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.