Friday, December 30, 2011


Starting the New Year's celebrations tonight w/ drinks out with another couple, and tomorrow sees us at a party w/ family. New Year's Day, come hangover or no, is the day of the Northeast Bloggers Winter Lunch social.

Should be awesome. Hopefully I won't be feeling barfy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'm home, happy to be here, and getting ready for a marathon day. We're celebrating a Brazilian-style Christmas, which means Christmas eve is a big party, presents get opened at midnight, and tomorrow is a recovery day. Pretty good so far.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


OK, I'm heading home in about 12 hours, and we just rafted up to another barge at our anchorage, so all is well. I'm going to leave you with the best, funniest, well written goddam story I've read in a long while. Like all good stories, this one needs to start with the traditional benison:

This is no shit.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

You're welcome

With only a few more watches to go before I head home to wife and son and scotch and liver strain, I couldn't leave without sharing this month's beautiful women from Brazil. With Christmas coming soon, and the prospect of moving this June, it might be a while before I return to South America again, anyhow, but at least we have the internet. Just keep those hands where we can all see em.

As always, when visiting a place with hot-and-cold running beautiful women, it's best to stick with a local guide, even an online local guide like yours truly. As my wife warned me when we were getting ready to go to dinner in Salvador "Hohnee, be careful, hmm? Not averee beautiful woman is a beautiful woman here." That beautiful woman in the first picture at the top of this post is a dude.

Told you to keep your hands on the table!


Lots of Maritimey things going on this week.

One big one for me is that Seaboats got bought by Kirby marine. Although Seaboats is a small company, this is Kirby's first major purchase of an oceangoing fleet since they bought K-Sea last year. The Seaboat fleet will presumably be folded into K-Sea, which is good for K-Sea, since their fleet is primarily made up of used and abused or worn-out pieces of shit that no one else wanted. (with some exceptions, but really, their asset inventory reads like a Tijuana used-car lot).
At any rate, my employers were in negotiations to but Seaboats, but something happened and they walked away. K-Sea picked up the deal, but Kirby promptly shitcanned all the employees. I'm not sure if this was done ipso facto or if it was done with the aim of allowing the employees to reapply for their jobs and thus end-run any continuity issues with regards to pay or benefits. Regardless, K-Sea is going to be strengthened for having made the purchases.

The American Phoenix (pictured below, photo courtesy of Mid-Ocean Marine) seems to be coming along well.
This was the ship originally partially built and financed by my last employer, who went tits up a few months after I left the company (Coincidence?). She's scheduled to be ready for sea trials in the next few months. I once entertained fantasies of an officer's slot on this ship, but that was a lifetime ago.

Finally, one upside to the utter lack of leadership in Washington was that the Fed finally sold new leases in the Gulf of Mexico, the first least sale since the BP disaster. Apparently Conoco-Philips was the heaviest investor for the 191 blocks covering 21,000,000 acres, scoring 75+ of the blocks for $157 million.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


This shit is going to give me a complex.

My company moves oil. Our overpowered tugboats move barges to refinery terminals. The terminals pump oil from their tanks to ours. Our tugboats move our barges to a receiver- either a ship or another terminal. We pump the oil from our tanks to theirs. Repeat. THE ONLY TIME WE GET PAID IS WHEN THE OIL FLOWS FROM AND TO OUR TANKS.

So my job is over oversee our tanks. I walk around the top of the tank, fix things that are broken, record significant events, and open and shut the little openings to and from our tanks. That's my job. I do the job that gets everyone paid. It isn't the pinnacle of life, but it's a good job that pays the salary of the tugboats, the office staff, and the good people who make sure my insurance premiums are paid on time.
So why is it that I have to kiss some major ass to get some God-damned food? I'm out here for a month, and I have a certain affinity for wanting to live to see retirement, so I live on a balanced diet. Unfortunately,fruits and vegetables do not last for a month in a fridge, and that's the truth. Unless I want to live on Dinty Moore and die before I'm 50, I have to have food that doesn't arrive in a can.
It's not so easy. Being the popular, ever-sexy swinging pickle here in this particular floating hot dog cart, there often isn't time to moor alongside a dock with shore access. And, for some mysterious reason, vegetables bought in New York city, even in high-end groceries, wilt and die after about 5-7 days, especially salad. Salad at home, mysteriously, is good for a week, 10 days at the outside. It's a head-scratcher, but one that requires that I grub up with fresh produce every 10 days or so here. And yet, when we are not allowed shore access, somehow it comes as a terrible shock that I want to get food every now and again. Getting to my truck is viewed as an excess, apparently.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paul and the B.O.B. being disreputable again

While I was home last time I managed to get good and drunk with former captain (and employer) The Notorious B.O.B.
Bob and I fished together for many years on the RITA C., a 42' lobster boat originally owned by Bob's father, a man who could sell ice to eskimos and who managed to shove me off the fence when I was managing a small fish farm and considering giving it all up to go back to being a lobsterman. This was 11 years ago, I believe. I spent the next 8 years fishing with the B.O.B.
Bob and I are dangerous together when we're off the water. Although both of us have more legitimate jobs nowadays- me here, at HAWSEPIPER's global afloat HQ/hot dog sales emporium, and the B.O.B. as the director of afloat operations for a marine research laboratory, but back then we were just lobstermen. But I digress.
So while I was home, the B.O.B. and I got together at a bar (!!!!) and proceeded to drink too much. This is significant in that neither of us are heavy drinkers (now), but have a history of drinking too much together. And we didn't fail to live up to our standards from the days of yore.
I'm not sure what it is about nostalgia and "what the hell happened to us?" conversations, but the beer was disappearing like it was going down the drain, and we managed to have a great time just warming a pair of barstools, completely oblivious as to the people and place around us... and you know, I can't remember the last time I genuinely had a time like that, laughter, commiseration, foolishness and, yes, alcohol. It was a wonderful time, and sure I spent the night on the couch after rolling over to hug my wife in my sleep and grossing her out with stale beer breath once too often, but I woke up with a touch of the 'zaclies and some great memories. I think.
Being a lobsterman and drinking beer aren't as synonymous as you might think. It's often burtal work, and you come to the dock at the end of the day with wet clothes and a tight back, and as nice as a beer would be, a shower is often more appealing, as is time with family. At that time, however, the B.O.B. and I were bachelors. I had just started dating an Inappropriately Hot Foreign Girlfriend, and was living in The Pickle Jar, the ultimate bachelor pad, so with no one waiting at home for us, the B.O.B. and I would drink at least one beer together at the dock at the end of the day most days, and considerably more some days. It was certainly cheaper than a barroom. Like as not, after a beer or two, I'd swing over to the dry cleaner where my girlfriend was working, and rush inside, stinking of rotting fish to demand a hug and make her gag from the smell of me. Some days, however, especially Fridays, the B.O.B. and I would drink 3 or 4 cans of beer each, retreat to our homes, and meet up at a local biker bar later on and continue the foolishness. An appropriately disreputable bar won't boot you for realizing that the smell of fish is still coming out of your pores after a 45-minute shower, so this was key.
Anyhow, sitting here in my chair at oh-dark-thirty, at anchor a few hundred miles away from that old dock, I really, really miss almost every aspect of those days. Somehow, it's harder to remember the agony of slinging 50-lb lobster pots with an already-sore back, of slipping and falling on seaweed, of being so riddled with diaper rash in midsummer that I could barely walk, and of my hands being so dried out that the skin on my fingers would crack open and bleed from the abrasion from unzipping my fly to take a leak. That stuff goes by the wayside. The being dead-ass broke part doesn't fade quite so quickly, which is the only reason I'm not fishing right now. It wouldn't be the same without the B.O.B. anyhow. In the 8 years we fished together, the time went by in a flash.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


We've got a new ullage program on the Pimputer here at Hawsepiper's global floating HQ.
For those of you not in the know, ullage refers to the space between the top measuring point in an oil tank and the surface of the oil in the tank. It's how we measure volume. For example, at an ullage of 3' 4" my tanks are 97% full, which is enough to make anyone nervous, but not enough to set off the overfill alarm, which, appropriately enough, sounds like the end of the world (because it pretty much is).

So, with that in mind, my employers decided that our current system for load planning created too many individual quirks amongst the fleet in terms of reporting, so we've moved to a standardized calculating and reporting system that makes sense for the customers but is quite soggy and hard to light for those of us who carry multiple cargoes for multiple customers (but awesome for the lucky ducks who only carry one or two cargoes at a time). So be it. One size fits all, though a blivet may result.

Regardless, this week I got to give lessons in the new system to my right-hand man, who is not a lover of the Pimputer, nor computers in general.

The 1984 16mhz 486 Pimputer, nerve center of HAWSEPIPER's media empire.
Paint by Krylon.

At times I feel disheartened that the last three years have seen so much additional labor added to the process of pumping oil into a tank and then pumping oil out of a tank. Adminstrative jobs are expanding at an exponential rate ashore, and yet administrative tasks are increasing exponentially aboard, as well, begging the question as to what exactly on God's gray earth is the reason why more administrators are needed when the afloat staff is doing all the secretarial work?
Sadly, this is not a particularly novel question, but it does affect job satisfaction. If I wanted to be a fucking paperpusher, I'd still be a goddamned scientist. At this point, I should have saved the $80,000 and gone to secretarial school.
But, sadly, this is the future of working on the water. Being good at your job is no longer enough. It is very important to also be good at the job other people are supposed to be doing ashore, as well. Then again, you can't expect too much from the shorebound. They have bars there. Lucky pricks.
Still, I'm aware that I'm pissing uphill. I'm also not being particularly serious. I like my job. I have my beefs, and who doesn't? It still beats being a biologist. And the paperwork? Everyone's killing more trees in the name of information no one needs or wants, and that's not the fault of the folks who are trying to make a living; that's our bloated bureaucracy pissing from waaaaayyyyyy up on the top of a hill in Washington, and I'm not going to complain that the folks who are upstream from me can't shield me from all the crap that rains down. Ultimately, we're all at fault for not demanding better from the people who work for us.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How do you say "WTF" in Portuguese?

Without going into details, since apparently Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife has discovered Google Translate, I developed a serious listening disorder last night. When I started giggling because I realized that my wife has learned english with a Boston accent, and it's not physically possible for Brazilians to say the letter 'R' properly anyhow (they say it like we say the letter "H,") I must have laughed a little too much. She banged the phone against the countertop, hard, and now my ear is ringing.

This is my life. It's funny, at times, but probably more so if you're not me.

Anyhow, now I have to send her flowers.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Merry Christmas (to me)

Bought myself a Christmas present, as Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife insists on buying me clothes and shoes and crap like that for Christmas, when all I want are toys (tools. And actual toys).

So I bought a set of boat plans, and I'm going to build a little rowboat for myself, something to exercise with next summer. Nothing special at all, but it'll keep me out of the barroom this winter, anyhow.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Woke up at 2330 for watch, (I got the 0000-080 or 'balls to eight' today)only to discover that my relief made me a small Stromboli for midrats today, which covers 1/3 of my calorie count for the day, but all the same, beats the hell out of oatmeal and a goddamned banana for wake-up food.

I went to look for theatre tickets to catch a show in Boston when I go home at the end of the month- something to do one night between Christmas and New Years, you know? No, I am not going to pay $375 for ticket to nosebleed seats for Peter Pan. Fuck them right in the ear, I could go see a Broadway show in NY, where they employ real actors, and stay overnight in the city for less. It's not like they're spending the money on scenery anyhow- this version uses projection screens instead of backdrops, so bullshit.

One of my pet peeves at work is when we've got multiple cargoes on board, destined for multiple destinations, and then the order of discharges is reversed completely. As an example, at 0300 we'll start the first of three cargo discharges, and, instead of discharging as ordered, I'll be pumping oil to the last ship (as originally planned) first. This will end with me having oil in the extreme ends of my tanks, so we'll be hogged hard, well within limits, but all the same, I don't like trying to get oil pumping from all the way up forward through a couple hundred feet of ice-cold pipeline. Heavy fuel oil doesn't move at temps below 46 degrees, and, barring any good fortune, it's going to be like trying to drink cold molasses through a straw.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hawsepiper cooks dessert

So, the other night I made a fast dessert for a bunch of folks who were visiting my little slice of heaven on the harbor.

Olhas De Sogra ('mother-in-law's eyes') is a Brazilian treat made to accommodate their ever-present sweet tooth (well, semi-sweet tooth- the brazzers aren't actually huge fans of sickly sweet sugary stuff like we are). It's incredibly delicious, lasts for a week in the fridge, and the calorie count is really not too bad if you're like me and attempting to shake off an equator-sized waistline.

Now, bear with me, because there are prunes all up in this thing.
I know, prunes, right? Nature's perfect laxative? Turns out, pitted prunes provide a tart sweetness that doesn't include a sugary taste, which makes them perfect for this dish. Coconut and a little sugar do that.

You will need 14-16 ounces of shredded dried coconut. Here in the US, the shredded coconut is too coarse, so you need to grind it down some in a blender or food processor, until the flakes are only 1/8 to 1/16th of an inch- about twice as finely ground as it comes out of the bag. Easy.

1/2 cup water
1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar
14-16 oz finely shredded coconut
whole cloves
1 bag of pitted prunes

Boil 1/2 cup water in a saucepan. Add 2 egg yolks, 1/3 to 1/2 cup sugar, and the coconut mix. Cook under low-medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Set aside to cool.

Roll the prunes into a boat shape in your hands. Using your fingertips, press the coconut around the prune, making the bonbon shape look like a rheumy eye that is always judging you and never in a good way. Jam a clove into the eyeball and place on a tray or in a container. You may roll the bonbon in sugar if you so please, but I find it too sweet that way. Place in the fridge for one hour. Remove the clove before eating, unless you're OK with chewing a whole clove (which I am. Tastes wonderful, but strong).

Disclaimer- this dessert does not work as a laxative. I suppose if you ate 2lbs of these things it might, but I ate about a half dozen one night when my wife made these AND gave me liquor, and I was fine for the next day, which, considering the caiperinha I drank, was a pleasant surprise.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Lazy ass midwatch

So I carefully crafted a goodnight voicemail to Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife tonight before going to bed. Unfortunately, it was lost in the ether, so she called me back about 1/2 way through my off-watch period, when I was sleeping. After a short, ironic good night conversation, I couldn't sleep, so I heaved my ass out of the rack. On the upside, I made soup before hitting the rack, so, you know, soup is nice.
So, now, without a decent evenings' nap under my belt, I'm dreading the prospect of getting out on deck to jog in circles for an hour. As a fat man, jogging is strenuous at best, and with my now deflated beer belly, somewhat ridiculous looking anyhow. Jogging with no energy just doesn't have the appeal of reading my book 'Evil for Evil' by KJ parker and eating more soup.

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Extortion and Fraud of Sailors.

Special hat tip to Manu for bringing this rage-making news to light:

Do you remember the Von Trapp family? You know, the real family who inspired the story from 'The Sound of Music?' (Oh, wait, if you're under 40, did you know that this was based on a true story? I did, but only because I had to be told that a dozen times as a kid).

Ever wondered what happened to the Von Trapps after the kids grew up? Well, apparently the fam learned a thing or two about oppression and the wonders of being on the White side of the fence in the master race argument, except they've decided to be the bad guys in this case.

Vega shipping of Germany, (well, Vega - Reederei Friedrich Dauber (GmbH & Co.) KG) founded by the Von Trapps, is a large shipowning/vessel management firm located in Germany. The ITF, International Transport Federation, the principal body involved in maintaining, polling and attempting to enforce basic human rights for seafarers, busted Vega shipping for carrying two sets of logbooks for paying crew wages- one showing wages paid out according to the international minimum wage, and then the real book, showing back wages due of $230,000.

Vega shipping, caught with their hands in the cookie jar, ADMITTED WRONGDOING TO THEIR PORT REGISTRY, and agreed to pay the crew wages due. They then waited until all inspectors and port officials left the ship, and flew a representative in to take the money back from the crew, threatening 'legal action' which means blackballing, (being illegal, of course). An ITF representative returned to the ship hours later, to discover that the crew had 'voluntarily' returned the wages. Two weeks later, the ITF returned to the ship at another port, along with Port State Control, to oversee the crew being repaid. Again.
After being paid this second time, it was payoff time for 7 of the crew... time to go home. Vega Shipping called the hotel where the sailors (all Filipino) were staying in the UK. An ITF representative was on hand, so the Vega rep claimed he wanted to take the sailors 'to dinner' and that was the end of that attempt.

BUT, it doesn't end there. At the airport in Manila, Vega waylaid 6 of the crewmen at the gate (the 7th left from another gate), and, according to witnesses at the airport, kidnapped the 6 men AND THEIR FAMILIES, brought them to Vega's crewing office, and allegedly threatening to have them all arrested for 'theft' of wages... and the 6 men gave back their own hard-earned wages. Again. So that makes fraud, theft and extortion, all carried out by a well-regarded European shipowner.

The 7th crewmember is said to have been blackballed by POEA, Vega's overseas manning agency, since he actually got his wages.

So, to the Von Trapp's, I urge them to seek out a decent, LEGAL solution to this issue, which I'm sure will never happen. If given a chance, I'm sure they'd find a solution. A Final Solution.

If you're interested in seeing how Vega operates in the Philippines, look at this story where VEGA asks for the names and addresses of the witnesses who saw the scene at the airport. Maybe they want to take those witnesses to 'dinner' too.

I'd like to think that Georg Ludwig Ritter Von Trapp would be doing the Charleston in his grave if he saw what his hands had created. I can't think of a less fitting tribute than this.

You can read the ITF's press release here, too.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No dock for you!

Wow, tough crowd.

Pulled the nuclear option tonight in the hopes of getting moored in Brooklyn while we await orders for our next cargo ('could you berth us in Brooklyn? I'd like to go get groceries and go to church tomorrow') but failed to impress, I'm afraid. Instead on the Pimputer (our galley computer is tricked out with gloss and chrome and mirror finish, but is otherwise a 386 running DOS 1.0 with a "Pentium" sticker on the case. But it's a hologram-y sticker, so, you know, tech.) it says we're going to the bird shit sanctuary.

New York's seagulls are real dump ducks. Fat to a fault, ill-tempered, and capable of remarkable feats of elimination. And we're now anchored in their restroom of choice, just offshore from the Statue of Liberty. And Thank God, too, because there's so much new paint on deck, and it'd be a real shame for it not to be beshitted 3 inches deep before sunup.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there, especially to our soldiers and sailors and those who work in critical services, those who had to work to keep us safe and our system secure... like the poor pricks who work in retail and had to do the Chew and Screw tonight after dinner to make sure the soulless soccer moms and hipsters could line up and consume like good sheep should. Hope that TV was worth it, asshole; you just canceled another holiday for the working stiff.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

unhealthy and healthy

So on board we've been watching Chef Rick Bayless' TV show for the past two months. For those of you not in the know, Chef Rick is arguably the premier Mexican cook in the US. Being that he's about as Mexican as I am, this is an eye-opener, but it does show the passion that the man brings to the table for authentic Mexican cuisine.

Anyhow, with food porn on TV daily, we've been stocking up on chiles, peppers and other hot stuff to perk up the cooking on board. Thus far we've managed to avoid disaster, though the healthy-yet rich belly bombs that occasionally get made are surprisingly decent. My Tilapia fish tacos are the next creation that I'll contribute aboard; as I've already tried them out on my family, and failed to kill anyone with them, I'll next try to recreate the magic here in our galley.

Tonight my counterpart here made a quart or so of particularly spicy salsa. Sort of a shame, in that the bog bag of tortilla chips got tipped out of the grocery bags as they were swung aboard this afternoon. Dammit.

At any rate, check out Rick's website here at

Monday, November 21, 2011

like a dog to its vomit...

so returns the fool to his folly. Tomorrow night I drive back to NY and start another month of presumably both hi- and lowjinks out on the water.

Didn't lose a hell of a lot of weight while here- a mere 1.9lbs in 2 weeks, but considering the financial support I gave to the Jamison and Budweiser family, I did pretty good. The last time I wore jeans and a shirt this size, I was 14! To Wit: This is me wearing last years' winter coat. This year I can wear the same coat, with my 8 year old zipped inside. I've lost 1 The Boy in 3 1/2 months.

Monday, November 14, 2011

week 2 begins

Looks like I'll be home for another 7 days! Let's all celebrate and go to the bar. Right now. Before my wife gets home.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

homeward bound

I'm going home in about 5 hours. One one hand, I've got to run the gauntlet to get through Brooklyn and Queens, bu then it gets really bad. Connecticut- rt 95, the worst length of highway on the eastern seaboard strictly because of constant poorly-managed construction. At the end of the road, when I get home, maybe 2am, there will be a glass of scotch and a shower and the big bed waiting.

Oh, speaking of which, a careless tug captain (from another company) bumped us so good last night that it blew me right out of my bunk. Hell of way to wake up.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

wake up, captain crankypants!

Being chased out of bed to address a water leak is no fun.

we're smack in the middle of 30 blissful hours between cargoes.

Yesterday was a great opportunity to load up on stores, the supplies that we need to keep running in a somewhat clean and efficient manner. So, although my day yesterday started at midnight, I spent the afternoon alternating between updating paperwork and running one of our cranes, then taking my turn sorting and stowing the goodies that we ordered. In the late afternoon, I took a much-appreciated walk through Brooklyn, cranking out a good 6 miles or so across town. It was a beautiful fall day, and, although the scenery in Brooklyn doesn't appeal to me in any way shape or form, the people-watching is fantastic, so I enjoyed every bit of my walk.
Although I know better, I spent the evening in my bunk, engrossed in a fun book. 'Monster Hunter: Alpha' by Larry Correia, if you're interested. Stayed up too late and finished it.
Anyhow, I woke up this morning to take a leak, and that was the end of it. My second man had shut off the water pump aboard because of a leaking pressure sensor valve, then went back to watching TV. With no water, I wandered over to the galley and my guy explained what happened. Now, I'm not a passive person. I squatted down in the puddle, looked at the pump, pulled apart the hose running to the sensor, trimmed the end of the hose, stuck it back on the sensor, and started the pump. Cost: fuck all, and some wet underwear.
Unfortunately, dipping one's nethers in cold water is somewhat refreshing, so that was the end of my night. On the upside, this gave me the opportunity to go to the real, actual calibrated scale in the office and check my weight, which is still creeping downward.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vinegar and Honey

This past week has been damn busy. Good to see, from a business perspective, that the Port of New York has been in need of bunker oil for ship traffic. This time of year also sees a lot more smaller oil parcels being handed out, as heating oil season kicks in and smaller tankers make the run north.
Under normal circumstances, we get shoved around by a lot of different tugboats. 95% of the time, it's one of our boats doing the work, but every now and again another company's boat will fill in while ours aren't available. We spent the weekend before last in that fashion.
For the past 7 days, we've been working with pretty much the same boat. Good people on that tug, some of the first people I got to know on a first-name basis when I joined this company almost 4 years ago (!).
The AB deckhand on this particular tug is a very decent man, about my age, maybe a little younger. We started at this company at roughly the same time. I remember the man well because he was being badly abused by his captain, the first time I encountered such behavior with my current employer.
I want to set the stage here and let you draw your own conclusions from it. Imagine things from my perspective- new hire in a new company, working with tugboats and tugboaters, which was completely new for me. I'm seriously impressed by how pleasant my new coworkers are, and, on a one-on-one basis especially, the proportion of nice people to work with is greater than at any other company I've worked for. The asshole factor is pretty low- a few guys with reputations, but nothing too bad.
Anyhow, one brand-new tugboat had a very talented captain; great boathandler, not a bad person in conversation, but he rode his greenhorn Ordinary Seaman like a donkey to market. This guy was nice enough with me, but to his deckhand he was outright abusive. I was shocked at the mean streak this guy dsplayed. And he got me involved. He'd call out to me as they were making up to my barge: "Look at this fuckin' guy. Hey! Numbnuts! Not like that! Jesus, who the fuck taught you how to throw lines? Are you retarded?" Then, and I remember this clear as a bell, he looks at me, and then down at the man on deck, catches the guy's eye, and says "You know, you can't fix being stupid."
As I mentioned, I was disgusted by the guy's behavior. The deckhand, inexperienced as he was, certainly didn't get any sort of constructive guidance by this- if anything, the guy was desperate to just get through the next 5 minutes without being completely castrated by the prick at the wheel.
Over the next year, I ran into these guys a dozen times or so. Always the same M.O. The captain yelled, called his deckhand 6 kinds of bad names, and the guy had to figure out what he was doing to make the captain unhappy purely by process of elimination. No advice, no guidance.
So, When I transferred to New York a year ago, I didn't see these guys anymore. The tug in question was mostly based in Philadelphia. About 6 months ago during crew change, I ran into the deckhand, however, who had transferred onto a smaller tug based up here, a tug populated by a particularly decent crew.
This past week, we've had this tugboat, with the crew I just wrote about, and it's been a pleasure to work with them. The deckhand who had taken all the abuse is now an experienced, highly trained part of the crew, a man that I certainly enjoy working with, and who has made mooring and unmooring a hell of a lot easier for me, along with being good company to pass the time with.
A cynic or a simpleton might be tempted to believe that it was the constant diet of abuse that made the man a better sailor, that the abusive yet talented captain made a seaman out of a greenhorn, but that's absolutely not the case. A peaceful environment where teaching and patient training put the shine on a deckhand who had been roughly formed. A happy coincidence of an open position on a happy boat allowed this guy to achieve his full potential.
You might not believe it, but the abusive captain has been trying to lure this deckhand in question back to Philadelphia. I certainly wasn't surprised. The guy's good. I can name this tune in 3 notes, anyhow. I'm sure that the captain would justify his behavior by saying that he wants his men to care about their job, and gets frustrated when people don't seem to care... but that's certainly a distortion of the way things are. Training a good tugboat deckhand takes time, years, really. Screaming and pointing without ever correcting isn't training. It's being an asshole.

I've yelled. I've complained. It's not fair to be abusive to a subordinate who can't really respond in kind without jeopardizing his job. I tend to cool off quickly. Point in fact, I'm kind of a prick to work for, from what I understand. I like things done in a seamanlike fashion, and I rarely miss anything out of place. I don't beat people like a rented mule, however, and neither should any other mariner.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

from the archives...

So, I'm happy to report that I'm down 55lbs from the day I started my new diet. Things are working well there. I can see things that I couldn't see for a while without a mirror and/or a backache.

Example- picture taken July 2011. My sweaty 282-lb self in Salvador, Brazil.

October 2011, 227 lbs. Possibly 226 if I shaved the beard. Which I think I can do now, since I'm pretty sure my chin has been exposed again.

At any rate, so far so good. about 35lbs to go.

But, that's not why I called you all here. I found some old pictures taken from before I became a brown-water sailor, aboard the ancient and mighty king of rustbuckets, the SS New River. Look:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Merry f'n Halloween

After a grueling watch spent mostly on deck in snow and freezing rain, nothing, but nothing puts me in the Halloween spirit like doing it again in the dark. All this Global Warming is killing me. We've got a couple of inches of Climate Change on deck already, and here it is October 29th.
Never mind the bushiness of squirrel's tails or what the Farmers' Almanac says. My bruises (from falling on a section of deck that some dope didn't paint with nonskid paint) say it's going to be a long winter.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Now hear this!


when I say "I'll give you $10 to eat a hot dog underwater" I'm not responsible for injury, drowning, emotional damage or your fantastically shameful new nickname. I'm only responsible for the $10. And your fantastically shameful new nickname.

This is the sort of thing you're missing out on by not linking to my facebook page, where people I work with don't get to look inside my twisted mind.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

peace and quiet

Tonight's watch has been one of my better watches. When things get busy, idle time on board is at a premium, so it was with some relief when I woke up to discover that the cargo discharge planned for this evening had been pushed back. This gave me time to do paperwork properly at my desk (as opposed to hunched over a countertop, trying to chop vegetables, make a salad, (eating healthy takes longer, which is probably why our microwave has more wear marks than Madonna's inner thighs.), sign my name on 20 documents and fill out the many,many tax forms that go along with moving oil into foreign hands, answer the phone and email the office). I also got to walk the deck and perform my weekly inspection, then I went inside, cooked dinner and watched 'the Expendables," which was like taking 90 minutes of my life and wiping my ass with it, but with more explosions. Seriously, if you haven't seen that movie, everything explodes, everywhere. The end.

I also cut a new notch into my belt the other night. Not because I got laid, but even better, because my waistline is now 6 inches smaller than it was on August 1.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

you have two more wishes...

Now that we're on the downhill side of October, thoughts here turn towards warmer places, so here are this month's women from Brazil.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mystery solved. Where is the press now?

OK, grab you a soda, pint of lager, shot of whisky, twist of chew or an 8-ball, because I'm about to sex you up with SCIENCE! and I want you to remember to be enthusiastic and to call me 'daddy' during. Not after.

Do you remember last month, when the press halted the 24-hr a day Lady Gaga news vigil to report about the exciting news of things travelling faster than light? The press was churning out 'Einstein was Wrong' articles at a remarkable clip. For a day or so there, Buck Rogers was all in our grasp.

We have seen the future, and it is good

I wrote here that it doesn't do to try to get all up in Einstein's bidness, because Einstein was the scientific equivalent of Shaft, Chuck Norris and the Honey Badger all in one.

At any rate, the press was very quick to discount the last 1,000 years or so of scientific thinking, and pretty much was on board with giving up on Physics research in favor of Making Shit Up.

What happened was this: Experiments found that subatomic particles seemed to be moving from one place to another faster than is theoretically possible. The time differential between the starting point of these particles, and the ending point indicated that either the particles were moving faster than the speed of light OR that the experiment was flawed in some way.

Well, shit, the press forgot about everything after the 'or' in that last sentence.

The authors, being unable to find any flaw in the experiment, published it in the hope that someone else could help them. Again proving that to be in the press, one doesn't have to be able to count to 21 without unzipping their fly, the press took that published paper, and believed that they found 'proof' of something.
Devil's in the details. The flaw was found, and yet FUCKING NO ONE is reporting on this.

Turns out that the distance between the source and the sensor in the atomic collider was measured by GPS coordinates. Yes, those satellites in the sky, up in space.

Fuck me, how did we miss that? The distance between the satellites and the receiver is largish, and the satellites are moving through the universe in a different place than we are. In other words, there is a relativistic difference in their velocity compared to ours. Since time is experienced more slowly as velocity is increased, the satellites' time signals are slightly different than ours, and the authors of the study forgot to apply a relativistic correction to the GPS data.

Honest mistake, and the system worked as it was supposed to. Now some new and exciting and actually USEFUL data can be looked at. But where's the press? Wher's Wilma Whatsername in spandex? Dr. Theopolis, nowhere to be seen. Bullshit.

Where's the press? This is Science, goddamit!
Oh, wait, they're back on Lady Gaga. I don't get it. That's like the ugliest transvestite ever. Guy's not fooling anyone.

Pimp, Scholar, king. Albert Einstein wins science again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

For sale

If anyone's interested, and willing to go to Massachusetts for pickup, here is a lovely 1072 Oldsmobile Cutlass, with a modified 350 rocket engine, currently configured to produce in the range of 400hp, which can easily be modified to go far higher. The car has a metallic gold finish, a restored interior (original w/ an 8-track player, plus an upgraded stereo slung under the dash). The front grille needs to be rechromed, she needs a new lock on the trunk, and the front end could use a rebuild in the next year or two. This is my big brother's car, and he wants it gone ASAP. $5,500 or best offer. Anyone interested, please email me.

hat trick

3 good weekends in a row. This weekend we sat at anchor and cleaned up the place, which was a serious mess, but now approaching Bristol Fashion. Last weekend I was in Maine, having a wonderful time, but got involved in an issue that prevents me from writing about it too much until the dust settles. Awesome time, anyhow. Weekend before was a getaway with the Mrs.

All of my last 3 weekends had some bad mixed in with the good, but, on balance, were wholly positive. Weekend in VT included unscheduled off-roading because the roads were gone. Maine had the thing that shall not be named yet, but which will make a great post when it is not prejudicial to write about. And this weekend? Well, the wind backed hard, just this evening after sundown. The wind swung fast enough that we were still facing the current and taking the wind dead astern, which I didn't notice right away when I stepped aft for a much-deserved pee over the stern. Which was directly into the wind. You'd think, sensitive parts in the wind would notice, but no. Not really.

Anyhow, thank goodness I didn't have any asparagus.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventures in Vacationing

I've been working extra weeks out here on Steel Beach for a while now.

When my Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife successfully guilted me into a world-class and life-altering vacation to Brazil earlier this year, I started 'working over,' filing in on tugboats and oil barges when I was supposed to be home relaxing on my scheduled time off. This had the tripartite effects of adding to the bank accounts, weight gain for me, and the beginning of what I suspect could have been depression had there not been an intervention.
Now that Brazil is just a memory, and Ye Olde Chequing Accounte has finished hemorrhaging my hard-earned shekels, for the first time in 9 months, I worked a mere 28 days and went home for the next 14.
And it was good.
Our time off started with a romantic weekend in Vermont. I was already patting myself on the back for coming up with this- my boy was to stay with his Aunt, Uncle and nephews, and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I had our first ever solo weekend together.
Whoops, forgot about Irene.
Turns out, while I was getting damp about the ears from hurricane Irene, Vermont got nuked. I never knew.
The ride to the mountain Inn and spa was pretty and also romantic. Until we came to the washed-out bridge and saw the busy and inspiring level of activity that Vermont has pulled out in their reconstruction efforts. So, rerouting around a mountain pass, we found another closed road. What followed was a 3-hour tour that culminated in a drive up and down a mountain (unpaved) road and, eventually, to the inn. Which was nice, and quiet. Then it rained all weekend, which killed my plans of horseback riding, but had the ancillary benefit of a good excuse to stay in the jacuzzi and drink.
So the romantic weekend was a bit of a draw, what with the environmental damage, but we met some great local folks, and had some nice 1-on-1 time.
Fast forward another 2 days and I was up in Maine.
In my undergrad days, I worked in Downeast Maine at a remote biological field station along the Canadian maritime border. Later, after I changed careers, I became close friends with the chief mate on my ship, who was from the same area. So, for the past almost 20 years, I've been coming up to Maine to blow off steam. More drinking, more outdoorsy stuff. Last week was the most fun I've had in years. Since Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is reluctant to put on less-than 4" heels, downeast Maine isn't really the place for her. I went up for a weekend of manly activities- hiking, fishing, eating drinking, lighting things on fire and drinking more, you get the idea. It was awesome.
So, in my 14 days home, I actually spent 5 days at home. I packed a lot of living into my time off. Isn't that what we're supposed to do?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Back aboard here at work. Spent 2 weeks of intensive activity while I was off, including some quality time with the fam. More later.

Friday, September 30, 2011

My giant forehead looks like a drive-in screen in this pic.

My boy, Genghis B, is ready to roam the Steppes.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Back soon. Went home. Party ensues.

Also, passed the 40lb mark on my diet. Pretty damn excited.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

idiots, being idiotic. In print.

So you've probably seen the news about CERN finding neutrinos that appeared to be moving faster than the speed of light, right? Time travel, Einstein is a big old dead wrong poopyhead?

Yeah, I've seen that shit too.

The members of the media who actually finished high school are waxing poetic about E=MC^2.

No one has actually read the paper, of course, in which the authors suspect a math or data contamination error, but can't find it. Yet. Being a diligent bunch, they're looking for folks to repeat the experiment and see what the hell is happening.

In the meanwhile, the media and poor saps united across the western world are booking flights to their nearest time machine.

Now, I'm not a physicist, but I had to suffer through Physics classes in college. And the psychotic, indecipherable Eastern Europeans who taught it, too.
I'm going to try to be topical, yet explain why I think this is probably another climb up Mt. Molehill.

For an object with mass, the faster it travels, the more energy is required for it to accelerate. Think of your car, and why a 60hp Dodge Neon can do 100mph, but a 120hp Toyota can't go 200mph. You need in the vicinity of 400-500 hp to get there. An 5-fold increase in power to double the speed. As you approach the speed of light, the force necessary to accelerate increases to numbers ever approaching infinity. So that's out.

I'm excluding relativity here, but I can't for long. Massless objects like Neutrinos and photons have it easier, in theory, except for the gamma value that doesn't get addressed in the simplified E=MC^2 equation. As objects move faster, they appear to move more slowly through time. This is relativity, and this is the gamma value. At speeds approaching the speed of light, time changes start to become measurable and noticeable. Gamma starts to approach a value of 1. This is why the speed of light is the speed of light. This is the speed at which the particles no longer experience time.

So the obvious question is how can something that isn't experiencing time be moving through time? If gamma can't exceed 1, but particles are moving faster than that, what is more likely, Einstein is wrong, or there's a bug in the experiment?

Never, ever go up against Einstein.

shame on me...

Well, September is almost over, and I almost forgot to post this month's beautiful Brazilian women. Shame on me. Anyhow, in the name of science, International Relations, and good genetics, I give you this month's proof that God loves us and wants us to go to Brazil again. Or me, at least. God wants me to go to Brazil again.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time flies

Tomorrow marks the first anniversary of my dad's death. It's amazing how quickly the time passes.
I grew up in the shadow of my older brothers and my sister- not a black sheep by any means, but quieter, nerdier and absolutely more awkward. I followed in my father's footsteps, after a fashion, though I went wide of the path by ending up becoming a marine biologist, after listening to his stories of living and working on oceanographic ships, and later, to follow his example more closely and become a merchant mariner.

I never had to experience months, or even years of absence while my dad was at sea;my father swallowed the anchor just before I was born, though it pained him to do so and he never quite recovered from coming ashore. He was of the last generation of true globe-trotting mariners, the men who signed foreign articles bonding them to a ship for 1-2 years at a time... yet he was sympathetic when I sometimes bailed out after 100 days.

One of my fondest memories of my father came a few months before his passing, when he was in the hospital after having a new defibrillator implanted in his chest. It was in the evening, and I had gotten home after 4 weeks in Philadelphia aboard a bunker barge. I dropped my bags, and my wife and I drove into Boston to go see him. Must have been 9 or 10 at night, long after visiting hours were over. My father was reading his Office (The Book of Hours, a set of prayers meant to be read daily as part of prayer and meditation for particularly devout and scholarly Catholics) with the TV on mute in the background, and his face lit up when he saw us.
I have to back up a bit and talk about my wife's relationship with my father; my wife lost her dad early in life, and she became instantly devoted to my father when we were dating. My father was tickled by this. Without thought, once hugs and greetings were exchanged, my wife climbed into the hospital bed with my father and lay beside him, talking animatedly in her particular version of English. At that moment, seeing them together, I realized how well my father had taught me to value family, and the deep emotional connection that transcends barriers of culture, pain, anger and the million distractions that family life throws up. My dad's contented smile was wonderful to see. Although his body had been failing slowly for 25+ years, one of his favorite pastimes through the years was always to just sit and gab. Although he didn't pass that particular trait on to me, my father was rarely happier than at the moments when he was surrounded by family, simply talking to pass the time.

I'm aware that my family will be reading this post, and this is mostly geared for them. Except, of course, I'll have to run this through Google Translate for Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife's sake.