Sunday, April 26, 2009


Where I work, if you're not the first one awake, you might just get a warm hot dog stuck in your mouth for a wake up call. For what it's worth, I took this picture, and I'm proud to report that I never was on the receiving end of that tube steak.

I need to go home. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is waiting. If I were smart, I'd take a job at McDonalds and spend nights with my family instead of sniffing fumes on a tank barge.

Better days. It's a long way from when I started this blog, in the days when I was dying for my vacation to end so I could go to work for 120 days. Now, less than a week under my belt, and I wish I was home!

My wife is the worst ham when a camera shows up. I, on the other hand, look like the guy who works at the local dump, and is forbidden from interacting with the customers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I can see so far from atop my soapbox!

From: me, an american merchant mariner.
To: you, other mariners, and Joe Public,
Re: my two cents

With piracy in the news, everyone at hoe has been asking me about what kind of weapons we carry on board. Most of 'em are shocked to know that we are minimally armed. Truth is, I wouldn't have it any other way.
We're out of room for much more additional training. We don't get paid enough to be away from home. The IT guy who fixes the captain's computer makes more money than the captain does. We need broad backs for the most part, not more brains on board.
There's talk of making career-track specialization at our maritime academies, which sounds great, until you look at the real world. Oil tankers pay the worst in the US, and require the most work for officers and unlicensed alike. Also, they pay the worst. Now why would any college freshman want to limit themselves to that, unless its' to avoid competition?
Look at my own conundrum- I have a steady job on a tanker, but I don't make enough money to support my family in the time available to work- I moonlight on other jobs, losing time at home, Now, I am working fairly steady on a tug and barge, and, even as a green trainee, I was being paid exactly TWICE what I made as an experienced AB on a tanker. What the hell can I do? I have to go back to my ship at some point, and when I do finish school to advance my licensing up to 3rd mate status, I'll make less than I do right now, today. Worse, even as a 2nd mate, the guy in charge of navigation planning, there's only a handful of shipping companies who pay more than I make now, as an AB on a barge, and none of those jobs are on tankers. What's fair to my wife and boy? Cut my time at home in half, as well as the income, with the hope that in 7 years I'll be back to where I am today?

So, what does this have to do with piracy? LOTS! The fact is, I don't want any extra training on hand-to-hand fighting. I don't get to see my family enough as it is. I would have joined the army if I wanted that. I don't get paid enough to put my life on the line. What would I be fighting for? Continued access to frozen foods from Europe, or plastic crap from China? No, I'm not going to fight for that. That's a mercenary's task. The ideological imperative that gives moral permission to fight is to fight for some ONE, not some THING. I'm no mercenary. You can't pay me enough to protect your cheap imported crap. Well, you can, but it would take a LOT of money. Otherwise, no. Fuck off, as the Irish say. I'm not taking up arms in the cause of delivering Durable Goods.

So, there's my two cents. Check off one more box on the 'no' side of arming merchant ships.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

back again

After a solid two weeks at home, I have come back to work with the hope of more free time and the opportunity to get caught up on some rest. Yeah. It was that busy.
I spent the past two weeks preparing and pumping out paperwork related to having a family and taking care of them. Mostly a pain in the ass, but it's also mostly over. We also celebrated The Boy's sixth birthday. If you can imaging 20 5-year olds and 20+ screaming Brazilian mothers, you'll get an idea. The whole thing was done at a Chuck E. Cheese's, and, to their credit, they didn't bar us from returning- I guess that that noise level is normal, but damn, my hands were shaking on the ride home.
So, lots of stuff going on. The Boy is having some minor surgery before I return home next time, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is planning a short vacation to Brazil- her first opportunity to see her family in NINE years. Yeah. Next time I return to work, she and The Boy will be taking a long-deserved voyage home.

Anything I can add after that last paragraph just pales in comparison, so I'll close with this. I am back to work, and I am ready to bust ass. More later.

Monday, April 13, 2009

it's all fun and games...

...until your boy barfs all over the interior of your beloved pickup truck.

Easter was great- wonderful to get together with my family. My oldest brother and his wife and kids were hosting- Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, meself, and The Boy made the hour-long drive up north, and awesomeness definitely ensued. This was the first time I've been able to attend a modestly-sized family get-together in a long time... a couple of years, anyhow.
The Boy managed to ignore the pain in his still-gimpy foot and snuck away several times to goof off on the kids' trampoline that my brother keeps in his back yard- I say sneak away because he would alternate some time on the trampoline with periodic visits to check in with us and also to grab some sort of pastry or other junk food on his way out. Now, while Mr. Sweet tooth is a very fussy eater, he was like an ant on a sugar pile yesterday. Grab, run, grab, run. I should have said something, but he was having a blast with the other kids in the family, so I kept mum.


About 15 minutes after we get on the highway, heading home, the boy turns to Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and mutters something in their language. I always kind of hate this, because I am excluded- they speak too fast together for me to catch more than a word or two. Anyhow, my wife sort of sighs, and says something back to The Boy, who suddenly goes bug-eyed, and proceeds to barf up everything he's eaten in the last 10-14 days... and it's not just a petite gutful of boy-barf, no... he's doing the Linda Blair Projectile-style bazooka barf. How a smallish 5-year old could ingest a a cake, two turkeys, a 40-acre field's worth of potatoes, two fishermen still in their boat and a partridge in a pear tree is beyond me. I swear there are peas rolling around in my truck still, and he hasn't eaten a pea in 2 months.

Now, the epilogue- beware if you're squeamish. So, I pull off the highway at the next exit and find a dunkin' donuts. The Mrs and The Boy head in, arm-in-arm, for a cleanup. The boy has recovered his spirits, minus a certain distaste for the pukey pants he's now sporting. I leap out of my truck, run around it a few times uttering muffled 'oh, gross, goddam...' you know, handling the situation maturely.

Luckily, my lazy ass has left a treasure trove under the seats- a roll of paper towels, rubber gloves (unnecessary, but welcomed), and a bottle of armor-all. I proceed to spend the next five minutes tidying, patting myself on the back for having opted out of the carpeted floors on my truck in favor of rubber. So, after a few minutes, my truck now smells like puke and armor-all, and the floors are glossy and shiny. Scotch-guarding the cloth seats will happen early this week, I'll tell you that much.
My wife and now hollowed-out son return to the truck to find me airing her out, calmly reading my book- all is well. I get a pained look from the boy, when he gets into my truck and can't stand up on the slippery floors- he proceeds to slip and slide for 30 seconds on the freshly armor-all'ed decks before sitting head-first in his chair. I am tempted to seat-belt him in as-is, but he might just start speaking in tongues, after what came out of him shortly beforehand, and, being short one old priest and one young priest, I get him buckled in, look at my wife, who is wrinkling her nose and saying '...smells no goud in here, hohney.' (apparently she doesn't like armor-all), and we proceed home. After a few minutes on the road, with me getting vibes that The Boy is hugely embarassed, I start goofing with him, breaking the ice a little. After telling me that he wasn't interested in a piece of half-cooked bacon with a side of warm mayonnaise, he began smiling a little as I offered him increasingly interesting dishes. He laughed out loud, finally, at the mention of a slice of fatty ham that I could rub around under the 'fridge for him, if he wanted, and he lost it at a 'dish of poo-poo and ice water.' The baby talk for bodily wastes absolutely sends boys into hysterics. My classy wife in the meanwhile was sinking bodily into her seat, mortified, but, by the time we got home, The Boy was in tearing spirits again, wet drawers and all.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go find someone to burn my truck.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You would think that with limited time to spend at home, I would be a pro at efficiently running errands and knocking things off of the 'to do' list.
You'd be wrong. 28 days at work, and well into day 2 of my 14 days with the fam, and I realize that I am no less daunted by running errands than I was when I was working four months at sea, and two weeks at home.

How in the world you folks get your stuff done with only the hours after work and on weekends, I'll never know. I've got 2 weeks to work with, and I'm already 3 months behind.

Anyhow, The Boy is getting his cast cut off tomorrow. I'm praying that he's not going to come out of this with a gimp. He's got a mystery ailment relating to his Achilles' tendon. I figure that if a greek demigod could get taken down by a bum wheel, a 5-year old should have it looked at, and the poor little guy ends up with a cast and a serious mad on at yours truly. Anyow, I'm hoping he'll be good for Sunday. Got a big day with the family planned.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

real pirates

It was bound to happen- an american ship was hijacked today. The Maersk Arizona was attacked off the coast of Somalia. Score one for the bad guys.

American companies have taken their share of hits through piracy of late, but their ships were flagged out to FOC states (Flag of Convenience), and this is, I believe, the first time in a long while that Americans have been affected.

Part of me wonders why we don't solve this in the way the Japanese merchant fleet does. The Japanese, mysteriously, don't have stowaways and don't encounter pirates... that we know about. It's an open secret that the Japanese take undesirables and tie their hands to their feet and pitch 'em over the side with a pocketful of scrap steel. Thus, supposedly, no one bothers the Japanese fleet. Ever.

Now, the truth is, I can't ever see myself killing someone simply because they want to sneak onto my ship and try for a better life. But then again, I'm not Japanese. Taking a life isn't something that I'd take lightly.

Anyhow, today's antics off of Somalia seem to have come to a stalemate. The crew took control of their ship, but the captain is a hostage, apparently. Not good. My question is 'how the hell did this happen?'