Tuesday, June 30, 2015


2 more weeks. 14 days. Can't get my shit together sufficient to write tonight, so here's some things to look at and have a giggle.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

You're welcome, America

To celebrate all the wonderful things the Supreme Court has given us this week, author Michael Z. Williamson has posted a commemorative flag that fairly celebrates all the formerly-marginalized people out there who were so woefully underrepresented in colorful bunting and flag-having.

 Here it is:

 If I haven't managed to offend everyone here, please be patient, and I'll get to you as soon as I finish slut-shaming and pointing at people's privates while laughing. While taking the Lord's name in vain.

 Ironically, unlike the rebel battle flag of the defeated army of North Virginia, there's no problem selling this flag on Ebay or Amazon.

Friday, June 26, 2015

weekend update

Not too much to report. Our workload continues to decline, which is lovely, as my energy level picks up when I have time to care for my floating home away from home. Our schedule has included time off, interspersed with a couple of days of back-to-back cargoes, so there's money coming in and little gripes about the physical plant here get attended to.

 So that's a good thing. My employer continues to crank out new vessels pretty regularly, seemingly about one every month or two, so there's never enough people, and, since we're not suppose to use the word 'retard' anymore, I'll just say that there are some new kids in the promotion pipeline that are doing well, and some castoffs from other companies getting hired, many of whom are absolute fucking mongoloids, and some of whom are beyond redemption. There's a good reason some guys jump from company to company their whole careers.

 So, typical for the maritime industry, there's never enough labor, and never anywhere NEAR enough talented labor, but so long as it doesn't completely fuck things up, we'll manage with what we have.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Highlander on board

Someone didn't think out the ergonomics of the house here at HAWSEPIPER's afloat global HQ/house of pain. They put the common head directly opposite the galley table.

 So when I came out from having done some serious business in the head, kicked the door open and shouted "There can be only one!'  It caused something of a stink. Take that any way you will.

 Anyhow, The Newt, my opposite here on board, didn't bat an eyelash. He just sighed, put down a freshly opened bottle of water, looked at it a second and said "I don't want this anymore," and just went outside.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

sea room

Well, we had a chance to sit down and breathe here on Hawsepiper's Afloat Global HQ/ Home for Those Not Quite Exactly.

     By that I mean we had two consecutive days off. First time in 2015. And it was... awesome.

 After a long-ass period of just trying to keep my head up and my powder dry (and by that I mean not beating the ever loving shit out of anyone who looked at me crossways), this weekend was exactly what I needed. We got plenty of productive work done, don't get me wrong. I got to shake out some small projects I've been putting off for a while.

Freeing up a sticky bearing on our deck crane took just two hours, but it's two hours where my ass is riding the end of the crane like Slim Pickens on the A-bomb, only I'm swinging a hammer and dicking around with a socket set while getting an atomic wedgie from a safety harness. So that was something I neither enjoyed nor wanted an audience for, as I'm not a modest person, and have little shame, but also don't want to have to hear any shit for being spotted wearing industrial-strength S&M gear and asked if I'm waiting for the indian, cowboy and cop before starting the dance routine.

 The rest of the stuff was more routine- changing clogged grease points, stuff like that, the little shit that adds up.

       This year has been far and away the busiest I've had since I started bunkering. In many ways, that obviously makes me less productive in terms of keeping everything in balance- I'm getting the work done, but the HQ is getting worked harder, and maintenance becomes reactive, rather than proactive. More, I'm simply just burnt out, and don't care as much as I normally do, and that bothers me.

 So, in the past 2 days (well,  2 1/2) I've taken advantage of the shore access we have had and I've walked at least 10 miles a day out through NY, and seen some new neighborhoods. So, 30 miles in about 60 hours, which is pretty frigging good when you think about it that way.

 And, with just 60 hours of downtime, I'm feeling so much better, (legs are tired, feet are sore, head is clear, back is straight), the 'Q is up to date and ready to work, and in 4 hours we'll leave for a big-ass cargo that will suck up the next 36 hours handily. I'm actually ready to work.


Friday, June 19, 2015

A little thank you.

Having a nice day here on the HQ, so here is a clip from Brazilian TV, where girls in short shorts playing twister can be compared to TV in the US, where we have Rosie O'Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg bitching at each other because someone got the last damn donut in the green room.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This is why we can't have nice things.


sort of home

Well, I'm back on the Big Metal Monastery, and that's a good thing. I didn't realize how much working elsewhere stresses me out, until I got back this morning. The HQ was clean, familiar, organized and well, contains my friends and my stuff.  I can feel my blood pressure dropping.

 I had a good week with Big Chocolate on the old trunk deck barge, and prior to that, another good week with Delicious on the OTHER trunk deck barge. (Everyone gets a nickname when they work with me. Just ask Hippopotamus Fetus, Brock of Ages, Father Time, the Cuban Missile and the S-Finger).  

 So, today is Day 43, and there are 28 days to go until I get home. I'm not quite exactly just now, but I'm better.
Delicious at the crane on board the Career Killer

The HQ, looking good. Painting season is 75% done.

Super Post-Panamax ship. (damn big). I just like the name. Zamzam. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

turning the corner

With just a few more watches to go before i return to HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/house of refuge, I'm starting to dig deep to keep my spirits up.

 You know that feeling when you're frustrated because others don't keep their work up to the same degree you do?  I got that today. Nothing quite works right on here, and no one really gave much of a shit about it. No shit, guys who spend half the year on these barges stock the galley with one cookpot, one small skillet, a spatula, soup ladle, 3 forks and knives, 4 spoons, and one fucking kitchen knife? Fucking savages. And it's worse for my partner this week, Big Chocolate. This was his barge for years, and the man can cook. The galley used to be stocked up with utensils and supplies. At some point all that carefully gathered equipment went over the side.
    My galley on the HQ is STACKED. I can cook anything there. Because we do cook anything there. I spend more time on the HQ than I do at home, so you fucking well better believe that I can turn some good food out, and to do that, you need... utensils.

 Yeah, it's not too much fun, cooking on here.  3 more days. Well, 31 more days, more precisely, but the last 28 will be done at my own place, where I know where everything is, and where shit gets fixed when it breaks.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Best Dad ever

Walking in Brooklyn this morning, waiting at a busy intersection, I end up next to a family who look like my kind of people. Non-hipsters, the wife is clean and neat, has makeup and well-done up hair. Guy's dressed nice enough, looks middle or working class and, you know, not like a girl in a beard, like most Brooklyn residents. Obviously, like me, from out of town.

 Across the intersection are a couple of arab-owned shops, and there are women in full-on black burkhas milling around out front.

 "Look daddy! What are those?"  The kid is pointing excitedly at the ladies.

 The father gently pushes his son's pointing finger down, and says "Those are ninjas, Stevie. They fight crime, and have to hide their identity to keep their families safe from bad guys."

"Whoooaaa! Cool!"

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"I know everything! I am everything!"

 I really fucked with my dispatcher today.

    I'm getting moved around more than a pedophile priest in Boston circa 1990.

 (Too soon? Fuck off, I was an alterboy in Boston in the 80's. I have seen. some. shit. man.

 Actually, no, I didn't. My church growing up never had a predator pass through. Dodged a bullet).

But, yeah, I'm the Harbor Whore this month.

 Last week I was on the Career Killer. Other guy on there was cool as hell, and we got along great, but it was... not fun at all to work.

   This week I'm on the Mighty 31, the less-than-grand-dame of our bunker fleet. Old-school boom-and-stay rig, shorter and beamier than our usual bunker barges, plus it's got a trunk deck, which means that tying up is done on a 3-foot wide deck that runs around the perimeter of the barge, so you pretty much live in constant fear of going swimming when handling lines. But she's old, and has two old-school Detroit Diesels for pump engines, which means that it's the most reliable thing on the water in New York, but the engines are so loud that you can hear them start from far off... like in the future, maybe. You can probably hear me light them off if you poke your head out the window, if you're anywhere in the northeast.

   Detroit Diesel engines are pretty much the apex of 20th-century engineering, and the 671/871 style is half a century old, and there has never been a more reliable engine built. I know a guy in Boston whose boat sunk, got raised up the next day, and he washed out the engine with a garden hose, opened it up and fogged it with WD40, filled up the crankcase and fired it right off. Last I heard, it hadn't been rebuilt in at least 50,000 hours of running since the sinking.
   Detroits throw a little oil, though, I'll say that. You draw a picture of one, next day there'll be a puddle of 15w40 under the picture.

  So, the barge du jour is almost identical to the Career Killer, but a little more intelligently built, as it was built by my employers, who do know a thing or two about buying nice things, or did, anyhow, until the US Government's interference in the past few years have made newly constructed vessels less safe and harder to operate. But this barge is old-school, a generation before the pinnacle of combined safety/reliability/ergonomics that is the millenium-era built vessels like my own beloved HQ.

    Now, my company's New York bunker dispatcher is a liaison between the oil companies and vessel staff like me. He's the guy who hands out work, yet despite this I like him.
   I've answered the phone on three different vessels in the past week. So I see his number pop up in the caller ID yesterday when the phone rings.  I rattle off a greeting, and hear a pause. I know EXACTLY what's happening. Guy's looking at his phone trying to figure out who he called, because I answer the phone no matter where and who he's been calling this week, pretty much.

 I wait the two seconds for him to figure out that I'm whoring around again, and then get a 'Jesus, you're everywhere?"

 "My ass is International."

 Gotta get some laughs where I can. 5 more days and I return to the HQ, and the familiarity there, and 4 weeks later, I can go home.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Free Ice Cream Tomorrow

I'm working insane hours, sleeping as time allows, completely irregular, so I'm not inspired to write too much. Should pick up in a day or two when I change barges. Meanwhile, look at this until I get back:

Thursday, June 4, 2015

stolen, recycled

I have a temper. Kind of a bad one.

 Thing is, I generally like people I know. In the superficial sense, most of the time when I meet people, I'm ready to like them, share a laugh, whatever. This works well with tugboat deckhands, or their mates and captains, as well. Creating a low-key and positive environment helps make the days go by. 

 Take the other day. We were coming into I Am Too Tired, an oil terminal in NY famous for never, ever getting shit right. They send dockmen down to tie up vessels after vessels have already tied up, and they often get on the VHF radio to discuss at length what kind of take out they want, at the exact same time when the guys loading oil are screaming for them to shut down because the ship or boat is now full... that old chestnut. 

  So we're coming into I Am Too Tired's docks, get one spring line thrown a long, long distance to perfectly lasso a heavy mooring bitt (enabling the guy at the wheel to veeeeeery gently throttle ahead and use the line to slingshot the hull alongside the dock), but the mooring line gets wedged between the bitt and the grating at the foot of the bitt, and if it comes tight, the platform around the bitt will get ripped off before the mooring line breaks, causing much wailing and gnashing of teeth and paperwork and pee tests and breathylyzer exams for everyone involved and everyone within peeing distance, too, for that matter.

 So with a mooring line now unusable, the deckhand runs down to the next bitt and fires another spring line out to lasso the bitt, and does so perfectly, and then proceeds to tie up the barge at another 4 points. Everywhere except for the spot with the effed up bitt.

 I jump (well, climb down a 16-foot ladder) down to the dock, fairlead the mooring line so it will pull straight up rather than horizontal, and have the deckhands put the line on a capstan and heave. No dice- can't heave the line up without ripping up the platform.

 OK, so easy solution. I call for a hacksaw and cut the line in about 20 seconds, we end-for-end the mooring line, and Bob's your uncle, we're all fast.

 The whole time I was doing this, our assist tugboat was working in conjunction with his deckhand's observations, keeping us in place, and moving us slightly here and there as I asked, putting tension on some lines, taking it off others, etc.  There was ample time for anyone to justifiably blow up at the time it was taking. But it was no one's fault, there was no damage except for the 20 minutes it took to resplice a new eye in the line yesterday after the job was done. And it's not like this is an easy thing, keeping a light barge alongside a dock in a swirling current with a breeze running offshore.

   Anyhow, I credit the working environment we created for having things get put in order so smoothly. Had I been working with one of the few assholes in my company, there'd be yelling, screaming and  probably a butthurt tugboat captain crying to my office about certain people not knowing their place. Instead, there were apologies, some laughs and well-wishes, and a friendly wave goodbye when the tugboat went on its' way.

    Bad or stressful situations don't make me lose my shit. Mundane, thoughtless ones bring out my inner Hulk. Take last week, where for three days I couldn't get ashore to get groceries and a prescription filled. Each time, it was "We'll get you to a dock when your next job is finished." And I was cool with that. It's not like I was out of insulin or needed Lithium or something. Thing is, every time we were almost finished with a job, another one would be tacked on, immediately, even though there were other guys who had been sitting for 3-4 days enjoying their shore access, and not working. THAT shit makes me mad. We're all getting paid the same. In the case of at least one of the vessels in question, the crew on board is fucking 100 years old, and, if not senile, then willfully incompetent, and, as such, probably kept not working for safety reasons... none of which made me feel much better as I faced the prospect of having to wipe my ass with copy paper or pages torn out of the safety training records binder in the days ahead.
   Well, OK, it wasn't that desperate. But you ain't going to get good performance out of people who aren't well cared for, is my point, and my often sunny disposition went away faster than a prom night dumpster baby. When I had enough and bitched (something I don't like to do. It's a virtual guarantee of the person on the phone pulling jobs off of other barges and throwing them on you ASAP), and got told it could be worse, they could give us TWO jobs, I had enough, saying "Just 'cus it's brown and hot, don't tell me that you're giving me soup."   Which got a laugh, anyhow... and then magically, we go to the dock that night. Granted, it was 11pm, but the suckers didn't know that the ghetto nearby has a 24-hour grocery store.

 And that grocery run at 11pm in a shitty neighborhood is another story.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


I've finished another 4-week tour aboard the Big Metal Monastery, and to celebrate my two weeks of home leave, instead of going home, I'm 'working over,' covering for a barge without a crew, along with a guy I've never worked with before, who also, it happens, isn't a bunker tankerman.

 So, for the next week, I'm working aboard the Career Killer, a stubby, beamy trunk deck barge we bought from a competitor as part of a package deal.
      The Career Killer was not well cared-for. Structurally, she's built like ye olde brick shitehouse. Heavy built, solid, but subject to benign neglect until my employer got her, whereupon there's been a slow, consistent effort to make it a better place to live and work.
   She got the name "Career Killer" because, well, she ends careers. Not a lucky vessel. I babysat her two years ago when she first came into our hands and welders and metalworkers undid all the damage to her hull from the neglect, while our own yardbirds rehabbed the living quarters.

 This is a better barge than the one I was on two years ago. The quarters are spartan and ridiculously tiny (seriously, the bunkroom is 6x6, and the guy working with me is 6' 2". I took the top bunk because I'm as mature as your average 11 year old. The quarters is also tiny. Maybe 12x15 all told, including a galley/office, bunkroom and head.  It can be tolerated, and thank God the guy I'm working with seems cool. It makes me miss the Hilton-level quality of the quarters on my own rusty little piece of heaven, though.

 Anyhow, pictures to follow eventually. Facing the prospect of 6 more weeks without seeing my family, I'm not in an awesome mood, as you might imagine, but I'm taking it philosophically (i.e, spending all the extra money in my head). Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife and I are celebrating our anniversary in a few days, and considering that the past year has been so full of joy and incredibly memories, I'm feeling like a shitheel for not being home to celebrate.