Saturday, December 29, 2012

St. Maarten Redux

We returned to St. Maarten a few days ago to bunker the cruise ships there. It's a beautiful place as seen from land or sea. We're getting run down though, all the same, from the nature of the work here. Ship-to-ship fuel transfers in exposed, high seas are taxing, dangerous work. I find it exhilirating, but holy-o-dogshit is it taxing. Another week and a half and I will be on my way home to decompress.

At any rate, sleep and calm seas are a difficult-to-source commodity. As suck I will leave you with a picture or two in lieu of more banal talk...

 My lovely new wig is made of puddening, de-braided rope used to cover bumpers so they don't leave marks on ship hulls. The headgear you see there weighed a solid 50-60lbs.
 a VLCC, Very Large Crude Carrier, larger, heavier and wider than the Empire State Building. In the swells that built up that night, we would be eyeball-to-eyeball with the guys on deck one moment, the next be staring at the paint 10 feet under the waterline.

Port of Spain, St. Maarten.

Monday, December 17, 2012

quick post from St. Eustatius

Just a quick couple of shots from my phone. This is our anchorage at St. Eustatius, about 30mi from St. Maarten,  where I'll be based out of for the next month. It's 85 during the day, 72 at night. Pretty decent. My wife tells me it was 34 and raining at home when I took these. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Week 1: Bluer than Blue Water

So, I'm anchored about 1/2 mile off the beach in St. Eustatius, a small Caribbean island about 30mi from St. Maarten. I've been reassigned temporarily to run a bunkering operation down here, and it's mostly a whole new world for me. Dealing with the sea swell while trying to load and transfer fuel, loading fuel from a mile-long floating hose while moored offshore loosely by the bow and stern- it's all a lot less controlled than the Northeast US for sure. So far so good, though. It's bloody hot, and I'm sunburnt all to shit and back, but that's OK too.
            I got to spend my first night here in St. Maarten, and the delights of the place did not disappoint. It's a beautiful, friendly place, and, while the food was pricey, it wasn't outlandish. Granted, I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but although we can't drink the night before crew change, I wandered into a bar for pub food and my usual diet of diet soda and soda water to fill up, and found the local ladies very friendly despite the ring on my finger. OK, turns out I wandered into the bar of a house of ill repute while it was just opening up for the night, so I guess that explained the favorable M;F ratio. St. Maarten is a dutch province, and, as such, prostitution is legal- they import beautiful latinas and eastern europeans on working girl working visas, and I apparently, being fattish, white and marginally competent in Portuguese and spanish, had a big target painted on me. So, once I figured out where I was, I flirted with the girls and had some beans and rice before heading back out for a walk around Oyster Bay, which is a fun place.
Next day saw me fly to St. Eustatius, and join my boat, which is where the work started. Also, it's where I discovered that this place has a strict dress code- I have to wear long sleeves, hard hat and a life vest when outside. This is unpleasant and unfortunate, as I brought one pair of pants to travel in, and the rest of my clothing is oil-spotted shorts and t-shirts. So, there's that. Everyone here has had the same problem. Very unpleasant, but we're making do. I'm going to borrow a clean pair of shorts from one of the guys here for the ride home next month.

 Anhow, I'm taking pictures, but the Sat-C system here is a dog, so that won't be happening. I'm still trying to understand the unfamiliar paperwork and way of doing things here anyhow. Will write again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leavetaking: I am returning to blue water

Hi everyone-

         I am flying out tomorrow morning for St. Maarten, there to join a bunkering operation for 4 weeks as a favor for my employer. I know that I won't have regular web access, although I'm not 100% sure what the satellite access will be like, I will have email access, anyhow.

 I'll be back around the second week of January. I was going to miss Christmas anyhow, so this is not a bad alternative to spending Christmas bobbing around the brown waters of New York and New Jersey.

 I'll try to post pics or updates as I can, but no promises.

 In the meanwhile, I'm looking forward to being a real merchant mariner again and getting some foreign port access and sea time in the Carribbean.

In the meanwhile, feel free to stare at this until I get back:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Weekend in Maine

While I was home, I got to take the family up to Maine for a few days to visit one of my best friends, and, in the process, revisit some of my favorite places on earth.

         The friend in question was a former supervisor, in fact. When I was an AB on the steamship New River, the chief mate was one of my favorite people to sail with. He lives in the same vicinity in Downeast Maine where I used to work sometimes as part of my summer job as a roustabout at my University's biological field station. As such, when I was at the end of my first trip to sea, working as an Ordinary Seaman, I heard his accent one day, and realized that we knew some of the same people in his community. After a couple of trips together, he invited me up to his home for the weekend, and I've been coming up there since.  I've been visiting the vicinity of Eastport, Maine for almost 20 years now. I used to go up alone and stay for long weekends when I was single, filling my time by hiking and wandering the beaches and forests like any geek with a serious bent for marine biology. In addition, I always had acquaintances to visit, and, unlike when I'm in the more urban setting of my home, when I'm out in the country, I'm in my environment, and, as such, I find it easy to make friends while drinking beer, so I made friends of my own up there anyhow. So, going to Eastport is an exercise in connecting with people for me, too.
    All the same, it's the natural beauty of the place that truly draws me- Cobscook bay, on the Bay of Fundy, is a unique complex with an ecology that is different from anywhere else in the world, among the most fertile and dynamic waters on earth, and the ecology is rich with a diversity that is nearly unspoiled. There I can let my inner child out to play in a way that I would never even dream of considering anywhere else. Observing and collecting animals and plants, that sort of thing- beachcombing, taking in the incredible clean air and the smell of where the land and sea meet... that's the good stuff for me. I'm not going to get all poetical here, but I can, and have, certainly been inspired to do so up there. If I hadn't met my wife, I'd be up there now, and let me tell you, I'd like it. Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, however, would wither on the vine. She's a city girl, first, and second, is a little, well, dark, up there- there's not a fellow Brazilian for her to speak with for perhaps 150 miles. With me being gone so much, she'd fail to thrive. As such, she only joined me up in my travels in Maine just once, when we were dating. This time she, and my boy, joined me up there. My boy liked it just fine, despite it being 15 degrees outside most of the time. 
This is the view from my friend's kitchen table.

Fossil hunting at Reversing Falls, Pembroke, ME

Didn't even make it from the dinner wonder my wife was bored.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quick rant

Dear all you Douchebags at the ghetto grocery store,

          Recently, I came ashore to get some fresh produce. I usually get 1-2 chances to go grocery shopping while I'm in the middle of a 4- week voyage. As such, I often have 1-2 hours max to do everything I need to do before some tugboat bounces off our hull at ramming speed to remind us that it's time to go. This is done just in case we're asleep, so that when the plates come flying out of the cabinets, they will be sure to shatter, which will ensure that we are all awake just in case we didn't actually suffer a head injury when we got knocked out of bed.

    At any rate, recently, I got to enjoy a 45-minute stint in line at your supermarket, because the nice supermarket I normally go to went underwater in the last hurricane, and, unfortunately for me, yours did not.
The 45 minute wait came because there are 14 registers, but only one was manned, and all but one of the self-serve registers was off limits due to an apparent overstock of some bullshit items that you couldn't find display space for.

   Luckily for me, it was Check Day, and with everyone's EBT cards burning holes in their pockets, you were selling cigarettes and Orange Crush by the gross. Shame there was no '12 items or less' register open.
   I spent my 45 minute wait in line enjoying a domestic dispute between a lovely middle-aged homeless couple who were buying smokes and lottery tickets with their disability check, and a 400-lb lady who kept repeating 'he is a assho' " in her phone. I was very surprised to see that the copies of 'us weekly' and 'People Magazine' didn't take up and start orbiting around her. I was not surprised, however, to find that she smelled of sweat, pee and waffles.

    Sadly, after 45 minutes, a lovely surly girl with prison tattoos, purple and silver hair sculpted into a weird bird/dreadlock thing, and a nice necklace that said 'thug life' in cursive script took my groceries, which had wilted from the exhaust belching out of both ends of my gas giant of a neighbor in line, ending my adventure in misanthropy for the day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Deep thoughts and intense debate are raging across the decks, and loud voices are echoing off the bulkheads here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/think tank today.

 The question posed:

Which of the two individuals shown below formed the nucleus of awakening adolescence for more men between the  ages 32-44? Was it:

 Miss Tawny Kitaen, the reason MTV worked and why Whitesnake was on it?

Or was it Ron Jeremy, holding the double-edged sword of both hope that a regular guy could succeed in all things, but also the cautionary and vague feeling that as a generation, we really got screwed in the genetic below-the-belt department?

I argue a middle path: the fact that these two images form a cornerstone of 80's teen male sexual gestalt explains a lot about why we're a little off. HOWEVER, this must be contrasted with the emo girl-child psychology of the entitlement generation's men. It's possible that without Ron's Super Mario-esque tutelage of succeeding by sheer force of will where God gave with one hand and took with the other, and awareness that David Coverdale's Sword of Damocles applied to all of us, whether or not there was a redhead absolutely writhing in almost-sheer fabric on the hood of one's dad's car.

 I say that it's a wash. I took from Ron that since I'm at least better looking, though limited to just two legs, I'd probably be OK if I worked as hard as he did. From Tawny, I took away the feeling that girls might be both interesting and intensely dangerous if she got a mind to climb up on the hood of my car. When I got one.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

I count it high time to get to sea

Back to work, and it's hard to believe that I was home for a full two weeks- I feel amazingly refreshed, as it's the first time I've been ashore for more than 7 days in a row since March. I'm back now, and at my desk again, paperwork shuffled and filed and ready for the next cargo evolution- a discharge during my next watch, which gives me time to get re-adjusted to ship time, my watch rotation (8 hours on/8 hours off), and the little tweaks and twists of having missed a couple of jobs and such while I was away.

 Speaking of away, I had a busy 2 weeks, full of ups and downs. Thanksgiving with the entirety of the B family, bought a new, larger truck and drove it, and my family, to Maine to visit friends and blow off some steam (read: eat/drink/be merry), saw some REALLY old friends from my childhood and hung out, and almost lost at bowling to my 9-year old boy. All in all, highly successful.

 And now, on to the next tour! 4 weeks, including Christmas and New Year's will be spent aboard, and I'll be coming home for another two weeks, activities TBD.