anyhow. That's a blessing. 

 So, yeah, the past 2 weeks we've been balls to the wall. This is my first watch off since Thanksgiving. I got caught up on maintenance and chores, and sat my ass down for a bit, too. It was awesome. 

     Sometimes you need to have a frenetic week or two to make you appreciate downtime when it happens. 

 So, between increased tanker visits (home heating oil season is coming), and container traffic being really high, it's been good for the wallet I'm sure, given that it's been so slow these past few months. Between big box stores and Amazon, this Christmas might not be a big one, but by appearances from my end, commerce is humming along. 

 And, I've got just 3 days to go. Almost time to go home. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

She's coming on boys, and coming on strong

 Blowing a gale here today on board the HQ. Well, off the HQ too. We sailed off a container ship this morning, and made a short jog to Newark NJ to come alongside a ro-ro... the wind went from a blustery 30ish to 50+ and blinding sheets of rain came down- unfortunately, we were taking the breeze di-reckly up the bee-hind, and that made tying up a chore. Luckily we had  the best tug handler in my company at the wheel of his chariot, and even with his mad skills, it was a nail-biter. It's been a minute since I was nervous out on deck. Lines screaming, can't settle down, half blind and all-deaf, we got fast with a combination of great boat handling, some old-fashioned linehandling, and using my capstans to winch us into position. The buffeting effect of the wind was enough to prevent us from getting snug alongside. My captstans were bogged down, and I regularly use them to winch us up and down a dock when we end up having to load multiple products at a single dock when one of the manifolds is out of the scope of my deck cranes. The capstans have plenty of ass... but not enough to overcome the weight AND wind. The tug did a little throttle mojo and eventually we got in there, though. After all that, the job itself was anticlimactic, and the wind settled down into a small gale about an hour after we got fast. 

 It's been a while since I was grateful not to be sailing blue water. The Filipino deck gang on this afternoon's ship is NOT looking forward to the first day or two of sailing south after this evening.