Monday, April 19, 2021

Something happened.

 I'm home, and the last few days on board the HQ were pretty low-key, so I arrived home in good spirits, and not in the exhausted-beyond-reason way that the last few months have seen me dragging ass off the tarmac here in Margaritaville. 

 Pool season is open, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife have been glued together at the hip, pretty much hiding out at home. It's been 85and sunny most days, so I've been catching up on yardwork and the honey-do list, and finally got one side of my garage shop wired for 220 so I can use the giant ass bandsaw that I got for Christmas.   Sawdust and hopefully not fingers will be flying once I get through the things I have to do, which included patching the usual spring woodpecker holes in the trim of my house. Every time I hear the little fucker tapping, I go out there with a bb gun, but there's always a neighbor in eyesight, and the little bastards are a protected species. Well I want to protect them from nature by throwing their dead carcasses in the trashcan, but what can you do? People in hell want icewater, I guess. 


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Nothing continues to happen

 And today, nothing happened. 

 Oh, there was a real pea-souper of a fog this morning and for much of the day out here in the anchorage. And we gloriously are still enjoying the fruits of the clogged up Suez canal. I got up early (I'm working the back watch (1800-0600) here on my last week aboard, and serviced one of our generators, swapping out filters, oil change, check on the coolant specific gravity, run the little diagnostic self test, etc. I also drained off the water from the air receiver (compressed air tank), did a parts and supply inventory, and rummaged through the deep freezer (which is in the gen house, because hey, the power is right there and the accomodation block isn't all that big here on HQ 3.0). 

 So, really, busywork. It's rainy and foggy out, or I'd be out doing deck maintenance, which is actually up to date, and it's always nice to get ahead of the curve... but my particular pet peeve is getting rained on, so, yeah, nah. We have a cargo fixed for my next watch, so I won't be sitting on my sitter here much more, and that's OK. Too much anchor time makes me nervous. If the HQ 3.0 is laid up the way HQ 2.0 and Temporary HQ were, right out from under my feet, I'll hang myself at this point. I'm a creature of habit and while I *can* live out of a duffle bag, I'm awful appreciative not to have to. 


Friday, April 9, 2021

The lull is here

 Well, finally we have had a humane schedule for a few days in a row here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/hot dog safari.  This quarter has been a shit show for us, just nonstop work for weeks, coupled with the occasional accidental watch off when a fuel dump gets clogged up with traffic and we get to rest. 

    Well, we're finally feeling the impact of the Suez canal closure 2 weeks back, I'm told.  We had a lull, and a day off, worked 2 days, and now we have TWO days off, in theory, unless something happens. And while my employer might be a little bummed out, to be honest, I need a damn break, and I'm in the home stretch of this tour. I go home in 5 more days, and I don't want to go home feeling like the Unibomber, ready to write a manifesto. 

       When we've had a watch off, the on-watch guy gets to catch up on everything that is behind, starting on any basic maintenance, like oil changes, inspections, chasing down hydraulic leaks, fuel sampling, inventorying and ordering parts, splicing lines out on deck, and that sort of thing, The days of being able to go out on deck with a needle gun and bust rust are long past now. Nobody has that sort of time in bunkering anymore- maintenance is a hurried, business, doing the best one can with the time one has. much of the time we do maintenance on our off watch, cutting into sleep time. 

 And now here I am with a wealth of time , and we had a day off already this week, so maintenance is already close to current.  I'm on nights this week, and we're out in the anchorage. I'm enjoying the time and the peace very much. I've been peeing over the side all evening, enjoying the skyline. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

Why does that hurt?

 Lordy, I did get my exercise this morning. 

      The schedules of oil tankers are hard to predict. Unlike container ships, oil tankers often rush to a port, and then languish at anchor waiting for a berth to open up. This stems from demand- oil is notoriously bulky, and the US, and most countries, come to think of it, have VERY limited oil storage capacity. Just a few weeks' worth, for the most part, less our 'strategic reserve' located in Salt Domes deep underground, which is nowhere near as large as one might think. At any rate, my point is that the oil trade is seemingly chaotic, and that extends to shipping traffic, too. 

         I have experience myself of drifting offshore, waiting for the price of #6 oil to rise one whole cent before going in.  On top of this, storage depots often rent tanks to multiple companies, and at times, ships arrive at the same time and someone has to fight it out over who gets to go into the berth first. Sometimes there's just one owner, and they have to decide the same thing based on market forces, storage capacity, demand, charter rates, and, oh, a dozen other factors. 

 As a result, we loaded a very small parcel of Very Low Sulfur Heavy Fuel Oil (VLSFO) for a tanker that was headed into a storage depot in NJ, and would be out some 24 hours later. Only, the ship went to anchor unexpectedly, and so we have to wait until they finish their business and sail, and once they drop anchor in NY harbor, we can do our business, too. So suddenly the HQ has 36 hours free, the most time I've had in a few months. I was able to shine some booties to a high polish, and got us a berth at the company office/warehouse, where we've had a treasure trove of supplies waiting for a month now for our own internal stores. 

     I spent this morning humping buckets and boxes and spare parts, walking them across the deck of another barge (we are moored outboard of them, and they are moored to the dock), and then another 250ft across and around pipes and such into their respective homes, one 20-100lb armful at a time. 

 There was a time when this wouldn't have tired me out. That time is now passed. So today was a good thing. I could use the conditioning. And it's nice to have spares again too. I now have, God willing an' the creek don' rise, the opportunity to put my feet up for 2 hours after lunch. Then the work begins again. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

weekend update

 I'm still here. Just killing it. 

      I'm not inspired to write much at the moment, as I've noted. I'm in the doldrums, work-wise. The challenges at work for me are not what they were. My greatest challenges used to be involved with finding ways to creatively get things done in a safe and efficient manner- load planning, creating and improving maintenance schedules aboard, etc.  Well, with time, that stuff becomes oh so de la mode, so to speak. 

      I remember reading in someone's memoirs that no matter your passion for a job, eventually it becomes just a job, regardless of whether the sense of fulfillment endures. On top of that, we lose the opportunity to do the things we most love to do at the job as we advance in experience and our responsibilities change. 

 I spent about 45 minutes yesterday doing paperwork for a cargo fixed for a new charterer. Like any company from places other than the developed world, they have a particularly onerous paperwork trail that for some reason is far more complicated and unnecessarily repetitive. This is not to say that we are ungrateful for their business- far from it, it's a good opportunity and growth is never to be despised.   But the truth is that the companies we work with here on the HQ are mostly western, and while all have individual differences in their reporting and documentation, all share a good deal of common traits... and our new charterer does share many of these things... and then has an equal or greater amount of unfamiliar in-house paperwork that I don't relish dealing with. This makes me suspect that most of our suppliers have an in-house staff that handles some of these issues, and companies that operate in less-developed economies simply do not.  What a good shoreside example? Go visit Customs in a couple of countries. The US has a process that if not always nice is usually straightforward, even when it's not. *cough cough USDA inspector aboard, throw out your canned food!* Now go visit customs, in, say Brazil. There are 12 stamps from 5 offices here. There are supposed to be 13 from 4. You need another stamp, but the guy with the stamp is not in this week, and next week is the week-long feast of St. Whoozits, patron saint of left-handed dentists, so he won't be in until... 6 weeks from now, but only between 4 and 4:16 pm, and also not here, but in another city. 

      So that's sort of where my headspace is at with this stuff. Now, the real giggle is that I'm just the guy who gives the customer $10 in unleaded and a pack of Marbs. I don't actually wash the windows, but the simile is solid. This stuff is above my pay grade... except when it isn't, because I fill out a form incorrectly because somehow when a paperwork process that normally takes 10 minutes takes 45, scanning for errors becomes exponentially harder, especially when there's an unusually high percentage of copying involved from page to page, but not always rote copying... in an age when computers are a thing.  I should ask Supply for an abacus. It might help. 

      Well, howsomever the differences, the money made from these transactions is green, and it behooves me to keep that tap in the on position as long as I can by trying to do things the right way. The only reward on here for doing a good job is that no one calls to complain. Given the way things are, that has to be good enough, and if cash is green and black oil is black, silence is still golden. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

halfway day

I'm at halfway day today, and the first two weeks aboard certainly were busy! We're continuing to get beat like a rented mule here at the HQ, in terms of workload, and no end in sight. The weather is awful, mostly. Storms every 2 days, wind about 2 days out of 3, and no end in sight there. 

 But we're halfway there, and I'll keep telling myself that. Been lots of humdrum days, where I put in the hours, and go to bed, rinse, repeat. A bit soul-deadening, to be honest, but I'm showing up on time for watch, and it's work. 

I can't post pictures on Blogger, suddenly, and can't seem to figure out why, either. Hmmm. 

    Uninspiring, I know. I'm curious if we're going to get a glut or a break in ship traffic here in New York harbor from the Sues canal debacle over the weekend. It'll be a while until we find out. Several of our regular visiting ships are on liner service from the far east to the middle east to the Med to the EU to the US. So I honestly don't know what this will do to us in terms of the availability of cheap shit. Our fuel is still mostly coming from in-house, but that'll change as small American oil companies lose confidence in our present .gov and larger oil companies adjust. I'll be curious as to what the speculative market will do with the state of affairs in the global oil trade. 

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Tug Life with Tim B At Sea

 So one of my friends has a youtube channel that I find super entertaining and informative. If you're into boats, or have ever been interested in tugboats . Tim's a good speaker, gives clear and entertaining descriptions of what he's doing and has invested in good video equipment so that you get a feel for what a tugboat captain does in harbor work. Along the way, you can also find descriptions and tours of his boat, working in tides and currents, and shiphandling too. He's developed a following of people that seem to be divided into 3 groups- workboat enthusiasts, fanbois, and the merely curious. You should absolutely check him out. 

His channel can be found here.

   Enjoy- although I've known Tim for a few years now, and the videos encompass something I know a little about (and I do mean a little. I've never run a tugboat other than at the forbearance of a few generous friends who either indulged me or had a sudden need to use the toilet), and I find the videos soothing, as well as informative. The sounds of the engines put me right mellow awful fast.  Anyhow, go give Tim's page a look and consider subscribing if you like Youtube videos. It'll help him out by offsetting the dough he's put into making the videos.