Sunday, October 28, 2018

too much hate

Maybe it's a coward's way out, but I find the best way to deal with turmoil, especially when my own mind is uneasy for the moment, is to put my head down and be productive with other work, then to re-engage with a clear mind.

   There's been so much goddamn hate online in social media, even the social media that I consume, that I'm thoroughly sick of it. I tend to be a prick online, in comparison with what I do in meatspace (slightly less of a prick at work, relatively pleasant at home), and apparently so is everyone else.

   Well, I can, and have been productive at work, but the shittiness continues. I'm limiting my social media interactions to friends and interesting stuff, and not taking in too much politics and debate.
 At the end of the day, you can 'win' a debate with a dummy, but what do you gain? And you can debate with an intelligent person over matters of morals and behaviors, but if neither of you are willing to move, what's the point beyond wasting time?
 Well, wasting time is a thing. And time to waste for me at work is not always available, so when I do have it, I prefer to do something enjoyable, thus my diet on social media.  Instead I'm going to do maintenance, exercise a little and play video games.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Ode to Cordage

So, it's time to order some new hawsers here on board HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Temple of Masculine Ideals.

     Mooring lines take up a lot of headspace in the bunker trade. We swap out tugboats constantly, and the cadre of experienced New York-based tugboaters is in high demand for their skills. While NY doesn't have the ripping giant tides of New England, neither does anywhere else in the lower 48, and compared to the docile rivers and bays of the south, where the current might be fast but is predictable, New York's rivers, bays and harbors are a crucible that purifies the skills of a tugboater, forcing the dross out.
 Or, you know, forcing employers to pay for all the destruction the dross causes, which is also a strategy.

 Well, we have a diverse bunch of tugboaters in our stable. The NY-based guys are in great demand, as they can moor and unmoor without crashing, or at least with controlled crashing.  The Out-Of-Towners are more variable. Some are excellent boathandlers no matter where they are. Others are just wrecking ball operators, treating their tugs like a Peloponnesian war galley.

A former Chesapeake Bay fisherman gently brings his tugboat alongside another vessel in Stapleton Anchorage NY

          So, for a couple of reasons, we've been having a lot of out-of-town tugboats moving us about in the past few weeks... and it shows. I think I spliced 3-4 lines after parting them in the last two years. Last week I spliced 8, including a few lines that I had just respliced the day before. Same fucking guy did it, too. He's not getting a goddam Christmas card from anyone on here this year, I can tell you that much. And before you read too much into that, bear in mind that I am not a tugboater. I was pretty decent doing the funky stuff from the wheel of a ship, a very different animal, and under the eye of a master,  and now I speak and critique from the comfort of my barge, and occasionally from the wheel of a private or workboat that is emphatically NOT shoving a floating bomb around in swirling current. I have seen some AMAZING boathandling these last 10 years. But I live on that floating bomb, and it falls on me to fix other people's oopsies, which as you might imagine, gets pretty old, especially when we have to wonder if someone in the office hates us.

 So, ropes. Yeah.  We have a lot of those, and prematurely aging lately.  One funny thing about tugs and barges is that mooring is often self-serve. There is often no dockman to catch your lines and put them on the bitts and bollards. As a result, a lighter line can be thrown further, which is very helpful, but a lighter line generally doesn't have the ass to deal with the force generated by current, prop wash and momentum.  I speak generally, as there are lightweight lines that are enormously powerful (Spectra for example), but often expensive and prone to easy chafing or UV damage. There are heavy lines that are enormously powerful, and affordable, too, with good stretching capability and with good chafe resistance, but too heavy to throw readily. Shoulder injuries have cut many deckhands careers' short, which makes the smart deckie unwilling to try for long-distance throws, which limits the utility of the lines.  There are strategies to mitigate this, of course, mixing lines by type and things like that, but outfitting cordage on a vessel is always a series of compromises between utility and cost.  Currently, we favor a lightweight synthetic line that is very strong, midpriced, but has little stretch modulus, which means that while sudden surges are fatal to the line, the line doesn't snap back much and thus is very safe for any person in the area. So we splice instead of going out on comp when Mr. Sulu up in the wheelhouse goes to ramming speed. A bit tough on the wallet, but easier on the insurance.  The downside is that we risk doing a brisk trade in cordage here on the HQ after times like last week.  So it goes, I guess, but we've all got 10 toes and 10 fingers on here still, although they're getting pretty callused from all the splicing.

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Grind

Man, I'm in the doldrums already, one week in. Same shit, different day. Same shit, same day, in some cases. The first week passed by pretty quick, though, and that's cool. 3 more to go. I never really recovered from the last trip. There isn't enough joy in the work to keep up that sort of brutal schedule. I'm sure it'll be better now that I'm on a normal rotation for hopefully the next few months.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Waiting on the other shoe to drop...

Well, so far so good. I turned in some old, I mean OLD certificates to the Coast Guard to get some things corrected and to add another endorsement to the international portion of my STCW credentials. One certificate is from 2005.

 So far it's working, though. I am getting through the eval process. The CG is pretty good at keeping you up to date, and my papers have passed the cursory eval, and are being viewed with a more precise lens now. I should know what's up in another week or so. Worse case, I have to do a bunch of little  exercises to check off- steer a range, plot a course between two ports, etc etc. Stuff I have done a thousand times, but not on a tugboat.

 So, we'll see how it goes. My application package spans things from 13 years. I can't help but think they might not love that. Have to see.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Screw Change Part 9000

Twice in a row, now, I've had a hell of a time getting back to work.

 It's not like I really really want to come here. I mean, I have to, I like money, but it's awful hard to leave a perfectly agreeable wife and  kid to be away for a month or more. So when I get fucked on crew change on the inbound side, it's pretty galling.

I take the same flight each time. Perhaps that's a mistake, because the flight has been cancelled the last two times I tried to get to work. This time, the flight was canceled when I was already checked in and past security. Pissed off, I got on the phone likety-split, and was able to get an evening flight out, 7 hours later... which started backing up on the times, too. 10 minute delay. Then 15. Then 25... eventually we did get on the plane. Since I had to be shoehorned onto the flight, I got the last boarding group, you know, with the cows and the Irish in Steerage, so I couldn't get any overhead bin spot... but I did get into my seat, and that was good enough after plenty of worries.
 Then we sat 30 extra minutes at the jetway.
 Then we sat 30 more minutes on  the runway.

 THEN. We took off.

 Since the City Fathers of New York (Long may they reign iron-fisted protecting us from extra large soda cups, long may they shit light on the heads of the taxpayers) in their almighty wisdom fill up unused Brooklyn hotel rooms with refugees and shelter overflow, the particular hotel my company uses, one of only 3 in a reasonable area, is also a shelter for Somalian refugees. So I got to listen too babies screaming, kids running down the hall and women yelling UNTIL 3 AM.

 The men were up bright and early, at 0500. I know this because two of them had a very loud argument outside my door. Since I don't know if either of them was wearing an explosive vest, I tried to sleep in vain for 10 minutes, until I was so angry I got up up and opened my door, saying "Hey, you're very loud and why are you outside my door?" but not in angry tone, just said it and stared at them. One said sorry, and they stood there, not leaving, so I stood there, and just stared back. The advantage of being fat and in my underwear told in short order, though, as neither wanted to be in eye contact, and they eventually shuffled somewhere else. At any rate, I got a glorious 45 minutes of uninterrupted sleep after that before it was time to get up and get ready to start my crew change.

 After that things have been much better. I'm aboard the HQ, have laid in stores and sodas, and I have time to get a good sleep this afternoon before getting back to work. I"m sure I'll be more my usual ray-of-fucking-sunshine after.


Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cleanup day

Well, 24 hrs from now, I'll be in the air, headed back to HAWSEPIPER's Afloat Global HQ/Center for Excellence in Involuntary Celibacy.

 After 10 weeks on board, 2 weeks at home is just not enough, but it was enough to take the edge off, certainly. I'm going back in a better place upstairs, for sure. I was able to get a LOT done at home. Not so much time for my little fun projects, but some big long-term stuff for this winter and next year. And, along the way, got plenty of time with my family, including some time with two of my siblings, who have moved 1500 miles from Boston to about a 15 minute walk from my house... so I am looking forward to Christmas this year, for sure. As always, before heading back to work, I had to shift everything in my garage shop and clean up, which is something of a ritual, and gives me a chance to go over everything maintenance-wise in the house before I rack my tools and put away my toys.

       As I had mentioned earlier, I found a big screwup on my little boat model, which required a bunch of work to correct. The spacing of the frames came out of square badly in a couple of places when the glue was drying, and I didn't catch it. As a result, the deck, which was pre-notched to set atop the frames, was out of alignment in a half-dozen frames... and badly out of alignment, like a 1/4" on something that is only 2 feet wide, easily visible to the eye. How the hell I missed it, I don't know, but the epoxy was already dried and the hull skins in place before I noticed, too late to realign the frames properly. I was almost ready to throw the whole thing on my barbecue and torch it.

 In the end, I know a thing or two about fixing other people's mistakes using composites, and epoxy, fiberglass and microballoons cover up many sins. So I sawed out spaces for the frames in the deck, and after laying it out, filled in the gaps, which took about 4 days of sanding and filing and puttying.  The frame tops are also triangular gussets for the bulwarks, and unfortunately, these triangular gussets are super-prone to breakage- about half of the 22 frames were damaged at the tips, which I fixed by using bondo and then coated with thickened epoxy before sanding them into shape. They'll be partially hidden by the bulwarks, but to get the bulwarks aligned, I have to know where the frame tops are, and with the sheer of the hull, that's not an easy thing without a visual reference. 

Working with right angles and  small gaps makes sanding a royal bitch, but I got there and put a rough sealing coat of epoxy across the whole deck.

Dark spots are the frame tops/bulwark gussets. The one in the center is finished, on the right is an unrepaired gusset. You can see the old frame notched filled in here.

Upper Wheelhouse

Accommodation lower block

 So, tomorrow I'll be flying in to New York, because sadly my company doesn't hate me enough to keep me at home and pay me not to come in. It's really getting to be the time of year when I have to think about what to pack in terms of dealing with the change in the weather now that New York is cooling off. The weather here has been delightful. I'm not anticipating the weather to be quite so nice at work, although fall in the northeast can be pretty fine.

Monday, October 8, 2018

small boat update

After nearly 3 months off, it was therapeutic to sit down at my bench again and make sawdust.

 Some things happened: I ruined about $75 and 10 hours worth of joining and planing work when a glued-up piece came apart in my planer. Pieces flying everywhere, it was disappointing.

 With that project gone TU, I had more time to put into the small boat project, and got the deck laid in and superstructure roughed in. For a model boat, a large toy, basically, it's getting pretty big.It kept me from being underfoot while Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife was on a 2-day cleaning frenzy,

Lots of work to go.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

New Normal

Well, I've been home for a few days, and I'm feeling much better. I've had time to drink whisky, cut wood, and start undoing a major screwup I found on my current model boat build.While I was at work, two of my siblings moved down here in FL with me, about a mile away from me, in fact, which has been great. The B family is pretty close, so I feel really good about that, although I've only had a couple of short visits- I've really wanted to have time with my kid and Inappropriately Hot Foreign Wife, and we've done that. I'm writing while waiting for them to get dressed up so we can go get lunch, in fact. Gonna get fish tacos at a restaurant I like on the Intercoastal Waterway, watch the yachts pass by and drink cold beer in the hot sun.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018


Well, I made it home. Expect things to be quiet for the next two weeks.