Friday, February 28, 2014

now hear this!

I'm flying down to Florida next month, there to nose around the 'burbs between Miami and the Keys to find a new home for the family B. We've had enough of metropolitan Boston for now.

 Kind of excited about FL's reasonable gun laws, no state tax and opportunities to screw around on and in the water comfortably year-round, not just for half the year, and much of that in a wetsuit.

That is all.

 For now. I still have some pics and vids from icebreaking the other day.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

So, I'm supposed to be home right now, but instead, what with an impending move coming up, I'm working over, again... this time I'm on a clean oil barge for a few days. We loaded in Bayonne NJ and headed up the frozen Hudson river to Newburgh NY.

 And baby, there's some ice up here. We had to whipsaw back and forth at the dock for an hour to narrow the ice band that was keeping us from getting next to the dock. Best we could do after about 60 minutes was to get within about 3 feet. So that happened, but it being 1am, no pictures. More later.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

foot in mouth disease

Welp, we screwed up.

  I make a great effort not to be racist or to display any airs of superiority at work, and I NEVER antagonize foreign crewmen when I'm working with a foreign vessel. This is a big deal for me, as I've had to put my foot down on a few deckhands for making racist or bigoted comments to foreign sailors when we're working together... and it's not that I have lofty principles, but that it's a survival thing. As I said a few months ago to a Tangerine (a resident of Tangier Island, VA, an isolated offshore island with a... unique language and curture) AB,  "Hey, stay at least 20 feet away from me. I don't want to get hit with a ricochet when those angry little shits you're antagonizing 50 feet overhead drop a shackle and crush your skull because of the shit you're saying."

OTOH, I've openly admitted to a certain bigotry regarding assumptions of how a bunker job will go based on the nationality of the crew on the other ship. I'm not alone here, although I realize that consensus doesn't equal truth. Basically the racial stereotypes go like this:

 German officers- detailed and efficient, either warm or distant.

German crew- Deadly B.O., but very high standards of seamanship

Russian Engineers- rarely 100% sober, often cold and confrontational, rigid in thinking

Russian crew- perpetually foul mood, often competent sailors, occasionally malicious (think monkey's fists aimed at your head for no reason.  Happened to me at least a dozen times, and never by crew of another ethnic branch other than slavic crewmen), incommunicative and rarely cooperative, often lazy, constant complainers.

Filipino Crew: gregarious, friendly, team-oriented, mix of exceptional and horrific seamanship, inefficient, careful, communicative.
Filipino Officers: nervous, detail oriented, submissive, friendly, impulsive, followers of logic and tradition
Indian/Pakastani officers: meticulous attention to detail, rigid obedience to procedures, hierarchies, caste and chain-of-command, Prone to preemptive CYA paper shields, ultra-professional, curious and open to conversation
Indian/Pakastani crew: an odd mix- the young guys are frequently ill-trained and uncooperative. The older men are often master sailors, and, while uncommunicative, safety-oriented and hierarchical but with tight focus on the job at hand.

 Well, that's enough displaying my bigotry- as I said, it's just stereotypes, and very loosely correlates with actual experience... although, admittedly, 'loosely' means that it's also roughly accurate in terms of estimating the level of cooperation I'm ready to expect.


 Now, I told you that as a real tangent on why I started writing in the first place. Last night we had a friendly 'Russian' crew- tying up to a container ship, it was watch change on our end, being midnight, so we had two watches out on deck tying up, as did the ship. As we do, questions get asked. My deckhands were asking about the olympics- given the slavic accent, they assumed the crew was Russian. One of them got mad and asked why we were talking about the olympics- one guy on our end says- "Well, you guys are Russians, right? Putin, Sochi, Olympics"
 "Why you think we Russian?"
"Your accent?"
 "What you accent? You Canada, Madagascar? England?"
"We Ukranian. No Russian. Fuck you, ignorant."

 Well, at this point, I said sotto voce, "OK, stop talking. Apologize. Dude's people are in the middle of a bloody revolution because of the Russians, and you're calling him Russian."
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean any trouble. Let's just focus on work."

 Well, I had to add to the kid in question (a great guy who just stepped on his own crank, not a bigot at all) "Watch your head. Here comes the monkey's fist."

Saturday, February 22, 2014

home stretch... but not really.

There's just 4 more watches to get through on this tour here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Floating Day Care for Indigents and A-Holes. My 4 weeks are done, and it's almost time to get ashore and go home...


 The seagoing arm of the B family is moving in a few months, and I have the opportunity to jump ship for two weeks to fill another man's shoes and pay for the entire relocation in just one shot. I'll be breaking my promise to Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and AGAIN putting money before family in the short-term by not coming home when I'm supposed to.

 Honestly, I don't believe that this will be another year of 320+ days at sea. At least I hope it won't. It WILL mean a 10-week tour, followed by just 2 weeks with my family before heading out again. On the other hand, doing this means I can pay for what is increasingly looking like a long distance move in cash, eliminating the need for even sniffing around the savings account.

 Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife is a pragmatist, thank God. When I told her my plan, she simply sighed and said "Okay, hohnee, I unn'rstan chu. Be careful! Chu keep workeeng and workeeng now, when chur wife is still beautiful and fun. If chu no careful, when chu are finally ready to slow down, I weel be old and boring,"

 Woman's got a point. I can do this. I think. I had some issues with explosive anger last time I did this. Thank God I've got awesome shipmates here at the HQ, who can put up with my weirdness, and I with theirs.
But holy dogshit, if it snows *again* all bets are off, and I'm going to lose my shit. Longest winter ever.


As a standard practice, deck cargo carried on breakbulk or bulk carriers is carried at the charterer's risk. The ship normally assumes no responsibility for the condition of the cargo on arrival.

 Here's a pretty good example of why that is, and also why most shipowners are pretty careful about charter party agreements.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Eyes On The Prize- Distractions and Retractions

The details are still being hammered out, but Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I are planning to move in a few months. We've had enough of the Ant Farm... well, she's had enough of the Ant Farm. I hated that fucking place from day one, but it was conveniently located close to my parents and her brother and his family- the folks who make up our social safety net. Such things are important when your spouse looks at the English language the same way you or I might look at the assembly manual for the space shuttle. Those days are passing, though: my wife's English, after 5 years and thousands of hours of ESL classes, is now semi-passable.
 Well, that, and one of the Section 8 housing pricks down the street kidnapped a neighbor's kid a few weeks ago. Sadly, he survived the arrest when caught. That event put the candles on the cake. It was a happy day when my wife said to me "Hohnee, ees time to move."

 I failed utterly at getting her to agree to move to Maine. Her penultimate 'no' came in a simile  that finally got through to me; she really doesn't want to go. It was something like "Hohnee, pleese, chu make-a me liv  in Mainey, ees like me make-a you live in New York. Everee time chu call me after chu have to go to the grocery sto in Brooklyn, I am afraid chu will put a gun in your mouf. Dat's how I feel about Mainey."

 Pretty direct.

 So, we're casting a wider net for the move. We're exploring a few other idea, but are narrowing the search.  And, in tune with that, I am, again, hammering out the working days and saving my centavos for the Next Big Thing.  Which will NOT include neighbors with section 8 housing subsidies. If I'm going to pay a couple of grand a month (it's true. Boston's bedroom community 'burbs are wicked expensive) to live in a box, I'll be blue and stiff and have a tag on my toe if my neighbor is paying $2000 a month less than I do to live where I do. Call me a prick or a snob if you want. Bad enough I don't get shit for the taxes I pay. I'll be fucked in half sideways if I have to look at the entitled class while I'm staring out the windows, too.

 So, yeah, some things are going on, and thus, blogging is light. I'm wicked excited about it. Nervous, slightly, of course. I spent from 18-30 never living in the same place for more than a year or so, which took me from Maine to Florida, with occasional stops in out of the way places like Scotland.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Busy season

At the tail end of a busy week. Look at this until I get back.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

have a laugh or two!

I predick a troubled marriage

Add caption

Stay classy folks!

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Harbor Whore, 2014 edition

Welp, I got yanked off my own tub and placed on another to cover for an injured tankerman. The barge I'm working is our out-and-out busiest in New York, so they needed someone who knows the work. My replacement, the guy covering for me, is our eldest tankerman. Father Time is a kindly elderly gentleman who is a famous grazer and I'm pretty sure was an AB on the Ark with Noah. He is able to satisfy the Coast Guard's legal crewing requirements, and, as I recall from working with him before, makes people want to work harder, and the dude's a senior citizen and shouldn't be killing himself. So I can't complain too much. I'm inconvenienced by being here, but then again, so is my watch partner at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Senior Center.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Deep thoughts

Tonight's meditation:

10  Words or phrases you never, ever want to hear on an isolated tank vessel:

1) Fire
2) We should have a union
3)Wicked case of the hot farts
4) Whoops
5) R.O.B.
6) vetting
7) spill
8) Bad news: I...
9) if this is toothpaste, where's my Preparation H?
10)Sweatpants boner

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The hunchback of St. Jerome's

Funny thing, being taught to observe the natural world.
 I spent 4 years with a real master naturalist- my academic advisor could see a small bird in a tree a half mile off, and pick out amazing details from sounds- even the sound of the wind moving through leaves could clue him in to the presence of a solitary Populus tremuloides tree in a grove of Betula papyrifora. Also, the guy was a great teacher, and by the end of my years as an undergrad biology student, I could ID by sight (or sound) every single tree growing in Maine, and every single plant and animal (and most bacteria, as well as the red and green algaes) growing in or on its waters.

In many ways I miss being a marine biologist. At 22 I discovered the mathematical formula for measuring the potential for sushi-destined sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) to repopulate their ecosystem- a variation of my idea is still being used to determine how many it's safe to take every year for harvest in Maine in fact. If you're a fan of uni in your sushi, you're welcome.

 So, yeah, sometimes I do still get flashes of intuition or understanding in my capacity as a trained observer of living things.

 So, something Tam wrote about today struck a nerve, based on a conversation I had at home recently with Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife.

 I started catching lobster when I was 7, and the old timer who taught me how to fish wasn't a tall man. He was 70 when he had his boat built to his specs, and already shrinking fast. His boat was built for a shorter man. By the time I was 12, I was a head taller than him at 6 foot. But I spent my days working with him, and by the time he sold the boat, I had filled out with muscle working the deck of a boat designed for the comfort of a man who was 6 inches shorter than me. As such, my back muscle grew into place to support a person who was working hunched over while lifting heavy-ass wooden lobster pots. To that end, my natual posture isn't just stooped- I actually hunch somewhat.
... and my wife has noticed. Just about a week ago, she said :"Hohnee, chure vaddy shote forrrr an Emerican, yis?"
"Huh? No, I'm a little over 6 feet tall. Not real tall, but not short for us."
"Noh, chu arrrhen't 6 fit!"
"Yeah, I am. I hunch." I straighten up fully. It's uncomfortable and unnatural. Her eyes go from chin height to chest height when I do this.
"Chu should stand like dis more. Chu stand like an ohld mem most of de time."
I return to my natural posture. She looks disappointed. At this point I connect the dots of figuring out that the muscle I put on as a teen has contributed to my posture- specifically the lump of back meat that sits parallel to my triceps and makes it look like I'm not actually hunched over when I am. Granted, the beer gut doesn't help either.
    We're built according to how we use our muscles. If you repetitively lift and carry heavy weights from thigh height to waist height in your formative years, yeah, you might grow up with some shit posture. But not everyone does. There are many lobstermen with straight backs out there. But I'll tell you one odd thing: I never had backaches while lobstering. If I went home sore, it was my thighs, my shoulders and lower back that was uncomfortable. Upper back and trapezius muscles never gave me a hint of bother, and that was pretty rare. I think it also explained how when I blew up to 300lbs after grad school I could still keep up with the thinner, healthier guys. I had all that beef to work with. Even now, when I'm considerably under 300lbs (though I wish I could be lot further even so), there are certain motions of heaving and lifting that are easy enough. I can carry a 100lb steel pipe reducer slung between my legs and walk down the deck as easy as you please. I can swing a large sledgehammer all day... give me a 50lb weight to carry in my arms, though, and my back will scream. It never grew to do that. Makes me wonder, though, how other guys who grew up playing football or hockey work when they start to age- do they find themselves compensating for aches and pains by relying more on their developed muscle groups, or, as a group do they go pain-free from having more evenly-proportioned muscle development when they were kids?

"Noh, chu aren't 6 fit ta

Saturday, February 1, 2014

slow news day

I've been here half a week now, and I'm back in the rhythm, I guess. Looking back, we're working more and more, which is nice for my employer, but not so easy on the physical plant here at HAWSEPIPER's afloat global hq/center for enforced celibacy. My particular habits and preferences when it comes to preventative maintenance have been forced to change. The days of wiping down pump and generator engines, polishing chrome and walking around with little paint pot in hand to do spot work have certainly declined.
    So long as there's fresh oil in the pumps and generators, I get up, get on watch, eat something, get off watch, shower and go to bed. Rinse, dry, repeat. There's just not much time to do much else. Even writing this takes time I don't have. I'm able to do so because we're waiting on an assist tug to come and get us, and he's 15 minutes late.
 So it goes. My company is happy I'm sure, with all the business. I'm happy to be working. Sure I'd like maybe a couple of hours of free time every few days, but that's how it goes.