Monday, February 19, 2024

That's better

 Thank God for small favors we have returned to a sane pace here on the HQ. 

     It's actually been on the slow side. I hate even writing that lest it come to an end, but we've been working at an age-appropriate rate lately. It's been great. I feel a lot better, even moreso than I did 2 weeks ago when I said I was feeling good.  Not that I'm running around shining sunshine out my ass or anything but I am not living with regret for my career choices at every meal, which was unpleasant. 

         So, construction in Brazil continues but slowly. Outside contractor REALLY tried to fuck us on the pool. Guys wanted 130,000 local bucks, about 30 grand for the pool, start to finish. Our architect/builder, who married into the family a few years ago, said absolutely not to take the deal. He agreed to dig the hole with his excavator for gas money, about $100, as he could use the fill elsewhere, and offered less than half of what the bidders were suggesting, until someone took it, who turned out to be a franchise pool builder with a good rep.  The demolition, with the exception of some excavating, is about done.  The main house is about ready to be closed up again, as right now there aren't any windows and it's just bare cement walls, a roof and window holes ready for windows to be installed.

       Since I don't plan on owning a car in Brazil, I am putting a big pergola over the side yard where the driveway used to be.  

     I decided to have columns sunk to support a 2nd floor if we ever go that route. I already have a big walled yard, and won't be able to expand OUT without buying the 3-house compound next door that belongs to one of Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's cousins. I ain't giving up my backyard to add to the big house. 

    My wife and I will be staying in a detached master bedroom with en-suite shithouse in the side yard. It'll have a decent sitting room attached, and the outdoor covered kitchen we'll be using to host get-togethers outside that. There's a cabana/pool bathroom/laundry room on the other side of the pool so the fam doesn't have to track shit on my floors in the big house or mine. 

       I'm one of those people who doesn't like anyone in my bedroom, pretty much ever. I pretty much even trained my kid not to go in there without there being a pressing emergency. So my little bedroom area will be locked up tighter than a bulls ass during blackfly season when I'm not in it. 

My part of the house on the left. The gray wall in the background is an error

outdoor kitchen with wood-fired oven, gas oven, gas range and bar

pool cabana/head//laundry on left, fountain on the right is now 7 feet up. 

       I don't have renderings of the main house or the side yard and such. My wife might. I pretty much only care about the parts where I can hang my hat. the main house is more or less where the ladies are. I want to stay close to the bar. 

Thursday, February 8, 2024

I crack myself up

 The other day a 3rd party tugboat was charioteering us for a job, and one of the deckhands was pretty green and had some attitude. 

     Welp, here I go again. 

       This kid, he was a worker, and seemed pretty quick to pick things up... but the attitude... naw.  18-19, black kid, urban accent, you know, generic.  Hell, good for him, kid's working hard and making good money out of the box. We need 50 more like him... but we were approaching a PCTC, a car carrier, those retarded-looking but VERY useful ugly ass mofos. 

These things are awkward AF to deal with. Good ships, apparently, to work on and to sail on, surprisingly enough.  They're floating parking lots with multiple decks inside that you drive stuff onto and park... but to make more room, some of the decks are mounted on hydraulics, so you can lift or lower a whole deck if you've got compact cars, say, and can make room for more rather than leaving an air gap between the roof of the car and the next deck above. 

    At any rate, these things are awkward to tie to for us.   That main deck, 100 or so feet in the air? We don't tie up to there. Instead, the ships have Panama Chocks- mooring bitts mounted INTO the hull in recesses, to which bunker barges (or Panama Canal railroad engines to drag you through) can moor. 

   In the ship above, down low towards the stern, you'll see a ling rectangular recessed area under the Y and the K. That's the Accommodation Ladder, the ship's gangway, more or less. Also in the recessed area is a Crucifix Bitt, a cross-shaped bitt ideal for bunker barges to moor with.  But under the N there's another recess, about 8 feet on a side, and that's the bunker station, an area with pipe connections for heavy fuel, diesel fuel, and various grades of lube oils for the engine and generators.  

    So for me, I like to have the HQ lie head-to-tail with the ship, where my bow is at his stern. Our mooring fenders, three each side, each able to withstand multiple tons of crushing force, I try to land at least two of them and a portable fender (small rubberized solid fenders, about 3' across, weighing about 100lbs, and slightly compressible that I hang wherever two men can muscle it.  In PCTC's my forward fender usually ends up not being able to contact the side of the ship (the flat, also called the parallel midbody), and so we end up resting on a portable fender and two of our fixed fenders.  The issue there is that it's possible to wedge part of my barge under the non-flat parts of the ship's bow and stern if we don't land exactly flat to the ship. This causes much wailing and gnashing of teeth, and possibly a hole in the ship, or more often, it simply flattens things like our light masts used for flood lighting and such. Either way it's a nightmare, and so everyone is vigilant for the least sign that we're getting 'out of shape' and might not be square to the ship's side and therefore able to touch up safely. 

   Anyways, that's a long setup for a 5 second joke for sure.   So we're coming alongside this ship somewhere around 2am, and I'm talking and walking around with a walkie-talkie, talking to the deckhands and the tug operator. The experienced deckhand is calling out distances and relative motion to the tug operator, the new kid is handling lines and we're all trying to work together to be sure the tug operator knows what is happening, since much of his view is obscured by my barge's houses and the deck itself. This is where an experienced team of tug operator and lookout are absolutely worth their weight in gold. Imagine having a kid 30 years younger than you, who can't even drive a boat, telling you what you need to do in terms of throttle and movement, giving advice or simply asking you to make us move one way or another... there's a lot of trust involved. 

   So the new kid is my hands, pretty much, and the deckhand is the tug operator's eyes AND hands on deck.  I have to split my time and attention between what the tug is doing, what the people are doing, and what I need to be able to do in terms of mooring safely and being able to do my job. It sounds harder than it is. It's not a difficult thing at all, but important of course. 

    At any rate, I have a habit, maybe good or maybe bad, of not wanting to get involved with the mooring lines while I'm still trying to figure out the best way to tie us up and get us into position. And so when we get the all-important first line made fast to the ship, the tug now has good control of the whole operation. He can clutch the throttles in and out of  gear to come into the first line and keep the barge snug against the ship, using the force of his engines to push the barge ahead, and the now-tight first line will cause us to spring ahead and alongside the ship. 

         I try not to be rude to the deckhands, but I'm rushing, we're all rushing. And so, thoughtlessly because these guys are strangers, once we have the first line made fast to the ship but not made fast to one of our bitts or cleats, I think I just said. "Here, take this and make it fast. After we're snug alongside he'll tell you to let it go again, just let the line pay out when the mate tells you and I'll call out distances to the Spot I want. '  and I think I said this abruptly and I sort of thrust the bight of line in my hand into his. 

     So yeah, the kid was nonplussed.  I guess what I said and did could be interpreted as rude, to a landsman. I didn't cuss or say anything bad, and I don't think I had a snotty tone of voice or anything, but it rubbed him the wrong way, which rubbed me the wrong way, you know?  It's marine work. No place for your precious fee-fees to get hurt.  It's true, though, I didn't say please or thank you. I often do. 

 Either way, I could tell that the kid's feeling real soggy and hard to light. As we work our way through the other 5 mooring lines I used for that job, I'm now annoyed he's annoyed, and so I'm still not saying please or thank you. I'm not antagonizing, either, though.  When the last line was secure, I said "OK, all fast. You guys did great. Thank you both,"  which is both recognition and a dismissal, and  we wandered off. The experienced deckhand  gave me a friendly pro-forma  'no worries, thank you too,: and the men went back on their tugboat. As the tugboat is casting off (they have 4 lines made up to the barge, so it takes a few minutes) I ask about their next job, as the same tug is due back in 6-8 hours to take us off the ship when we finish pumping, and they tell me they've got a quick job and will be back in a few hours to wait for me to finish. I said,  "OK, good enough. See you in a couple of hours. Go. Go Make Daddy Proud."  The experienced deckhand  laughed at that, but the new kid, boy howdy he didn't like that. But what the hell, if you can't take a joke, you have no business working on the water, I figure. 

   Eh, the kid will learn. He doesn't seem a bad sort. Maybe he was King Shit back home, but here he's just another dancing bear at our Retard Circus. Joking is a pressure relief valve, and jokes that don't single out anyone are the best kind. 

Monday, February 5, 2024


 Well, damn, I feel a lot better. 

      I've been trying to articulate why it is that I've had constipation of the soul for the past few weeks after a particularly trying tour on the HQ over the holidays... and I still can't quite explain it, except that I note that I feel fine now. Back to what I laughingly call normal. 

             My job was making me look bad and making me feel incompetent, through no fault of my own and my ego wasn't having it. I'm a pretty fart smeller, I can make things better even when the job isn't going to go right. I can make it go less wrong. 

    Oh the hubris. We had bad oil. Nobody gives a shit in the office. Why the fuck should I?  Sure I look like an incompetent, along with all the other retards in this circus who have to hump this difficult to pump oil to suckers  the charterer's customers. 

   Anyhow, couple of days off meant that I had a couple of days to cook, clean, and lose myself in some tankerman Arts N' Crafts projects- organize some storage lockers, stack boxes of supplies, test the coolant's specific gravity in the gens and cargo pumps, have a suck at the bottom of the hydraulic tank sumps and look for metal filings, water or other contaminants... I even got to lube all the zerks on board early this month. Wintertime is hell on the machinery.  Plus, with the new year, there's dumb shit that we sometimes don't give much thought to, like swapping out the batteries on the life ring emergency lights, and the water-activated lights on our gumby suits, the survival suits we have to wear if we want to survive going in the water. I'd be a bit put out if I got woken up from a dead sleep and told that we had to ditch, only to find that the Here I am light on my Jolly Green (the suit is red, the bag it comes in is green, signaling that the suit is size Fatass) isn't working.  

 So, yeah, the HQ's stocked up and later today we've got a small batch of cargo fixed for a car carrier who's coming in late tonight.  

     To go back to what I was bitching about earlier, I was pretty stressed in Jan. Shit going wrong in Brazil at our house under construction, work/life balance getting a bit fucked, etc etc. We all have things bothering us.  Sometimes I feel like I have too low of a bar set where I start to get stressed.  Still, I had a particularly relaxing time home that soothed the burn and coming back to work has been startlingly enough, a return to normalcy for values of normal, anyhow. 


     While I was home we spent some time in Miami- I had to get a Brazilian CPF, their equivalent of a social security number, and so having knocked that out at the consul, and anticipating that it might be a classic Brazilian Government interaction (turning a 5 minute process into a 2 day affair), I reserved a hotel room, so we had the rest of the day to ourselves, and so among other things, we wandered around the market around pier 5 and had a blast, day drinking and playing tourist. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I sucked down a bunch of mojitos and ate local seafood, and after, the feeling of decompression was palpable to me, as my stress levels ratcheted down. My wife got hit on by a Cuban bartender, but only once, and was feeling a little down as a result. But she ate an ice cream cone and attracted a bit of an audience in the process, to which I later pointed out, her being oblivious, and she turned as red as her blouse. Anyhow, ego restored.  I'm kind of used to it. 


      I was already a lot better by the time I came back to work, and now my liver is resting comfortably too, as it got a bit of a workout at home. 

Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and roses outside of my little sphere of influence. Blog buddy BCE learned recently that his Mrs. has breast cancer. This is at the tail end of a nightmare year where he had to leave home to try to gain custody of his grandchild out of state against a startlingly corrupt DCS system which meant heroic efforts that affected his mental health and damn near bankrupted him. Guys' a machine, and a good egg to boot, another reformed Masshole like me, too,  and his wife getting cancer of the cans is a real fuck you from above, IMO.  Now, BCE has reason to be stressed. I feel like a cunt crying that my job is hard lately, waah.  I mean, couple of months, I turn 50. We're not kids anymore, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I. The trials of old age are coming, of course they are. I hope i can keep my shit together as well as some of the people I have met when they come. I wonder at it, at me. I hope I conduct myself as well as the people I've met who have real stress to deal with. 

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Better than expected.

 I had psyched myself up to come back to work. I had to. I was dreading more of the poop sandwich that was my last tour on the HQ. While I was home the workload stayed steady here, daily alternating between being busy and it still sucked and being really busy and sucking even more.  No breakdowns at least, so with the trash oil we're moving from A to B, it was just a matter of embracing the suck that is doing your daily best while everyone hates you because of things that aren't in your control. 

  So that is what my partners E and B were up to while I was recovering at home from the last time I was at work.   B especially, he got it with both barrels, having spent  331 days of 2023 on board the HQ.  Guy wanted to make buckets of money, but the last 4 weeks were hell, and he rode that ride to hell. 

 I came in, B went home.  And 4 hours before crew change, for the first time in I think 6 weeks, we went to a lay berth with no cargo orders on the books. 

     The last two days have been one of busy days and quiet nights. It's been glorious. I'm on nights. Oh, I'm pitching in, doing chores and updating the books, puttering around the silent decks here on the HQ between dusk and dawn... it's peaceful, and productive. Food for my soul. I really do enjoy being able to work and do worthwhile things with no need to deal with people at all. I enjoy being alone. Truly. And when I do want to be social, I can chat with E, whose a friend, and who is running the show during the day, when engineers are running around with parts and tools, the port captain and port engineer are here punching out things on our punch lists for mechanical and administrative things, and I'm basically left to do fire watch and help as much or as little as I want.  

     This is my second watch on board, and it's quiet again tonight. I've got a little list of things I want to do, and somewhere around 0430 Big E will get up and we'll chat about the plan for the day and what got done, what needs to get done, and etc. And tomorrow's Friday, when Dispatch hands out clusterfucks and hate mail, and we'll find out what awfulness they have planned for us. 

      E says we had 2 cargoes a week ago that weren't utter trash, and pumped fairly well.  Not from the supplier we've been saddled with lately, but one of the Oil Majors, who we sometimes work for on Spot basis, maybe 2-3 times a month.   I hope we get some time away from the bad oil people. But even if we don't, two days free to get maintenance done, supplies received and stowed, and daily being able to stock up on greenstuff for the inevitable return to nonstop work... well, we'll be as ready as we can be now. 

   So I dunno. February can still turn into a shit sandwich here on board. But perhaps it won't be a soggy one. 

Sunday, January 28, 2024


 This morning I was puttering around my garage and yard, doing little projects, when I got one of those weird mood swings we all get and started really seeing things through shit-colored glasses. 

    Today was bleach day, one of those twice yearly tasks I do to keep mildew and green slime from building up on vertical structures in FL, like fences and walls and such.  Basically I spent 30 minutes bombing sections of my fences that were getting green with algae, and killing the mildew that pops up anywhere moisture might linger on my house, using a 1gal spray pump.  It's oddly satisfying and makes everything look shiny and newish, and usually one of those low-effort/high reward tasks. 

    So it was a bit of a bummer that suddenly I'm feeling like someone shat in my cornflakes. Sun is shining, it's like 70 degrees, gorgeous day.  But a random thought popped in... in 2 days or so I have to be back in fuckin' New York for work... and that was enough to make me feel like really knocking the hats off of strangers, if you get the reference. 

       Also, Big Brother Bob (nobody calls him that) gifted me a bottle of Proper 12 whisky, which I am sucking down now like a 2 dollar ho on dollar day. That is some TASY sippin' whisky. 

   But yeah, this morning went from suck to blow after my mood turned.   2-3 years ago I built a surprisingly charming looking 6x8 foot L-shaped step to get in and out of my jacuzzi, which looked like a million bucks for something made out of scrap wood rejects from my Home Depot Pine Pile.  And naturally while finishing up my bleaching I discovered the thing is rotting out FAST.  Already in a shitty mood, this was a bummer, but with a couple of 2x4 cutoff pieces, a framing square and some 3" screws, I put in some supports that should buy me 6 months before the whole thing collapses on itself. 

     But yeah, the mood was cemented in, and suddenly I felt 50 lbs heavier and 10 years older. I still knocked out the tasks I set out to do, but I wasn't the middle-aged honey-do-punch-list machine I was at 0900. 

             I swear sometimes I'm fuckin' psychic.  That's why I have my other alter ego. In my wife's city in Brazil, I'm Don Paolo, aging fatass foreign playboy married to the city's famous beauty queen of 25 years ago. But at home I'm also Nostradumbass, the predictor of stupid things to come in the future.

            Nostradumbass, as always, was making himself known this morning. Bullshittery was afoot. 

             I'm not right at the moment. Something essential and satisfying is missing from my emotional armor after the last trip I took to work. 

         That's weird to say. I'm carrying some baggage, not because anyone died or we almost sunk, but because things were tense and we were having a series of bad days, and this concurrent with a series of hard jobs and unsatisfyingly concluded cargo ops... I'm having spiritual ennui, I swear, I hate myself for not laughing it off. That being said, I came home feeling off. Thank fuck, I didn't come home with itchy feet like in the old days, where I'd get the spiritual guidance from God or my guardian angel or my subconscious and blow up my life to get rid of the feeling. So no itchy feet, gracias a dios. Still, I am in an emotionally unarmored position as I heal up from whatever the fuck that was the last month. 

    And big E, my awesome partner at work, the 3rd point of the trilateral commission that makes up the best afloat management team I've ever worked with, has a family thing. 

  So, yeah, big E's Mrs. is having some day surgery, as things happen, and E asked me to work extra for a week, while I'm recovering from a 10-week marathon that for some reason fucked me up disproportionately. 

           The positive? I'm getting a week of overtime to work on my own HQ.   Score! I get OT money and don't have to parse out all the weird shit that comes from figuring out other people's ways of running a boat.   The negative:  Things are fucked. We're still getting sour oil that is playing merry hell with our systems and making us look like assholes, but the folks supplying the oil are paying just fine, so things continue. 

     But I do feel quite a bit better. And fatter too, but with 35 days coming up for work, I'll have time to put down the fork and do the necessary.  Still, I have 2 days to enjoy before that's an issue. 

Gott focus on the positive. 

Sunday, January 21, 2024

Small steps

 Damn, I think I'm OK now.  It took 4 days for me to get over whatever mental and physical baggage I brought with me after the last trip. 

 I've been sleeping 9 hours a night and sleeping really well. That's not like me at all. But I think it's helping. 

   I gained about 20lbs in the 10 weeks I was gone. I credit that from increased stress, decreased sleep, decreased free time, poor weather, and the chase for dopamine where I can find it, which until this past week was only to be found in food. I couldn't even sit down after my watch and read a book without getting a call from a cargo surveyor or the office, and with the quality of sleep being so poor and short at work, that doesn't change that I rarely sleep deeply at work. Part of my mind is always aware of the load on the generators (the noise changes and the ventilation changes pitch just slightly too), the throttle settings on the cargo pumps, and the load on the hydraulics.  I'm aware of those things for about 80% of my sleep cycle- not aware enough to be awake, but I can tell you how many times I hear the air compressor kicking on, which causes the turbo on the generator to become audible, and it's about 80% of the number of times it happens. So yeah, 6 hours of that isn't refreshing after a couple of weeks, but it's enough to keep you going. This is the real impact of the problems we've been having lately- hearing the cargo pumps wind up because they've lost suction, or can't get suction at all, and hearing the cargo pumps bog down at high throttle when E or B is trying to blow a snot rocket plug out of the underdeck pipelines or the cargo hoses at 120psi... It's not possible to sleep lightly through that, because it means we have problems that will be my problem when it's my turn to get up. 

   Well, enough whining, I'm not at work. It was chilly here for South FL today. 60 degrees, lol.  And the house in Brazil has the first signs of renovations starting to show up- the well was dug to 200 feet and capped with the pump and plumbing set, the window frames are square, the stone wall around the perimeter is starting to go  up (at 10 feet it should allow me to sun my giant white ass at leisure should I want to. I mean my mother-in-law will be there but she's blind, so Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife can go full National G if she wants to), and the architect has the plumbing and electrical mapped out for the builder. 

    Have you ever seen those 3rd world header tanks on the roof  that people use to store and up the water pressure in their house?  

    These things are everywhere in Brazil- in some areas running water is switched on and off across neighborhoods,  or flow only at a few gallons per hour, and people are expected to use their header tank contents to keep the taps running in their house. The neighborhood where we're building is in the "Old City" of the city where we are, and got 24/7 running water a few years ago. Even so, between the well and the city water, we're in good shape for the arid area where we are- think Oklahoma with big rolling hills and ridges.  

    Personally I hate the look of these ghetto tanks and they're resorts for vermin, so I had the builder pour a 5,000 gal concrete header tank in the roof of the house. Don Paolo wants to be the posessor of a freshly washed ass on the reg, after all. 

 We had 2 of these that looked like dogshit, real jury-rigged looking, 

Saturday, January 20, 2024

a little less so now...

 I'm a couple of days into my time off now, and like pee left too long in the toilet bowl, I'm starting to mellow, if you define mellow as the unpleasant nature of something becoming less so by exposure over time. 

        I'm feeling better, and if not particularly motivated yet to hit the honey-do list, I'm catching up on errands, doing taxes and keeping a low profile. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has been an angel, very supportive and sympathetic but always relentlessly positive. 

    It's an unusual feeling for me, to feel this blah for so long. Normally, coming home I have to restrain myself I'm so damn excited. 

        On top of work having been about as pleasant as a sack of smashed assholes, the house in Brazil has been a pain in the balls of late. We started the purchase several months ago, but the final sale has been held up by the difficulty made by the US .gov to allow private citizens to move their money overseas. It's 1000X easier to do so illegally or quasi-legally than to do so in 100% compliance with the law. 

    I'm one of those people who can't even speed 15 over the limit without getting a ticket- I am lucky in many, many ways, but I can't break a law or even think about breaking a law. I'll be caught at it. Always. If I look at an irrigation sprinkler that looks like it's coming loose, Code Enforcement pulls up the moment I think about picking up a shovel. 

    So, yeah, it's been a ballbuster to get money wired. On the Brazilian side, buying a house that was part of an estate creates a layer of legal folderol that means judges, lawyers and probate courts are involved. None of which is a real problem, just annoying AF. On the upside, since the sale is final, I don't have to report being a foreign property owner to the IRS for last year's taxes. 

 I'm thinking things have turned a corner and are starting to lighten up and my present shitty mood is a hangover effect. 

    On the upside, I'm learning a lot. And eventually I'll get myself a big white pimp hat and a guayabera and a cigar and make everyone call me 'Don Paolo'  when I'm in residence at the casa.