Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Screw Change Part 9000

Twice in a row, now, I've had a hell of a time getting back to work.

 It's not like I really really want to come here. I mean, I have to, I like money, but it's awful hard to leave a perfectly agreeable wife and  kid to be away for a month or more. So when I get fucked on crew change on the inbound side, it's pretty galling.

I take the same flight each time. Perhaps that's a mistake, because the flight has been cancelled the last two times I tried to get to work. This time, the flight was canceled when I was already checked in and past security. Pissed off, I got on the phone likety-split, and was able to get an evening flight out, 7 hours later... which started backing up on the times, too. 10 minute delay. Then 15. Then 25... eventually we did get on the plane. Since I had to be shoehorned onto the flight, I got the last boarding group, you know, with the cows and the Irish in Steerage, so I couldn't get any overhead bin spot... but I did get into my seat, and that was good enough after plenty of worries.
 Then we sat 30 extra minutes at the jetway.
 Then we sat 30 more minutes on  the runway.

 THEN. We took off.

 Since the City Fathers of New York (Long may they reign iron-fisted protecting us from extra large soda cups, long may they shit light on the heads of the taxpayers) in their almighty wisdom fill up unused Brooklyn hotel rooms with refugees and shelter overflow, the particular hotel my company uses, one of only 3 in a reasonable area, is also a shelter for Somalian refugees. So I got to listen too babies screaming, kids running down the hall and women yelling UNTIL 3 AM.

 The men were up bright and early, at 0500. I know this because two of them had a very loud argument outside my door. Since I don't know if either of them was wearing an explosive vest, I tried to sleep in vain for 10 minutes, until I was so angry I got up up and opened my door, saying "Hey, you're very loud and why are you outside my door?" but not in angry tone, just said it and stared at them. One said sorry, and they stood there, not leaving, so I stood there, and just stared back. The advantage of being fat and in my underwear told in short order, though, as neither wanted to be in eye contact, and they eventually shuffled somewhere else. At any rate, I got a glorious 45 minutes of uninterrupted sleep after that before it was time to get up and get ready to start my crew change.

 After that things have been much better. I'm aboard the HQ, have laid in stores and sodas, and I have time to get a good sleep this afternoon before getting back to work. I"m sure I'll be more my usual ray-of-fucking-sunshine after.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cleanup day

Well, 24 hrs from now, I'll be in the air, headed back to HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Center for Excellence in Involuntary Celibacy.

 After 10 weeks on board, 2 weeks at home is just not enough, but it was enough to take the edge off, certainly. I'm going back in a better place upstairs, for sure. I was able to get a LOT done at home. Not so much time for my little fun projects, but some big long-term stuff for this winter and next year. And, along the way, got plenty of time with my family, including some time with two of my siblings, who have moved 1500 miles from Boston to about a 15 minute walk from my house... so I am looking forward to Christmas this year, for sure. As always, before heading back to work, I had to shift everything in my garage shop and clean up, which is something of a ritual, and gives me a chance to go over everything maintenance-wise in the house before I rack my tools and put away my toys.

       As I had mentioned earlier, I found a big screwup on my little boat model, which required a bunch of work to correct. The spacing of the frames came out of square badly in a couple of places when the glue was drying, and I didn't catch it. As a result, the deck, which was pre-notched to set atop the frames, was out of alignment in a half-dozen frames... and badly out of alignment, like a 1/4" on something that is only 2 feet wide, easily visible to the eye. How the hell I missed it, I don't know, but the epoxy was already dried and the hull skins in place before I noticed, too late to realign the frames properly. I was almost ready to throw the whole thing on my barbecue and torch it.

 In the end, I know a thing or two about fixing other people's mistakes using composites, and epoxy, fiberglass and microballoons cover up many sins. So I sawed out spaces for the frames in the deck, and after laying it out, filled in the gaps, which took about 4 days of sanding and filing and puttying.  The frame tops are also triangular gussets for the bulwarks, and unfortunately, these triangular gussets are super-prone to breakage- about half of the 22 frames were damaged at the tips, which I fixed by using bondo and then coated with thickened epoxy before sanding them into shape. They'll be partially hidden by the bulwarks, but to get the bulwarks aligned, I have to know where the frame tops are, and with the sheer of the hull, that's not an easy thing without a visual reference. 

Working with right angles and  small gaps makes sanding a royal bitch, but I got there and put a rough sealing coat of epoxy across the whole deck.

Dark spots are the frame tops/bulwark gussets. The one in the center is finished, on the right is an unrepaired gusset. You can see the old frame notched filled in here.

Upper Wheelhouse

Accommodation lower block

 So, tomorrow I'll be flying in to New York, because sadly my company doesn't hate me enough to keep me at home and pay me not to come in. It's really getting to be the time of year when I have to think about what to pack in terms of dealing with the change in the weather now that New York is cooling off. The weather here has been delightful. I'm not anticipating the weather to be quite so nice at work, although fall in the northeast can be pretty fine.

Monday, October 8, 2018

small boat update

After nearly 3 months off, it was therapeutic to sit down at my bench again and make sawdust.

 Some things happened: I ruined about $75 and 10 hours worth of joining and planing work when a glued-up piece came apart in my planer. Pieces flying everywhere, it was disappointing.

 With that project gone TU, I had more time to put into the small boat project, and got the deck laid in and superstructure roughed in. For a model boat, a large toy, basically, it's getting pretty big.It kept me from being underfoot while Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife was on a 2-day cleaning frenzy,

Lots of work to go.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

New Normal

Well, I've been home for a few days, and I'm feeling much better. I've had time to drink whisky, cut wood, and start undoing a major screwup I found on my current model boat build.While I was at work, two of my siblings moved down here in FL with me, about a mile away from me, in fact, which has been great. The B family is pretty close, so I feel really good about that, although I've only had a couple of short visits- I've really wanted to have time with my kid and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, and we've done that. I'm writing while waiting for them to get dressed up so we can go get lunch, in fact. Gonna get fish tacos at a restaurant I like on the Intercoastal Waterway, watch the yachts pass by and drink cold beer in the hot sun.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Well, I made it home. Expect things to be quiet for the next two weeks.

Friday, September 28, 2018

smelling home

I mentioned in my last post that the black oil we carry has a powerful sulfur smell that is unpleasant. Over the past 10 years, I've grown accustomed to that smell, and desensitized, too, which I sometimes worry will burn out my sense of smell. Perhaps it has. I used to have a damn good nose.

        One thing about working around the ports of New Jersey, there sure are a lot of chemical plants. They produce some weird smells. Some bad, some... good actually.

 Not that a nice smelling chemical plume is necessarily good for you. The chemical class known as esters often have strong smells- some very pleasant. I always hope that that is what I'm smelling. In the past few days I've had burnt toast, and tonight, fresh-cut grass.

The fresh cut grass smell was really nice. I hope it wasn't something carcinogenic I was smelling, lol.

        I miss green things when I am at work. When I fly home to S. FL, and walk out of the door at baggage check, I get hit by a wall of humid, tropical air that smells of humus- clean dirt, rain, and fresh green leaves- and a touch of cut grass too.   That smell is the smell of coming home. It's the heartbreakingly beautiful smell that days-of-sail sailors used to get when they were just over the horizon from certain islands like Bermuda.  It doesn't make my heart ache, but it does create a dopamine dump in my endocrine system- I get that warm, pleasant feeling like after you take a sip of good cognac.

 So, out on deck on the HQ, with cargo tanks venting on deck, that sulfur smell there and being ignored, a gust of wind brought that smell to me, and for just a second, I wasn't on deck anymore. I was sitting on a bench outside of baggage claim, seeing my wife's car come around the corner.

 It was a truly nice few seconds.  After it passed, it was back to work for yours semi-truly, but a little of that feeling lingers.  I've got the weekend on here, and Monday Monday (nah nah... nah nah nah) to get through. After that, I'll be there again in that one moment, smelling home.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

white shirt/blue collar

Like just about any lower-middle class kid, my parents hoped I'd end up wearing a white shirt to work, to do better than they did, to go to the middle-middle class or higher. They gave me every opportunity to choose to do so.

   Somewhere along the way, I did. I ended up in a white lab coat, and for fun and profit I did dirty work that was fun to me, being a fisherman. Sure, I pumped gas, pulled concrete forms, cooked at a pizza place, unloaded trucks and went through more than one pair of workboots a year, but I was also putting on my white shirt for my career job, presumably which would happen more and more as school wound down.

     I learned VERY quickly in grad school that people in the administrative and political side of science are mostly scum. Politicians, two-faced, self-serving assholes. Where law degrees become more valuable than scientific knowledge, I got out of my depth. My career arc was heading towards a NOAA job or equivalent administrative position after I realized that pure research as a person who doesn't want to teach wouldn't pay shit.

 Turns out, that's just politics.

 As revolting as that was to me, it was enough to cure me of any tolerance for politics. The muddy, dirty and muscle-sore shit-smelling awfulness of being a fisherman was CLEAN in comparison. I could wash that stink off. I think it was this realization that let me have my course correction, when I realized how badly my life was off-track, when I decided that I had to quit pretending to be a fisherman, and go be a fisherman. Eventually, it lead me here.

 My job still is stinky. I have to shower after most watches to get the sweat, dirt and smell off my skin.  Heavy fuel oil smells SO bad that to those not used to it it has similar effects to a near-miss with pepper-spray- not enough to blind you, but enough that your eyes can't focus from all the tears.

A month on board the HQ and the smell gets inside me. My wife hands me a big glass of scotch when I get home and we sit outside so I'll sweat out most of the smell. The sour stink of whisky sweat washes off in the shower, and takes away enough of the bunker fuel sulfur stink that I don't ruin the sheets in my bed.

Seeing the Senate hearings yesterday, I know I made the right decision . What truly awful, awful people. I did the right thing, putting a beach between me and them. I can't claim to be a better or worse human being than any other, I suppose. But I do know that however filthy I get in the course of earning a paycheck, I am not dirty like those people on TV.