Tonight's fun, though, is how we had to tie up alongside a PCTC (Pure Car/Truck Carrier, a car ship.
Now, I am loaded deep, carrying oil for another ship later this morning. I'm just stopping by to give the guy a couple of hundred tons of diesel fuel, enough to get him out of town and to the high seas, where the ship can switch over to run on dirty heavy fuel oil.
So, I'm loaded deep, he's loaded light, which means that when we come alongside, there's nowhere to land the ol' HQ somewhere flat. Practically speaking, this means that our ass will be hanging in the breeze until we get alongside and oh-so-gently touch up on our fendering if we can find a place where we fit. The problem is that my deck is so low to the water when loaded that the turn of his bilge- the round profile of the hull above the waterline, is above my deck, too, so in order to come alongside the ship and press our fenders against the hull, we're going to be working UNDER the hull of the car ship's stern half. So, what this means is that, while there's wind, currents and traffic moving us, if our hull gets under his, we're going to hole the ship or crush our house if we touch up anywhere at the stern of the ship.
To combat this, normally, I run a strong bow line early on, and winch it tight until the hawser is screaming and its' diameter is reduced by a third. This pins my bow against his ship, and makes it impossible under normal circumstances for my stern and or the tugboat nestled there, to get under the ship and come to mischief.
This ship, however, was designed by assholes, so there's nowhere to put a bowline, except 400 feet forward of any place where my crane can reach the ships' bunker port, which means that I can't get a strong breasting line at my bow, which means I can't pin the bow, which means that a simple-to-achieve confluence of events can lead to metal-on-metal at the stern.
What I can do, luckily, in this case, is run a 30-ton shackle to a beefy steel stanchion that holds the ship's accommodation ladder, and run that shackle through the eye of my mooring line, which will give me a place to make a makeshift mooring point. While not ideal, this piece of massive steel will take the force I can exert, and, although I can't go all-out on heaving on my capstan, I can tighten up the bow enough that, so long as the tugboat in our stern doesn't try to maneuver, he will stay out of harm's way. This is an unpopular move, as it means that the tug is mated to us until we leave- if he tries to break down and leave us, it could drive my stern under the ship, so the tug mate and I agree that he has to stay, and I get to ruin the night dispatcher's evening at company HQ. You see, he had other jobs lined up for our tugboat while I was supposed to be at this ship, and I'm now hogging all the time. Still, it's another job to be done, and to be done safely, and, while I called prepared to be told to eat a dick for screwing with the schedule (which wouldn't have changed my decision, but would have been unpleasant), I was pleasantly surprised to have the night dispatcher sympathize. I work with some thoroughly decent folks.
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