Thursday, October 29, 2009

Simpler times

The other night, I got to play catch-up with The Notorious B.O.B., the guy who helped me get my captain's license and gave me my first two captain's jobs. For anyone who hasn't been reading for longer than the past two years, The Notorious B.O.B was the captain and eventually became the owner of the last commercial fishing vessel I worked on, the mighty Rita C (named after his mom).
For 6+ years Notorious B.O.B. and I fished together. In that time, we had harsh words a grand total of two times, when we discovered that I turn into a raging dick when the weather goes above 100 degrees. After that, it was mostly laughs and bruises, but not much money, which is the calling card of the southern New England lobsterman.

The Rita C was sold just a few weeks back, signaling the end of an era for the both of us. The B.O.B. is the captain of a research vessel now, which is apparently unexciting but reliable work, pretty much dead opposite of days past.

When I started working 0n the Rita C, I had left my last full-time legitimate job as the designer and manager of a hideously-located and ultra-intensive fish farming enterprise. This was a half-hearted attempt to be a legit marine biologist again, and, it ultimately failed. I had already killed my golden goose, leaving a job at a prestigious research lab to go fishing the year before. As always, when the horseshoe crabs started beaching themselves in May (a sign that coincides with the inward migration of lobsters to more shallow environs), I started wandering around the local fishing pier 'just to look around,' and, as always, I found a boat that was looking for someone, and promptly quit my job. That guy was The Notorious B.O.B.'s father, and that was how The B.O.B. and I came to fish together.
You can't go through what we went through and not be friends for life. The September 11 attacks come to mind immediately, but other stuff, mostly mishaps that turned out well, also play a part. The fact that we both had the emotional maturity of a 10-year old comes into play, and all the laughter made a hard and dead difficult job something that we could live with.

The Rita C is gone now, and all my great pictures from her are still sitting in a dead laptop in a closet. I need to cannibalize that thing and get them out.

The hardest part for me is that I have started wandering around the same local pier when I'm home.
I'm just looking around.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

bye bye then

The view from our portholes today was somewhat different. We watched the end of an era.

The USS Saipan, pictured in the foreground, is heading for her last berth, a shipbreakers' yard in Brownsville TX.

Here was my view of the action today:

First the ship gets pulled out of the berth. At 800-some feet, this is a heavy job.

The anchor has already been disconnected from the chain, and a short bight of chain is left to dangle just under the surface of the water.

An oceangoing tug (Michael McAllister, a 4100 h.p. somewhat vintage tug) attaches her towing wire to the anchor chain, and starts to heave against the flood tide.

A utility boat has already pulled the fenders off the dock, heading to the next job.

Finally, the tug begins to move the ship downriver, there to make the slow voyage to the ditch which will be the Saipan's last berth.

Eventually she will start to look like this, the ex- Cape Clear, or half of her, anyhow. The end is never dignified.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fire Fermunda

Some days you're the windshield, and some days you're the bug, I guess.

Last night was one of those nights where nothing quite went as I wanted. We had our first job in a week (!), and I woke up at about 11pm as we were topping off the load.

Most of the night was fine. I helped out Jamie (the other guy on board) in topping off, and due to the schedule we had, I relieved him early, so as to better share the workload.

We sailed about 3 hours down the Delaware river to bunker up a reefer ship, a fruit boat, specifically... and that's where the trouble started.

Rather than go through a laundry list of my troubles, which were minor if time consuming, I'll give hightlights, and I'll just say this: everything I did required a fix. The swing tackle on our hose boom (the block-and-tackle arrangement that lets us swing the boom from side to side) jammed badly, requiring some serious jimmying. The fueling hose slipped off the deck, requiring some rigging and a spanish windlass to get it back in place. I parted a line, which required whipping and splicing. I backlashed the cargo runner on one of our booms. Then it rained like a damn monsoon, except that it was 40 degrees out.
So, as you can see, it wasn't a disaster, but it was a pain in the ass. I managed eventually to get the hose sent over to the ship, where a half dozen sodden deckhands were waiting patiently, and they set to work removing the blank (steel plate) from the end of the hose, which then gushed oil on their deck. Apparently, the valve for that hose wasn't properly seated, and there was about a barrel of cold bunker oil in the guy's containment area. Very messy, but safely contained, and I can probably expect NOT to be on someone's Christmas card list after fouling their containment area. Anyhow, after that, they managed to get the hose hooked up, and we passed out paperwork and eventually I got our pump started. Thankfully, not long after, it was time for me to relieved on deck, and I was able to get a shower and a nap.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


My friend Elaine is in the middle of a fight for her life against breast cancer. While I whine and bitch because someone called me 90 minutes early today, she's got everything riding on chemo and radiation.

I was inspired to post a link to her blog because today's entry is all about her worrying for the elderly stranger she meets in the oncology clinic. You can read about it here, if you're in the mood for something uplifting and want to get a little perspective.

I read this entry a few hours ago, and since then, I have been feeling foolish. My personal worries are mostly about other people, but I also have spent some time dwelling on my own navel. Time for that to change. I need to spend more time living, and less time worrying.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

fun n' games

All those valves make perfect sense to me. Block valves, double block valves, isolation valves, suction valves, discharge valves, stripping valves...

A Pure Car/Truck Carrier (PCTC) is about as ugly as a ship can get. They're built for function, not form. Thousands of cars and trucks get stuffed into these things for delivery.
Under the 'E' of 'Line" is the hose manifold, where fuel and lube oils are loaded. The slightly larger opening is an accommodation ladder for taking on pilots and crew and such.

Here we are sending a small diesel transfer hose to a bulk carrier. Large ships use heavy black oil for their engines, for the most part, but diesel is used to start the engine and while the ship is maneuvering in and out of port. For that reason, while we deliver anywhere from 300 to 2,000 tons of oil to fuel up a ship, we often deliver only 30-200 tons of diesel, which is much more expensive.

Here a heavy fuel oil hose is being sent over to a reefer ship. The hose itself weighs in at about 3/4 of a ton. Maneuvering and positioning the hose is done with the aid of a boom, but there's still a lot of brute strength involved. You can see all our various hoses laid out on deck. We're ready for any occasion.

This is a brand-spanking new small bulk carrier. She was carrying cocoa beans from Brazil to Philadelphia. Cocoa beans smell like hot garbage. The bugs enjoyed this immensely. The crew did not.

In other news, my dad came home from the hospital late last night. This is the first time of his many, many hospital visits where I feel that he was sent home too early. Considering that he had a tube stuck through his chest that ran into the pleura of his lungs, and said tube was removed only 8 hours before he was sent home, I have a suspicion that this may have been an insurance-influenced decision. My folks have top-notch insurance, so this is a disturbing thought. Anyhow, he's happy as can be to be back home, so that makes me happy for him.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


So, my father is in the hospital this week after undergoing a lung biopsy. He's already lost one lung to cancer, and the other one is looking a bit iffy. It's early days yet, although the biopsy results look promising so far. His problems in the one good lung seem to be something other than cancer, which I take as a good sign.
No one expected my father to live to see 1990 and here, 20 years past his anticipated expiration date, he's still going. All the same, it really really sucks to be 400 miles away for work... but if I came home every time he went into a hospital, I'd never keep a job. Still, this puts a big damn spotlight on the negative aspects of this job. Time lost can never be regained.

Flash! Violence! Excitement!

(Part IV of a 3-part series on the people and facilities behind this quality Internet site)

...none of which can be found here.

This is the Action Station here at HAWSEPIPER's floating Atlantic Basin World Headquarters. As you can see, we rotated out Buddy The Angry Tankerman for Jamie M, who plays somewhat less World of Warcraft whilst manning the Action Station/dining room/conference center. Jamie is in the US Military, so I can't surprise him by taking his photo. The flash from the camera induces a rage-fueled blackout state when he's not prepared. It's fun to watch, from the far side of bulletproof glass.

At the Action Station, we spend out waking hours monitoring the internet for maritime traffic, making prank calls over the VHF radio, and looking up part numbers in the Grainger catalog, mostly.

(Photo by Annie Liebovitz)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


"I totally killed Hitler."

For those of you who have yet to experience the joy, the above quote comes from The Venture Brothers... More specifically, from the end of the latest season premiere.

The Venture Brothers is, sadly, among the best-written shows on television... and it's a cartoon, obviously. It's almost impossible to describe the series- Hank and Dean venture are two very stupid but well -meaning teen boys raised by a single dad who is a hack superscientist living in the shadow (and profiting off of/riding the coattails of) of his dead father. The family's bodyguard, Brock Sampson (with the mullet), is a murder machine obsessed with Led Zeppelin. The family needs a bodyguard because Dr. Venture, the boys' dad, has a certain moral flexibility, bills to pay, and a fondness for prescription drugs. Dr. Venture is being stalked by an unlikely villian dressed in a butterfly costume, whom he must deal with from time to time, while attempting to market his often illegal inventions to the US government.

The show is worth watching. What amazes me is that the plots, gags and characters are interwoven seamlessly throughout the four years that the show has been in production. Character interactionfrom the first episode directly affect the plot of the 40th episode.
The show is full of simple humor, as well, for people like me. Dr. Girlfriend, the sidekick/girlfriend of The Monarch (the principal antagonist among a laundry list of antagonists, all organized and unionized by their shadowy leader, David Bowie), is a beautiful woman who looks and dresses like Jackie Onassis... except that for some reason she's got a man's voice with a heavy Bronx accent.

I give The Venture Brothers two big big thumbs up. It takes a couple of episodes to really grow on you, but the fact that a 35-year old man who never much went for comic books and cartoons (even as a kid) endorses it, should tell you all you need to know.

Monday, October 19, 2009

towards the convergence

I'm slowly transferring links from my favorites toolbar to this place, so I should apologize in advance for not supporting these excellent writers. In case you're curious, recent additions to the blogroll include:

Weer'd World- a fellow sailor/ ... living a parallel existence, Weer'd and I travel many of the same roads in the blogosphere.

The Quincy Scallion-
A first rate source of South Shore Politics and inside jokes relevant to the 6 people in the city of Quincy MA (Home of more dead presidents than any except for 6 other cities) who know how to read, and the teeming masses of people who pass through on their way from someplace better to someplace also better at some point in their lives.

Watt's up with that? is a scientific website dedicated to rigorous examination of the science and theory employed in climate research. As a skeptical semi-trained scientist who was taught to "mistrust authority' on day one at university, I find the lack of political influence on this website to be completely refreshing.

People of Wal-Mart. This one is sort of a guilty pleasure. As a frequent patron of Super Wal-Marts all along the Atlantic seaboard, and also along the US Gulf coast, this is also a stroll down memory lane... sort of a stroll down the of low-lights of Wal-mart visits past.

Manu's Scripts. I've been reading this blog for quite a while. I have a lot to be jealous of here. Manu is an experienced and exceptionally well-travelled ship's master... and a sublime writer.

That's it for tonight. More to come.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

the screen door in our submarine

I'm not being facetious. We really do have a screen door here at the Atlantic Basin World Headquarters of HAWSEPIPER.

Seen heah:

It's in the mid 40's... and raining. And the choices are:

1) Screen door: cold-ass air gets in. No insulation. No gaskets, rubber runners, etc. You get the idea.

2) Close and dog down the watertight door, lock all six dogs, and set Circle William, (Condition Watertight, where no air, light, and yes, water, will get through the door. (and then live completely hermetically separate from humanity in our teeny tiny box.)

So, we are a little chilly, as can be seen in the exciting photo above, where Buddy the Grumpy Tankerman sits at his action station, playing World of Warcraft 22.5 hours a day.

For my new stalker Mike, here is a shot of the bunkroom here at HAWSEPIPER's Atlantic Basin Global HQ.

Note that I had to stand outside the bunkroom to show this much in the photo. That's because the bunkroom is 4 1/2 feet by 6-foot-1. I know it's 6-foot-1 because I am 6 feet tall, and if I put my head against the bulkhead, and flex my ankles just a mite, I can touch both bulkheads.

At least the carpentry is nice. Clever use of 2x4's in a decorative fashion.

The other view. This is me standing in the screen door, looking inward. the galley is not visible here, but it's a nice range/oven/microwave unit, next to the sink. That's where the action happens.

Note the open bunkroom door. Damn this is small.

Now, to the left, next to the bunkroom is the head, the shower/sink/toilet. I'm not showing that, because hell, it's not exciting. Needless to say, it makes the bunkroom look spacious, and demonstrates to me on a daily basis that my shoulders are still a fair bit wider than my ass. I know this because in order to take a shower, I have to turn sideways. Awesome.

Friday, October 16, 2009

weird-ass memories.

One of the clearest memories I have of childhood was the last day of final exams in 2nd grade. My teacher, Ms. Morrissey, was an evil, evil bitch who I hope will burn in hell for all eternity. Seriously, she is the reason why two whole generation of boys in my hometown fear women in power. She was absolutely ruthless and vile.
I took the final exam, Religion, the day after everyone else was already out of school for the summer. I was alone in the classroom, and the school was dead silent. The air already tasted dusty.
The day before, I had skipped school. My family attended the Graduation ceremonies for Harvard University to cheer on a family friend (herself an orphan, but we were her family), who was a speaker at the event. The keynote speaker, however, was Mother Teresa.
Anyhow, my mother bullied her way right into the VIP seating ASAP, and this allowed us to have a semi-private moment with Mother Teresa after her speech. I very distinctly remember looking her straight in the eyes, she being diminutive and elderly, and reaching up to shake her hand, only to have her reach out quickly to shake mine, which made my whole body shake. I was, after all, shaking hands with a living saint, and such things do make an impression on a 7 year old.

Anyhow, The day after was the religion exam. Ms. Morissey bitched about my coming in for 'special treatment', taking the exam after the end of school. I remember being deathly afraid of that women, and how scared I was when I said. "I talked to Mother Teresa. I shook her hand. My mother made me go. Sorry."
Bitch made me apologize. This was the teacher at a catholic school, who was complaining that I took the 2nd grade religion final exam a day late. Apparently my parents never went into detail when they arranged for me to miss school, because that woman's squinty eyes went 100% pie eyed, and the malice that usually shone through was absent. I remember too that her jaw dropped.
... and then I finished the exam, said 'bye' or something equally benign, and walked out of that classroom, shaking in fear, as I had done every day for 9 months prior. It wasn't until some time mid-summer before the clouds lifted.

just wow

Check out this transcript from a speech given by Lord Christopher Monckton, former science advisor (and fellow adherant to critical thinking) to Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (herself a bit of a bloody-handed butcher of Irish Catholics, but one sharp cookie nonetheless).

Here is Moncton's speech regarding the upcoming climate treaty summit to be held in Copenhagen:

At [the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in] Copenhagen, this December, weeks away, a treaty will be signed. Your president will sign it. Most of the third world countries will sign it, because they think they’re going to get money out of it. Most of the left-wing regime from the European Union will rubber stamp it. Virtually nobody won’t sign it.

I read that treaty. And what it says is this, that a world government is going to be created. The word “government” actually appears as the first of three purposes of the new entity. The second purpose is the transfer of wealth from the countries of the West to third world countries, in satisfication of what is called, coyly, “climate debt” – because we’ve been burning CO2 and they haven’t. We’ve been screwing up the climate and they haven’t. And the third purpose of this new entity, this government, is enforcement.

How many of you think that the word “election” or “democracy” or “vote” or “ballot” occurs anywhere in the 200 pages of that treaty? Quite right, it doesn’t appear once. So, at last, the communists who piled out of the Berlin Wall and into the environmental movement, who took over Greenpeace so that my friends who funded it left within a year, because [the communists] captured it – Now the apotheosis as at hand. They are about to impose a communist world government on the world. You have a president who has very strong sympathies with that point of view. He’s going to sign it. He’ll sign anything. He’s a Nobel Peace Prize [winner]; of course he’ll sign it.


And the trouble is this; if that treaty is signed, if your Constitution says that it takes precedence over your Constitution (sic), and you can’t resign from that treaty unless you get agreement from all the other state parties – And because you’ll be the biggest paying country, they’re not going to let you out of it.

So, thank you, America. You were the beacon of freedom to the world. It is a privilege merely to stand on this soil of freedom while it is still free. But, in the next few weeks, unless you stop it, your president will sign your freedom, your democracy, and your humanity away forever. And neither you nor any subsequent government you may elect will have any power whatsoever to take it back. That is how serious it is. I’ve read the treaty. I’ve seen this stuff about [world] government and climate debt and enforcement. They are going to do this to you whether you like it or not.

But I think it is here, here in your great nation, which I so love and I so admire – it is here that perhaps, at this eleventh hour, at the fifty-ninth minute and fifty-ninth second, you will rise up and you will stop your president from signing that dreadful treaty, that purposeless treaty. For there is no problem with climate and, even if there were, an economic treaty does nothing to [help] it.

So I end by saying to you the words that Winston Churchill addressed to your president in the darkest hour before the dawn of freedom in the Second World War. He quoted from your great poet Longfellow:

Sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O Union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!

Wow. Now that's frightening, especially considering that this guy is 100% scary brilliant.

You can read the original here.

sharing is caring

Despite the rather grand scale of a modern ship, the actual living quarters are modestly sized... in that sense, it's a fine training ground for learning how to live with acquaintances, friends and total strangers without resorting to violence on a day-to-day basis.

And that's a good thing. Men being men, we don't do well under normal circumstances in close quarters unless there's a chain of command or other hierarchical power structure to keep things organized.

Now, imagine two very different people occupying a tiny living space like this:

You might guess where this is going. I've said before that it gets tough, living in a 12x17 box with another guy day in and day out.

One thing that entertains me to no end is how young my opposite is. He's 25, and an old salt of 5 years of vast experience. Now, I do NOT consider myself an old salt... anymore. Hurricane Ike last year beat the ego out of me. Even so, I've been messing about in commercial boats for a living since I was 16, really, although I was lobstering from the old age of 7. And I am NO master mariner. When I meet an expert, a true old salt, I am always astounded at the little things that I learn, things that aren't taught in our modern era.

Anyhow, my opposite is young, and has had some experience with boats. He's unreserved, southern, and I would guess that somewhere there's an explosive temper in him. In some ways, he scares me, because he's never had an oil spill, and isn't afraid to make waves. Now, I've never been responsible for an oil spill, but I've been part of several of them, and they are 100% awful. I fear for my future, because people get arrested now for the accidental release of oil into the water, regardless of whose fault it is. "Someone is going to be thrown under the bus", is how it goes now on a federal level. But I digress. My opposite is a young guy, and like all 25 year olds, he's 8-foot-12, bulletproof, and always has his "fuck you money" (enough money to get by in case one needs to suddenly find a new job) on standby.
I am 10 years older, and see a lot of myself 10 years ago

(Yes, that was my real hair, and yes, I was drinking. I still have the hat).

in the young'un. Now I am older, cautious, and aware of public perception of me as a professional, all the things a 25-year-old is not. As a more experienced and better travelled mariner, I am comfortable with foreign sailors who might not understand my English, and I am not one to cuss a man out for being Filipino.

As an aside, it amazes me that so many American mariners don't understand that cultures that emphasize reservation in the face of rudeness usually find a means to balance the equation after someone calls them a monkey or a stupid foreigner... This is why I see guys cover their heads when coming alongside a foreign ship. For some reason, a lot of guys, the youngster included, think that foreign sailors won't understand snide comments... and then the affronted but poker-faced sailor will throw a monkey's fist (imagine a ball or rope as hard and heavy as a baseball) directly at their head.
Now, I happen to get along well with Filipinos, mostly because I have sailed with a lot of guys from that country. I can speak a few words of their language, and I butcher it enough that they can understand that I'm trying to be friendly. Their culture emphasizes politeness and deference to strangers. Mine... does not, but politeness is a class thing with me, and it always pays off. I've never had a monkey's fist thrown at my head, anyhow.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

oh, awesome

TSA and Steamship Authority test explosives detection technology

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today starts testing advanced explosives detection technology in partnership with the Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority.

During the three-week pilot program, TSA will conduct explosives screening on passenger vehicles boarding the Martha's Vineyard ferry at the Woods Hole Terminal in Falmouth. The purpose of the project is to test the performance of new technologies to detect explosives while maintaining efficient operations for high-volume ferries.

"This test represents one in a series of pilot programs TSA has designed to evaluate the effectiveness of emerging explosive detection technologies in the maritime environment," said John Sammon, TSA Assistant Administrator, Transportation Sector Network Management. "This is yet another tool the agency can use to respond to specific threats that arise from new intelligence or major events."

Through Nov. 6, TSA will use CarSCAN, a dual-energy transmission X-ray technology, to screen all passenger vehicles before they are driven onboard the ferry to Martha's Vineyard. For convenience, drivers will be permitted to remain in their vehicles during screening, which lasts approximately 10 seconds. Because the technology does not use whole body imaging, privacy issues will not be a concern.

Testing will occur Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Prior to boarding the ferry, drivers of passenger vehicles will be asked to proceed through the CarSCAN portal at approximately 5 mph. Images of the scanned vehicles will be monitored by TSA Transportation Security Officers from a station adjacent to the portal. If an anomaly is detected, the vehicle will be directed to a secondary screening area for inspection by TSA-certified explosives detection K9 teams.

"We are pleased to partner with TSA in their continuing efforts to test emerging technologies that screen vehicles for explosives," said Steamship Authority General Manager Wayne Lamson. "This pilot program will enable the TSA to test the effectiveness of explosive detection technologies that the Steamship Authority may want to utilize in the future, particularly during periods of heightened alert."

Oh, awesome. Thank you for letting me stay in my car, just to make sure that the x-rays bombard my whole body.

Time to break out the tinfoil underwear.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Truth and consequences

As some of you know, my wife doesn't read my blog. That's a good thing. First off, she hates the ocean, and is ambivalent about my career choices. Sometimes she fancies me throwing it to the wind and going back to being a working class marine biologist, just for the bragging rights. Then I remind her that my background was in dealing with seafood and farmed fish, which implies a return to commercial fishing or fish farming, neither or which is a lucrative endeavor for a scientist who has no P.hD.

Quickly, the subject gets changed. She's pragmatic.

Anyhow, she doesn't read my blog. All things being equal, she doesn't want to know about the not-so-awesome moments, and I don't want her to worry about me. It seems like I am having less not-so-awesome moments these days anyhow, which is wholly positive, if a mite dull.

I did mention that I put her picture up when I caught her about to yell at me last week. Ironically, where, in the original picture, I ended up getting a polite lecture about staying the hell out of her kitchen while she was cooking, after she looked at my earlier entry here -with-photo, I actually did get yelled at, I think. It wasn't in English, and was too fast for me to translate. I did catch the word for "pain in the ass' a couple of times, though.

And she says that now she is definitely going to whip a napkin holder at my head.

So, just in case you're actually still reading, here's something I've been working on. The more I look back, the more I see what a champ my old ship was, especially considering we were playing tag with a hurricane in the video part of it...

DISCLAIMER: The photo taken on the cargo deck was taken while the ship was in a 'gas free' state by someone else. We're not going to risk blowing up a ship with a goddamn camera. Other exterior photos taken from safe areas were taken with a mechanical camera that had no flash. Just bein' safe.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

about time

Well, enough talking about it.

Finally, I'm organizing a group of procrastinators who haven't yet gotten the safety class out of the way to apply for a Massachusetts Class A firearms permit (License to Carry). I'm ashamed that I didn't do this 10 years ago, but then again, 10 years ago I was too nomadic to do any kind of planning.

doin', not just talkin'

Jay G has an awesome post today continuing a very good debate (started elsewhere) about ObamaCare and the widdle worries that some skeptics have. Go check it out.

Me, I've been sitting on the fence whilst in the spotlight, and shooting my mouth off in public when no one is looking, which is shameful. No more.

All the same, this stuff ain't free, and no one knows that better than I, sitting on my fence, with a nice view into both crowds. Free stuff creates an entitlement mindset, and having pockets regularly picked by Uncle Sugar breeds resentment. Not a good combination. I see the potential for abuse, and seriously, free anything +human nature= hands out+gimme gimme Ihavearighttothis.
I haven't seen much press about it lately, but I saw an article ra-ra'ing ObamaCare, using the pretext that it will eliminate the situation whereby people choose employment based on the benefit package, specifically, medical coverage. I say "Huh?" I do that. I did that. That's called being a responsible parent, or head of household, whatever. Fuck, we all do that. It's called a goddamn benefit package for a reason: it's a compensation package. It's called having a fucking job! Sure, if I had free health care, I suppose I could sit on my balls and apply to NASA. There's absolutely nothing wrong with offering varying compensation packages as part of a job. A newspaper stand isn't going to offer Blue Cross/Blue Shield. They might offer something, but probably not BX/BS at $950 a month for the family plan. On the other hand, I have Blue Cross. Then again, I have one of the most dangerous jobs in America, paid a small fortune for training, and earned my fucking place. What's going to happen at a newspaper stand? Inky hands and paper cuts. In the US alone, each year, a dozen guys in my position fall in the water between two barges and get ground into a red paste when the barges bounce off of each other. Now why, why, in the name of the seven mad gods of the sea, would I even be tempted to want to pay more to my insurer, and for my employer to pay more to my ensurer, so other people can have the health insurance I had to work so fucking hard to earn.

So, ObamaCare is here to close the gap, but any time you subsidize one group from another, you promote inefficiency. The kids are taken care of, and, as JayG pointed out, that's the important thing. I don't see the potential for ObamaCare to do much beyond promoting folks to sit back and let the gum'mint take care of them, and hell, we're talking about the US government, the people who can't deliver a postcard 4 doors down the street half the time. What are the odds that this will end well?

Monday, October 12, 2009

stowed, stored, and blowed the hell up

It's been a good week at work.

It hasn't been too busy, and the major projects aboard for 2009 are completed. The little things are progressing, and improvements are being improved upon. We even had an overnight sailing to reposition to an anchorage in Baltimore from our usual haunts on the Delaware river. We've got a modest load of bunker and diesel oil aboard for a job tonight, then off to Philly again tomorrow morning sometime, another 8-12 hours away, dependent upon the tides and currents.

Then one of our generators seized.

Still not sure how that happened, but we're now running on one generator set, which is itself overdue for service. Sooooooo... The generator was offline. She simply wouldn't start. We had to wait until today for a mechanic to catch a launch and come out to declare the patient deader'n' a dead dog.

Anyhow, looks like we're going to be down for maintenance for another day or two after we get back home.

In the meanwhile, it was a pretty rough time at home, so it's been wholly a good thing that work has been light so far this tour. The reality is that my home life is complicated, just now, enough so that even though my home is still an oasis for me, outside of my own family, my wife and son, it's chaos. A lot of the rest of my family is really struggling, and for someone like me, who lives with a certain amount of guilt over being a so distant from my family it's difficult to watch. So this job is a double blessing. My face has gone from a somewhat alarming purple color to my more usual reddish permanently-embarrassed-looking color in just 5 days, and that's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

on the scene.

Despite heavy rains the entire drive, I made it down from Boston to Philadelphia in short order last night, fueled not in a small part by my wife's cooking, which was excellent- I now know the secret to late-night travel down the Northeast Corridor: a 0130 start to bypass morning NY traffic, energy drinks, decent country music, and a hot meal before leaving the house.
As always, it was a bittersweet parting. The Boy had surgery this morning, and was apparently severely nonplussed at my absence when he came out of anaesthesia. He and I said our goodbyes last night, and he's usually pretty flexible with me- there's never been any real trouble or complaining before, but, then again, he woke up, disoriented and drugged, and my wife was there, so he was calmed down relatively quickly, but try explaining that to a really high 6-year old.
It was definitely time for me to get out of the house. My wife was absolutely tired of me being underfoot. Normally, I bounce off the walls of my home (AKA The Ant Farm) if I sit still for more than five minutes; this time, I came home with bronchitis, which I then passed to my wife, then The Boy got strep throat, which he passed to me, and then I got a cold from somewhere else, too.

I am not a sickly person- in fact, I think that my immune system is pretty damn awesome, under normal circumstances. So it goes.

Anyhow, what with the illness, and the anxious child, and supplemental insanity coming from my family and hers, by the time I was ready to go back to work, Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife looked like this:

napkin holder being thrown at husband in 3...2...1...

All the same, there is nothing quite so miserable as silencing the alarm clock at 1am and having to leave a perfectly warm and sleepy wife full of the knowledge that it'll be a long while before I'll be back in the big bed.

So, I arrived at my barge at 9am, and immediately set to work. By 6pm, I was talking to myself, and managed to sleep a bit. Such will be the way of things for the next 28 days.

out of the darkness

I am back at work. Expect greatness very soon.