Friday, March 30, 2018

Keeping up with Mr. Bobby

Mr Bobby is now the seniormost citizen among our afloat staff. He's in his mid 70's, and is the Able-Bodied Seaman aboard one of our tugboats. A lifelong commercial fisherman, shipyard worker and mariner, calling Mr. Bobby spry is an underwhelming statement. Dude is FAST. Leathery and wiry, with a very strong Virginia country southern accent (a Matthews County accent, or near enough, to my nothern ears), keeping up Mr. Bobby is like herding cats. You can try. He walks at a jogging pace and is always ready to meet you with a positive outlook so long as you bring one too. Otherwise, he's merely quiet and polite.

 We call him Mr. Bobby because while the man himself is very humble, by virtue of his age, seniority and by the way he comports himself, the man is worthy of deep respect. Even his captain, a younger man, refers to him by the title. I took to it right away. He just IS a Mister. 

 I've been getting to know Mr. Bobby better the past few months. We've had more time to talk, and his tugboat has been paired with us more often than normal of late. It's been a pleasure to work with him. Guy knows his stuff, and at a time when morale is lower than snake shit within my company, conversations with Mr. Bobby tend to uplift instead of making me want to tongue punch the barrel of a pistol, which, sadly, has been the norm of late.

     Last night we made our way out to an anchorage in sheer fog. No BS, we couldn't see the tugboat, just 300 feet away, from my bow. Just the warm glow of her lights, which meant the captain couldn't see us, either. We creeped our way along, and I got to be lookout for a bit alongside Mr. Bobby, something I haven't done for a LONG time. It was actually pretty nice. Professionally done, we settled into our spot for the night, and come sunup, off we went again to the next job, which is where I am now.

 Despite some good old boys coming in, young, strong energetic kids, we're still getting a fair share of low-T soyboys from up north too, crippled by having T-rex arms, unable to pick up lines or throw them, just barely able to operate a radio and keep their soft widdle hands clean. I could use a dozen more Mr. Bobby's before taking on another maritime academy kid who can't coil a rope and is pissed off at having to do so.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My day so far

 I picked up some kind of bug. Feeling crappy.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Wicked Smaht Girl Is Wicked Smaht

One of my good friends during the college years was Susanne, a German immigrant who came to Boston and lived in the next town over. We were both commuters who lived our lives and commuted into the city every day. She was smarter than me (no surprise there) and we were both students in the Biology department at our college, and hung out on weekends at times, and both lived and worked in Maine at the college's remote field station during the summer. She ended up missing as valedictorian by a spot or two by virtue of choosing physics and chemistry classes as electives instead of underwater lesbian basket weaving or another retard gimme class like that. We ended up working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA together, too.
 Pretty girl. Statuesque. More refined than me, certainly, but a good friend. She got 2 master's degrees while working on her Ph.D, ended up in the math side of biology while I ended up running away to sea. Last I heard she's a professor somewhere and also a fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. We drifted apart as our lives diverged.

           The funny thing about Susanne is that she refused to buy or read newspapers or watch TV. She couldn't stand all the propaganda, screaming, hate and noise of the world, and keeping up with news that didn't affect her directly wasn't interesting to her.
      She was one of the most competent and upbeat people I ever met. Looking back, Lord, 20 years ago now, she was on to something I think.

 I spent doday watching with some dark humor this Children's Crusade, the parades in DC with kids who aren't weating pussy hats this time, but are pretty much doing the same thing, which is to say, nothing at all. "Protesting" by taking a vacation and having a meetup is pretty light fare to me, but whatever. I do care. I mean, I bought a (another) new AR-15 today to mark the date,  and the harassed clerk on the phone who took my order was absolutely slammed.

 Well, whatever, I'm looking forward to my new rifle, and hopefully I don't lose this one in a tragic canoeing accident like all the other rifles and pistols I've purchased (Hello to the DHS! I saw your ping, btb, you cocksucking vampires!).

      I'm thinking it's time to take a step back and respond to these media crises and circuses by enjoying my family, taking time to do my hobbies and reading good books. I believe that is an appropriate response to all the calls in the media for me to fear and hate everything. I mean, I have a good job, good family, and am an awfully small fish in a big pond. What will it profit me to constantly move from one discussion to another and spout opinions that neither increase my happiness, add money to my wallet, inches to my genitals or years to my life?

 It seems the most sane response to the insane mediae nvironment is to let them fuck off and die. I do my preps, I'm ready for fire, flood famine (well, the modern equivalent of the traditional major disasters), and really, things are pretty good despite all the screaming that this is not so. I'm not getting any younger anyhow, so I'd just as soon worry about things that are going to affect me.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Shot and and hit, shit at and missed

Well, we weathered another nor'easter here at HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/ Ice Station Zebra. That's #4 for late winter/early spring. We got a little under a foot of snow, which courtesy of the wind, wasn't drifted too badly, but as it was wet snow, that shit was heavy to shovel.

 We had a small cargo yesterday, but it was enough to heat up the decks around my cargo pumps and manifold area, where we spend most of our time while working, so this meant that by noon yesterday, there was bare deck peeking out here and there, and, courtesy of a nice warm day yesterday (mid 40's and sunny), by the time I woke up for watch at midnight, the deck is currently 90% snow-free, and since we have a full load coming on tonight, that should be gone by afternoon, which is a nice thought.

    Given that this winter has mostly been windy and dry until recently, I'm not holding my breath as to whether or not this was the last snowstorm... but I hope it is.

 I'm starting a review of the materials covered on the licensing exam for the next higher-tonnage than I currently hold. To call me rusty is a complement. It's really showing me how much I've forgotten in the past 10 years. as tankerman. Figuring out stability equations, deck safety (Is that 1 B-2 or 2 B-1's, or are both OK?), lifesaving that is no longer an issue (seriously, when is the last time someone shot up colored flares shoreside to guide a lifeboat onto a beach in shoaling water? I gotta know this stuff, along with what horizontal vs vertical shaking of a lantern means in that same situation. I've absolutely forgotten, shame on me. Still, ignorance has a cure).

One of my friends in this company had his last day the other day. We've lost a lot of young talent to other New York-based companies. It makes things more lonely. We haven't lost nearly enough assholes and hacks, however. Like hemorrhoids,  some of those folks. My employer is one of the lower-paying companies here in NY, and it's starting to tell. Non-monetary issues that aid retention here aren't what they once were, I suppose. I'm lucky enough to work with true friends aboard my own place, and have a great shoreside boss, so I'm not looking to run away. Still, I can't say that I am upping my license just for the hell of it. It's hard to not be doing as well as everyone else for the same quality work. Not to say I'm bitching, however. I'm here voluntarily, and grateful for the work, and hopefully I'm doing a decent job at my trade.

   Tonight's the first watch where I feel like I'm back into my routine, and that's a welcome feeling, anyhow. We're triple-blending a cargo tonight, mixing 3 differing grades of oil to make up a final volume of a particular density. It's all in the math, which was actually kind of nice to have to do, to work out the cobwebs from between my ears.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Townie for a day

     I get to ease into my first watch at work, at least.

     I've got about 2 hours before we leave for our loading port and pick up a small cargo destined for an anchored tanker tonight. We've got a nor'easter headed in, so I anticipate this being a real shit show, but the pointy heads at our office care little for what I think. So it goes.

 Goddamn, though, I'm tired of this winter. I've missed a grand total of ONE little storm while I was home. It just hasn't worked out timing-wise. I've been here for all the weather.

          I wasn't able to see as many friends as I had hoped while I was in my hold hometown last week. The workload I had, coupled with constraints on my time in handling other business (lawyer, family, municipal, etc etc) meant that I was on the go from 6 am to about 9pm most days. Not that it was all work, either. That would have been great. I lost a lot of time waiting on things to happen... like the 3 hours I lost one morning at a Bank of America, while opening an estate account.

 Judging by the obituaries, people die every day. You'd think it would be routine to open an estate account to handle the final expenses of a dead person who didn't choose a viking funeral and take their things into the next world. Apparently it's nothing routine at all. Giant pain in the ass, in fact. But it did get done, though it cost me the best part of a productive day- the mid morning.

          It wasn't all rotten tomatoes, though. I got to see some people I wanted to see, and spending St. Patrick's Day in the Boston area is pretty much the best place to spend St. Patrick's day. I ate like a king and drank just enough Guiness and Jamison to enjoy myself, and not a drop more. I even got to see a neighbor who literally gave me the shirt off his back- serious, I told the guy I really liked his shirt (a freebie got when he had breakfast and an Irish coffee at a local Irish-owned restaurant), and he told me that he'd leave the shirt at the door of my mom's house that night... which he did. I loaded him up on shepherd's pie, beef and guiness stew and other delicacies as a thank you.

 I also got to go to the local old men's bar, which I had never done in my 40 years as a resident. This is a tiny hole-in the wall (it had 6 seats for 30ish years) bar up the road from my neighborhood, which no young person would bother to patronize... turns out it was awesome. As I'm in my 40's, I was one of the younger of the 30 or so patrons jammed in the place. It is a tradesmen's bar- most of the guys there were 50-70, and union tradesmen or builders or contractors. I spent too much time away or out fishing to really be a townie, but I see the appeal now. It was nice to just talk about whatever came up. I could get my head out of my own ass for an hour and talk about good tools, dumb shit that happened in the past, things like that. It felt normal in a way that I haven't had in a while. I'm not really a bar guy. I like to drink my drinks outside, either with my wife or in solitude, but I used to like pounding drinks with friends, of course, like most working-class people. Escaping from my roots comes at a cost, I suppose.

         Although the weather was utter shit for the week I was there, this past week was also a capstone for me. I was able to have one last block of time in my old hometown as we prepped the B family home for a new family to make memories in. In a few weeks, or a month, our familial base of operations will be gone, and my childhood home will be someone else's, While I was unwilling to spend a small fortune on a beautifully-situated small and old house in (blech) Massachusetts, that doesn't mean I'm not sad about it. The quiet peninsula located so close to Boston but far enough that the locks never worked, where the ocean was never more than a couple hundred feet away is a beautiful place.

hard to believe that it's only 15 miles to the city. 

At some point, though, moving on requires moving on. I'm sure that the future holds good things, and while I'm a fairly sentimental person, I do not require things to be foci of my emotional connections. Without the people I love,  our family home became just a house after my parents passed on, and the labor and preparation for sale has made it easier to let go. I'm pretty damn tired of worrying about it all.I didn't go back to work with the best attitude, feeling unrested and somewhat discontented, but the reestablishment of routine will be good. I am looking forward to things being more predictable and simple for a few weeks. Oil goes in, oil goes out. Rinse, repeat.

Monday, March 19, 2018

I'm not dead yet!

That was about the busiest two weeks I've had in the past 10 years.

 I'm pretty beat.

     I spent a too-fast 6 days at home and then a week in the Boston area, prepping our family home for sale. One of my brothers and a couple of friends of the family provided the skilled labor. I provided the retard strength. My other brother and my sister also chipped in. We got about 90% of the work done- about $30,000 worth of renovation, for materials cost and a pittance for labor as a pro-forma thank you. My role in all this was as purser, painter, labor and cheerleader, pretty much, but 10 hour days were the norm, (minus an afternoon off for St. Patrick's Day, which was glorious)

 The implications of all this are a matter of another day's posts. NOw I'm sitting in the fleabag discount refugee-plagued Brooklyn hotel that my company favors for a flophouse for oncoming crew, listening to the Somalians scream at each other (and their many, many children running down the halls back and forth), which is getting me into the right mindset (read, impatient and shitty) for work. Tomorrow it's off to the HQ for hopefully some better-quality sleep prior to starting my watch rotation.

 But it was an emotionally and physically week. Not the best way to prep for another month at work, but it's what I have.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Last watch, first steps

After a VERY busy month, the storm last week threw a kink in our routine... things have been a little more quiet here on the HQ, and that has made for a good final few days for yours truly. I was able to get all my end-of-tour business done, and I'm currently on anchor watch on my last watch here for a few weeks. Home later today to hug my family.

   I've been preoccupied this past month with planning out and carrying out a few projects unrelated to work which have required near-daily oversight. It's been a LONG time since I had to multitask at the level I'm operating on now. I've sort of stagnated these past few years in my position, which was easy to gloss over as I've been satisfied here, but minds and metal do rust with disuse, and I'm now working out the cobwebs and starting to get off my ass.

 I'm selling a home up in Massachusetts, and dealing with lawyers, bills, real estate folks, taxes etc etc. All things where I am not dealing from a position of strength. Working with a contractor to make the house sell well has been a trip. I'll be glad when it's done in a few months, hopefully. I have to be there personally to deal with some things, so I'm heading to my former hometown for what I believe will be the next-to-last time during this time off. I'm learning a lot, though, mostly about how I don't like dealing with lawyers, bills, real estate folks, taxes etc etc.

     The bigger deal for me is that I'm heading back for more training and to up my license tonnage.

     I started this blog 13 years ago. When I started, it was called "Blue Water: News of My Escape" as I had already transitioned from being a marine biologist to a commercial fisherman, and from commercial fisherman to merchant mariner, as I wanted to escape to a deep ocean job. A few years later when I got serious about pursuing an officer's license, I changed the blog name to HAWSEPIPER, which was what I was becoming. Eventually I did get a limited tonnage license, but I settled into a tankerman's position that played into my strengths- experience in handling fuel oils and liquid cargoes on tank vessels. 99% of my higher-tonnage sea time has been on tank ships and barges. In my off time I've been able to spend time on boats for fun, some work here and there in the wheelhouse of non-tank vessels, but not as much as I like.

      We get into careers to enjoy certain aspects of them. As we rise in position, we spend less and less time doing the things that attracted us there in the first place. That's a truism, and it's OK. Until it's not.

       I am hawsepiping again. I start classes this spring. I'll be staying at my job. I have a good gig, and while my company is not the close-knit and warm employer that hired me anymore, it's a good job and I work with some great people. I don't know what the future holds for me anymore, but I've been too long in brown water. I miss the deep blue clean sea.
A much younger me. I miss wearing white, too.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Battening down and stuff

Well, we got a nor'easter coming in, and that's going to be unpleasant starting this afternoon. I spent a few hours this morning doing a walk-around on deck, tying down things that might like to fly and doing a FOD check, as I have a habit of collecting flying bits of things in my damn eyes during wind events.
     As we're not heading to sea, this is more a pro-forma habit than anything else for me. Still important, of course, but it's easy to get complacent when you rarely go out where the horizon touches the sea. I think that's why I try to keep my chops up.
         I go home next week. I'm curious as to what's going on at my local gun range and such. I don't live too far from the recent school shooting, and my wife and son are close with a family who have a daughter at that school, who is thankfully alive and well, but traumatized, poor girl.

 How ugly and divided we are. I have a massive hate on for kabuki solutions, which informs my own opinions on dealing with school shootings. Rather than expound (seriously, who cares about my opinion?), I'll say that hurting me is not a solution to making others safe, and that's that for me. I'm looking forward to some bench time with my own guns and some range time with my wife and son.

 I have to leave home early, unfortunately, to go north and work for a week on some non-maritime projects, but I'll be in my old hometown, so I at least have time with friends and family. Not as good as a week sunning myself and having my nuclear family to hand, but necessary.