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.