Sunday, May 19, 2024

Benefits include pissing over the side

 Sometimes after a shitty week, the only positive part on reflection was the one time the sun came out for 10 minutes and you got to watch it rise or set while taking a leak over the side and into the ocean.  This past week was that exactly. It being Sunday, I am happy that I was able to have a nice sunset experience There weren't many other highlights, but it was nice to see the sun finally, and also nice to fill the ocean back up to its' proper level.  And I'm not the only one to take a small pleasure from being able to hang the wang pointed at a place I do not love. 



Because New York is the third goddamn world, It took 15 minutes to successfully upload this tiny picture.  This place really can eat a dick.  


    In this respect, peeing at the place I abhor and letting the salty stream of my ennui marinate their vista,  I feel bad for female mariners, who already have it rough out here for  a variety of reasons and also can't just take a leak over the side and feel the gentle breeze on the bits to try to turn a crappy day around. The only way they get to do this requires a HELL of a lot more risk, and a much higher chance of getting wet feet out of all that effort.  


 Anyhow, this week was a 3 on the 1-10 scale, but it was a 2 up until 15 minutes ago. Nice to see the sun for a minute too, finally. 



   

Thursday, May 16, 2024

raining again (and then more rain)

 Well, today could be the day. Granted that today is less than an hour old, but it looks like possibly, maybe, there's a chance I won't get my ass rained on today, because the first half of this watch was day 11 I think, of me getting rained on at some point 


             A few months ago we hit one of these spells. Last summer or fall I think. like 2 1/2 weeks of it?  I can't quite remember, but I was absolutely apeshit by the end of it. I'm doing OK with this spell, mostly because I'm trying really hard to focus on next week, which should be a good week, once I leave here and go home. 


I started doing my new 2nd job, too, the other night. About 5 hours of work to do what used to take me about 45 minutes. Collating data, and organizing it to be analyzed in a consistent and accurate way. 

      I had this poetic picture in mind when it came to truly flexing my mental muscle and actually working as a scientist again. Like rust falling off a previously-frozen metal fixture, and squeaking and squealing as stiff joints flex. 

    It was nothing like that. It was more like... picture the smell of burnt hair and an anxious wet dog. You know that fear stink that dogs get?  Picture that, and a middle aged dumpy guy slightly frightened at how hard it was to understand the things he was looking at. Alarmed. That's the word. I was alarmed. 

         And with a little help, and a LOT of hesitation, I did what I set out to do. I now know I'm capable of actually doing what I said I could do. Oddball analytics. 

 So that is how I got paid to set some unknown nerd's agenda for next week. testing someone else's testing methods 


 Anyhow, it was all pretty mundane, except that it's the first time in damn near 20 years since I got paid to use the education I worked hard to acquire and mostly set aside not long after. 


    Well, whatever. I'm down to like 5 more watches after tonight. 



Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Oh FFS (Part XXXIV)

 Well, I'm 50. How the F did that happen? 


 Celebrated by waking up 3 hours early when the online generator took a shit at 0130, plunging the HQ into darkness while in the middle of a cargo discharge rafted up to a ship at anchor. 


 Darker than 3 feet up a well digger's ass when that happens. The silence is eerie, as we were just transferring diesel, which uses an electric pump the size of a 55 gal drum but is whisper quiet. Our heavy fuel pumps are run by big diesel engines, but the MGO (Marine Gas Oil, which is fancy talk for diesel) pump is pure golden silence... and even more silent when it's not on. 

    Gen threw off the serpentine belt when the idler pulley broke. I had the same thing happen to another gen just 3-4 months ago, so swapping out and rereeving the belt was a quick job. My partner B had already fired up the standby gen and put it online, so we were back in action in 5 minutes, but I wasn't falling back asleep after that wake up call so I went ahead and unfucked things on the dead gen. She fired up shortly after. 

   But it was kind of nice to hear the waves slapping off the hull, a nearby bell buoy dinging nearby, things like that.  I forget how much the constant background noise masks. 


 And yeah, I'm 50. Still trying to figure that one out. 




Thursday, May 9, 2024

Maintenance

 Yesterday was Halfway Day for me here on the HQ. 2 weeks down, 2 to go.  The first week was pretty busy, while last week wasn't so much, but had an unusually high amount of planned moves for us which were later changed or deleted.  One thing that I don't think the office drones care about is that scheduling a move for us and then moving the time or cancelling it later eats into our productivity heavily, as our daily and periodic tasks like maintenance and even our free time (when we have it) is all built around the almighty move schedule, and our free time, which is when we do things like go ashore to buy groceries or do maintenance, exercise, cook and eat, handle logistics and administrative tasks, etc.... when there is a move planned, we are constrained and plan accordingly. It's neither smart (or legal) to walk off deck during a cargo operation to fiddle with the parts ordering system and tackle the supply list. 

      So, when we have moves planned, and then the plan is eliminated, we lose massive amounts of productivity. You can't tackle a 4-hour task 3 hours before a move, and frankly, given the liberal interpretation of 'schedule' that our tugboaters  have, it's not unusual for a tugboat to crash into us at an inappropriate speed 2 hours earlier than expected because  we didn't answer the radio, not being in the house at tie time, andthe tug captain likes to take his morning shit at 0700, and we were supposed to be docking at 0700, which will not do and so we're going to leave early and struggle and look like assholes tying up with wind and tide against us and no dockman to catch lines because they expected us at 0700... and you get the idea. 

     THE PLAN is sacred to me, personally. I really like sticking to The Plan, whenever possible, and don't like changing The Plan on a whim or without good fucking reason. And in expressing my frustration with The Plan changing more often than normal this past week, I am not being fully fair to the office drones. They do what they do based on the quality of the information received. But that doesn't change that for some reason last week the planning was not anything close to accurate, ever. And that's unusual. And it's fine, really. Things get done, one way or another. Perhaps not to my taste, but I am a small cog in a big wheel, and in the scheme of things, I am but one more mushroom, if you know the expression. 

      So, anyways, for some reason yesterday and today we've been sitting at pole position in our lay berth (not the one with shore access, one of the other ones, but with a good cell signal, which is NOT something taken for granted), counting down the hours for upcoming jobs that keep changing and being pushed back. The engineering department has taken advantage of our being just a short boat ride from the office, and has been tinkering with my more troublesome generator, one that has never really been reliable or smooth running (It shakes so much when running that we call it Michael J. Fox instead of  "#1 Gen", which is unkind).  So, while we're unable to tackle bigger jobs, little tasks are getting knocked out of the park the past 2 days, which is not to be despised at all.  It's a rainy week this week, with *something* predicted pretty much every day, so between that and the insane amount of pollen in the air this week, the whole HQ is a startling dusty yellow where the rain evaporates off. 

         Today, after breakfast, which I am about to cook, I am doing the annual oil changes in our two right angle drives, the transmissions that connect the main cargo engines (big diesels) to the 15' screw pumps mounted in the cargo sump shafts that run vertically from the deck to the keel, connecting our underdeck pipelines to the above deck piping. After that, I may break out the stencil kit and do some tankerman arts and crafts if the weather is kind and nothing pops up last minute for work. If the office is kind to us, I will be able to eat lunch sitting down. 



Saturday, May 4, 2024

Hell Hath No Fury

I've seen Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's rage at it's full flood  just a few times. The other day I got to see it directed at someone else for once. As I should expect of her, she's capable of great acts of kindness interspersed with going at it hammer and tongs when her ire is well and truly up. 

    Construction on The Compound , the house we're building in Brazil, was negligible in April. The builder warned us that he was having some issues, but we had no idea that things were at a standstill, until earlier in the week, a relative who lives down the road from the house stepped on by. She found one worker, a mason, sleeping in an alcoholic coma in the middle of what will eventually be the living room floor in the the main house.  Kicking the man in the legs and ribs failed to rouse him, so she stepped over his smelly ass and had a look-see, taking video the while. 
            I found out about all this while my wife was warming up to hand out clusterfucks and pink slips over the phone.  
         The builder is still the builder. He got a good tongue-lashing about minimizing the depth of the shit he's in labor-wise, and then a coaching session about American plainspoken-ness, which she now embraces on at least a half-time basis, and then she and he, after commiserating, conference called me, who played the stern and disappointed foreign patriarch very well, thank you. It helps that the builder speaks no English, and frowns are translated universally in every language. Plus, the reserve and coolness of a New Englander being known even in the US, a stern but reserved demeanor is understood in Brazil to be barely-tolerant disapproval, which was the look I was going for.  
      My wife then proceeded to fire the architect, who failed twice to deliver documents on time to the builder, saying that she felt no need to accept his excuses, as he was easily replaced, and in failing to keep his deadlines, he was untrustworthy and dishonorable, and will see no further business from us. She didn't say anything about the man's mother, but she sure leaned heavy on his probable upbringing. 
         The drunk in my living room? She has a soft spot for alcoholics, her father having struggled with the issue, and asked the builder to have a come-to-Jesus talk with the man, explain who exactly saved his job, and ask him to keep it in check while he's on his last shot. Thus far, the past two days the guy's been active at least. 
     So, construction being mostly halted, we're actually ahead on materials on hand, which is not a given in Brazil, so the mason has all he needs to complete the rough work on the main house and the annex, which is where we'll stay. The walls are at a standstill- about 10' high, but untopped until an electrician pulls cable and wires them up for lighting and cameras and shit.  That's supposed to happen this month. 
      The Compound is supposed to be habitable by Thanksgiving. The builder says he can still make it. I hope so. 

Friday, May 3, 2024

Oh FFS

  So last month I wrote the first half of a 2-part blog post about a young guy on another company's tugboat who we all took an immediate liking to here on the HQ. You can read that here. 

The 2nd half of that post was going to be more about the young guy  in question, and the process of turning a tugboat Able Seaman into a tankerman, which I thought would be pretty good blog fodder.  It's rare for Big E, B, and myself to like anyone, let alone all 3 of us making note of it.  I myself thought the stars were in alignment. The kid had signed up for tankerman school, had the sea time sufficient to get a tankerman's ticket, asked questions and was a hard working AB... which is about all the qualifications the Coast Guard cares about. Beyond that... there are tankermen who are assholes, tankermen who are idiots, and tankerman who are pretty good at it....  It's a broad brush as far as qualifications go.  2 of the 3 groups being negative, there are also a lot of sailors who don't like tankermen. In truth, to be good at it, it takes a pedantic mind, a certain comfort with math and seamanship, and a knowledge of the complex rules and regulations governing hazardous cargo storage, care and movements... But another truth is that you don't have to be good at the job to be adequate at the job.  There are plenty of slow tankerman whose lips move when they read. They're the labor force, the helpers, the 2nd men, able to function and follow orders by making the job a series of repetitive tasks to be carried out sequentially. 

         I call it 'The Retard Circus" because that's what it resembles. Me? I guess I'm a ringmaster. I'm certainly not above the circus. I'm right there in it. 


     But yeah, the kid... sigh. Boy... that didn't work out. 


     The kid is young, high energy, likeable and volatile.   Full of piss and vinegar, and eager to learn, a new tankerman being paid about double what an AB gets paid. The kid was already spending those checks to build his grown up life in his mind. Motivated. 

    We had his tugboat the other day, first time I've seen him in 5-6 weeks,and I know he went home in that time, so when he came aboard, I asked him if his application to my company was submitted. 


     The dumb fuck put an application in, and like half the fucking idiots under 30 do now, he failed the goddam piss test. 

It's one thing to get nailed in a random, another to willingly take a VOLUNTARY piss test, KNOWING you should wait a month because you're dirty.

    I hate weed, and most weed smokers, not because I am particularly tight-laced, but because I have yet to be around someone high who isn't so fucking stupified to deal with that it make me want to drown them in a toilet rather than listen to them or pretend I'm not bored out of my fucking gourd by dealing with their idiot asses. 

     I learned as a younger man to keep that opinion to myself, especially around high people. I guess it's unsettling for baked individuals to find out that I'm not really listening to them so much as fantasizing about harming them when they talk at me.  Oddly enough, I'm OK with drunks. I was a bouncer for a while; I speak the lingo and can usually manage to make an unruly drunk affable and compliant using bonhomie and goodwill rather than bumrushing them. 


   But yeah, I'm wicked disappointed in the kid. Yes, there is a terrible tankerman shortage, but among out ranks, there's no shortage of retarded tankermen, the short-bus seat warmers valued for their heartbeat and ability to turn groceries into feces.  The shortage we're facing is that of people who can say no to themselves and follow the fucking rules... and really, if two of the rules are  " 1) Don't do drugs. and 2) Don't do anything to blow us up because we can blow up" , a man who won't follow one rule can't be expected to follow the other rule. 




That's a good example of what happens when you don't follow the rules.   I have no urge to be sleeping in my bunk and being woken up by St. Peter telling me it's time to talk. I am grateful that none of us on the HQ  vouched for Cheech and Chong here. 





  

Friday, April 26, 2024

I have met the King

 Something extraordinary happened at crew change a couple of days ago. I met a living legend. I met Meow Man at the grocery store. 


       If you're a mariner who either works in or visits America, you have seen Meow Man's graffiti tag.  Virtually every New York based TV show at some point shows one of Meow Man's tags in the background when they show the city off, especially the waterfront. 


 For over 40 years, Meow Man has spray painted or chalked his tag at every dock, pier and piling between Maine and Texas, and including some select spots in other countries nearby. 




 A select number of people know who he is. I, until yesterday, was not one of those people. People who know who he is do not tell people who he is. So I was shocked to learn that the captain from another company who I was talking to in line at the grocery store (unkempt older guys, homeless looking but with about $1500 in groceries = tugboater, so we both knew what each other was doing for a living. Game Recognize Game) was the man himself. 


    I've been seeing Meow Man tags since I was 9-10 I think, at least that was the first time I wondered who the hell would make that their graffiti tag and how the hell it got 50 feet in the air at a railroad bridge over a waterway.    I've personally seen Meow Man tags (saying either "Meow Man was here" or Meow man, suk my bag" or both) between Portland Maine and Brownsville TX, and probably 100 or so docks and bridges in between. Spotted it in the Caribbean somewhere too, though I forget where. Borco, Bahamas? Campeche? Rio Haina? Gitmo? St. Maartin?  I can't remember, but I do remember seeing it. Dude gets around. 



    Anyhow, in telling the story to the dozen other guys on the launch bring us to prison work yesterday, I said that I've met two celebrities in my life. Mother Theresa, and Meow Man.  The launch operator, Dirk the Dutchman, himself a retired tug captain, being in the club and having had Meow Man himself as a deckhand decades ago, was tickled by the celebrity status of his friend, because when I said I met him, it was like a bomb got dropped. I was a nine-days' wonder, and all talk of who got fired for pissing dirty and who died while we were all home all ceased. I may as well have said I had met Jesus and for a few minutes, reflected glory shone upon me.    It was a good way to soothe the ache of going back to work.